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Archive for the ‘consumer issues’ Category

What Would Happen If Health Care in the U.S. Improved?

October 23, 2014 Comments off

What Would Happen If Health Care in the U.S. Improved?
Source: Commonwealth Fund

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but the Commonwealth Fund report Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally shows the U.S. underperforms relative to 11 other industrialized countries on most dimensions of performance. Use this interactive to see what would happen if the U.S. were to raise its health system performance to the levels achieved elsewhere in the world.

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Snack Attack: What Consumers are Reaching for Around the World

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Snack Attack: What Consumers are Reaching for Around the World
Source: Nielsen

Who doesn’t love a good snack?

Always at the ready, those crispy, crunchy, chewy provisions are our comfort food when we’re down, meal replacement when we’re in a hurry, companion when we’re relaxing and party staple when we’re celebrating.

As snack manufacturers look to tailor offerings to deliver snacks that appeal to both the palate and the psyche, knowing what drives a consumer to pick one snack rather than another is vital to stay competitive in the $374 billion worldwide snacking industry.

So what’s the go-to nosh for consumers craving a snack—salty, savory, sweet or spicy? How much are health considerations taken into account when selecting a snack? As the size of category sales and consumer need-states across the worldwide snacking industry vary widely from region to region and country to country, finding growth opportunities requires both a global and local understanding of what consumers say and do—which are not always the same.

Free registration required to access report.

The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class

October 21, 2014 Comments off

The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class
Source: Center for American Progress

The American middle class is in trouble.

The middle-class share of national income has fallen, middle-class wages are stagnant, and the middle class in the United States is no longer the world’s wealthiest.

But income is only one side of the story. The cost of being in the middle class—and of maintaining a middle-class standard of living—is rising fast too. For fundamental needs such as child care and health care, costs have risen dramatically over the past few decades, taking up larger shares of family budgets. The reality is that the middle class is being squeezed. As this report will show, for a married couple with two children, the costs of key elements of middle-class security—child care, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement—rose by more than $10,000 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, at a time when this family’s income was stagnant.

As sharp as this squeeze can be, the pain does not stop at one family, or even at millions of families. Because of the critical role that middle-class consumers play in creating aggregate demand, the American economy is in trouble when the American middle class is in trouble. And the long-term health of the U.S. economy is at risk if financially squeezed families cannot afford—and smart public policies do not support—developing the next generation of America’s workforce. It is this workforce that will lead the United States in an increasingly open and competitive global economy.

This report provides a snapshot of the American middle class and those struggling to become a part of it. It focuses on six key pillars that can help define security for households: jobs, early childhood programs, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement. Each chapter is both descriptive and prescriptive—detailing both how the middle class is doing and what policies can help it do better.

Why Are Wal-Mart and Target Next-Door Neighbors?

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Why Are Wal-Mart and Target Next-Door Neighbors? (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Board

One of the most notable changes in the U.S. retail market over the past twenty years has been the rise of Big Box stores, retail chains characterized by physically large stores selling a wide range of consumer goods at discount prices. A growing literature has examined the impacts of Big Box stores on other retailers and consumers, but relatively little is known about how Big Box stores choose locations. Because Big Box stores offer highly standardized products and compete primarily on price, it is likely that they will seek to establish spatial monopolies, far from competitor stores. In this paper, I examine where new Big Box stores locate with respect to three types of existing establishments: own-firm stores, other retailers in the same product space (competitors), and retailers in other product spaces (complements). Results indicate that new Big Box stores tend to avoid existing own-firm stores and locate near complementary Big Box stores. However, there is little evidence that new Big Boxes avoid competitors. Firms in the same product space may not be perfect substitutes, or firms may prefer to share consumers in a desirable location rather than cede the entire market to competitor firms.

New From the GAO

October 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Food Safety: USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products. GAO-14-744, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-744
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666230.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/666518

2. Changing Crude Oil Markets: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices, and the Size of the Strategic Reserves Should Be Reexamined. GAO-14-807, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-807
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666275.pdf

CRS — Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic (October 14, 2014)

October 20, 2014 Comments off

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides references to analytical reports on cybersecurity from CRS, other government agencies, trade associations, and interest groups. The reports and related websites are grouped under the following cybersecurity topics:
• policy overview
• National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC)
• cloud computing and FedRAMP
• critical infrastructure
• cybercrime, data breaches, and data security
• national security, cyber espionage, and cyberwar (including Stuxnet)
• international efforts
• education/training/workforce
• research and development (R&D)

In addition, the report lists selected cybersecurity-related websites for congressional and government agencies, news, international organizations, and organizations or institutions.

CRS — Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions (October 10, 2014)

October 20, 2014 Comments off

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) has numerous provisions affecting private health insurance and public health coverage programs. Many of these provisions take effect in 2014. This report provides resources to help congressional staff respond to constituents’ frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the law. The report lists selected resources regarding consumers, employers, and other stakeholders, with a focus on federal sources. It also lists CRS reports that summarize ACA’s provisions.

The report begins with links to contacts for specific ACA questions, such as Consumer Assistance Programs, state agencies, and local organizations that can answer constituents’ questions directly. For example, the federal HealthCare.gov website offers an ACA consumer telephone hotline and online chat assistance. The report also lists sources for congressional staff to contact federal agencies with ACA questions.

The report provides basic consumer sources, including a glossary of health coverage terms. The next sections focus on health coverage: the individual mandate, private health insurance, and exchanges, as well as public health care programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, Indian health care, and veterans’ and military health care. It then lists sources on employer-sponsored coverage, including sources on employer penalties, small businesses, federal workers’ health plans, and union health plans. It also provides sources on ACA’s provisions on mental health, public health, workforce, quality, and taxes. Finally, the report lists sources on ACA costs and appropriations, legal issues, the treatment of noncitizens under ACA, and sources for obtaining the law’s full-text.

This list is not a comprehensive directory of all resources on the ACA, but rather is intended to address a few questions that may arise frequently.

See also:
Another Court Rejects Premium Tax Credits in Federal Exchanges under ACA, CRS Legal Sidebar (October 6, 2014) (PDF)
Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (October 10, 2014) (PDF)

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