Category Archives: Investing and fiduciary requirements

Health Care shorts…

Costs grew at a faster-than-expected pace in 2011, rising 4.6% to $4,547 a person for employer-sponsored plans.At the same time, out-of-pocket expenses grew to $735/person, with the fastest growth inoutpatient services, and the slowest growth in prescriptions.

However, another survey reported that the expected rate increases for HMO’s is 8.5% this year, and 9.3% for PPO’s and High Deductible Health Plans.  Meanwhile the number of uninsured continue to grow, and according to the census bureau, the most uninusred live in Texas (26.3%), Florida (25.3%) and Nevada (25.1%.).

A recent article in Benefits Selling starts out “The Doctor will not be in – and its going to be a problem.”  Fully 34% of physicians say they will quit practicing medicine int he next decade., blaming economic difficulties and Health Care Reform.  This year alone, 16% of physicians went part-time, retired, or left medicine – according to one of the nations largest Medical Staffing Agencies.  Considering that this occurs just as the baby boomers hit 65, recent (and impending) cuts in Medicare, this does not bode well.

Family members can help SANDY victims- UPDATE on relaxed pension rules-

In addition to the recently relaxed rules on loans and hardship withdrawalsfor those impacted by Hurricane Sandy (IRS 2012-44), these rules are extended further.    Some tax filing dates have been pushed back, and simplified procedures for loans and hardships between 10/26/12 and 2/1/13 are in place.  Furthermore, immediate family members in other parts of the country can help their family in the affected areas under the same rules.

 

While plans are not required to liberlaize their rules, 401(k) and 403(b) plans make make loans or hardship distributions even if your current plan documents do not provide for loans.  Supporting paperwork to “validate” the event ust be obtained as soon as possible.

Expertplan and Ascensus to Merge

From the owner of Expertplan, Julian Onorato:

 

It is with great pleasure that I am advising you that effective Tuesday,
November 20, 2012, ExpertPlan, Inc., has entered into a definitive
merger agreement that is pending regulatory
approval with Ascensus, a Dresher, PA based corporation. The
transaction is expected to close by the end of 2012.

ExpertPlan will continue to service your business from our main service center in East Windsor, NJ.
ExpertPlan’s core capabilities in web based
micro and small plan recordkeeping and administration plus defined
benefit plans are not services offered by Ascensus.
This means that you and your clients will continue to be serviced by our
dedicated and knowledgeable employees who will
continue to offer value-added services in their current capacity.
ExpertPlan will continue to maintain our service agreements and fee
schedules as your client’s recordkeeper.  Furthermore, our current
support phone numbers, service email and Internet
addresses will remain the same for the immediate future.

Ascensus’ interest in ExpertPlan stems from the complementary open-architecture
investment platform and the additional solutions offered in some key
areas, including micro and small plan
web based services, defined benefit and cash balance plans and
non-traditional investment plan administration. The combined product
management and business support teams will be working diligently to
integrate products, processes, and systems to further optimize our solution sets and continue to maximize value for your clients.

This is an exciting chapter in the evolution of ExpertPlan. As communicated in the November press release,
Ascensus has Entered into a Merger Agreement to Acquire ExpertPlan Resulting in Expanded Service Offerings to Clients,Ascensus has one of the largest ERISA consulting practices in the U.S. and administers over 1.5 million IRAs.ExpertPlan is very proud and excited to join the Ascensus family. The combination
of two complimentary national firms will provide our Partners, as well
as their clients
and prospects with industry leading creative solutions. We appreciate
your business and continued support  working together with us to provide
world class
financial and retirement solutions.

 

THE BIG TAX QUESTIONS OF 2013

How will Congress resolve these issues?

Decisions must be made. In the next couple of months, Congress will address several major tax matters. Here are the big questions looming.

