Universal coverage; identity theft; refinanced mortgages
Before leaving office in November, California Gov. Gray Davis signed a measure that would require California employers with 50 workers or more to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. Employers would pay a still undetermined "fee" to purchase coverage through the state; employers who provide coverage that meets specific requirements would be exempt from the fee. And all group health insurance policies sold in the state would have to include prescription drug coverage.
The law isn't scheduled to go into effect for several years and is likely to face several court challenges, according to Foley & Lardner, a nationwide health law firm.
Many identity theft victims will need to make only one phone call to their local bank to report the crime and begin the recovery process under a pilot program beginning next May. Participating banks will alert a new Identity Theft Assistance Center, which will contact the financial institutions where the victim has other accounts. The program is designed to streamline the process of getting back stolen identities and restoring credit ratings. It will be run by Wells Fargo & Co, and members of the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents banking, insurance, and investment companies.
If you've refinanced your mortgage, you may be able to deduct some of the costs from your tax bill. Many taxpayers who itemize will be able to deduct the amount of money they paid in points, spreading it over the life of the loan, says the IRS.
But don't expect a big savings. To figure out how much you can deduct for 2003, divide the total amount you paid in points by the number of payments you'll make over the life of the loan. (Your lender can give you this figure.) For example, if you paid $2,000 in points on a 30-year mortgage (360 monthly payments of $5.56 each), you can deduct only $66.72 for 12 monthly payments. You can only deduct points on those payments you made in 2003, so if you refinanced in November, you'll only get to deduct two payments. Of course, you'll be able to deduct 12 months worth of payments next year. In addition, if you took cash out of your refinanced mortgage to pay for home improvements, you might be able to deduct even more. For more information, visit www.irs.gov and look for Publication 936: Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.
Yvonne Wollenberg. Online UPDATES.
Dec. 19, 2003;80.