Monday, March 31, 2014

As Obamacare hits enrollment milestone, some call for cheaper plans

<Discountp>If you're familiar with the different levels of Obamacare coverage, you've probably heard of the "metal" levels: Bronze, silver, gold and platinum, in addition to catastrophic health plans.

There have been some suggestions recently to add a cheaper coverage level to the Affordable Care Act to help draw people into the program. Karen Ignagni, head of America's Health Insurance Plans, suggested it this past week. The Obamacare "fix" package offered by five centrist Democratic senators and one independent yesterday would also create a lower tier of coverage. Insurance industry consultant Bob Laszewski offered a similar idea on his blog this week.

It's all happened in the same week that Obamacare hit a symbolic target - 6 million signups and counting in the program's first year. What's still unclear is the health status of those joining the exchanges. Insurers say adding a cheaper level of coverage would help attract into the program healthier people, who might not feel that strongly about their need for health insurance.

"People could gradually get into the program so they could be part of the risk pool, so we don't hold healthier people outside so the process could be working the way it's designed," said AHIP's Ignagni on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers."

At some point, there's a limit to how cheap plans could get without a change to the law. Plans have to live by ACA caps on out-of-pocket costs, provider network requirements and a mandated set of 10 benefits. Obamacare allies that fought for the law's passage wouldn't be thrilled about weakening those requirements.

Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute said she doesn't see the need to add a cheaper coverage level into the mix. "It strikes me as a solution in search of a problem," she said. "When you look at enrollments and where enrollment is going in the marketplace, we're seeing people gravitate to silver and above."

According to the Obama administration's most recent monthly enrollment report, the mid-level silver plan has easily been the most popular in the Obamacare exchanges - 63 percent have selected that level of coverage, in which insurers pay 70 percent of the costs. People choosing silver plans can also get federal help with out-of-pocket costs if their incomes are under 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The bronze plans, which offer cheaper premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs, have been less popular in the exchanges, accounting for 18 percent of signups.

Just 1 percent of exchange enrollees have selected catastrophic plans, but only two categories of people can purchase catastrophic coverage - anyone under 30 years old, or anyone who had their health plan cancelled this past year. People also can't receive subsidies for catastrophic health plans.

One wild card is we don't know much about what level of coverage people are buying off the exchange, where subsidies aren't available. The online Web broker eHealthInsurance gave us a glimpse of that market this week, reporting that 14 percent of its customers during the last six months have picked catastrophic plans and 43 percent chose bronze - both much higher rates than what the exchanges have seen.

Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute, said there's been a shift toward cheaper plans in the later months of the six-month enrollment period. But it's too early to say whether another cheaper coverage level could bring more people into the market.

"There's so much we need to learn from this first year," Connolly said. "It probably makes sense to collect some information and make a more informed decision for next year."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two coupon inserts coming in Sunday's N&O

Look for two Promo Codes inserts -- a Smart Source and the P&G BrandSaver -- in this Sunday's home-delivered Final Edition of The News & Observer. Plus, look for two coupons in Parade magazine.

All together, there will be 134 coupons with a face value of about $190.

As usual, I'll have the coupon database updated and the best of the drugstore deals posted early Sunday morning so you can get a jump on your bargain shopping for the week.

I'll also have a separate post listing the new deals you can score at Harris Teeter Super Doubles with the coupons.

Please note: Single-copy and State Edition papers may not contain all coupon inserts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nokia says Microsoft deal to be delayed by a month

Finnish handset maker Nokia on Monday said its $7.2 billion On Sales with software firm Microsoft is expected to be delayed by a month and will now be finalised by April due to pending regulatory approvals from some antitrust authorities in Asia.

The handset maker , which is facing multiple tax cases in India, added that the proceedings in the country will not affect the timing of the deal.

Last September, Nokia had announced it would sell a substantial part of its devices and services (D&S) business, including assets in India, to Microsoft for $7.2 billion by March 2014.

"It now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its D&S business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014," Nokia said in a statement on Monday.

Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction, it added.

The two companies have received most of the required regulatory approvals, including clearances from the European Commission and the US Department of Justice, it said.

"However, the transaction is pending approvals from certain antitrust authorities in Asia, which are still conducting their reviews," Nokia said.

The handset firm said it is confident the deal will close, resulting in the sale of substantially all of its D&S business to Microsoft.

"Nokia reiterates that ongoing tax proceedings in India have no bearing on the timing of the closing or the material deal terms of the anticipated transaction between Nokia and Microsoft," the Finnish firm said.

Microsoft said in a statement the completion of the deal will mark the first step to bring Microsoft and the Nokia D&S business together.

"We are nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process. To date we have received approvals from regulatory authorities in 15 markets on five continents.

Currently, we are awaiting approval confirmation in the final markets," Microsoft General Counsel and Executive VP (Legal & Corporate Affairs) Brad Smith said.

This work has been progressing and the firm expects it to close next month, in April 2014, he added.

"Our acquisition will accelerate our mobile-first, cloud-first imperatives. We're looking forward to accelerating innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones and introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones," Smith said.

Last week, in another setback for Nokia, the Tamil Nadu government slapped a Rs 2,400 crore tax demand on the company related to devices sold from its Chennai factory.

Nokia has approached the Madras High Court challenging claims made by the Tamil Nadu government.

