Nearly five million people visited healthcare.gov Tuesday. That's the main website for the new insurance exchanges. Another five million or so are expected today.
Whether they'll have better luck navigating all the technical glitches is anybody’s guess.
But like it or not, buying health insurance online is the future. And while that may be convenient consumers, it's not such great news for the more than 100,000 insurance agents and brokers who depend on commissions for a living.
As the curtain comes up on the new health exchanges, Virginia-based insurance broker Jonathan Katz reports business has been hopping.
“In the last two days, I’ve received over 40 calls and 50 emails a day,” he says. “Current clients asking ‘what are we going to do with my current plan? What’s my situation?’”
Katz knows that questions and sales aren’t the same thing. And with millions of new customers shopping for insurance under Obamacare, a lot of future sales are going to happen on line without a broker.
Still Katz thinks he’s got an edge.
“Have you tried to get on healthcare.gov?” he asks. “Have you been successful? There you go.”
Brokers are hoping the technical glitches, and the complicated nature of health insurance with the premiums, deductibles and government subsidies will drive consumers straight to that quaint office in the neighborhood.
It’s a nice fantasy, says University of Pennsylvania Professor Tom Baker.
“If insurance companies can get enough business through exchanges, where they aren’t going to have to pay brokerage fees, then they are going to prefer to go through the insurance exchanges,” he says.
Fierce price competition on the exchanges could also eat away at insurance company profits, squeezing brokers commissions.
But Baker thinks some insurance agents will adapt and survive.
“Expedia by the way is an example of a travel agent that reinvented itself for the internet world a broker could be similar,” he says.
Baker says the Jonathan Katz's of the world could develop sophisticated websites that allow consumers to shop just like the exchanges do.
But with more than 100,000 brokers in the mix, he says lots of them are going to be looking for new jobs.
Tom Clancy, master of the political thriller, has died.
Many of his best-selling novels became box-office gold; he lent his names to videogames.
Tom Clancy was a brand. One of the very first authors-as-brand.
People wanted what Clancy had, says Jim Milliot with Publishers Weekly. "They want to go to the movies because it’s a Clancy movie. They want to play the video game because it’s a Clancy video game.”
As an analyst-turned-reluctant-hero-turned-president, Jack Ryan may just be the next James Bond. He’s cool. He’s likeable. He’s all over the world. A combo which could add up to movie-theatre longevity.
“It’s really global political thriller that we’re talking about,” says USC film professor Jason E. Squire, “and what could be better in this age of global blockbuster movies.”
Squire thinks it’s up to the estate and the studio to stay true to the character that Tom Clancy created.
Doing the numbers on Tom Clancy:
4: Actors who have portrayed Clancy's character Jack Ryan -- Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine.
736: Pages in what is to be Clancy's last published book, "Command Authority," set for release on Dec. 3, 2013.
3: Board games based on Clancy works -- "The Hunt for Red October," "Red Storm Rising" and "Tom Clancy's Politika."
19: Total number of novels published by Clancy.
1996: The year Clancy co-founded the video game developer Red Storm Entertainment, which put out a number of successful video games including the "Rainbow Six," "Ghost Recon" and "Splinter Cell" series.
$215,000,000: Box office total for the 1994 film "Clear and Present Danger," based on the novel of the same name and starring Ford.
Right now Republicans and Democrats aren't just competing over the best public policies to move the government forward. They're also competing over how much money they're making while the government has ground to a halt.
The Democratic National Committee says it's raised nearly $2 million online since the weekend. DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee said Monday alone was record-breaking: $850,000 in 24 hours; 30,000 individual donors, many of them first-time.
“It was our biggest fundraising day since before the 2012 election,” he said. “I think it was a combination of a lot of excitement about Obamacare about to go live, as well as a lot of frustration with the dysfunction in Congress and the Republican shutdown.”
Over at the Republican National Committee, press secretary Kirsten Kukowski sees the Democrats fundraising windfall differently. “We're kind of wondering if the reason they've refused to come to the table over the last couple of days is because they feel like they're getting something out of it monetarily.”
But the Republicans are getting something out of it too. Kukowski says the RNC has raised over $1 million since Monday morning and seen “a great response” on the government shutdown and on Obamacare.
Stephen S. Smith, a political scientist at Washington University, says the money flowing to both parties during the government shutdown isn’t some lucky coincidence. “They've been strategizing about this for months,” he said. “They've prepared mailings. They've prepared emails. They've got fancy websites.”
