Mad Props: What You Need to Know Before You Vote…On Prop 45

Will government regulation improve or hinder how the state implements the Affordable Care Act?
October 28, 2014 Jesy Odio Politics

What it’s all about:
The Affordable Care Act instituted Covered California as the state’s individual health insurance exchange but failed to legislate how health insurance costs should be regulated. If approved, Prop 45 would give that authority to the state insurance commissioner. This would require health insurers to submit changes to the state for judicial review before they go into effect. Similar regulation was approved for auto and home insurance when Proposition 103 passed in 1988.

What it’s going to cost taxpayers: Nothing.

Who supports it: Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democratic Party, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s secretary of health and human services

Why they do: Those who endorse Prop 45 believe giving the state insurance commissioner more authority would protect Californians from rate increases found to be excessive or unfairly discriminatory—which is even more important for consumers now that coverage is mandatory.

Who opposes it: Covered California, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Blue Shield of California, Los Angeles Times, the California Republican Party, California Chamber of Commerce, Association of California Healthcare Districts, California Taxpayer Protection Committee

Why they do: Opponents agree with the prop’s proponents that it is important to regulate healthcare costs, but argue that this measure is deceiving and will in fact raise costs, not reduce them. They also believe it would give a politician power that is better served in the hands of doctors and patients and are critical of how poorly the proposition outlines how rates should be evaluated.

The takeaway: What’s appealing about Prop 45 is its mission to keep insurance companies in check, but unfortunately it doesn’t adequately address how specifically a state insurance commissioner should do so or how a newly empowered commissioner would be required to work with Covered California, leaving many reformers to think a more comprehensive solution is needed.

– See more at:

Health coverage renewal begins for 1.1 million enrollees in Californi Read more:

It’s time to renew your health coverage. Give us call today if you need assistance with renewal or like to make a change.



SACRAMENTO, California — The state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California, has begun the renewal process for 1.12 million individuals who enrolled in plans in the exchange last year. It also unveiled improvements to make enrollment easier for 2015.

“Last year, we succeeded in signing up millions of Californians in health coverage through Covered California and Medi-Cal,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said.

“We do believe many significant improvements have been made that will assist our consumers during both renewal and open enrollment this year,” Lee added.

Consumers who complete the renewal process will hear from their insurance plans in December. Their selected health plan will send a statement reflecting coverage starting Jan. 1, 2015. Consumers who take no action will be renewed into their existing plan.

Individuals who have health coverage through Medi-Cal renew their coverage throughout the year, on a rolling monthly schedule. Medi-Cal will contact them directly if they need to take action. Unless they are contacted by Medi-Cal, these individuals do not need to go to the Covered California website to renew or apply.

Of the Californians who selected a plan during the initial open enrollment, 1,140,000 (or 81 percent) had their coverage take effect by paying their first month’s premium. A total of 1.12 million individuals have effectuated coverage and will be part of the renewal process.

Covered California expects this number to increase as special enrollment continues and as recent enrollees effectuate their coverage, with about 1.3 million Californians participating in the renewal process through the end of the year.

Covered California continues to gear up for open enrollment, which will begin November 15 and continue through February 15.

Open enrollment is the next opportunity for all Californians to benefit from new insurance rules, including the requirement that insurance be offered regardless of health status. In addition, this is the window of time when Californians can buy subsidized coverage starting in 2015.

Covered California has adopted changes, guided by a newly released report titled “Covered California Open Enrollment 2013-2014: Lessons Learned,” to improve consumers’ experience. The report commissioned by Covered California offers an in-depth look at Covered California’s work during the first open-enrollment period. It is available online at

“At the same time, we know we have more work to do. We want Covered California to deliver best-in-class customer service, and we know we’re not there yet,” Lee said. “But we’re getting better every week, and we will continue to learn and improve.”

Covered California offers a range of choices of private health insurance plans. Consumers can choose the health plan and level of coverage (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) that best meets their health needs and budget.

For more information about the enrollment numbers, see the October 2014 “Individual Market Enrollment Report” o

Would You Join A Multi-Level Marketing Company For Retirement Income?

