Last-Minute Questions on Applying for Health Insurance

By Nancy Metcalf – Reposted from ConsumerReports.org

What counts as income, and extended deadlines in several states

The weekend brought in a bunch of questions from people who were trying to beat the Dec. 15 deadline to buy or renew health insurance by Jan. 1, but were puzzled by what counts toward their income in 2015.

That’s an important number, because when you fill out your application, you have to give that estimate. It determines whether you will be eligible for tax credits to lower the cost of your insurance premiums.

One reader said she and her husband planned to live off their savings for the next year and wondered if they should put down what they planned to spend from that source. Another reader was unsure whether to report his total income from self-employment , or just his Adjusted Gross Income, which was considerably lower.

Fortunately, we have lots of resources to help answer those questions.

Here’s a full explanation of how to project and report your 2015 income, including what goes into it (and what doesn’t).

And here’s a handy visual aid we created: an annotated Form 1040 that will show exactly what counts and what doesn’t.

For instance, it clearly shows that the couple who wrote in should NOT report withdrawals from a regular savings account as income for 2015. But interest or dividend income those savings will earn will count. And so will any distributions they take from a 401(k) or tax-free Individual Retirement Account.

And the self-employed reader will see that it’s the Adjusted Gross Income at the bottom of the tax form that counts, not his total income.

Enrollment deadline extended in five states

And here’s a housekeeping note for people who live in Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. Their state-run Marketplaces have extended the deadline for purchasing or renewing health insurance if they want it to start on Jan. 1.

Here are the extended deadlines:

Idaho – Dec. 20

Maryland – Dec. 18

Massachusetts – Dec. 23

New York – Dec. 20

Rhode Island – Dec. 23

In all other states, the deadline is midnight on Dec. 15.

If you miss the cutoff in your state, you still can enroll in or switch plans up through Feb. 15. If you finish your application by Jan. 15, your new coverage will start Feb. 1. If you wait until after that, your coverage will start March 1.

Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or part, without written permission.

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7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

7 Reasons Right to Work Is Wrong for Warren County, Ky. (and Everywhere Else)

In Warren County, Ky., a fiscal court has given preliminary approval to a local “right to work” for less ordinance. The measure is worded as to prevent any worker covered by the National Labor Relations Act from being required to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Since it is already illegal in the United States to require workers to join unions, the real focus of the measure is to weaken workers in negotiations with employers for decent wages and benefits. Instead of passing illegal ordinances that are a big waste of time and resources for the county, those efforts should be spent in other ways like focusing on raising wages for Warren County residents.

If you’re in Kentucky, call the fiscal court today and tell them you oppose the right to work ordinance: 1-855-721-3304

Here are seven specific ways that this measure would hurt workers in Warren County, most of which would apply to workers in other Kentucky locales (and elsewhere) if the process were repeated elsewhere:

1. It’s illegal and will create an administrative nightmareA Kentucky court already has said that right to work laws can only be made at the state level. If it goes into effect, it will lead to legal wrangling and make compliance very difficult for companies that work in more than one Kentucky county.

2. The law is being pushed by rich extremists from out of state: The Bluegrass Institute, a Kentucky “think tank,” that is pushing local right to work laws like this one receives massive amounts of funding from out-of-state interests that won’t be affected by the negative impact of such laws on Kentuckians. A shadowy network of groups, many of them connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, and the billionaire Koch Brothers, pushes these laws across the country, with little concern about the local impact and without revealing their funding and broader agenda.

3. The law is being advanced with little input with a high level of secrecy: On Dec. 11, the court voted to pass the law. The right to work measure was part of a bill called Promotion of Economic Development and Commerce for Warren County and it was handed out 15 minutes before the vote, a vote that was held 19 out of 20 during the meeting. Where was the public input? Who proposed the measure? Who supported it? What economic impacts would it have on workers? Were any questions asked or answered during the process?

4. It hurts working families: There is a pattern of right to work laws decreasing wages, lowering household income, increasing poverty, undermining workplace safety and failing to improve access to health care.

5. These laws don’t actually boost the economy: A significant body of research backs that claim, and even some conservatives, such as Stanley Greer, a spokesperson for the National Right to Work Committee, have admitted it: “We’re not purporting to prove that right to work produces superior economic performance.”

6. Voters don’t want it: In November, Kentucky voters rejected candidates funded by out-of-state interests with extreme agendas, including right to work.

