This Week In Your Wallet: Cleaning Closets And Counting Down
After much waiting… and waiting and waiting, President Trump signed the stimulus bill. If you’re missing details on who gets checks, how and when unemployment will resume, the return of the PPP, the extension of the halt on evictions and the deadline to ask for mortgage relief, they’re all right here.
One welcome element in this 5,000+ (yes, really) page bill that we didn’t cover is that it contains a provision to eliminate surprise medical bills — otherwise known as “balance bills.” You may have received one of these bills yourself — it’s when you’re billed for out-of-network services that you didn’t realize you were receiving. Often, these come in emergency situations, for things like ambulances, air-lifts, hospitals and ERs. But sometimes, you get a surprise bill when you’re treated at an in-network facility from a doc who just happens to be out-of-network. As NPR reports, “most Americans tell pollsters they’re worried about being able to afford an unexpected medical bill.” And with good reason — nearly one in five ER visits results in a surprise bill, a number being driven up by the fact that many ERs are now contracting with private employment agencies to provide doctors who are not in-network.
The good news is that as long as you are insured, this legislation should knock a lot of those worries off the list. Going forward, you’ll pay in-network rates (your deductibles and copays) for emergency care, and for non-emergency care at in-network facilities, even if out-of-network docs provide it. The bad news is that this doesn’t take effect until January of 2022. For now, if you see a doc that’s not your PCP, consider this a reminder to double (or triple) check that they are in-network.
It’s The Little Things
As we count down to the New Year, The Wall Street Journal’s Anne Tergesen reminds us that if you’re looking to take hold of your money in 2021 (or really to adopt any new habit), it’s best to start with small changes. “This approach is likely to be especially helpful in 2021, after a year when many have been under financial strain. People who are stressed or overwhelmed, ‘cannot make big changes and aren’t likely to even try,’ said BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University.” she writes.
How, exactly, do you do this? Start by taking a single step, she recommends. That could be making an appointment with a financial advisor, opening a brokerage account, setting up a single automatic transfer, even just saying to your spouse or partner that you’d like to set aside 15 minutes this weekend to talk about your money.
And The Not So Little Things
I spent the past week cleaning out. If you’ve been a regular reader of this newsletter, you know my husband and I are prepping for a move this spring. And so, we decided to pare down with abandon. As we readied bags for the Salvation Army and stuffed years’ worth of docs no longer needed for my taxes (here are the rules on what to keep and what to toss) into the shredder, I was remembering that when I first moved into this house 15 years ago, I resolved not to accumulate things I didn’t need (or really, really want). I failed miserably.
But I’m lighter now — and it feels really good. Two sites have been particularly helpful as we unloaded. The first is freecycle.org. Yes, I’m a fan of Facebook’s marketplace, and I’ve sold things on local groups for years. And, I thought about holding a garage sale. But in this pandemic year, it somehow feels better to just give them away. So, that’s what we’ve been doing: grouping like items (here’s a serving-bowl-and-platter tableau, as my husband called it), posting them and giving them to the first person who raises a hand.
The second is decluttr, which is actually more of an app. Last night, I simultaneously caught up on the Hallmark Christmas movies on my DVR and scanned the bar codes for some 300 cds to see which ones the site would take and which it passed on. Where else would you find a world in which Sondheim’s Follies was more wanted than Jersey Boys? And where a Blood, Sweat and Tears double volume would be the most valuable of the bunch ($3). Anyway, it was vaguely satisfying — you might even say fun.
A Very Happy New Year
In a way, paring down seemed appropriate. 2020 has been a year in which we’ve learned what — and who — we value, and what — and who — we stand for. We’ve learned what’s important. So, as we put the wraps on this whopper of a year, my wish for you is health, happiness, and time spent (in person) with the ones you love. Thank you for being a reader of this newsletter and an important part of my community and my life.