As a tax advisor, we know that having a home-based business is excellent tool not only for saving on taxes, but for the potential to dramatically increase your income to help pay for some bills or help fund your retirement account.

Below is a great article by Robert Laura in  Forbes Magazine.

Would You Join A Multi-Level Marketing Company For Retirement Income?

At some point in your life you’ve been pitched a multi-level marketing (MLM), direct selling, or network marketing business opportunity. While the pitch varies from company to company, it basically promises a chance to ditch your 9-5 work schedule, be your own boss, and make lots of money while making new friends in the process.

It all sounds good on paper, yet there is a seemingly endless debate over whether these companies and programs are legitimate business opportunities or not, so I dug in and got the real scoop. As a result, I believe that the entire industry is poised for explosive growth and can be one of the most significant solutions to America’s current retirement savings crisis.

Initially, that may sound like a bold statement, but it’s not if you understand retirement the way I do. The reality is, making a successful transition into retirement has more to do with psychology than with money… and the same may hold true for multi-level and network marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, money has a role in retirement, but it’s not the primary one every one gives it. Combine that concept with eye-opening statistics like AARP’s estimate that half of all baby boomers (76 million) are interested in starting a business and the makings of a massive trend are in place.

As far as the retirement saving crisis is concerned, more and more people are coming to terms with the fact that they probably aren’t going to be able to save enough money to just sit around and slowly deplete their nest egg from age 62 to 100. With the average 50 year-old estimated to have less than $50,000 in retirement savings, there is an obvious need to find alternative ways to either save more or generate supplemental income starting now, and continuing throughout retirement. Moving beyond just the dollars and cents, boomers are growing tired of feeling guilty or bad about their past savings habits and are interested in moving towards possible solutions.

Another growing reality that could benefit MLM and related businesses is the increasing number of baby boomers who are disenchanted with their current careers. They’re worn-out from years of the corporate grind and don’t feel the connection between their job and the people it impacts outside their office walls or company grounds. They’re shifting their focus from accumulating a giant nest egg to a desire to be part of something bigger and better… to have a positive effect on others… and working in retirement. Facets of life that can be fulfilled with specific types of products and service available through some MLM or Direct selling opportunities.

MLM and direct selling programs also offer very low barriers into entrepreneurship, often providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way. As retirees begin to realize they need activities that keep them busy, relevant, in good health, and connected to others, the time, energy and cost to participate in these kinds of companies make them very appealing to large segments of the population caught up in these dynamics.

This is not a ringing endorsement for the entire industry. Like any investment of time, money, and energy, people need to be aware of what they are getting into and do their homework. That’s the primary reasons I began researching the topic by reaching out to regular everyday people involved in these types of businesses and who were willing to skip the hype and offer a transparent view of the programs and give their opinions as to whether this can be a realistic source of retirement income.

I initially spoke to a retired friend who said she joined a health and beauty direct selling company as a means of meeting new people. She had recently remarried and moved to a new location, so she combined the practice of meeting new people with making extra money. After almost a decade in the business, she’s built a small niche business with family and friends despite switching to from one company to another competitor after three years.

She admits she doesn’t attend all of the company’s local meetings and goal-setting sessions because she’s not interested in becoming a top producer. She just likes to use the business activity to keep busy (particularly in the winter) and use the extra money she earns to travel and spoil the grand kids.

Having studied the psychology and behavior of boomers, this example represents a major shift in my thinking about the industry. I no longer perceive these types of opportunities as money-making pyramid schemes. Instead, I now see it as a way to enhance many of the personal aspects of retirement that are rarely discussed let alone planned for, with the added benefit of supplementing other popular retirement income sources such as pension and social security.

Daria M. Brezinski Ph.D, a practicing psychologist and former marketing director for a multi-level marketing magazine, echoes these sentiments. “Many people don’t realize that multi-level marketing companies are successful because they help people satisfy a number of important human needs, including feeling significant, having connections, learning something new, and making a difference. I have heard people in network marketing say again and again, ‘I’m doing this because I’m meeting amazing people … making so many connections … and I feel so good about myself.’”