The Bush-era income tax cuts. Will the current 10%-15%-25%-28%-33%-35% federal tax rate structure give way to 15%-28%-31%-36%-39.6% tax brackets in 2013? After the election, some analysts feel a compromise will be struck to maintain some of the Bush-era cuts for another year. In 2013, you may see the 10%, 15%, 25% and 28% brackets being retained while the wealthy face higher taxes.1

Tax rates on capital gains & dividends. Right now, dividends and most long-term capital gains are taxed at either 0% or 15% (depending on the income tax bracket you fall into). In 2013, dividends are scheduled to be taxed as regular income (cf. 15%-39.6% tax brackets above) and the capital gains tax rates are set to increase to 10% and 20%. So will dividend taxes and capital gains taxes only increase for the rich in 2013? That may very well turn out to be the case.2

Estate & gift taxes. President Obama’s proposal has the U.S. returning to a top estate tax rate of 45% with a $3.5 million exemption. In other words, estate taxes would return to 2009 levels as opposed to 2001 levels (55% top rate, $1 million exemption), which is what would happen if the Bush-era cuts simply expired. While Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and others in Congress have called for an end to estate taxes, many analysts think they will return to 2009 levels as a byproduct of Obama’s re-election. Will we see a unified gift and estate tax in 2013? That is a possibility, though not a given. It could be that the lifetime gift tax exemption becomes $3.5 million in 2013 (it is currently $5.12 million per individual with the unused portion of an individual exemption portable between spouses) with gifts past the exemption taxed at 35%. That would be better than the alternative: a scheduled $1 million exemption, along with a 55% maximum gift tax rate.2,3

The payroll tax holiday. Months ago, the consensus was that this would not survive into 2013. Yet last month, Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told C-SPAN that it should be extended. Former Treasury Secretary and Obama administration economic advisor Larry Summers agrees. So it may live on for another year.4

The marriage penalty. Our federal tax code has a longstanding quirk: occasionally, married couples pay more in tax than they would if they were single filers. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 attempted to lessen the penalty in two ways. It made the standard deduction for married joint-filing couples twice what it was for singles, and it made the bottom two tax brackets for those married and filing jointly twice as broad as for singles. In 2013, the marriage penalty could become more severe: the standard deduction for joint filers will be only about 167% of the standard deduction for singles and those widened joint-filer tax brackets are slated to narrow. As middle-income couples will probably face higher payroll taxes in 2013, retaining the current softer penalty seems likely.2

Child & childcare tax credits. Both of these credits are set to shrink next year. The child tax credit is supposed to be halved to $500, and the maximum childcare credits available to most parents ($600 for one child aged 12 or younger, $1,200 for more than one) are poised to drop to $480 and $960. Extending these credits into 2013 could amount to good PR for a disdained Congress.5

The American Opportunity Credit. In 2009, the up-to-$1,800 Hope tax credit was supercharged into the AOC: an up-to-$2,500 education credit which could be claimed for four tax years that include college education rather than two. In 2013, the AOC is scheduled to disappear with an $1,800 (or possibly $1,900) Hope credit slated to reappear. The AOC may be extended into 2013; again, it would be a popular move at a time when Congress is riding a wave of unpopularity.5,6

College expense deduction. Back in 2011, you could write off as much as $4,000 in tuition on your federal return. Some legislators would like to see this deduction made available again in 2013 and perhaps even made retroactively available for 2012. It would be a popular move and it could prove a nice “sweetener” on any bill addressing tax issues for the coming year.5

Charitable IRA gifts. Universities and retirees found the IRA charitable rollover quite useful, but it faded away at the end of 2011. Many in the education community (and some in Congress) would like to see it return for 2013, and given that tax hikes seem to be imminent next year, a big tax break like this might be offered pursuant to a Congressional compromise.5

IDLs & PEPs. In 2010, itemized deduction limits and personal exemption phase-outs were repealed. In 2013, they may return as the federal government seeks much-needed tax revenues.2

Reeve Conover may be reached at 877-423-9990, or at reeve@reevewillknow.com

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2012/08/29/get-ready-for-5-key-money-changes-in-2013 [8/29/12]

2 – www.smartmoney.com/taxes/tax-policy/key-tax-issues-to-watch-postelection-1351019063876 [10/23/12]

3 – www.deseretnews.com/article/765589424/Sen-Orrin-Hatch-calls-for-end-of-estate-tax-as-Jan-2013-taxmageddon-looms.html [7/12/12]

4 – online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444734804578066991225311524.html [10/18/12]

5 – www.marketwatch.com/story/14-tax-issues-to-watch-after-the-election-2012-11-01 [11/1/12]

6 – www.finaid.org/otheraid/hopescholarship.phtml [11/8/12]

United healthcare details transition to Optum Rx Plan

I received the notification below that detaisl their switch to OptumRx around the country.  For my clients, Large Groups will transition in April, the Southeast in September, and Oxford Clients in October.  See below for more details:

We are pleased to provide you with an update on the migration of pharmacy benefit services to OptumRx – UnitedHealth Group’s in-house pharmacy benefit manager.

