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Poll: Americans sleeping better as economy recovers

June 30, 2015 Comments off

Poll: Americans sleeping better as economy recovers
Source: CreditCards.com

Losing sleep over financial stress is on the decline in the U.S., according to a new CreditCards.com poll.

A national poll commissioned by CreditCards.com found that 62 percent of adult Americans are losing sleep over at least one financial problem — 7 percentage points lower than in June 2009, the last time this poll was conducted.

Today’s most common money worry is saving enough for retirement; two in five Americans say this keeps them up at night at least occasionally. The second biggest concern is educational expenses, which trouble young adults the most.

GAO — Electricity: Generation Mix Has Shifted, and Growth in Consumption Has Slowed, Affecting System Operations and Prices

June 30, 2015 Comments off

Electricity: Generation Mix Has Shifted, and Growth in Consumption Has Slowed, Affecting System Operations and Prices
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

The mix of energy sources for electricity generation has changed, and the growth in electricity consumption has slowed. As shown in the figure below, from 2001 through 2013, natural gas, wind, and solar became larger portions of the nation’s electricity generation, and the share of coal has declined. These changes have varied by region. For example, the majority of wind and solar electricity generation is concentrated in a few states—in 2013, California and Arizona accounted for over half of electricity generated at solar power plants. Regarding consumption, national retail sales of electricity grew by over 1 percent per year from 2001 through 2007 and remained largely flat from that time through 2014.
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CBO — China’s Growing Energy Demand: Implications for the United States: Working Paper 2015-05

June 29, 2015 Comments off

China’s Growing Energy Demand: Implications for the United States: Working Paper 2015-05
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Growing rapidly in recent decades, China’s demand for energy has nearly doubled since 2005—making China the world’s largest consumer of energy. That growth and the energy policies that China pursues increase the level and possibly the volatility of some energy prices, reduce the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing firms in relation to Chinese firms but provide benefits for U.S. consumers, and increase greenhouse gas emissions. This paper examines trends in China’s energy consumption, the implications of those trends for U.S. households and businesses, and policy options that might help minimize adverse effects.

The 10 percent problem: Future health insurance marketplace premium increases likely to reach double digits

June 25, 2015 Comments off

The 10 percent problem: Future health insurance marketplace premium increases likely to reach double digits
Source: Deloitte

Health plans setting their premiums for the public health insurance marketplaces have faced one of the most challenging pricing scenarios in recent history. A new set of rating rules, a competitive environment, and ambiguity around enrollee populations collided to create unprecedented uncertainty.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) established three programs – risk adjustment, risk corridors, and reinsurance – to address some of this uncertainty, two of the programs will expire after 2016. How might these expirations and other policy levers influence health plans’ strategies for setting their marketplace premiums?
This report presents a forward-looking view for health plans participating in the marketplaces, with modeling by Deloitte Consulting LLP’s health actuarial practice estimating the effect of the risk corridors and reinsurance program expirations on health plan premiums. Among key observations:

  • Premium increases of 10 percent or more could be likely over the next three years as health plans prepare for the end of the risk corridors and reinsurance programs and try to reach or maintain profitability in 2017.
  • Certain policy levers are influencing health plans’ options for premium increases and their decisions around insurance marketplace participation. Among these are pressures to not exceed the 10 percent rate increase threshold, to offer broader networks, and to discontinue other strategies to keep prices down.
  • Health plans should consider a multi-year strategy for setting their marketplace premiums and test its execution by modeling different scenarios.

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2015

June 24, 2015 Comments off

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2015
Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University
From press release:

The fledgling U.S. housing recovery lost momentum last year as homeownership rates continued to fall, single-family construction remained near historic lows, and existing home sales cooled, concludes The State of the Nation’s Housing report released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. In contrast, rental markets continued to grow, fueled by another year of large increases in the numbers of renter households. However, with rents rising and incomes well below pre-recession levels, the U.S. is also seeing record numbers of cost-burdened renters, including more renter households higher up the income scale.

“Perhaps the most telling indicator of the state of the nation’s housing is the drop in the homeownership rate to just 64.5 percent last year,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “This erases nearly all of the increase from the previous two decades. In fact, the number of homeowners fell for the eighth straight year, and the trend does not appear to be abating.”

Are Americans of All Ages and Income Levels Shortsighted About Their Finances?

June 24, 2015 Comments off

Are Americans of All Ages and Income Levels Shortsighted About Their Finances?
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

The brief’s key findings are:

  • A recent CRR analysis of a FINRA Investor Education Foundation survey found that financial satisfaction depends much more on meeting day-to-day, rather than distant, needs.
  • This study explores whether households of all ages and income levels are also shortsighted.
  • The results confirm that distant needs, like retirement saving, consistently take a back-seat to more immediate concerns.
  • The results underscore the importance of making it easy and automatic for Americans to save for distant goals that may otherwise receive little attention.

Health Literacy And The Role Of Technology In Europe

June 24, 2015 Comments off

Health Literacy And The Role Of Technology In Europe
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Developments in science and technology give access to much health-related information we could not have imagined a few years ago – but are we sufficiently health-literate to take responsibility for our own health, as well as that of our family and community? On 1 July 2015, the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel of the European Parliament will host a workshop entitled Health Literacy in Europe. Empowering patients – how can technology contribute to improving health literacy?, which will seek an answer to this and many other questions. The workshop will be chaired by Dr Paul Rübig, STOA Chair. Karin Kadenback, MEP and member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), will close the even

Health literacy, according to a widely-accepted definition, is ‘linked to literacy and entails people’s knowledge, motivation and competences to access, understand, appraise and apply health information in order to make judgements, and take decisions in everyday life concerning health care, disease prevention and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course’. However, the health literacy concept is much broader than this, and includes interesting fields of application for new technologies.

Technological improvements raise new challenges, as well as opportunities to achieve health literacy.

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