Dr. Brezinski’s point is well taken and easy to see practiced by popular network marketing companies. Many MLM and NM companies tout a three-to-five year plan to attain freedom and wealth, yet many of the people running company meetings have been in the business for five or ten years and still haven’t left their full-time job or landed on easy street. “As it turns out,” Dr. Brezinski notes, “when other human needs are being met, the members and consultants don’t focus solely on the financial aspects.”

Continuing my interviews, I challenged three others who are in the business to be straightforward, and prove to me that the process really works. What I found was good, consistent business advice applicable to any new business.

Lorene Hochstetler, from Ohio, recommends keeping your current job while slowly making the transition into MLM. She’s been able to replace her full-time income but explains, “It didn’t happen overnight, and I still work every day. I am very disciplined with my business and wake up every day knowing what I have to do in order to succeed at this. You have to treat it like a business and be willing to follow advice from others who have made it.”

Tracy Willard of California began her MLM career out of necessity. “Prior to getting involved in my business, I told my friends to never let me join one of those things… but when our family was hit by the mortgage crisis I had to do something different.” She started her business with the intention some retirees may also find themselves. “I started with the idea that I just needed to make my month easier. My company helped me figure out what I needed to do in order to make an extra $500 per month.”

She reiterated a common theme I heard throughout the interviews. “If you treat it like a hobby it won’t pay you like a business.” She also acknowledged that, in spite of her success, she doesn’t sit around eating bonbons every day waiting for residual checks to hit the mailbox. “That’s a common misconception,” she said. “I work hard at my business every day, although it doesn’t always feel like work. Similar to other entrepreneurs who profit from their passion, she says “It’s rewarding because I found a product that has made in difference in how I look and feel… and I love selling it and helping other people start a business.”

Staci Cahill runs her Washington MLM company in a way many people can appreciate. She keeps her personal life separate from her business life by avoiding home parties, offering instead workshops that educate prospects on the products she offers. “I didn’t want to be that person others hid from because they thought I was going to ask them to host a party. I like to keep my business life and personal life separate.”

When I asked her if she was successful at her craft, she pointed out an MLM approach different from what many might expect. “Yes, I am very successful given what I wanted to get out of it. I’m a single mother who used to work 50 hours per week outside the home. Now I’ve cut it to 20 hours, which is a major upgrade for me and my family.”

As a five-year veteran of MLM, she attributes her success to the fact that, “I switched companies a few years ago once I realized that pots and pans don’t change people lives. The products I now offer has changed my life and that of others… and I find a lot of value in waking up and going to bed knowing that.”

The interviews and psychological connections lead me to conclude that MLM and NM companies, along with other small businesses opportunities, are important considerations for anyone entering retirement. In fact, I believe the concept of starting a business for retirement income will become one of the most significant trends impacting retirement in the 21st century. But it has to start with redefining entrepreneurship and framing it into a retirement lifestyle. That means helping people find ways to turn a passion, hobby, or personal desire into extra money in their pocket… not to mention helping people see the importance of planning for the non-financial aspects of retirement such as replacing a work identity, staying relevant and connected, as well as keeping mentally and physically fit.
Something multi-level marketing as well as network marketing companies are poised to capitalize on. As a result, the industry could soon experience larger than life growth, spurred by baby boomers looking to adjust their retirement feelings and plans.

IRS: Tax refunds could be delayed next year

Every year, millions of americans look forward to their tax refunds to go on vacation, pay some bills, make large purchases for the home, however, this year that will all be put on hold according to the IRS. It looks like Tax refunds could be delay until early fall!


The IRS could be forced to delay tax refunds next year if Congress doesn’t strike a deal on dozens of expired tax provisions by the end of next month, the agency’s commissioner said this week.

IRS chief John Koskinen said the agency might have to postpone the 2015 filing season if lawmakers don’t act any sooner on the expired tax provisions known as extenders.

The uncertainty over the fate of the extenders, Koskinen said, has already raised “serious operational and compliance risks.” The IRS is currently upgrading technology systems, offering new instructions to customer service staff and revising forms in preparation for the next filing season, Koskinen added.

