National News

State Exchanges Going Into Year Two

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 13:19

At one point, Affordable Care Act architects thought every state would eventually run its own exchange. So far only about a quarter of states – and the District of Columbia – have actually done it. Or at least, they have tried their best to.

Oregon’s exchange voted to have Washington run the IT side of the operation on Friday. That’s after the state received some $300 million in federal funds to get its own of the ground.

There are lots of reasons why states may want to take over their exchanges from the feds sometime in the future. But here are six reasons why they may not be in such a hurry: “Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont,” says Caroline Pearson who tracks state exchanges for consulting firm Avalere Health.

Pearson says technical disasters like Oregon – it’s still processing applications on paper – could scare off most anyone else for the next year or two. But, she says, as states and the federal government work out the bugs, running an exchange will get smoother.

“Once you have something that is working, it will be easier for other states to import that and customize it and tweak it for their own program,” she says.

Map by the National Conference of State Legislatures

Sonya Schwartz with the Georgetown Center for Children and Families thinks states that run their own exchanges may be better able to control healthcare costs, and that could make switching worthwhile.  

“Our health system is expensive. And if we had an ambitious plan to reign in costs, it’s worth it. But if we just create a rinky-dink enrollment system, it’s not worth it,” she says.

Moving forward, some states could take a hybrid approach. Much like Oregon is doing now: letting the feds run technical operations, but managing the types of insurance plans on the exchanges, and overseeing outreach and enrollment efforts.

New rules and systems could make things more complicated for insurers, says PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Ceci Connolly.

“It’s just like, 'How many different languages do you learn, and can you master?” she says.

Connolly says the silver lining in struggling state-run exchanges may be that it forces everyone to standardize -- a great way to keep costs down.

Weekly Wrap: Who's feeling those sanctions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 13:18

Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said American companies will be paying a little bit of a price for the sanctions  imposed on Russia.

“Visa has already said that the sanctions are likely having an effect on its performance. The other likely culprits are Boeing or Exxon [or] Morgan Stanley. There are a number of major U.S. companies that have complained about both sanctions that already exist and ones that appear to currently be on the table, because they could hurt their business as well,” said Catherine Rampell, columnist for the Washington Post.

Rating agencies have also laid out numerous warnings for the Russians, but to no avail, according to Sudeep Reddy from the Wall Street Journal:

“We’ve seen warnings for weeks and months and they haven’t really made that much of a difference. The sanctions so far have barely scratched the surface. There are a lot of things that could be placed on the Russian economy to force the hand on some of the leaders there at least to get them thinking a lot harder about what’s being done… But the question here is how much pain do you end up with on regular Russians, and regular Ukrainians, and regular Europeans, and ultimately regular Americans in all of this?”

Lew also mentioned that things are still rough out there for a lot of people in this economy, but the American economy is bouncing back. Furthermore, the consumer confidence number out today even revealed that consumers are feeling better than they’ve felt since the beginning of the Great Recession.

“If you breakdown those confidence numbers… you can sort of look at the different components of the survey and say, okay, [this is] where people are feeling a little bit better and [this] where are they still kind of pessimistic," Rampell said. "The places where people seemed to be a little bit more optimistic were places like job prospects. People say they’ve experienced income gains, they perceive inflation to be low. They basically think that their current financial status is... a little bit better than it had been,” says Rampell.

Although the economy is getting better, Reddy says it’s not moving fast enough: “…We’re improving, it’s just not filtering through across the spectrum as quickly as it needs to for us to feel like this is a real recovery.”

Rum Renaissance Revives The Spirit's Rough Reputation

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 13:17

The official cheap liquor of spring breakers is becoming something much more sophisticated. And South Florida has become ground zero for the rum revolution.

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Alibaba: Yes, it's that big

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 13:14

Alibaba is getting ready to go public, and analysts have predicted the company could be worth upwards of $150 to $200 billion. Its high valuation is a factor of its scale, its dominance in the Chinese e-commerce market, and its highly successful monetization of its platform through ad revenue.

As a company, Alibaba is often described as a combination of eBay and Amazon, but you could throw in a little PayPal, Yahoo, and Citigroup too. Alibaba has a sizable role in mobile banking and online advertising technology.

So here is a comparison of Alibaba with those companies for some perspective on just how big it is.

Deciphering financial aid offers for college

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 13:07

Spring is the time of year when high school seniors prepare for college and their life after school. Though a typical undergraduate program lasts four years, paying off student loans can easily last decades if you don't properly plan.

If you're comparing the costs of tuition between schools, there are a few things you should look out for, says personal finance expert Liz Weston.

Financial aid offers often don't include the total cost of attendance, according to Weston. "That’s fairly common that they might just mention tuition and fees, and not mention books and supplies or living expenses," Weston says. In a city like Manhattan, living costs can dwarf the cost of tuition.

Financial aid packages also blur the lines between loans and actual savings like grants and scholarships. "They pretend, 'Hey, look at this great award we've just given you, and most of it is loans.' So, they’re not really reducing the cost for attending — they’re just shoving it out into the future and putting it on you."

Weston says that some, but not all, schools have adopted standardized "shopping lists" that make it easier to compare offers. She also suggests the College Board (bigfuture.collegeboard.org) or CollegeData (www.collegedata.com) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's financial aid comparison tool (www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college/) to better compare costs.

But how much is too much for college?

That answer depends on the individual, but Weston says one rule of thumb is, "try to limit the amount that you borrow to the amount you expect to make your first year out of school. So, the total for your undergraduate education is no more than your first job is going to pay you. Now again that’s very general, it’s not going to apply to everyone, but it’s a good start."