By unifying all of our pharmacy benefit services in-house, UnitedHealthcare will:

  • Integrate information and data to yield more meaningful insight into care and cost-saving opportunities.
  • Become the resource for all member benefit needs, creating more opportunities to guide members toward making overall better health decisions.
  • Leverage our enterprise-wide $32 billion in annual drug spend to bring customers competitive and affordable pharmacy benefits.

The first transition wave is less than two months away – on January 1, 2013. Outlined below is a high-level overview of the comprehensive strategy and communication plan we have developed to facilitate a smooth transition.

TRANSITION PLAN

Over the next 12 months, customers will transition to OptumRx on a regional basis. Please note the schedule and dates below are subject to change. As our highest priority is to provide quality pharmacy benefits and superior service, we’ll make adjustments as necessary to enhance the overall client and member experience.

1/1/2013 – UnitedHealth Group employees and select clients
4/1/2013 – West Region and Northeast Region
6/1/2013 – Central Region
7/1/2013 – National Account clients across all regions
9/1/2013 – Southeast Region
10/1/2013 – Oxford, Sierra, River Valley, UnitedHealth One, Neighborhood Health Partnership; some South Florida business; UHC International, including Cross Borders and Global Solutions
1/1/2014 – Approximately 200,000 UnitedHealth One members
NOTE Student Resources business will transition throughout 2013

PREPARING FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION

As communicated during our recent OptumRx Transition Webinar session, we’ve engaged the full resources of UnitedHealth Group to prepare for a smooth and successful migration.

OptumRx is committed to staffing appropriately and will develop the appropriate resources to be fully functional prior to the transition. Additionally, we are transitioning our own employee base first, about 140,000 members. This will allow us to quickly address any issues and modify our plan, if necessary, to provide an optimal experience for our customers.

We are implementing multiple phases of testing – including an independent third party to validate our readiness. We’ve also created a command center as a central point of contact to support our internal teams in addressing pharmacy and medical benefit issues or questions.

WHAT’S NOT CHANGING

It’s important to note that prescription drug lists, benefit plan designs, specialty pharmacy and clinical programs will continue to be managed by UnitedHealth Group. These essential pharmacy benefit elements will not require any action on the part of our customers. We will simply transition this information to OptumRx. Additionally, members will have access to more than 64,000 retail network pharmacies.

COMMUNICATION PLAN

We will take the actions needed to keep you informed from start to finish. Links to these communications are included below for your reference.

Additionally, we’ve developed a Frequently Asked Questions document to assist you in answering questions and educating customers on our enhanced capabilities.

Customers

  • Key Account and Small Group customers will receive an email or postcard about 45 days prior to their transition, confirming their transition date and reminding them of planned member communications. A Frequently Asked Questions document (same as above) will be included with this communication. National Accounts and Public Sector customers will receive transition information and updates via their UnitedHealthcare sales representative.
  • An employee newsletter article template and employee email template with transition messaging will be included for customer use with employees, if they choose.

Members

  • We’ll mail a letter (mail and non-mail service versions) 35 days prior to the transition, educating members on what to expect, directing them to look for their new ID card, and providing answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Members enrolled in Medco’s Worry Free Fill (auto-fill) program will receive a letter in this packet, confirming the program will end upon their move to OptumRx. Information on how to enroll in the Hassle-Free FillSM automatic refill program through OptumRx will be included.
  • Members will receive their new ID card 1-2 weeks prior to their transition date.
  • We’ll send targeted communications around 30 days prior to the transition, informing impacted members of specific changes (i.e. if they utilize Medco’s Mobile App or their prescription will not transfer, etc.). More information on this is included in the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions document.

QUESTIONS?

We will continue to keep you updated on a regular basis throughout the transition. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please contact your UnitedHealthcare account representative.

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Reeve Conover is a Registered Representative. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/dealer member FINRA/SPIC. Cambridge and Conover Consulting are not affiliated. Licensed in SC, NC, NY, CT, NJ, and CA.
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