One Surprising Cause Of Health Care Cost Increases
(NAPSI)—Many Americans are asking their representatives what’s being done about a well-intentioned health care cost-cutting program—that’s actually having the opposite effect.
The original idea was to help not-for-profit hospitals cover some of the costs associated with treating low-income patients by making pharmaceutical companies provide large discounts to hospitals that treat many Medicaid patients. The discounts were to be for medicines used in an outpatient setting, such as chemotherapy drugs.
The program, called 340B, is now used by many hospitals to get discounts on medicines for insured patients. The hospitals then pocket the difference—unfortunately, they are not required to pass on savings to patients—and use it to fund executive salaries and other unintended uses. As the Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid eligibility, more patients on Medicaid will mean more hospitals are eligible for discounts.
Additionally, some hospitals with the benefit of 340B discounts are buying up—or partnering with—private clinics, which would not on their own qualify for discounts.
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), this drives up the cost of care. For example, JAMA says, the widening disparity in drug revenue between 340B and non-340B hospitals shifts patients out of the comfort of a private clinic setting and into the hospital setting, where care is typically more expensive than the same care delivered in the physician’s office. The net result is an overall increase in health care spending.
A recent study from Avalere Health found that chemotherapy costs as much as 25 percent more in the hospital outpatient setting than in dedicated cancer clinics.
What’s more, 340B hospitals are now allowed to contract with for-profit pharmacies in order to sell discounted medicines at full price to patients.
The program has now received attention from Capitol Hill. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter of inquiry to a major drugstore chain referencing a claim that 340B would make the pharmacy a minimum of $250 million over five years.
Grassley asked the pharmacy to detail its profits from the 340B program, as well as to explain whether it would reinvest that money back into underserved communities.
What You Can Do
You can express an opinion on this or any issue to your senators and representatives at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
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New Franchise Opportunity Designed To Help Veterans Become Entrepreneurs
(NAPSI)—There is good news for veterans. A successful franchise operation believes the skills that military veterans gained during service have prepared them to be successful franchise business owners. Because of this, the company, Home Franchise Concepts (HFC), has created an opportunity that makes it easier for veterans to own a franchise.
Referred to as the Million Dollar Franchise Event, it’s a chance for military veterans of all backgrounds to purchase one of its franchise properties at significant discounts; $35,000 off the purchase of a Budget Blinds franchise and $5,000 off the purchase of a Tailored Living franchise.
Veterans seeking a career after active duty can begin the application process by visiting www.HFCsupportsvets.com. The Million Dollar Franchise Event hopes to award 30 Budget Blinds and/or Tailored Living franchises to deserving veterans to reach $1,050,000 in total discounts.
“My brother serves in the U.S. Navy and my father is a veteran of WW2,” said Tony Forbes, co-founder of HFC. “Launching the Million Dollar Franchise Event is the least we can do to honor the sacrifices that veterans have made. We hope this inspires other companies to take an active role in helping veterans transition.”
An Accessible Path
The company has found that starting a franchise business can be a fulfilling experience for veterans.
It often gives them newfound purpose and an exciting platform where they can apply their military training. The franchise discounts gives them a more affordable way to become business owners and live the American Dream.
Larry Sportello, a Budget Blinds franchisee and U.S. Navy veteran, said, “I can tell you firsthand that being in the military instills valuable traits in an individual—such as integrity, discipline and determination—that can be applied to the business environment to help a veteran succeed.”
A Proven Model
Both Budget Blinds and Tailored Living have years of experience helping customers improve their homes. They offer the convenience of free in-home consultations as well as complete measuring and installation services of window coverings and home organization products. Their franchise models have stood the test of time and veterans only need to follow set systems to reach success.
Budget Blinds has received industry recognition for being a top franchise for veterans from Military Times and Franchise Business Review. To learn more about the Million Dollar Franchise Event for veterans, visit www.HFCsupportsvets.com.
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How Uncle Sam Helps You Save For Retirement
(NAPSI)—If you ever feel your finances are too stretched to save for retirement, there could be good news for you. The Saver’s Credit—a little-known tax credit made available by the IRS to low- to moderate-income workers-could make saving for retirement more affordable than you think. It may reduce your federal income taxes when you save for retirement through a qualified retirement plan or an individual retirement account (IRA).
“The Saver’s Credit is fantastic because it offers many workers an added incentive to save for their future retirement, while potentially lowering their tax bill today,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®.
Here’s how it works:
1. Check Your Eligibility
Depending on your filing status and income level, you may qualify for a nonrefundable credit of up to $1,000 (or $2,000 if filing jointly) on your federal income taxes for that year when you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b) or similar retirement plan, or an IRA.
Single filers with an AGI of up to $29,500 in 2013 or $30,000 in 2014 are eligible. For the head of a household, the AGI limit is $44,250 in 2013 or $45,000 in 2014. For those who are married and file a joint return, the AGI limit is $59,000 in 2013 or $60,000 in 2014.
You must be 18 years or older by January 1 and cannot be a full-time student or be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return. If you fit within these parameters, the Saver’s Credit may be for you.