7. Kentucky residents have other priorities: The state’s hardworking families need a raise, more good jobs and more investment in education. This measure will accomplish none of that.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Is Wall Street A Black Hole for Our Best and Brightest? Punching In

Michigan on track to ban student-athlete unionization

“This is not the first time Michigan lawmakers have moved to stifle organized labor on college campuses. University of Michigan graduate research assistants attempted to unionize, but that effort was chilled by a 2012 law signed by [Governor] Snyder.”

Wall Street is a black hole for our best and brightest

“The financial industry has doubled in size as a share of the economy in the past 50 years, but it hasn’t gotten any better at its core job: getting money from investors who have it to companies that will use it to generate growth, profit and jobs.”

New York’s Democratic Gov. Cuomo to kick 1,000 state workers out of unions

“An estimated one thousand New York state government employees received notices Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration aims to reclassify their jobs as non-union, a move that could weaken a federation that has previously butted heads with the centrist Democratic governor.”

Another domino falls? Tennessee considers Medicaid expansion compromise

“[Gov.] Haslam, who recently took over as the chair of the Republican Governors Association, will reportedly call a special session of Tennessee’s legislature to consider the package he’s worked out with the Obama administration.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville Intends to Block Minimum Wage Increase: Punching In

Full-time faculty at Boston area colleges seeking to unionize

“As full-time lecturers, we remain the only group of instructors on campus who don’t have a voice. Tenured faculty have a voice. Part-timers have established their voice. We feel like we need to have the opportunity to be involved.”

Despite election loss, UAW could soon become the union at the VW Chattanooga plant

“If successful, the UAW would achieve its longstanding goal of organizing a foreign-owned automotive manufacturer in the South.”

Democratic Mayor of Louisville, KY wants to veto minimum wage increase

“There are nine sponsors of the increase. Democrats have a 17-9 majority on the council and do not expect any support from Republicans. Supporters do not appear to have the 18 votes needed to override a veto”

Steelworkers President: stop bad trade deals like the TPP

“American workers aren’t whining. They can compete with anyone in the world on an even playing field. But when foreign countries provide illegal subsidies, manipulate their currency, and hand no-cost land, no-interest loans and tax breaks to producers, then it’s bad trade.”

NLRB Rules Employees Can Use Work Email for Organizing

Workers were given a potentially significant tool when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that employees can use work email accounts in union organizing activities, as long as they do it on their own time. The decision reversed a 2007 decision. Workers also are allowed to use work email to discuss wage and other workplace issues. The three Democrats on the board voted yes on the ruling, while the two Republicans abstained.

Bernie Lunzer, a vice president for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which filed the case in 2012, said the ruling was: “A big victory for workers in general.”

CWA pursued the case after Purple Communications in Rocklin, Calif., refused to allow workers to use company email accounts in a union organizing drive.

The NLRB reasoned:

By focusing too much on employers’ property rights and too little on the importance of email as a means of workplace communication, the Board (in its earlier ruling) failed to adequately protect employees’ rights…and abdicated its responsibility ‘to adapt the Act to the changing patterns of industrial life.’

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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New Ruling from NLRB Could Speed Up Future Organizing Campaigns: Punching In

NLRB decision takes away common management stall tactic

“The rule will require businesses to postpone virtually all litigation over eligibility issues until after workers vote on whether to join the union, thereby depriving management of a stall tactic that unions widely claim benefits the employer.”

Labor unions saved Ford Motor Company “in our darkest hour,” says executive

“Ford, the executive chairman of the Detroit automaker, said in an interview on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ that former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger doesn’t get enough credit for helping to shore up the books during Ford’s ‘darkest hour.’”

Study confirms that the seeds of the Tea Party were planted by Big Tobacco and Koch Brothers

“This report might serve as a wake-up call to some people in the Tea Party itself, who would find it a little disturbing that the “grassroots” movement they are so emotionally attached to, is in fact a pawn created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the common person, but instead using the common person to fight for their own unfettered profits. ”

Elizbaeth Warren’s anti-Wall Street speech leaves some Republican Senators sore

“There is a lot of talk coming from CitiGroup about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone listening at Citi —I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.”

Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

It’s getting there, but it’s not too late yet to find that perfect holiday gift that carries a union label and is made in America. Below is a wide range of gift possibilities, from clothes to games to sports equipment and more, made by members of UNITE HERE, Boilermakers (IBB), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Machinists (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), Teamsters (IBT), UAW, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) and United Farm Workers (UFW).

This list is compiled from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411Union Plus, the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department and the BCTGM website. Check them out for even more gift ideas.

