Thursday, July 12, 2012


The new health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, holds health insurance companies accountable to consumers and ensures that American families are reimbursed if health insurance companies don’t meet a fair standard of value.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies now must reveal how much of premium dollars they actually spend on health care and how much they spend on administration, such as salaries and marketing. This information was not shared with consumers in the past. Not only is this information made available to consumers for the first time, if an insurance company spends less than 80% of premiums on medical care and quality (or less than 85% in the large group market, which is generally insurance provided through large employers), it must rebate the portion of premium dollars that exceeded this limit.

On June 1, 2012, insurance companies nationwide submitted their annual MLR reports for coverage provided in 2011 to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Based on this data, insurance companies that didn’t meet the 80/20 rule will provide nearly 12.8 million Americans with more than $1.1 billion in rebates this year. Americans receiving the rebate will benefit from an average rebate of $151 per household.

Under the new health care law, rebates must be paid by Aug. 1 each year. As a result, 12.8 million Americans will see one of the following:
• a rebate check in the mail
• a lump-sum reimbursement to the same account that was used to pay the
   premium if it was paid by credit card or debit card
• a direct reduction in their future premiums
• their employer providing one of the above rebate methods, or applying the rebate
   in a manner that benefits its employees.

Consumers in every state will also receive notifications from their insurance company about the 80/20 rule. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will send a letter to subscribers every year they miss the 80/20 mark. The letter will explain the purpose of the 80/20 rule, how far the insurance company fell short of this goal, and the percentage of premium it owes in rebates. In 2012, insurance companies that meet or exceed the standard in the 2011 coverage year will send a notice to consumers explaining the purpose of the 80/20 rule and notifying consumers that they met or exceeded the standard. Insurance companies will provide consumers with unprecedented information about the value consumers get for every dollar spent on premiums. All of this information will be publicly available on

For years, Americans have watched their premiums rise faster than their wages. Although these increases are partly due to rising medical costs and utilization of services, they are exacerbated by rising insurance company administrative costs (including marketing and salaries of CEOs) and profits, which contribute little or nothing to the care of patients or the health of consumers.

Many Americans are working hard to ensure that their families have health insurance coverage, and they do not deserve to have their premium dollars wasted on excessive administrative costs and profits. The Affordable Care Act and the 80/20 rule guarantee this right for consumers, and the over $1.1 billion in rebates provided through this rule show that insurance companies can no longer pass excessive administrative costs and profits on to consumers.

If you have received a rebate check and have questions on how to allocate the rebate
between the employer and employees, please contact our office at (219) 769-3616 or
e-mail your questions to

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Forgiven debt: It may be gone, but it’s not forgotten by the IRS

With the recent economic downturns experienced by many taxpayers, there is a tax concept that is very important: cancellation of debt. You would think that the cancellation of debt by a credit card company or mortgage company would be a good thing for the taxpayer. And it can be, but it can also be considered taxable income by the IRS. Here is a quick review of various debt cancellation situations.

Consumer debt
If you have gone through some type of credit “workout” program on consumer debt, it’s likely that some of your debt has been cancelled. If that is the case, be prepared to receive IRS Form 1099-C representing the amount of debt cancelled. The IRS considers that amount taxable income to you, and they expect to see it reported on your tax return. The exception is if you file for bankruptcy. With bankruptcy, generally the debt cancelled is not taxable.
Even if you are not legally bankrupt, you might be technically insolvent (where your liabilities exceed your assets). If this is the case, you can exclude your debt cancellation income by reporting your financial condition and filing IRS Form 982 with your tax return.

Primary home
If your home is “short” sold or foreclosed and the lender receives less than the total amount of the outstanding loan, you can also expect that amount of debt cancellation to be reported to you and the IRS. But special rules allow you to exclude up to $2 million in cancellation income in many circumstances. You will again need to complete IRS Form 982, but the exclusion from taxable income brought about by the debt cancellation on your primary residence is incredibly liberal. So make sure to take advantage of them should they apply to you.

Second home, rental property, investment property, business property
The rules for debt cancellation on second homes, rental property, and investment or business property can be extremely complicated. Generally speaking, the new laws that cover debt cancellation don’t apply to these properties, and the IRS considers any debt cancellation income taxable. Nevertheless, given your cost of these properties, your financial condition, and the amount of debt cancelled, it’s still possible to have this debt cancellation income taxed at a preferred capital gains rate, or even considered not taxable at all.
Be aware that many of the special debt cancellation provisions are set to expire at the end of 2012.

If you’re unsure as to how debt cancellation affects you, contact our office at (219) 769-3616 or e-mail your questions to to review your situation and determine how much, if any, cancelled debt will be taxable income to you.