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New Medicare enrollment policy; taxes; the Web's lowest hotel rates; ID theft


A new Medicare enrollment policy for providers

CMS wants to institute a new enrollment policy for providers to ensure that only qualified health care professionals participate in Medicare. Under the proposed regulation, providers would have to attest in writing that they meet all licensure requirements, and show they haven't been sanctioned by any other federal program. They'd also have to recertify the accuracy of their enrollment information every three years.

Providers who fail to meet the requirements wouldn't be allowed to bill Medicare—and if they're already participating in the program, their billing privileges would be revoked.

Taxation without appreciation

Mutual fund investors in taxable accounts lose up to 25 percent of their returns to Uncle Sam each year, says a study by Lipper, an investment research firm. The average equity fund posted a decline of 21.2 percent in 2002, and mutual funds handed out the lowest amount of capital gains and income dividends since 1995. But shareholders still paid $8.6 billion in federal taxes.

You could face the double whammy of paying taxes on a mutual fund that lost your money because, capital gains taxes are determined by the difference in price between when the mutual fund bought and sold shares in a company, not when you bought shares in the mutual fund. So if mutual fund X bought 10 shares of company ZZ on Tuesday for $5 a share and sold it at $8 a share on Friday, you'll pay capital gains taxes—even if you bought into the mutual fund on Thursday, when shares in company ZZ were worth $12.

Shop around online for the lowest hotel rates

Travelocity is the hotel booking Web site most likely to offer the lowest rates, says a study conducted by Consumer WebWatch, a project of Consumers Union. Travelocity ( www.travelocity.com ) had the lowest rates 29 percent of the time. Orbitz ( www.orbitz.com ) had the lowest rates in 21 percent of test inquiries, and Expedia ( www.expedia.com ) was the lowest 17 percent of the time.

If you want the lowest hotel rate possible, you'll have to shop around and consult more than one Web site. If you have a specific hotel in mind, try its Web site. In one out of three cases, the hotel's site offered the lowest rate.

Protection against the cost of ID theft

Visa now has identity theft insurance for its customers. Banks that issue Visa cards have the option of offering the free protection to all or some of their cardholders. Coverage ranges from $1,000 to $15,000 for lost wages, legal fees, and other costs associated with recovering from identity theft. The bank that issues your Visa card will determine how much coverage you can get.

Less work cleaning up after ID thieves

Victims of identity theft now have to make only one phone call instead of three to protect their credit information. Notify one of the three credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—if you're the victim of ID theft, and it will notify the other two companies for you.

The three companies have agreed to standardize their response to identity theft. As part of that process, a fraud alert will be put on your credit report at all three companies within 24 hours. All pre-approved offers of credit and insurance will be canceled for two years. Requests for copies of credit reports will be handled within three business days. Each credit reporting company will post a fraud alert to all lenders and other companies asking for information about the ID theft victim. To report a theft, call Equifax at 888-766-0008, Experian at 888-397-3742, or TransUnion at 800-680-7289.


Yvonne Wollenberg. Online UPDATES.

Medical Economics

Jun. 20, 2003;80.

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