News from the Reference Desk Category: Consumer

Insurance Enrollment Assistance

It’s the time of year when many health insurance decisions must be made. If you need assistance in determining the best options, here’s some help:

Medicare Open Enrollment:

The Medicare Open Enrollment period began on Oct. 15 and runs until Dec. 7. The Illinois Dept. on Aging offers assistance through the department’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP.) Their counselors can explain the drug, health, and supplemental plans that are available. The nearest SHIP sites are at Arlington Heights Senior Center (847/253-5532) and Wheeling Township (847/259-7730.) For additional SHIP information, call 800/252-8966 or click here.

The Village of Mount Prospect Human Services Department also offers assistance for Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) enrollment. Call 847/870-5680 to set up an appointment.

Affordable Care Act Marketplace:

The enrollment period for uninsured people to sign up for coverage through the Illinois Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015. If you want your insurance coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2015, you must enroll by Dec. 15, 2014.

The Library is offering several programs to assist those using the Illinois Marketplace. Representatives from Get Covered Illinois will present an overview program,” Affordable Care Act Update,” on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. The Library will also host two enrollment events with trained navigators from Get Covered Illinois to provide assistance in navigating the site and signing up for insurance. The enrollment events are on Dec. 13, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015,  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 847/392-8682 ext. 227. Walk-ins are also welcome.

Free Financial Literacy Programs

Summer is almost over, but the need for money smarts will never end! With that in mind, here are a few free, prepackaged programs and curricula selected and compiled by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) designed to help you improve your own financial literacy and develop the best personal strategy for saving, investing and more.

Elementary School Economics
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Personal finance and economic lessons are paired with popular children’s books. Librarians can read the book to the children and follow the reading with discussions about money decisions, saving, spending, choices, needs and wants and much more. Includes lesson plans and handouts.

Econ Lowdown
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
An online learning platform for more than 25 courses about money, financial decisions and economics. Register free to access the full list of courses. Instructors can select courses for their online “classrooms,” hold online discussions with classroom students, view progress, and present poll questions or surveys.

Money Smart for Older Americans
CFPB, FDIC
An instructor-led training developed jointly by FDIC and CFPB, this module provides awareness among older adults and their caregivers about how to prevent elder financial exploitation and to encourage advance planning and informed financial decision-making.

Thrive by 5
Credit Union National Association Inc.
Simple activities and other resources that are parent-and-child tested and meant to give you ideas for: Teaching how money works and what it can do, talking about how your family uses money, and modeling good money management.

Summertime Tips for Financial Literacy

Summer is finally here, and between planning your holidays and wondering when you should turn on the AC, I bet the last thing you’re thinking about is FINANCIAL LITERACY! However, this is actually the BEST time to start figuring out a plan to keep your life cruising along while planning for the future (ok, actually ANYTIME  is a perfect time to work on financial literacy, but why not start now anyway?).

There are many resources that can help, one of which is Feedthepig.org. Assembled by the American Institute of CPAs (and they oughta know!), Feedthepig.org is a great site that offers tips and strategies for putting together a financial plan, including how to create a budget, review your expenses, manage saving, retirement, and student loan debt, and much more. It’s easy to use and fairly straightforward—the real trick, as always, is ACTUALLY DOING IT. Mint.com is another helpful site. Mint pulls all your financial accounts into one place. Set a budget, track your goals, stay on top of your finances. See what’s happening with all your accounts – checking, savings, investments, retirement – at any moment of the day. There’s even a free mobile app to help you stay connected on-the-go. If you’re a student fresh out of college and looking at a mountain (or a molehill) of student loans, you should check out YouCanDealWithIt.com. YouCanDealWithIt.com provides practical and easy-to-understand advice on how to deal with common financial situations facing today’s college students and recent graduates, such as: understanding student aid, including the repayment of student loans, learning effective money management, including setting a budget, and dealing with the dangers of credit cards while enjoying the benefits. In addition to being a resource for students, this website also provides information and tools for parents and college financial aid administrators to help them communicate accurate and effective financial advice to their prospective students, current students, and graduates. So bite the bullet and get started on the road toward better financial literacy today—it may be tough at first, but you’ll be glad you did!

Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently proposed rules regarding net neutrality or an open internet. They are seeking public comments to assist them in making these very important rules.

From the FCC website:

The FCC has previously concluded that broadband providers have the incentive and ability to act in ways that threaten Internet openness. But today, there are no rules that stop broadband providers from trying to limit Internet openness. That is why the Notice adopted by the FCC today starts with a fundamental question: “What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?”

Initial comments to these proposed rules opened on May 15 and will close on July 15. Replies to comments will be open until September 15. Comments (termed “filings”) may be submitted on the FCC website.

For further reading:

American Library Association: Network Neutrality
Consumers Union on FCC Plan for New Net Neutrality Rules
Consumers Union: What is Network Neutrality?
New York Times: FCC Backs Opening Net Neutrality Rules for Debate
Washington Post: FCC Approves Plan to Consider Paid Priority on Internet
Washington Post: ‘Net Neutrality’ Puts FCC at Center of Storm
Washington Post: Why the Death of Net Neutrality Would be a Disaster for Libraries

Identity Theft

In 2012, approximately 16.6 million individuals (or 7% of the population) over the age or 16 were victims of identity theft in the United States according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increasing number of security breaches occurring just in the past few months has made it imperative that consumers take precautions to safeguard their private information and to know where to turn and steps to take if they become victims themselves. The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website has an Identity Theft  guide which provides useful and detailed information for victims and tips for those who would like to safeguard their identity. Specific sections (e.g. initial steps to take if you are a victim; what to do later in the process; how to safeguard your identity and different types of identity theft) are presented in an easy to understand format with helpful checklists to simplify the process.