Lancaster-based nonprofit partnership offers discounts on health care expenses

A new partnership between the Central Penn Business Group on Health and AblePay, a Bethlehem-based health care claims service provider could save the Lancaster nonprofit’s members on deductible and coinsurance expenses.

Central Penn works on behalf of employers to minimize costs associated with health care plans for over 100,000 employees in Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties,

The nonprofit announced this week that it has partnered with AblePay Health to offer its members and their employees, AblePay’s services free of charge.

AblePay works with health care providers like Penn Medicine-Lancaster General Health, St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network to lower costs for health care consumers.

AblePay does not charge for its services. Instead, it profits by taking a small slice of the savings it creates for customers.

“We immediately recognized the value this offers for our employer members and the 100,000 employee lives we represent,” said Diane Hess, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“We believe that this partnership with AblePay compliments the mission of CPBGH and what we currently offer in the healthcare space. It will not only benefit our members but will ultimately have a profound impact on our community as word spreads regarding how this program can help all healthcare consumers.”

Under the plan, consumers could see savings of as much as 13 percent on both deductibles and coinsurance expenses, officials say. AblePay CEO and founder John Fistner believes Central Penn’s membership will be quick to adopt the offer.

“Our vision as a healthcare consumer company lines up perfectly with the strategic initiatives of CPBGH,” Fistner said. “We anticipate a rapid adoption from member employers, their employees, and individuals living in the community, as a result of the discounts, payment flexibility, convenience and advocacy we provide for these health-related expenses.”

Could games help people save more?

A number of government-backed programs encourage good financial habits, from retirement-savings vehicles such as IRAs to college-tuition plans, but few do so with the idea of having some fun.

But a state representative from East Stroudsburg, Rosemary M. Brown, has introduced House Bill 858, which would encourage savings accounts with some of the excitement of a lottery or raffle.

Brown, a Republican who represents parts of Monroe and Pike counties, said she has a passion for financial-literacy initiatives and has encouraged various proposals that would make financial life skills a mandatory part of public education. While such efforts have not succeeded so far, Brown said, the hope is that the attention around such efforts will increase participation in financial education as an elective.

In a memorandum asking colleagues to support her legislation, Brown noted that about 66 percent of U.S. citizens cannot pass a basic financial literacy test.

House Bill 858 is an extension of the concept of encouraging good financial habits, Brown said.

In 2014, she said, Congress passed the American Savings Promotion Act, spurring 27 states to create savings-promotion plans.

The idea behind her bill is to allow banks and credit unions to create incentive-based savings programs in which people could be entered into a lottery or raffle to win prizes based on saving money or taking other financial-literacy steps. The prizes might include additional money.

“By creating an incentive-based savings program, this legislation will help foster monetary savings among our constituents by giving them a chance to benefit additionally while they help build their savings,” she wrote.

The bill passed the House June 5 and went to the Senate, where it is in the banking and insurance committee, according to an online bill tracker. Brown said she expects to win support in the Senate.

Under H.B. 858, people might be able to participate in a lottery or raffle by entering into transactions such as:

  • Depositing or transferring money into a qualified account on a recurring basis.
  • Refinancing debt to obtain a lower rate.
  • Paying off outstanding debt to lower their debt ratio.
  • Preparing a budget or debt-reduction plan.
  • Attending free financial-literacy programs sponsored by an eligible financial institution.
  • Using online financial education, budgeting or debt-reduction tools.

If people want to save more but are having difficulty making the decision, Brown said, “we are going to try to give you a push to do it.”

The proposal helps financial institutions get new customers, while helping people reach their financial goals, she added. One issue that needs to be worked out is which state agency would be responsible for monitoring the program. Whether it is the banking department or attorney general’s office or another agency will need to be worked out on the Senate side, she said.

Dulcey Antonucci, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, said the agency is aware of the legislation.

“The Wolf administration believes wise financial planning and savings decisions are important for everyone,” she said in an email.

The state already does a lot to help consumers, Antonucci added.

“The department’s Financial Services for Consumers and Business (FSCB) unit helps consumers and investors protect and grow their money through the Investor Education and Consumer Outreach program,” Antonucci wrote. “All of our programs and presentations are free and help to educate and protect consumers.”

Those efforts include programs that teach students the basics of investing, as well as retirement planning, she added.

Sunny summer savings apps: A Loving Journey

As the summer is fast approaching, you may be wondering how to save more money for vacation or how to save this summer for back to school shopping in the fall?

Being a special needs parent, you may be familiar with cutting costs, but maybe you are looking for somewhere else to save a few pennies and dollars.

I have some great savings apps that are super-easy to use, so the savings adds up in a flash. From extra cash, to movies tickets and more, you can’t go wrong. And if you use coupons like I do, but don’t know how to boost your savings for cash even more extra-savings, these apps are for you. Yep, I said it.: savings apps are where it’s at.

So where do you start or what apps are out there? Never fear! Here is my list of the savings apps I love using every day. You don’t have to download them all, but if you’re like me, you will. So let the sunny summer savings begin!

My favorite sunny summer savings apps

This app offers great rebates for everyday items you buy. Just scan item code and receipt of item purchase and stock up on savings. Link your account to PayPal and once you reach $20.00 you can withdraw your money to PayPal.

Everyday coupons and deals for items, food and even places. Savings change every day.

Retail Me Not
Save at your favorite stores and restaurants with online app coupons. No need to clip coupons to save with this app.

Giants Food stores bonus card app
Just upload your bonus card to this app and start saving at check out with app coupons that link right to your bonus card.

Check Out 51
Another great savings app that you just scan purchase item on app and receipt that you bought the item and stock up on the savings. This can also be linked to your PayPal account and money withdrawn.

Target Cartwheel
Who doesn’t love to shop at Target? Now you can add items and coupons to your app that you buy in store and scan app code at checkout to add extra savings at the register. This app has it all and so much more.

Walmart Savings Catcher
Just upload the Walmart app and click on savings catcher and scan receipt codes on bottom and stock up the savings at Walmart. At any time, you can upload your savings to a Walmart gift card on your phone. Just scan you gift card UPC on your phone at check out.

Trish Schaeffer is a mom of three boys—two with special needs—and a blogger for Central Penn Parent. Follow her at www.centralpennparent.com/A-Loving-Journey. You can follow Trish on Twitter @Alovingjourney and on her Facebook group A Loving Journey-Parents of special needs kids.