Lest you get cynical about all the donations that are flooding in to both parties in a moment of self-made political crisis, Sheila Krumholz, executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics says at least it's a sign that people are finally engaged. “Political participation frankly is not a bad thing in and of itself. If we had millions of individuals giving small donations, we'd likely have a much healthier political system.”
Of course, we don't know exactly who is giving the donations right now -- big donors or small -- because the Federal Elections Commission, which monitors that stuff, is shut down.
The violent attack on an SUV driver who had been chased by dozens of motorcycle riders was caught on video. Police say the incident may have begun when the riders tried to block vehicles from getting on a parkway. When a driver tried to get away, his vehicle struck a rider.
A new trial could start soon for a Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated assault. She says she was merely standing her ground, and firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Host Michel Martin speaks with Florida Times-Union reporter Larry Hannan about the case, and the issues it's bringing up.
Millennials are often dubbed "young invincibles" for their propensity to stay healthy, and forgo health insurance. Host Michel Martin speaks with Kaiser Health News correspondent Jenny Gold about how the Affordable Care Act will impact "invincibles," and how they might be the key to the program's success.
The best-selling writer of such military and espionage novels as The Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising and Patriot Games was 66.
Police say the man, a Jacksonville resident originally from Serbia, told investigators that a device in his luggage was "supposed to be a bomb, but it's not." The airport was closed for five hours on Tuesday. Travelers were still dealing with delays there Wednesday morning.
Microsoft has been struggling to transition in the mobile age and now a new report says some of its top investors are blaming its founder, Bill Gates, for the company's woes. The report says three of Microsoft's top investors want to see the chairman step down.
These investors argue that Gates' iconic presence on the board of directors would deter a more risk-taking person from stepping in as CEO Steve Ballmer's successor, once he retires within the year.
Marketplace's David Gura joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to discuss. Click the audio player above to hear more.
The government shutdown continues after Congress failed to reach an agreement Monday night. But now there's a greater worry about the debt ceiling.
Who does the U.S. actually owe $16.7 trillion to?
LinkedIn isn’t really set up for blue-collar workers. Now a new site aims to fill the gap.
The government shutdown continues after Congress failed to reach an agreement over a spending bill Monday night. But now there's a greater worry about the debt ceiling, the deadline for which U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says will continue to stay October 17.
David Kelly, Chief Global Strategist at JPMorgan Funds, says markets hate uncertainty and that will weigh on the stock market. He says globally, many economies are growing at the same time, which makes the situation even worse.
"It's tremendously frustrating that the biggest obstacle right now to stronger U.S. growth is what's happening in Washington," he says.
David Kelly, Chief Global Strategist at JPMorgan Funds, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss. Click the audio player above to hear more.
Current Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta survived a confidence vote by a wide margin on Wednesday. Stocks are up in the European nation because the government still stands after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attempted to bring it down. He backed off after he couldn't rally the votes.
Marketplace's European bureau chief Stephen Beard joins Marketplace Morning Report host Mark Garrison to discuss. Click the audio player above to hear more.
The data in the ADP National Employment Report are likely to be the only clues this week about how strong the labor market was last month. The partial government shutdown means the Labor Department is unlikely to release its figures.
The shutdown and debt-ceiling fights appear to be merging... the hardline conservatives driving the House GOP leadership believe they are winning... It's Colorado Springs, not the Washington, DC area, with the largest percentage of its workforce receiving federal paychecks.
The impasse continues. Meanwhile, parts of the federal government remain closed. Among the latest developments: President Obama has invited leaders of both parties to a Wednesday evening meeting at the White House.
Although investors are worried about the government's current shutdown, there's greater concern about the debt ceiling -- the $16.7 trillion dollar limit on how much the U.S. government can borrow. If the limit isn't raised by October 17th, it could create a potential economic disaster.
Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch says while we often think of our debt as owed to foreign countries, America owes a lot of money to sources closer to home -- namely ourselves. Large institutions, individual investors, social security -- are all big buyers of U.S. bonds. But even regular Americans indirectly own a large chunk of our national debt -- through their 401(k) plans, retirement accounts, etc. They're buying U.S. bonds, which is lending money to the government.
"So in actual fact, we are lending money to ourselves and we’re actually borrowing money from ourselves," he says.
Hirsch says if we default on our debt, we won't be able to pay the interest on the money that we already owe. If the government doesn't raise the debt ceiling, borrowing costs will go up, and as a result Americans would have to spend a lot less.
"And that means we'll have to shrink government to a really, really small size," he says. "We’d be laying off millions of people who are employed by the government right now, which would sent unemployment through the roof, and then we’d risk a really serious depression."
Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch joins Marketplace Morning Report host Mark Garrison to discuss. Click the audio player above to hear more.
And so, the partial shutdown of the federal government continues. Today, President Obama is meeting with executives from some of the world’s biggest banks. It’ll be a chance for them to give Obama their take on the shutdown and the upcoming debate over raising the debt ceiling.
The way politicians have handled those two issues doesn’t instill much confidence in government.
“I think people in the business community are starting to get restless about this,” says Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Today’s meeting is an opportunity for executives to convey that restlessness to the president. John Graham, a finance professor at Duke, says Washington dysfunction “is very troubling to the business community.”
“They want politicians to work together, to compromise,” he says. “And the two key words -- they want politicians to find solutions.”
Companies have trade groups in Washington, and according to Argenti, executives and lobbyists are on Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers. They are calling upon old friends.
“I think the business community probably supports the real Republican Party,” he says. “I don’t think the business community necessarily supports the radical wing of the Republican Party.”
More than anything, Argenti says, executives want “rational answers to these difficult questions,” and those answers aren’t coming from politicians on either side of the aisle.
Millions are going online to the Affordable Care Act health care exchanges that opened up for business Tuesday morning. There's been talk about glitches and other logistical challenges, but what about beyond the initial phase of signing up? There are a variety of problems that could arise once newly insured Americans try to actually visit a doctor too. Primary care doctors are already in short supply and will be stretched even further when all the insurance policies are put to use.
Dr. Lesly D'Ambola, medical director at St. Luke's Catholic Medical Services in Camden, New Jersey, describes her work as a calling.
"Nobody's getting rich working here, including me," she confesses.
And it's easy to see why. The child poverty rate in Camden is nearly 40 percent, and median household income is 58 percent below the New Jersey average rate. There are six times as many violent crimes in Camden than the state average. Camden is a challenging place to practice medicine.
The clinic helps over 1,400 patients each year and is in dire need of another doctor to share the workload. Dr. D'Ambola often stays late to see patients, whose needs vary wildly from diabetes and obesity to mental health problems. Overcrowded and understaffed, St. Luke's workers have to get creative about how they use their space, holding meetings in their cramped kitchen.
"What we really need is a new building," admits Dr. Lesly.
Dr. D'Ambola has worked at St. Luke's on Camden's State Street since 2000 and says she arrived well-prepared for life 'in the trenches.' She completed her training in an urban setting at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, NJ. And as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, she makes sure her students get the same exposure to inner-city practice as she did.
"Camden is difficult, and it's dangerous," she tells me. "We had a lot of murders last year. Despite all the bad things you hear about Camden, a lot of good people live here."
To hear from Dr. Lesly D'Ambola, medical director at St. Luke's Catholic Medical Services in Camden, in her own words, click on the audio player above.
This final note today, cribbed from our friend John Carney at CNBC.
John blogged today about a new dress code at Barclays -- super-casual Friday, it's called. Jeans: fine. T-shirts: fine. Even sneakers: also fine.
Not fine at all, though, with some of the old-timers. "I didn't become an investment banker to dress like a perpetual teenager," said a veteran of Lehman Brothers. Said another: "It's ridiculous. Please make them stop. It's like working at a start-up but without the IPO."
Or, y'know, public radio.
For Randall Wickus, electrician, welder, appliance installer, and all-around handy dude, advertising his services can be a tricky task.
"I don't advertise in the newspaper, because that's a dying form right now," Wickus said, adding that Craigslist and LinkedIn haven't been much help either.
"If you're a white-collar guy, and do IT work or whatever, there's plenty of places for you to look for a job, lots of different headhunters," said Wickus. "But not, that I've noticed, for the blue collar industry."
James Dunbar and Patrick Cushing, who work in tech in Silicon Valley, noticed the same thing. Both men are from blue-collar familes, and when they perused job networking sites, they realized something was missing.
"There's a lot of great tools and apps that have come out recently," Dunbar said. "But nothing for people like our brothers who work with their hands for a living.
So Dunbar and Cushing created WorkHands, a job network for skilled tradespeople -- carpenters, machinists, painters, and all-rounders like Randall Wickus. Unlike traditional job sites, where you upload your resume, on WorkHands, professionals can upload pictures of projects they've worked on. And that's crucial to people who work with their hands.
"You can upload images of projects that you've worked on in the past," said Dunbar. "You can upload licenses and certificates that you've earned and list the tools that you know how to use."
Randall Wickus has been a member of WorkHands for a few weeks, and hasn't landed any work just yet, but he says he has referred a lot of his blue-collar buddies to the site.