March 13, 2012
Last year it was a political hot potato and no doubt, with an election on the horizon, it’ll grab a few headlines again, but in the meanwhile the controversial health reforms program, under the Affordable Care Act, continues to move forward in 2012. Although many of the changes don’t take effect until 2014, it’s worth taking stock of current and upcoming changes in your entitlements. These include:
- Young people up to age 26 can now remain on their parents’ health insurance. Some 2.5 million have so far opted to do so.
- En route to closing the “donut hole” prescription coverage gap for Medicare recipients, seniors now qualify for a 50% discount on Part D brand-name drugs when they reach the gap.
- The Independent Payment Advisory Board has been established and, from next year, will be able to intervene if Medicare costs rise too much.
- States are now allowed to offer home-based services to disabled people through Medicaid instead of institutional care in nursing homes.
- From the start of this year, new rules encourage physicians to set up “Accountable Care Organizations” by working together to improve the standards of care and reduce costs.
- From March 1, federal health care programs have to collect racial, ethnic and language data about patients to identify inequality of treatment.
- From October, health records will have to be stored electronically – with new rules in place to make sure they’re secure and confidential.
- Also from October, hospitals will have to publicly report on performance for a range of treatments, and reveal comments from patients.
The official Government site has also launched an easy-to-use action page to help individuals identify which public, private and community programs meet their needs. Check it out at
March 7, 2012
I am often amazed by the reckless driving I see on my way into to the office. So many accidents could be easily avoided. We handle the “after” effects in our business every day…
So, I thought I’d send you a quick “reminder” this month. PLEASE … read through this short list of safety reminders. It won’t take long, and it could save your life!
We drive so much it becomes sub-conscious. So, let these safety reminders dwell in your sub-conscious, too…
- Back off. Odds are, if you can clearly read the bumper stickers on the car in front while moving- you’re too close!
I wish I had the statistic of how many car accidents are rear-ending collisions. It’s a lot. I realize in heavy traffic it’s sometimes impossible to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front. But try.
A safe distance is determined by a 2 second gap – that is, when the driver in front of you passes a road marker, you shouldn’t get there for 2 seconds. That means the faster you’re going, the bigger the gap between you and the driver in front should be.
- Slow down. I know its cliché, but speed kills. It really does. Plus, speeding tickets are expensive. And if an insurance carrier finds out about it – and they do check – you could get a rate increase, too.
- Put on that seatbelt. Why fight the odds? Statistics prove that seatbelts save lives. Not to mention in most states being caught without your seatbelt on means a hefty fine. Be safe – put it on!
- Are you too close to the airbag? Make sure you’re more than 10 inches from the steering wheel. If you’re too close, an inflating airbag could hurt or kill you.
- Pay attention to road conditions … and slow down! If you lose control of your vehicle on a wet road, you might blame the road, but the cops and the insurance company won’t. They’ll blame you! Remember, you’re responsible for controlling the car you’re driving in ALL conditions.
- Check all around before changing lanes. Never assume another car isn’t there. Look. It only takes a few seconds for a car to move into a dangerous position.
Of course, there are tons of safe driving tips, these are just the top ones…hope this short list sticks in your sub-conscious mind and keeps you safe.
From everyone here at Hejny Insurance Agency, we thank you for your business and may the roads you travel always be safe ones!
February 20, 2012
If you’re interested in health and nutrition, you can’t fail to have noticed the ongoing debate about the usefulness – and even possible risks – of taking vitamins and other supplements. But there’s so much contradictory information swirling around it’s difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t take.
Well, we haven’t got the answer. If we had, there’d be no debate. But there are definitely plenty of things you can do to help make an informed decision about whether to take them and what to take.
First off, let’s be clear that you should always speak to a professional before making decisions about your health and nutrition. With that in mind, here are some points to know and think about when you’re weighing things up:
- Having routine and regular bloodwork done will identify anydeficiency in essential elements like iron and zinc. Specific tests can also be ordered for presence of certain vitamins like B12, a deficiency of which was recently claimed to be a factor in dementia and depression (for more on this, see http://tinyurl.com/B12-vits).
