Extension Educator, Consumer Economics
Extension Specialist, Consumer Economics
Extension Educator, Consumer Economics
August 27, 2009
If you are like me, until recently, you have probably half-heartedly followed the news reports on healthcare reform. I thought I'd wait until the dust settled and a more finalized draft of the healthcare bill had been developed before I weighed in. Needless to say, I was very surprised to hear all the uproar about less than pleasant protests taking place all over the country. I decided maybe I'd better find out sooner than later what all the fuss was about. As most of you know, our country is in a healthcare crisis. President Obama and the 111th Congress want to overhaul our current healthcare system and develop a system that would provide healthcare coverage to every American. That sounds easy enough. However, there are various points that proponents on each side of the debate need further clarification on.
Because I wasn't following the reform closely, there are several things that I was unaware of. First of all, I didn't know the correct name of the legislation is America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. You may not have known that as well. In the media, we have always heard terms like Obama-care, the Obama plan, healthcare reform and so on. Secondly, I didn't know that there were two versions of the healthcare bill, a house version and a senate version. Both bills are lengthy. Here's a summary of the house version.
Laurinda Dodgen, University of Illinois Extension Community Health Educator says "there are many myths about the new reform bill floating around." While preparing to write this blog, I found many online. Some points of contention include:
1. "Myth": Seniors will be euthanized.
"Truth": The house bill addresses estate planning issues.
2. "Myth": Private insurance costs will increase or private plans will be eliminated.
"Truth": A public insurance exchange will be created; the government plan will be one of many
3. "Myth": Medicare benefits will be cut to fund the healthcare reform.
"Truth": Medicare savings come from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and the elimination of fraud and abuse, not from reductions in patient care.
4. "Myth": The quality of care and services will decrease.
"Truth": With more options available, quality of care is expected to increase. Services will remain the same, and won't be rationed out as critics have suggested.
5. "Myth": Employees will have to change plans and doctors.
"Truth": Employees can keep their same plans, doctors, etc. The public plan will be an available option, not the only option.
Both of these arguments have some validity. I cannot say that one has a better argument than the other. I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The one person that everyone believes could have brought both sides together is the now deceased U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Sen. Kennedy has been a force to be reckoned with for many years. He has influenced a wide variety of legislation, including many that dealt with healthcare. It has been said that even from his sickbed he made calls and spoke to legislators about getting the healthcare reform passed. Now that he has passed away, strong recommendations have been made to name the reform bill after him. Will his death play a part in getting the bill passed? It's hard to say. If it does, it's too bad Sen. Kennedy won't be around to see his dream of universal healthcare become a reality. He has been advocating for universal healthcare for the past 30 years.
The question remains whether both sides will be able to come together and find common ground. I believe they will. As I looked at the bills, there are more things that are similar than different. I think a neutral party, without political or financial interests will be needed to mediate between the groups. Will the wrinkles get ironed out before the end of the year? Who knows? We will have to wait and see. In the meantime, send me an email with your reactions to the healthcare debate. I'd like to hear the thoughts of average Americans. Maybe I'll share your thoughts in my next blog.
August 20, 2009
This question comes up regularly between my colleagues and me. When you're in the business of financial education, it matters where people go to ask questions about money.
Where do you go? If you want to find out about IRAs or the new credit laws or how to choose a mutual fund, do you
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more and more people are going to independent financial advisors (rather than brokerage firms) for their financial information. If you have been thinking about visiting with a financial advisor, check out the U of I Extension's website, Choosing a Financial Professional, for tips on questions to ask.
Extension Educators are always looking for new ways to provide education to people who can use it. We know people have questions about finances. It seems likely to us that people are asking financial professionals questions such as:
But how do we get the objective, research-based information we have to the people asking questions? We keep trying new methods.
This year we're trying a new way to provide financial education: teaching financial professionals who are talking regularly to clients. In September, my colleagues and I are teaching a special one-day symposium through the University of Illinois Tax School: Strategies for Today's Economy. The symposium will be offered three times in Illinois:
For more information about these symposiums, visit online Strategies for Today's Economy.
And, we're open to ideas for other ways to reach people with financial education!
I'd really like to know -- where do you go? Drop me a note by clicking on my name below and tell me where you go for financial information.
August 12, 2009
August 6, 2009
I was a little surprised to see an article in the August issue of Money Magazine titled "Cure the Summer Landscape Blues." But it reminded me that I've been a true cheapskate when it comes to my garden. So I thought I'd share a few of my strategies with you.
I have re-used or repurposed so many things in my garden- plants, hardscape, even sod and dirt.
I'm careful with gardening expenses in other ways too. If I'm not sure a new plant will like my site - or that the rabbits will like it too much - I start small, often one from an even an end-of-season sale.
Many store closings are not places to find deals. It's made the news about how the liquidators may charge more for an item than you could have bought it for on sale before the store closing. But I have been fortunate in the past with landscaping materials. When a K-Mart closed a few years ago, I stocked up on bagged mulch at 50% off. And as far as I know, mulch NEVER goes on sale.
But later, I found an even cheaper way to mulch my flower beds and trees. My village (in any other state, it would be called either a town or a city) chips trees and branches that are downed in storms, pruned limbs from parkway trees, or brush placed on the curb by homeowners during seasonal pick-up days. All those chips are available free for the hauling. Actually, if I wanted an entire truck load, they would deliver. But I'd have no control over the quality of the load.
How to get this stuff home? I use the large paper yard waste bags that we are required to use if we dispose of yard waste. They cost about $.50 each. Wait, you say, that's a waste of money! It would be, if I used the bags once for this purpose and threw them away. But I don't. I can usually use the same bag for 2 or 3 trips to the chip pile if I don't fill them too full. Then I dry them and put them away, to use when I have yard waste that I can't dispose of on my own property.
And speaking of paying to have yard waste hauled away: I keep that to an absolute minimum. We almost always mulch our grass clippings and let them fall back onto the lawn. I shred and save my leaves each fall, corraling them with hardware cloth or other spare items. Next year, when I'm putting down new wood chips, I'll spread a layer of leaves first, then the wood chips.
Right now, I've got my eye on a pallet of bagged top soil at the local grocery store. The price has already been reduced. But I'm trying to wait until they've given up on selling it, in hopes they'll accept my offer for an even lower price. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
I'll bet any of you who are gardeners have tips about how you've kept costs down. Click on my name below and tell me about it. We'll share those ideas in a future post.