Friday, February 27, 2009

Cost of COBRA health insurance coverage to go down for most families

For many families, the loss of their job means not only the loss of their income, but also the loss of their health insurance. Employees of companies with 20 or more employees have had the right to elect COBRA coverage. But COBRA coverage has been expensive until now. COBRA health benefits have costed up to 102% of the cost of the underlying benefit.

Relief is on the way. Beginning March 1st, 2009, there is a change in the law that will mean that most families relying on COBRA for their health insurance will only have to pay 35% of the cost of the health insurance coverage. The exceptions are for employees who are fired for gross misconduct and employees who voluntarily quit their job and employees earning more than $145,000 a year.

There is a phase-out of the cost subsidy for employees earning between $125,000 and $145,000. There are increased taxes to recapture subsidized payments for people earning over $125,000 a year. You will, however, be permitted to opt out of the coverage if it doesn't benefit you. If you earned over the $125,000 threshhold, talk to your tax advisor to see how the plan impacts you and make an informed decision as to whether you want to opt out or take the benefit.

The subsidized coverage will only last for 9 months - or until you get new health insurance group coverage (except for group plans offering vision and dental coverage only), a flexible spending plan, an on-site medical treatment plan or if you become eligible for Medicare - whichever happens first. And if you get the new group health coverage and don't tell your old employer, you will be responsible for paying back 110% of the subsidy beginning when you get the coverage under your new employer's plan.

Even if you didn't take the COBRA coverage, or took it and then cancelled it, you will be offered coverage under the new law taking effect on March 1st. Your old employer will be notifying you by April 18, 2009 of your rights to elect the new COBRA coverage if it applies to you. Be looking for that notice in the mail.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cold Pill Legislation Pending in the Missouri legislature

The Springfield, MO News-Leader posted an article on their website announcing that Missouri has a bill now pending in the legislature that would require Missouri families to get a doctor's prescription for any cold medication containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine.

According to the News-Leader, you can currently go to your local pharmacy and purchase up to 9 grams pf pseudoephedrine every 30 days. That would be about two 15-dose boxes of Claritin-D or six 24-dose boxes of Sudafed.

If this bill passes, you have to go to your doctor - or the local hospital e.r. or the stand alone emergent care facility to get a prescription for the cold pills you have been using up to now without going through this new drill.

Just think of it. If the bill passes and you have a medical problem more serious than a cold, you will get to wait in a waiting room packed with folks sniffing and sneezing with their cold. And all of this is in the name of the war on drugs. I can only shake my head in disbelief.

If you want to register either your approval or disapproval of this pending legislative action, contact your local member of the Missouri House of Representatives.

You can read the News-Leader's article at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Limited Representation - The Third Option for Divorcing Couples

The Missouri Supreme Court has given its residents a third option for divorcing couples - besides hiring a lawyer at his or her regular hourly fee or representing yourself. They call that third option "Limited Representation."

For people who have relatively simple, straightforward issues in their dissolution of marriage action, this alternative offers a great way to get a divorce with as little hassle as possible. And, you know upfront exactly what you are paying for and what the cost is.

Even if you and your spouse have children this option may work for you if both parents agree as to the schedule on which you will be parenting the children. If both parents have agreed to abide by the child support amount that the Missouri Supreme Court has set out, you just need to tell the lawyer that you need to have a child support calculation done as a part of your limited representation.

There are, as you might suppose, situations in which limited representation will not serve you well. Examples of situations where limited representation may not serve you well are:

(1) if you or your spouse have a house, a retirement plan or other significant assets,

(2) If you have an issue with regard to parenting your children - whether that issue is the amount of time that each of you will spend with the children or whether the issue involves special needs of a child, or

(3) if you have a long marriage and one of the spouses needs alimony (called maintenance in Missouri).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Missouri's Fair Share Program

With the economy being as bad as it is, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their child support.

The Missouri Family Support Division has a program called their Fair Share Program to help folks who are finding themselves in this situation. The Division asks folks to ask themselves these questions - and, if the answers are "yes" to contact the Division to ask about participating in the program: (1) Do you have trouble making your child support payments? (2) Are you looking for a job? (3) Do you want to be more involved with your child(ren)? and (4) Are you having trouble making ends meet?

The requirements to participate in the program are: (1) You must be at least 18 years old; (2) You have to live in Missouri; (3) You have to be unemployed or underemployed; (4) You have to be required to pay child support on a child who doesn't live with you and (5) You have to have a case with Child Support Enforcement.

The Fair Share Program is good for families. It helps both parents by helping them address the economic realities they each face.

The contact number for the Family Support Division is 1-800-859-7999

The website address is: