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Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

This report compares food shopping patterns of (1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to nonparticipant households, (2) participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to nonparticipants, and (3) food-insecure to food-secure households.

The World’s Love Affair with the TV May Be Coming to an End, Accenture Report Finds

April 20, 2015 Comments off

The World’s Love Affair with the TV May Be Coming to an End, Accenture Report Finds
Source: Accenture

The television’s popularity as the go-to entertainment device may be ending, according to “Digital Video and the Connected Consumer,” a new research report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN). The television was the only product category to see uniform, double-digit usage declines across different types of media worldwide among viewers of nearly all ages. It is rapidly being replaced as consumers turn to a combination of laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones to view video content.

The report, developed for communications, media and technology companies, found that video consumption – anytime, anywhere – has become mainstream, accelerating the decline of traditional TV viewing. Viewership for long form video content, such as movies and television on a TV screen, has declined by 13 percent globally over the past year and by 11 percent in the United States. Similarly, the report found sports viewership on TV screens declined by 10 percent globally and nine percent in the United States.

Nearly all age brackets reported double-digit declines in TV viewing globally, with 14- to 17-year-olds abandoning the TV screen at the rate of 33 percent for movies and television shows and 26 percent for sporting events. This decline continues for 18- to 34-year-olds at 14 percent for movies and television shows and 12 percent for sporting events, and for 35- to 54-year-olds, at 11 and nine percent, respectively. It does, however, flatten among the 55 and older crowd, at six percent and one percent respectively.

SEC Staff and FINRA Issue Report on National Senior Investor Initiative

April 17, 2015 Comments off

SEC Staff and FINRA Issue Report on National Senior Investor Initiative
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

With the Social Security Administration estimating that each day for the next 15 years, an average of 10,000 Americans will turn 65, the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) today issued a report to help broker-dealers assess, craft, or refine their policies and procedures for investors as they prepare for and enter into retirement.

The National Senior Investor Initiative report includes observations and practices identified in examinations that focused on how firms conduct business with senior investors. The examinations by the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) and FINRA focused on the types of securities purchased by senior investors, the suitability of recommended investments, training of brokerage firm representatives, marketing, communications, use of designations such as “senior specialist,” account documentation, disclosures, customer complaints, and supervision.

Problems Paying Medical Bills: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January 2011-June 2014

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Problems Paying Medical Bills: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January 2011-June 2014 (PDF)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

  • The percentage of persons under age 65 who were in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 21.3% (56.5 million) in 2011 to 17.8% (47.7 million) in the first 6 months of 2014.
  • Within each year, from 2011 through June 2014, children aged 0– 17 years were more likely than adults aged 18 – 64 to be in families having problems paying medical bills.
  • The percentage of children aged 0– 17 years who were in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 23. 2 % in 2011 to 19.0 % in the first 6 months of 201 4.
  • In the first 6 months of 2014 , among persons under age 65, 31.2% of those who were uninsured, 24.2% of those who had public coverage, and 12.4% of those who had private coverage were in families having problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months.
  • In the first 6 months of 201 4 , 27.1% of poor, 28.0 % of near poor , and 12.6 % of not poor persons under age 65 were in families having problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months.

CRS — Health Coverage Tax Credit (April 2, 2015)

April 15, 2015 Comments off

Health Coverage Tax Credit (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The health coverage tax credit (HCTC) expired on January 1, 2014. This federal income tax credit subsidized most of the cost of qualified health insurance for eligible taxpayers and their family members. The Trade Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-210) first authorized the HCTC. Potential eligibility for the HCTC was limited to three groups of taxpayers, two of whom were individuals eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) allowances because they experienced job loss. The third group consisted of individuals whose defined benefit pension plans were taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation because of financial difficulties. Moreover, these potential HCTC-eligible individuals were allowed to claim the tax credit only if they either could not enroll in certain other health coverage (e.g., Medicaid) or were not eligible for other specified coverage (e.g., Medicare Part A)

To claim the HCTC, eligible taxpayers had to have qualified health insurance (specific categories of coverage, as specified in statute). Several of those categories required state action (statequalified health plans) to become available. As of December 2010, 44 states and the District of Columbia made available at least one of the state-qualified health plans. In the remaining six states, the categories of qualified health insurance that were potentially available were ones that were not dependent on state action (automatically qualified health plans), though not necessarily all persons who were eligible for the HCTC could avail themselves of these options.

IRS — Victims of Identity Theft Continue To Experience Delays And Errors In Receiving Refunds

April 10, 2015 Comments off

Victims of Identity Theft Continue To Experience Delays And Errors In Receiving Refunds
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Victims of identity theft continue to experience delays and errors in receiving refunds, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

This audit follows up on a 2013 TIGTA report which concluded that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was not providing quality customer service to identity theft victims. The objective was to determine whether the IRS is improving its assistance to victims of identity theft.

On average, the IRS took 278 days to resolve the tax accounts of identity theft victims due a refund, according to TIGTA’s review of a statistically valid sample of 100 identity theft tax accounts resolved in the Accounts Management function in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. That is an improvement over the average 312 days it took the IRS to resolve tax accounts of identity theft victims due a refund in FY 2012.

Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006–2014

April 10, 2015 Comments off

Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006–2014 (PDF)
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute

Executive Summary

  • In 2014, there was $22.1 billion in health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), spread across 10.6 million accounts, according to data from the 2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey (CEHCS). In 2008, there were only 4.2 million accounts with $5.7 billion in assets.
  • The average account balance was $2,077 in 2014, up from $1,356 in 2008.
  • An increasing number of individuals have held their account for three or more years. One-quarter (27 percent) had held their account for three to four years, up from 19 percent in 2008. Thirteen percent had held their account five or more years, up from 4 percent in 2008.
  • Accounts with an employer contribution had a higher average balance than those without an employer contribution. Accounts with an employer contribution had an average balance of $2,403, whereas those without an employer contribution had an average balance of $2,056.
  • Individuals who had held an HRA or HSA for five years or more had $3,092 in their account. Those who had held an account for less than a year had less than $1,500 in their account. In general, average account balances have grown over the longer term regardless of how long the account had been open.
  • Average rollover amounts increased from $1,165 in 2013 to $1,244 in 2014.
    $8.9 billion was rolled over in 2014, down from $9.4 billion in 2013.
  • Eleven percent of individuals had held an account for more than a year without a rollover in 2014.
  • Rollover amounts increased with the length of time an individual had held an account. In 2014, those who had held an account one to two years rolled over an average of $982; those who had held an account three to four years rolled over an average of $1,421; and those who had held an account five or more years rolled over an average of $1,428.
  • Accounts with an employer contribution had a higher amount rolled over than those without an employer contribution. Accounts with an employer contribution had an average rollover of $1,280, whereas those without an employer contribution had an average rollover of $1,069.
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