“Continued uncertainty would impose even more stress not only on the IRS, but also on the entire tax community, including tax professionals, software providers, and tax volunteers, who are all critical to the successful operation of our nation’s tax system,” Koskinen wrote in a letter dated Monday.The Senate Finance Committee cleared a bipartisan bill this year that would revive most of the temporary tax breaks that expired at the end of last year through 2015 — including incentives with broad support such as the credit for business research, and more narrow provisions that help NASCAR track owners and Puerto Rican rum distillers.

Senate Republicans blocked that bill this spring as part of their broader fight with Democrats over floor procedure, but GOP senators predicted that a deal on the provisions would likely materialize in the lame-duck session after November’s elections.

House Republicans, on the other hand, have been trying to extend some of the provisions permanently, in particular the research credit and other tax breaks for business write-offs.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who received Koskinen’s letter, said the IRS warning should prod lawmakers to quickly renew the expired provisions when they return to Washington just over a week after the elections.

“As the economy begins to show signs of strength, uncertainty from the federal tax code is the last thing American businesses and families need as they look to grow and invest,” Wyden said in a statement.

This is far from the first time the IRS has warned Congress about pushing back tax refunds. The agency delayed the 2014 tax season because of the previous year’s government shutdown, after pushing back the 2013 season to deal with the late passage of the fiscal cliff deal.

The problems for the filing season would be even more severe if Congress doesn’t reach an extenders deal before the end of 2014, Koskinen warned — “likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.”




Large Employers Shifting Healthcare Costs to Employees

There have been many people that have told me, “…I am not affected by Affordable Care Act(Obamcare), because I have health insurance from my job.”

However, the trend we are starting to see is that large employers are shifting Healthcare coast to employees. This will start becoming more poplar as large employees start to see how to reduce their cost. Here is great story by Abbey Rosenberg.


Lately, there has been a trend among large employers who have reported considering shifting employees to private exchanges as a cost-mitigation strategy. However, preliminary results from a survey conducted by the National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications revealed that a majority of large employers surveyed rejected this idea. This article contains an overview of the preliminary results from the Inside Benefits Communication Survey.

Background on the Inside Benefits Communication Survey

The 2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey was conducted by the National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications. The goal was to learn more about how companies are strategizing their benefits to comply withAffordable Care Act (ACA) compliance issues.

The survey polled 333 human resources and healthcare benefits professionals about their communications approaches, strategies, and results. While the survey spanned across the nation in a variety of industries, there were a significant number of respondents in the technology and service industries. In addition, respondents were located mainly in the Southeast and West regions of the United States.

Employers Are Not Looking to Private Exchanges

The preliminary results from the survey revealed that employers are rejecting the notion of moving their employees to a private exchange as a cost-mitigation strategy. Although this trend has been expressed in similar industry polls, 55 percent of the respondents reported that they will not stop sponsoring employee health insurance to sponsor coverage through a private exchange.

Other large employers did report interest in shifting employees to a private exchange:

  • Almost one-third (32 percent) of employers are considering moving to a private exchange within the next three to five years
  • Eight percent are planning a move to a private exchange within the next year
  • Five percent already use a private exchange to provide employee health benefits

Some Employers to Increase Employee Contributions

HR/benefits professionals were asked about whether they will maintain current benefit plans and coverage levels and whether costs would shift to employees. The results were that:

  • 40 percent will maintain current coverage levels without increasing employee costs
  • 32 percent will maintain current benefit and coverage levels, but will increase employee costs

Respondents were asked how their company will prepare to comply with the ACA “Cadillac tax” in 2018. The Cadillac tax is an excise tax on high cost health insurance plans offered by employers The results were as follows:

  • 26 percent plan to maintain current benefit plans and coverage levels without increasing employee costs
  • Almost 20 percent plan to maintain benefit levels, but will increase employee costs
  • 15 percent will reduce plan benefit and coverage levels while still increasing employee costs

Read the Inside Benefits Communication Survey from the National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications.