Blue Cross Affordable Care Act Rates To Rise

Members enrolled in Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Affordable Care Act plans will see their premium rates rise by an average of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Officials for the Wilkes-Barre-based insurer declined to specify how many members are covered by its Affordable Care Act plans. Its website shows 12 available 2014 “Blue (Affordable Care Act) Metal” plans.

“The increases are necessary to meet the coverage requirements, including essential health benefits, of the (Affordable Care Act) and to keep up with the cost of care for members in our ACA products,” said Anthony Matrisciano, spokesman for Blue Cross of NEPA, which has about 550,000 members across 13 counties.

The increase, effective Jan. 1, comes amid a state Insurance Department review of Highmark Inc.’s proposal to acquire Blue Cross of NEPA. It’s one of two rate hikes submitted by the insurer that received approval from the state Insurance Department.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blue-cross-affordable-care-act-rates-to-rise-1.1789100

Layoffs At Aetna

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An undisclosed number of Aetna Inc. employees, including case managers, received layoff notices Wednesday at the health insurer’s Blue Bell office. One employee said that seven out of 18 supervisors lost their jobs, and each supervisor oversaw a staff of 15 to 20.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140227_Layoffs_at_Aetna.html#CJofKpH9CJpMxLSP.99

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Chester County Approves 2014 Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WEST CHESTER, PA – Chester County approved a $523 million budget Wednesday that would not raise residents’ taxes in 2014.

Operating expenses total $430 million, and the capital budget is $93 million. Next year’s budget is $4 million less than this year’s budget.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/suburban_pa/20131212_Chester_County_approves_2014_budget.html#tvoLqI6IphpHvOqD.99

Forget Obamacare: One In Four Americans Say They’ll Pay The Fine

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The law of the land now goes as follows: either have healthcare insurance or pay a fine. Yet more than one in four Americans say they would rather pony up the penalty. A new Gallup poll reveals that 28% of those surveyed have no intention of signing up for health insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act and will pay the fine instead.

The penalty in 2014 for remaining uninsured is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of taxable income (up to $285 for a family), whichever is greater.

Fully 17% of U.S. adults currently do not have health insurance, according to Gallup. With the self-proclaimed holdouts who say they will refuse coverage, at least 5% of all U.S. adults will remain uninsured.

According to the nearly 4,000 interviews conducted with uninsured Americans since September, more than one quarter (26%) under the age of 30 say they are more likely to pay the fine, compared with 30% of those aged 30 and older.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/forget-obamacare-one-four-americans-say-theyll-pay-the-fine/1

Pennsylvania Insurance Chief Doubts Obama’s Health Care Plan

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The state Insurance commissioner cast doubt Friday on a plan by President Obama to stop insurers from dumping more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians whose medical coverage did not meet the minimum requirements of the new health care law.

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine questioned whether Obama had the legal authority to allow insurers to reinstate or extend those policies. He also said the state has limited power to force insurers to comply with a scheme that he said “heightens confusion” surrounding the law’s implementation.

“I think there are very fair questions being raised about the legal authority for the president to say we’re going to ignore what’s in the” Affordable Care Act, Consedine told the Tribune-Review.

The president acted to quell a firestorm over the chaotic rollout of the law known as Obamacare in proposing the administrative fix for consumers whose policies were being canceled. Many accused him of reneging on a pledge that no one would lose medical coverage if they liked it.

Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/5078520-74/insurers-health-state#ixzz2kpOO1rvh
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Facing 4.3% Tax Hike, Pottstown Working To Close $330K Budget Deficit

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA — The public got its first look at the proposed $38.3 million borough budget for 2014 on Wednesday night and saw a projected deficit of more than $330,000 — the rough equivalent of a 4.3 percent property tax increase.

Finance Director Janice Lee made the budget presentation, but did not identify how the administration will propose to close the deficit, which her presentation spreadsheet pegged more specifically at $332,308.

Other than a property tax increase, options for closing that budget gap could include additional revenue from other sources or decreased expenses.

Asked after the meeting how much of a tax hike would be needed to close that gap, Lee declined to speculate and noted that the administration has not yet made a recommendation to borough council, whose members listened to the budget presentation Wednesday night but asked no questions.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131107/facing-43-tax-hike-pottstown-working-to-close-330k-budget-deficit

Savings Slow In Reading Purge Of Insurance Rolls

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city had budgeted savings of nearly $900,000 this year by purging its health insurance rolls of ineligible employees, dependents and police retirees.

It also budgeted a contingency fund of $980,000, if the purges didn’t go as planned.

They haven’t.

Managing Director Carole B. Snyder said the city has seen little savings so far because the police retiree purge got bogged down in arbitration and in complex evaluations that may not be complete by year’s end.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=505866

Wegmans To Change Health Benefits For Part-Timers Under Obamacare

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(MCT) — Et tu, Wegmans?

The Rochester-based grocer that has been continually lauded for providing health insurance to its part-time workers will no longer offer that benefit.

Until recently, the company voluntarily offered health insurance to employees who worked 20 hours per week or more.  Companies are required by law to offer health insurance only to full-time employees who work 30 hours or more per week, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Several Wegmans employees told The Buffalo News that part-time health benefits had been cut and said the company said the decision was related to changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-wegmans-cuts-health-benefits-part-timers-obamac-20130712,0,2099072.story#ixzz2YqbvNng8
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Exchange To Offer Health Insurance To Nearly 81,000 In Northeast Pennsylvania

Exchange to offer health insurance.

Assistance available to those in need.

Nearly 81,000 Northeast Pennsylvanians will be eligible to buy subsidized health insurance next year through an exchange, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The report, “Help Is at Hand: New Health Insurance Tax Credits in Pennsylvania,” by Families USA, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that supports President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, details who will be eligible to obtain health insurance through the Pennsylvania exchange.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/health-science/exchange-to-offer-health-insurance-to-nearly-81-000-in-northeast-pennsylvanian-1.1464563

Reading Has Tossed 98 From Health Plan

In a move to save more than $1.3 million, the city so far this year has thrown 98 people off its self-funded health insurance policy, and plans to remove another 77 if arbitrators allow.

Carole B. Snyder, city managing director, said the total of 175 people includes 89 dependents of current city employees, nine nonpolice retirees, and 77 police retirees and/or their spouses, all of whom the city says are not eligible for city-paid insurance.

The Fraternal Order of Police has objected, and the city has agreed to wait on the police retiree purge until an arbitration panel rules. A hearing is slated for March.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=450169

Health Care Law Includes $63 Annual Fee Per Person

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON – Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It’s a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest companies, employers say.  Most of that is likely to be passed on to workers.

Employee benefits lawyer Chantel Sheaks calls it a “sleeper issue” with significant financial consequences, particularly for large employers.

“Especially at a time when we are facing economic uncertainty, (companies will) be hit with a multimillion dollar assessment without getting anything back for it,” said Sheaks, a principal at Buck Consultants, a Xerox subsidiary.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=434478

Arbitrators Slash Newer Reading Police Officers’ Pay, Benefits

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City police, especially those hired this year and in the future, will take major pay and benefit cuts now and when they retire, according to a five-year contract handed down Friday by a panel of arbitrators.

The panel froze officers’ salaries and step increases for three years and cut starting salaries, vacation time and sick leave in the new contract, which is retroactive to January 2012.

In setting the terms, the panel followed the city’s Act 47 financial recovery plan to cut millions of dollars a year from police costs.

For employees hired before the old contract expired at the end of 2011, the panel kept that contract’s pension benefits – up to 70 percent of working salaries, the ability to buy years of service to raise that pension, and city-paid retiree health insurance.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=428754

Health Insurance For Police Retirees Next Problem For Reading

As the city struggles to meet its soaring pension costs, especially for police, it discovered a new problem that’s costing what some say is an illegal $900,000 a year.

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Police officers retiring through the much-maligned DROP program continue to get their health insurance premiums paid by the city.

The contract requires that any retiree who gets a job with another department must use that agency’s health insurance plan and notify the city to drop them.  Many retired city police have gone to other municipalities or the county.

But many don’t, city officials say, because they’re more valuable to another department if it doesn’t have to pay that benefit.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=418707

U.S. Census Numbers: Allentown Economy Lagging

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) i...

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) is the tallest building in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Syreeta Redcross of Allentown takes care of her five children on her wages at a local logistics company.

The pay is relatively low, so the 28-year-old often has to scrape to afford the basics — like diapers for her kids. She relies on subsidized day care to be able to hold down a job at all.

Redcross stopped by the PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley job fair on Wednesday looking for a better-paying job.

“It’s very challenging,” she said. “It’s a struggle out there.”

Redcross’ struggles are far from unique, according to findings released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read more:

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-census-poverty-20120919,0,1785692.story

Taxes Set To Rise As Wilson School District Board Of Education Approves Budget

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wilson School Board on Monday approved an $87 million tentative budget that would require a 2 percent tax hike. The vote was 5-2.

The budget doesn’t require layoffs, furloughs or any program cuts, said Diane J. Richards, director of finance and support services. To balance the budget, Wilson needs to use $525,000 from reserves to cover higher pension contributions.

The 0.46-mill proposed property tax hike would increase the tax to 23.77 mills. The owner of a property assessed at $100,000 would see a tax bill increase to $2,377 from $2,331.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=384861

Pennsylvania’s CHIP Program Has Growing Numbers

As hard times and high unemployment rates continue across the country, a program that aims to cover all uninsured children and teens in Pennsylvania has seen steady growth regionally and across the state.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, was launched in Pennsylvania in 1992 and was used as a model for the federal program four years later, according to state Insurance Department spokeswoman Melissa Fox. As of this month, CHIP covered nearly 194,500 children and teens, about a 17 percent increase from 2007.

Locally, CHIP enrollment has also seen growth. In Lackawanna County, nearly 3,000 kids and teens were covered by CHIP, a 22 percent increase since 2007. Luzerne County saw a 33 percent jump in members during the same time frame, with about 4,600 kids and teens covered right now.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/children-s-health-insurance-program-seeing-steady-increases-1.1249337#ixzz1hghhKmT1

Failed Democratic Candidate For Governor Of Pennsylvania Dan Onorato Finds Life After Politics

Headquarters of the insurance company in Pitts...

Image via Wikipedia

Dan Onorato may have lost the Pennsylvania Governor’s race to Tom Corbett, but when his job ends as Allegheny County Executive he will start a new job in the private sector.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato will join health-insurance giant Highmark Inc. as one of its top executives when he leaves office next month.

His multi-part title will be executive vice president, chief external affairs and communications officer.  He will begin his new job Jan. 3, the day Rich Fitzgerald will succeed him as county executive.

Mr. Onorato will report to Ken Melani, Highmark’s president and chief executive officer.

The appointment was announced Friday.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11351/1197577-455.stm#ixzz1gr67xpvh

Norristown Borough Adopts $25.5 Million Dollar Budget With 12.74% Tax Increase

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

Norristown Borough Council unanimously adopted their 2011 budget tonight that features a tax increase of 12.74%.   No layoff’s were announced.

Interestingly enough, Norristown’s budget is approximately $14 million dollars less than Pottstown’s budget.  Wonder why it costs so much less to run a larger borough??????

Phoenixville Raises Property Taxes, Adds Per Capita Tax And Scraps July 4th Fireworks

Molly Maguires Pub and Restaurant in Phoenixvi...

Image via Wikipedia

Phoenixville Borough Council has passed a 2011 budget with a 9.9% property tax increase.  No police officers were laid-off but there were 5 casualties in other departments. Raises for borough employees are not happening in 2011 and employee health insurance co-pays were increased.

Council is bringing back a per capita tax (eliminated more than 10 years ago) which will amount to $10.00 for each borough resident over 18 years of age.

The budget vote was deadlocked at 4-4 but Mayor Scoda voted “yes” to break the deadlock and pass the budget.

Phoenixville residents are also looking at increases in sanitation fees, water rates and sewer rates.  In addition, Council removed fireworks funding for the Fourth of July celebration in the borough from the 2011 budget.

U.S. Census Department: 1 In 7 Americans Live In Poverty And Other Glum Economic News