2. Save for Retirement
If your employer offers a retirement plan, make sure you enroll. If you are already enrolled in your employer’s retirement plan, you may qualify for the credit. In general, for every dollar you contribute to a qualified retirement plan or IRA, up to the lesser of the limits permitted by an employer-sponsored plan or the IRS, you defer that amount from your current overall taxable income on your federal tax returns.
3. File Your Tax Return and Claim the Credit
When you prepare your federal tax returns, you then claim your Saver’s Credit by subtracting this tax credit from your federal income taxes owed.
Most workers who are eligible to claim the Saver’s Credit are also eligible to take advantage of IRS’ Free File program for taxpayers with an AGI of $58,000 or less. Fourteen commercial software companies make their tax preparation software available for free through the Free File program at www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free.
• If you are using tax preparation software, including those offered through IRS’ Free File program at www.irs.gov, use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. If your software has an interview process, be sure to answer questions about the Saver’s Credit, Retirement Savings Contributions Credit and/or Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions;
• If you are preparing your tax returns manually, complete Form 8880, the Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine the exact credit rate and amount. Then transfer the amount to the designated line on Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR; or,
• If you are using a professional tax preparer, be sure to ask about the Saver’s Credit.
Please note that the Saver’s Credit is not available with Form 1040EZ.
The 14th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey found that just 23 percent of American workers with an annual household income of less than $50,000 are aware that the credit exists. Don’t overlook Uncle Sam’s Saver’s Credit; it may help you pay less in your current federal income taxes while saving for retirement.
For more details on the Saver’s Credit, visit the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® at www.transamericacenter.org or www.irs.gov.
The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® is a division of the Transamerica InstituteSM, a nonprofit, private foundation.
About Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®: The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) is a division of Transamerica InstituteSM, a nonprofit, private foundation. The Transamerica Institute is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates and may receive funds from unaffiliated third parties. For more information about TCRS, please refer to www.transamericacenter.org.
About the 14th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey: This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of TCRS between January 21 and February 21, 2013 among 3,651 full-time and part-time workers of employers with 10 or more employees, including 1,302 with an annual household income of less than $50,000. Potential respondents were targeted based on job title and full-time or part-time status. Respondents met the following criteria: U.S. residents, age 18 or older, full-time workers or part-time workers in for-profit companies, and employer size of 10 or more. Results were weighted as needed for the number of employees at companies in each employee size range.
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Top Five Tips For Spotting Fraud
(NAPSI)—Investors can sometimes overlook signs that indicate an offer really is too good to be true. This can leave them vulnerable to fraud and financial predators.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is the federal government agency that regulates the commodity and security futures, commodity options, swaps, and retail foreign currency exchange markets. It also works to protect the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices in the highly volatile, complex and risky commodity futures and options markets.
To help, it offers the following “top five tips” on how to spot fraud. Much of this material was developed from research conducted by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
• What’s the rush? Investors should be cautious any time they are pressured or rushed into making a decision about an investment opportunity. Is the offer described as being good for only a limited time or in a limited quantity? Are you being led to believe you are part of a special group being notified? Take time to evaluate the offer and don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making any financial decision. Most legitimate offers will be there tomorrow.
• Favors are rarely free. When the person on the other end of the trade offers to do a “small favor” for you in return for a big favor, it may be a ploy to distract you from the business at hand. It’s best to stay focused on the opportunity, not to look for bargains.
• Beware of the “Phantom Riches” tactic. This is when a con artist dangles the prospect of unrealistic wealth, enticing you with something you want but can’t have. Consumers should consider whether the salesperson is dangling incredible returns or guarantees. It’s important to remember that all investments carry some risk.
• Selling credibility. This is when the con artist tries to build credibility by appearing successful, claiming affiliation with a reputable organization or touting a special credential or experience. A seller may have a corner office, framed diplomas or certificates and wear an expensive suit, but appearances really can be deceiving. Check out the seller’s actual qualifications.
• Watch out for third-party endorsements. When someone talks about a lot of people you know investing in the opportunity and that you shouldn’t be left out, it’s probably a good idea to keep your hand on your wallet and your wallet in your pocket until you learn more.
To learn more, visit www.cftc.gov/consumerprotection.
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Key Facts About Selective Service Registration
(NAPSI)—Young men in the United States often find turning 18 can bring a number of opportunities. It also brings an important obligation-registering with Selective Service.
Registration is mandated by the federal government and is required in order to be eligible for college loans, federal jobs and more.
To help make the process more understandable, here are some key questions and answers.
Q. Who must register with the Selective Service and when must they register?
A. All young men, including immigrants, regardless of their status, are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Immigrants who arrive after their 18th birthday must register within 30 days of their arrival if younger than 26.
Q. In addition to being in compliance with the law, are there benefits to registering?
A. Proof of registration is required when applying for federal college loans and grants, including Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Direct Stafford Loans/PLUS Loans, National Direct Student Loans, and College Work-Study.
Registration is also required for federal jobs, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes registration with Selective Service a condition for U.S. citizenship if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday.
It is also necessary for jobs with many state and municipal governments as well as government contractors. Some states even require it when applying for a driver’s license.