But as Weston notes, "the problem that a lot of people have is that they’re not really sure what they want to do when they’re 17 or 18 [years old] ... an even better rule of thumb is to stick to federal student loans." Unlike private loans, federal student loans are capped at $5,500. That won't cover the cost of a four-year private university in a big city, "but it gives you an idea that you really need to limit this debt you really need to be on your guard. And if you’re a parent, I'dd be very very careful about taking on debt, particularly if you’re not already saving enough for your own retirement. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t retire because you’re still paying for your kids education."

North Korea Detains 24-Year-Old American Tourist

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:19

North Korea says it arrested the man for his "rash behavior." The U.S. State Department says it is trying to get more information.

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Northwestern Players Cast Union Vote — But Results Will Have To Wait

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

Northwestern University football players are voting Thursday on whether to unionize. Earlier, the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled that the athletes' team requirements essentially make them employees of the university. This, in turn, means they can form a union. The university is appealing the NLRB ruling to the full board.

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Obama Offers Support And Condolences In Somber South Korea

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

President Obama is in South Korea, on another stop in his four-nation swing through East Asia. He voiced support for the country amid North Korea's threats to detonate another nuclear device.

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Columbia Comes Under Fire For Handling Of Sexual Assault Cases

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

Twenty-three students from Columbia and Barnard say that the university is mishandling allegations of sexual assault. They filed federal complaints with the Department of Education on Thursday.

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Heated Words On Air Often Don't Match Events On Ground In Ukraine

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

Reports of what transpired during the Ukrainian offensive are stirring some confusion. Fewer people died than initially reported, and life appears normal in the allegedly besieged city of Slovyansk.

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Politicians Get Personal With Memorable Early Campaign Ads

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

It's early in the 2014 election season, but already some noteworthy — and powerful — biographical spots are starting to appear.

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Family Tree Of Pertussis Traced, Could Lead To Better Vaccine

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

Scientists tracking the ancestry of whooping cough say it arose abruptly in humans about 500 years ago, caused by a mutated bacterium that once lived only in animals. Genetic tricks helped it spread.

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You Love The Cloud, But It May Not Be As Secure As You Think

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 12:04

People are storing more and more stuff online: photos, music, documents — even books. But if you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.

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Company Hopes To Strike It Rich By Mining Pacific Seafloor

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 11:32

Nautilus Minerals has signed a contract with the government of Papua New Guinea to extract cooper, gold and silver from a depth of 5,000 feet.

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When ads start jumping to the second screen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 11:28
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 05:21 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s enough to give advertisers nightmares: more and more people picking up their phones and tablets during commercial breaks and tuning out the ads. (That’s if they’re still watching broadcast TV at all).

"As an advertiser, you're never really sure if the audience that the networks say they're delivering to you actually watch your ads," says analyst Paul Sweeney with Bloomberg Industries.

Now the company Xaxis has developed a product called Sync to reclaim those “lost” TV viewers. It sends complementary ads to the ones you’re ignoring on TV right to websites you’re likely to visit online.

"Oh, you're hearing a commercial for a food company and then, oh, I'm looking at my Facebook and there's a sponsored post there," says Xaxis' Larry Allen.

The big idea: There’s no escape during commercial break.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014Marketplace Tech for Monday, April 28, 2014by Kate DavidsonPodcast Title When ads start jumping to the second screenStory Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

New York's median rent is $1,100. Seems low...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 11:23
Monday, April 28, 2014 - 05:18 Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes are seen October 22, 2009 in New York City.

 

Rents in New York City are up 75 percent since the year 2000, according to a new report from the New York City Comptroller's office.

"The data from the report is chilling," says Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Since 2000, median incomes are down, but rents are up far more than elsewhere in the U.S. And, there are fewer apartments available to the middle class.

"We've actually lost 400,000 apartments renting for less than a $1000," Stringer says.

But the median rent -- the point at which half of rents are below and half above -- might not be what you think. In New York, it's now $1,100 a month, according to the report.

Anyone who notices New York real estate knows that rent averages are often reported to be much higher. Reis, one company that compiles such data, says it's now around $3,200 a month.

But that number only looks at apartments on the open market. In New York, more than 60 percent of rentals are public housing, or subsidized or rent regulated.

Ryan Severino, a senior economist at Reis, says that can limit supply and, "It can make apartments more expensive for anyone who has to compete in the more competitive market."

And, yet, people keep moving here, far faster than new units are built.

Marketplace Morning Report for Monday April 28, 2014by Dan BobkoffPodcast Title New York's median rent is $1,100. Seems low...Story Type News StorySyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No

Skype bans certain 'offensive' emoticons

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-25 10:57

We told you a couple weeks ago about how Yelp now lets you search with emoticons. A pair of scissors gets you salons nearby, the Korean flag finds you Korean restaurants, and so forth. 

 

On the other side of the happy face is Skype. According to the website Techcrunch, Skype has "removed certain...offensive emoticons from its emoticon dictionary."  

 

You can see the offending faces here. In Techcrunch's words:

 

"Oddly enough, you can still happily moon your chat buddies(), puke on them(), have a smoke with them () and pretend you are virtually drunk (). Skype is good with this guy, too ( ). Maybe because he is offset by this emoticon: ."

Boehner Mocks GOP Colleagues For Immigration Fears

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 10:53

Back home in his Ohio district, Speaker John Boehner had fun at the expense of fellow House Republicans who are reluctant — or afraid — to tackle an immigration overhaul.

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Maryland's Obamacare Stumble Fails To Sway Governor's Race

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 10:37

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown might as well be wearing Teflon. Despite overseeing the botched rollout of the state's health insurance exchange, he's still the Democratic front-runner.

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Space X To Protest No-Bid National Security Contracts

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-25 10:22

The space startup says its rockets are capable of carrying satellites for the Air Force, and it can do so cheaper than Boeing and Lockheed.

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