- We certainly need many vitamins and other important nutrients but the best, most effective and potentially least risky sources are those that come from natural foods, especially fruits and leafy green vegetables. Sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D.
- Though always the subject of research, the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs) or Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) as they’re now being called are publicly available. The Institute of Medicine produces downloadable tables which you can access via the US Department of Agriculture at http://tinyurl.com/dri-tables.
- Everybody (meaning every body) has different needs. Key factors that make a difference include your gender, your general state of health and your age. Only a physician or nutritionist can advise you on this.
- Excessive amounts of some vitamins, such as A, C and D (but not from sunshine) can cause mild to serious problems. So can too much iron.
Final word to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your health care provider to determine how best to achieve optimal health and always check with your health care provider before taking a supplement, especially when combining or substituting them with other foods or medicine.” Visit http://ods.od.nih.gov/ for more on dietary supplements.
February 13, 2012
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Of course the other thing coming soon is Tax Day on April 17, 2012 – You might be thinking it’s the 15th and it usually is – however- this year the 15th lands on a Sunday and Monday the 16th happens to be Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia. So April 17th is the date for all Federal Tax returns this year.
Thought I’d send you some tax tips in case you’re the kind of person who manages to get them done early (despite the two day ‘extension’).
Here are seven of the most common errors on tax returns. If you can avoid these errors, you’ll greatly minimize the chance of an audit … and NOBODY wants to go through that!
- Mistakes on social security numbers top the list of tax return errors. Make sure all the SSNs on the return are correct. And it’s a good idea to put your SSN on each page of the return in case the pages get separated at the IRS.
- Math errors are another common mistake – especially when subtracting. If you’re not using a computer or tax-preparer carefully check the math.
- Forgetting to sign and date the return. Yeah, happens all the time. And remember for a married couple filing a joint return, both must sign.
- Failing to attach all the paperwork – like W-2s.
- Putting income in the wrong place. This is interesting. If you record dividend income as interest income – like for mutual funds – the IRS computers will probably see that as under-reporting dividend income, because they get that information from the mutual fund companies. Then the hassles begin.
- Failing to file because you can’t pay in full. BIG MISTAKE! File your return on time, even if you can’t pay the tax due. Willful failure to file is a federal crime. You’ll only pay interest on amounts past due.
- Failing to file when no tax is due. I guess it happens. You’ve got to file the return whether you owe any money or not.
There’s lots of information on the Internet to help you avoid problems. Just do a search on “common tax errors”.
All of us here at Hejny Insurance Agency wish you a joyous tax season! OK … how about a reasonably fun tax season? OK … good luck, we hope you get through it. How’s that?
Seriously, though, I hope this information was helpful to you. Thanks for your business!
February 13, 2012
It’s not just young lovers who send Valentines greetings at this time of year. Many people send parents, spouses, children and grandchildren cards and gifts as a cute way of expressing affection. Crooks know that too, using Valentines as a way of conning money out of their victims and even hijacking their computers. Make sure you don’t get caught up in this by watching out for these common tricks:
Phony eCard Greetings
You get an email either from a mystery sender or someone you know with a link to a supposed Valentines eCard, or with an eCard actually attached. By clicking on either, you download a virus onto your computer. Two simple actions can prevent this– having an up-to-date anti-virus program installed and, if you know the supposed sender, contacting them to make sure they really did send the greeting.
Bogus Flower Gifts
You order flowers from a new online company advertising incredibly low prices. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is and you’ll lose your money. Plus, the scammers now have your credit card number and may use it to make purchases in your name. Best to use a reputable online florist or go to a local store.
Spoof emails arrive in our email boxes all the time but we might let our guard down when a message
arrives from a mystery admirer around Valentines. It’s often a prelude to an online “romance” in which the victim receives photos of the attractive admirer ( which are really just pictures stolen by the con artist). The crime ends up with the victim being asked to provide money to pay for the admirer to come visit. Just don’t fall for this trick – never give money to people you don’t know.
Now the bad stuff’s out of the way, it leaves us with the chance to wish you Happy Valentines!