Q. Can failing to register bring penalties?
A. Yes. A man who fails to register may, if prosecuted and convicted, face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison term of up to five years.
Q. Is registration difficult or complicated?
A. Over the past few years, registration has become increasingly convenient.
Many find the easiest and fastest way to register is to register online at www.sss.gov. However, a valid Social Security Number is required for online registration. Those who do not have a Social Security Number must register at a U.S. post office.
Selective Service “mail-back” registration forms are available at any U.S. post office. Those living overseas may register at any U.S. Embassy or consular office.
It is also possible to register when applying for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA form). Simply check “Register Me” on Box #22 of the form. In addition, some high schools have a staff member or teacher appointed as a Selective Service Registrar who can assist with the registration process.
To learn more, visit www.sss.gov.
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A View To Savings
(NAPSI)—Homeowners can see their way clear to saving on cooling and heating costs, and protecting their skin and home decor from the sun’s damaging UV rays, all thanks to something they can scarcely see at all—window film.
Instead of replacing structurally sound windows, they can turn to a simple yet cost-effective solution: professionally installed window film—a thin layer of polyester film with high-tech coatings that are nearly invisible to the eye.
The International Window Film Association (IWFA) points out that once installed, window film can deliver up to seven times the energy savings per dollar spent.
“Many consumers are looking for ways to improve the curb appeal and efficiency of their homes,” said Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA.
“Window film can reduce energy consumption by reducing solar heat gain and cut cooling costs by as much as 30 percent and at the same time allow you to enjoy natural light without the negative impact of harsh glare and UV exposure,” he added.
You can find further facts at www.iwfa.com and (276) 666- 4932.
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New Website Makes Futures Markets Simple
(NAPSI)—Recent headlines have described a series of dramatic movements in the financial markets. While many of those movements impact stock prices, as well as what we pay for groceries, gas or loan rates, not everyone really understands how it all works.
Now there is a new online resource available to help explain what those markets mean to everyday life. With easy-to-understand content that everyone from high school students to financial professors will find useful, Futures Fundamentals (www.futuresfundamentals.com) makes understanding markets simple.
The site takes investing concepts like futures, hedging and speculating and shows how they play an essential role in the world around us.
For example, if you purchased your home with the intent of selling it when the market value exceeded the original price, you likely didn’t think you were speculating. Yet that’s exactly what you were doing. You probably think of having car insurance as common sense, but you’re hedging against risk, just like thousands of companies need to do every day.
Futures Fundamentals provides a unique educational experience by linking topics in the news to simple explanations, a glossary of terms, and quizzes to sharpen your knowledge. CME Group—one of the world’s leading derivatives exchanges—created Futures Fundamentals with the goal of making financial education an engaging experience for anyone, regardless of how well versed they are in the world of finance.
“One of the things we’ve seen over the past few years is a real hunger for information about how people and businesses manage risk, and how that risk impacts people’s everyday lives,” said Anita Liskey, CME Group Managing Director, Corporate Marketing & Communications. “Our goal for this site is to be a go-to resource on futures and derivatives, whether you’re a novice on Main Street or an expert on Wall Street.”
Visit Futures Fundamentals today to start learning how the marketplace impacts the world around you.
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Medicare Beneficiaries Can Save On Prescription Drugs
(NAPSI)—There could be good news for as many as half of the 37 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans: You’ve been paying too much. Why is that good news? Because there is still an opportunity to find cost savings that you may have missed.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 42 million Americans are over 65 and most of them are at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions as they age.
Many of these older Americans are concerned about their health and their health care costs, a recent Walgreens survey found. More than a third of the Medicare Part D beneficiaries surveyed worry every day about their prescription drug costs and one in five say they’ve had to make sacrifices, such as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses, to help manage medication costs.
Few realize that copays for Part D prescriptions can vary by pharmacy. And, some don’t know they can switch pharmacies at any time.
The good news is that Medicare Part D beneficiaries can save hundreds of dollars a year on prescription copay costs by using a preferred network pharmacy, if there’s one in their Part D plan. For example, Walgreens, which is in the network of all national Medicare prescription drug plans and participates in the preferred networks of four of the largest national Part D sponsors, offers significant savings on prescription copays over select pharmacies for many of the plans in which it’s a preferred pharmacy.
• The Medicare Part D beneficiaries surveyed take an average of eight prescriptions a week.
• Most seniors are trying to lower prescription costs. Seven in 10 have switched to generic medications and 44 percent are filling more 90-day prescriptions in an effort to save.
• Only hospital/emergency room costs and caregiver/assisted living expenses are a greater concern for respondents than prescription drug costs.
Saving at the Pharmacy
There are three easy steps for Medicare Part D beneficiaries looking to save on prescription drug costs:
1. Fill your prescriptions at a preferred pharmacy like Walgreens to save on copays.
2. Ask your pharmacist if generic substitutions are available.
3. Talk to your pharmacists about 90-day fill options for maintenance medications if your plan offers lower copays.
Talk to your pharmacist or visit walgreens.com/medicare.
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