On March 14, the Supreme Court had refused to lift a restraint on the sale of its Indian assets in a separate case related to payment of tax dues.

The apex court dismissed Nokia's plea against a Delhi High Court order directing its parent company to give an undertaking it would fulfil the conditions related to payment of tax dues.

The apex court's decision not to interfere with the high court order had put hurdles for Nokia transferring its Chennai plant, which is a part of the deal with Microsoft.

Nokia's Chennai factory employs about 8,000 people, 20 per cent of them women, and about 30,000 sub-contractors.

For more news from Business Today, follow us on Twitter @bt_india and on Facebook at

Saturday, March 15, 2014


There is no other time of the year that compares to what is about to take place next week. That of course is March Madness and the NCAA Tournament. As conference championship week dwindles down to a close the NCAA Tournament bracket is quickly filling up as teams continue punching their tickets everyday. Presently there are 13 teams who have done just that by winning their respective conference tournaments.

As each year comes and goes so too do prices NCAA Tournament tickets which have increased each of the past three years. For instance in 2012 the average ticket Deal Now for the tournament was $215, in 2013 it went up more than 11% for an average price of $240 and this year its over $50 more than last year clocking in at a steep $292.

Getting a little deeper into the ticket data, we see that the East Region has an average price of $691, more than double the price of any other region. Currently, the West Region is averaging $287, the Midwest Region is averaging $263, and the South Region is averaging $226. Having a venue like Madison Square Garden hosting this year's East Regional is clearly driving up demand and ticket prices. If a team from the New York area, like Syracuse, ends up making it to the Sweet 16 in The Garden, expect to see that average price increase dramatically.

That astonishing average price of the East Region, up 114% from last year alone, is the highest of any we have on record with the next closest being the 2013 West Region which went for $342. In fact the East Region has such a high average ticket price this year that only the Final Four All Sessions ticket is the only one that is more expensive at $1,100 while a regular Final Four ticket goes for $641 and the Championship Game at $631. Ironically, the average price Final Four tickets this year is currently $641, with a get-in of $142, and is the only round that has a lower average price this year compared to both 2012 and 2013. Those two average prices for Final Four tickets were $723 in 2012 and $888 in 2013. This is most likely due to match-ups and fans of those final four teams driving up demand and price. Obviously, with this year's final four match-ups still weeks away from being decided fans are still waiting patiently to see if their team makes the big dance.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Amazon has a few deals on Wii U games

Deal Today has some great deals again on Wii U titles, if you're looking for a new game to play.

Occasionally we like to focus on great Wii U deals for gamers who make have missed a title when it was originally released. Amazon currently has several titles on sale for Wii U, including recently released titles. If you haven't had a chance to pick these up, now is the time. If you know of a deal we haven't listed here, be sure and comment so others can see it.

These are for Amazon in the United States. If you're from Europe and want to share some of the deals you find available with online retailers there, be sure and share them in the comments!

Online Coupons: Where Can You Find Them?

If you shop online often, you may be aware that there are many online coupons available that can help you save money on your purchases. These coupons can help you get items for free with a purchase, get free shipping on your purchase or save a certain percentage off your total purchase. Almost every online story has online coupons available, you just have to know where to find them.

Coupons Websites
The easiest way to find coupons for your favorite online stores is to search coupon websites. There are many of these online and they can all offer different savings, deals, and offers. Most will offer information and restrictions on the coupons and even tell you if the coupon code you want to use is still working or has expired. A few of the most popular online coupons websites are RetailMeNot, CouponCabin, and DealCatcher.

Store Newsletters
If you shop at a store often, you may have been asked if you would like to subscribe to their online newsletter that is delivered to your email inbox on a regular basis. While you may not opt for this subscription because you think of the newsletter as spam, you could be missing out on some great store coupons. These newsletters often contain information on deals, sales, and special offers and even Amazon Deal that can be used online.

Ads And Inserts
While you might not think that ads and coupon inserts would have coupons that can be used online, you are wrong. If you look carefully on certain coupons and ads, you will find that there is a code that can be used to enter the coupon online. Not every coupon will have this option, but many do. It's worth checking out if you have a few inserts or ads around your home.

If you shop online often, it is worth finding coupons that you can use to save money. What are you favorite coupon sites or where do you find your online coupons?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Amazon Deal: HTC One is Now Free With a Contract

Every day we search for the best smartphone and tablet deals and now we've found a free HTC One at Promotional">Amazon with a two-year contract with Verizon or Sprint, while with an AT&T plan is $49.

The HTC One is still a really good smartphone, even though it's been released one year ago. It's hardware is not outdated yet and this deal makes it worth if you're looking for a new smartphone that won't empty your pockets.

Amazon has the deal available for all three major carriers in the US and you can order the 32GB HTC One by clicking the following links: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T.

The HTC One comes with a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 1080p Full HD display with a 1,080×1,920 pixels resolution and a density of 469PPI, a quad-core 1.7Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal memory. Out of the box it comes with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, but it cna be updated to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is the latest version.

The Taiwanese maker has done a great job with their smartphone and it's been praised by most customers and critics. It's camera is also one of the best, even though it has only a 4MP sensor, marketed as Ultrapixel.

It's considered the most beautiful smartphone and it's built out of aluminium, making it feel premium and looking really good. Also it has probably the best sound quality, with the two stereo front speakers.