Tuesday, October 1, 2013
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Junk Mail Awareness Week
Happy Junk Mail Awareness Week! Yes, that's right, I said Junk Mail Awareness Week. Didn't know there was such a thing, did you? Don't worry; I didn't either.
The big "Green Holiday" that gets most of the attention these days is celebrated in April and is known as Earth Day. However, Earth Day is only one of many Green Holidays occurring throughout the year. Some other Green Holidays you may have heard of are Arbor Day (last Friday in April), World Oceans Day (June 8), and National Wildlife Day (September 4), just to name a few. One of the lesser know Green Holidays, Junk Mail Awareness Week, is celebrated the first week of October.
Junk mail can mean different things to different people. To some, junk mail is the miscellaneous catalogs and offers that your friendly neighborhood mailman delivers to your front door. To others, junk mail is the miscellaneous spam that is electronically delivered to your email inbox. In this article, I'm going to focus on the front door arriving junk mail, otherwise knows as snail mail.
According to the website 41pounds.org, "the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year." This equates to 4 million tons of junk mail being produced every year, most of which is thrown away without ever being opened. If we could stop it, we could save 100 million trees from being destroyed and conserve 28 billion gallons of water. Worth a little of your time and effort? I think so.
So, what can you do? Two things that are relatively easy are: 1) register your direct mail choices with the Direct Marketing Association; and 2) "opt out" of prescreened credit card and insurance mailings with the consumer reporting companies.
To register your choices with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), visit their website. The DMA is a trade association for businesses and non-profit organizations that send direct mail. With nearly 3,600 member companies worldwide, the DMA can help you weed out the mail you don't wish to receive. The DMA classifies direct mail into four categories: credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers. You can choose not to receive mail from a whole category or just from specific member businesses.
Two things to note about the DMA: 1) your name will only be removed from the mailing lists of member companies, so registering with the DMA will not stop all your direct mail; and 2) your name will only be removed from a company's mailing list if you are a "prospect" and not a "customer." If you have made a purchase from or given a donation to a company in the past, you are considered a "customer." To be removed from the mailing list of a company for which you are a customer, you will need to contact the company directly.
To "opt out" of prescreened credit or insurance offers, visit OptOutPrescreen.com. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumer reporting companies (ex: Equifax, Experian, Trans Union) are permitted to provide mailing lists to companies that send out credit card and/or insurance offers as long as you have not opted-out of receiving such offers. By opting-out, you are removing your name from the mailing lists. You can opt-out through the website for a period of five years. To permanently opt-out, you must mail in a Permanent Opt-Out Election Form. The form and directions on where to mail the form are available on the website.
It's easy to reduce the amount of junk mail coming to your house. And you're not the only one who will appreciate it. You'll make your mail carrier and trash collector happy, too.
Both Sides of the Story
Last week's issue of GCFlash featured an article on what to expect when Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment begins today. In researching the article, I used the premium estimator and reviewed the plan details found on Healthcare.gov in order to provide readers with the most accurate data available at the time.
And I wasn't happy when I learned how much higher both my monthly premium and out-of-pocket costs would be compared with my current policy.
Healthcare has become a hot political topic, dividing our nation, rather than a concern our nation should share on a united basis. This is a danger greater than any political agenda.
I've been writing about healthcare concerns in GCFlash for over 10 years, both during a Democratic and Republican administration. As a healthcare plan administrator working in human resources over 20 years ago, I had ample opportunity to see the system begin to crumble. I fought with providers on behalf of employees caught up in the flaws of the system.
The case for healthcare reform is powerful. Yet there is more than one way for this to be achieved. And when our political leaders refuse to even discuss the pros and cons, it leaves much to wonder about.
Someone has to discuss both sides. So we'll do it here.
One reader was gracious enough to share his personal situation in letting me know he did not agree with my comments last week. He allowed me to share this example of how ACA is helping his family overcome serious financial difficulties they've been facing.
His 19-year-old son has a condition that is excluded from his current health coverage. The condition can be controlled by medication that his insurance won't pay for, either.
Weekly doctor visits cost him $160 a pop, the prescription runs him another $75 per day. All out-of-pocket. All on top of his monthly $2,000 premium.
Yet the cost of not receiving the proper medical care would be catastrophic. And only when it reaches that point would he qualify for insurance coverage.
My neighbor is also a strong advocate of the ACA. Her brother-in-law suffered a heart attack two months ago and needed emergency surgery. With no insurance coverage in place at the time, the family would have been bankrupt bearing the cost of this one event.
Yet this same neighbor learned last week that her full-time job at Home Depot was reduced to part-time. She was one of 20,000 store employees nationwide to have their hours cut back to compensate for rising healthcare costs.
As a single mother, she now qualifies for a tax subsidy to help bear the cost of having to purchase her own healthcare coverage. But it doesn't offset her loss of wages coupled with the additional healthcare premium.
She's not alone. Employees of Walmart, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell and White Castle are in her same position.
I wrote last week's column after researching my own situation. Under ACA, my premiums will be $278 more each month than I currently pay. This is based on the Silver plan with out-of-pocket costs capped at $6,350. My current costs are capped at $2,500. I did not view this as a good deal.
I can currently opt for plans that match my needs. For example, I could select a plan that does not offer maternity coverage at a reduced premium. I can't do that with ACA. All enrollees have the same coverage, despite individual need.
It's a way to fund the program, I get that. Others may be paying for something I need that they don't. Hopefully it will average out. Yet in my particular case, it proves more costly.
Premiums are based on your locality and number of providers participating in the Marketplace exchange. A New Jersey resident of my age with the same income will likely pay less than I will. There isn't much competition where I live, our rates are normally higher. The same holds true of my current plan and already reflected in my rate comparison.
My husband's situation is different. He's among those previously uninsurable. His high blood pressure has been successfully regulated for almost 30 years now, and he has had two attacks of gout over a 15-year period. Quite healthy by most standards, yet enough for insurance providers to deny his risk.
Pools were setup for people in his situation when ACA was enacted in 2010. They were designed to provide coverage until the Act was fully implemented. Yet with a premium of $943, they just weren't an option. Particularly with their high deductible.
I had hoped to enroll at Healthcare.gov today to include how this act affects him. But their servers have been overwhelmed on this first day of open enrollment. I've been repeatedly asked to try back later.
Politicians don't have an easy task. They're charged with representing a constituency with as diverse needs as these few examples illustrated here.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan that will work for all 314 million citizens. Each individual voice clamors for their side to be heard. They can't even begin to come close if they refuse to speak with one another.
Tip of the Week
Facebook is adding new types of content to Graph Search, raising even more privacy concerns. Here are five privacy settings you'll want to check to ensure you're only sharing information with those you intend.
GCFlash is a weekly e-mail sent only to its listed customers and associates free of charge. GCFlash informs customers of special product offerings which may be of interest, current interest rates on both deposit and loan products, selected financial news and other financial tidbits. GCFlash is intended to supplement the more comprehensive information listed on the GCF Web site at http://www.gcfbank.com.GCFLASH PRIVACY STATEMENT
GCF maintains your e-mail address in a confidential and secure database along with much of your other account information, such as mailing address and telephone number, etc. Before aggregating our e-mailing list each week, we filter out any duplicates. In most cases, this inhibits the unintended e-mailing of multiple copies of GCFlash to a single e-mail address. However, because these account records are kept by both individual and account, there is a chance members of the same household could each receive a copy of GCFlash or any other transmission at the same e- mail address - resulting in multiple copies. For example, a husband and wife that both have accounts with GCF may both receive a copy because the names are different but listed at the same e-mail address. This is similar to the manner in which each individual may share a common telephone number. To handle this situation, GCF recommends you simply delete any extra copies of GCFlash as this will ensure that ALL individuals receive any future promotional mailings, which might only be targeted or offered to specific accountholders meeting certain criteria. GCF has the capability to suppress customer e-mail addresses so they are omitted from our transmission list. If you would rather have a specific household member's e-mail address suppressed in our electronic database, simply send us a reply, as stated below, and indicate the accountholder for which you would like to have e-mail suppressed. Please keep in mind that this suppression will mean that NO future e-mails are sent, including special promotional offers. If you have any questions about this process or need additional information, please contact us at email@example.com.
If you would like to be removed from this electronic mailing list, click this link to send us an email to unsubscribe. Please note, removing your name from our electronic mailing list means GCF will send NO FUTURE NEWS or SPECIAL OFFERS.
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