Apparel and Accessories

Brooks Brothers (UNITE HERE)

Joseph Abboud (UNITE HERE)

Majestic Athletic (UNITE HERE)

Timex watches (IAM)

Naturalizer shoes (UFCW)

Nunn Bush shoes (UFCW)

Red Wing Shoes (UFCW)

Beauty Products

Avon (UFCW)

Caress skin care (UFCW)

ChapStick (USW)

Dove beauty products (UFCW)

Revlon (UAW)

Old Spice (UFCW)

Games

(All made by RWDSU/UFCW)

Barrel of Monkeys

Battleship

Candy Land

Chutes and Ladders

Clue

Connect 4

Game of Life

Hi Ho Cherry-O

Monopoly

Mouse Trap

Operation

Pictionary

Risk

Scrabble

Sorry

Taboo

Twister

Yahtzee

Sports Equipment

American Athletic (Russell Brands) (UAW)

Louisville Slugger (UAW and IBT)

MacGregor Golf clubs (IBB)

Standard Golf (IAM)

Top-Flite golf balls (IBB)

Stocking Stuffers

Rayovac batteries (IBT and UAW)

Bic Lighters (USW)

Ghirardelli chocolates (BCTGM)

Jelly Belly (BCTGM)

Laffy Taffy (BCTGM)

Tootsie Roll Pops (BCTGM)

Wine and Beer

(Wines brought to you by UFW.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle (IBT)

Columbia Crest

St. Supery

Charles Krug

C.K. Mondavi

Gallo of Sonoma

Miller Beer (UAW and IBT)

Miller High Life

Miller Genuine Draft

Miller Lite

Milwaukee’s Best

Icehouse

Red Dog

Anheuser-Busch (IBT and IAM)

Budweiser

Budweiser American Ale

Bud Light

Michelob

Shock Top

Busch

Rolling Rock

O’Doul’s

If You’re in the ‘Big Spender’ Category (UAW)

Jeep

Ford Mustangs

Cadillacs

See more cars made by UAW.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

Support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

A bipartisan bill currently before the Senate is focused on increasing efforts to prevent suicide among our veterans. According to a study done by the Veterans Administration (VA), an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

The AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council strongly urges you to support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. We need your help to push the Senate to vote on this measure before they go home for the Holidays. Sign our petition to tell them that this veteran’s crisis deserves their attention.

Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand

  • Requires VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all department mental health services.
  • Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.

Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA

  • Requires a yearly evaluation of all VA mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

Developing a Community Support System for Veterans 

  • Establishes a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
  • Requires VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations to improve the efficiency of suicide prevention efforts.

The AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council strongly urges you to support the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. We need your help to push the Senate to vote on this measure before they go home for the Holidays. Sign our petition to tell them that this veteran’s crisis deserves their attention.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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News Out of Congress Is Bleak, But News Out of New Orleans Is Incredible: Punching In

San Francisco airport food workers on strike

“‘Travelers – bring your own food if you’re flying out of the San Francisco International Airport!’ Unite Here Local 2, a hospitality workers’ union, said in a statement posted on its website.”

Harold Meyerson: the labor movement is reinventing itself

“Blocked from unionizing workplaces by ferocious management opposition and laws that fail to keep union activists from being fired, unions have begun to focus on raising wages and benefits for many more workers than they can ever expect to claim as their own.”

Progressive Democrats revolt against Wall Street giveaways in last minute budget deal

Elizabeth Warren urged her colleagues in the House not to support a “deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”

New Orleans might eliminate homelessness among veterans in the next three weeks

“There is a sense of urgency here that you don’t find in other communities just because we’ve all been homeless. We’ve all tasted maybe a tiny slice of it, maybe a huge slice of it. Some of our outreach workers have been literally homeless while they were housing homeless people because of Katrina.”

Some Things to Remember Now That Santorum Is Running for President Again: Punching In

Pregnancy shouldn’t disqualify women from getting paychecks

“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, UPS permits light duty for drivers injured on the job or who have a qualifying disability. Even drivers who lose their licenses after a DUI offense are given alternative work to do. But women who get pregnant? You’re too big of a risk for a company that puts more than 96,000 vehicles on the road each year.”

Minimum wage will go up in Florida and other states, but it’s still not enough

“Something will be done in the next few years. Every year that we wait there are more states that are moving to a higher increase and we’ll find ourselves as a state on the low end of the minimum wage scale.”

Rick Santorum wants to run for President again, so let’s remember his stance on unions

“There is no tougher bullies than the public employee unions,” said the former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential candidate in March 2012.

Enrollments on health care exchanges surge in December

“Obamacare customers shook off their Thanksgiving food comas last week and began signing up at a much quicker pace on HealthCare.gov, which has now sold 1.38 million insurance plans.”