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About Learning Curve

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:38

Technology is transforming education.

It’s a big statement, and we’ve heard big statements before. Remember Apple computers? Or how educational television would be the future of learning?

But this time, things look different. Technology really may change the way teachers teach and children learn. The digital revolution, fueled by billions in private and public investment, is full of promise. The promise of making kids better learners by letting them direct their own learning, of making teachers better teachers by giving them more and better information about their students, of bringing down costs, and of getting more kids across the college finish line with less student debt.

Simply put, educational technology is the New Right Answer.

Or so its proponents would have us believe.

But for all the promise of online courses, flipped classrooms, personalized learning, tablets, laptops, apps, MOOCs and the rest of it, there’s an equal amount of peril. The peril of having kids, who already spend seven hours a day with electronic media, spend even more time in front of a screen. The peril of taking teachers out of the center of the class, and into the role of technology advisors directing kids to the best app. The peril of letting the feedback loop created by collecting data on everything students do, determine their futures.

This will be our territory. All of it and more. Over the next year, the LearningCurve team will explore the expanding role of educational technology from preschool through college. We will take you into the digital classroom, and the hotbeds of EdTech innovation. We will ask the big questions about whether all this technology is actually making kids any smarter, or better prepared for the workforce of the 21st century. We will follow the money as it pours into the classroom.

We will bring these stories to you over the air and online. We will get behind the numbers that tell the deeper story . We will keep you up to date with a podcast and newsletter. We will let you test your knowledge with our daily quiz.

And we want to hear from you as we do it. Parents. Teachers. Students. Comment on our stories. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Humor us with your Tumblr posts. Join us in Google chats with experts. Tell us what you like and what drives you nuts about learning and teaching today. Join us in an ongoing conversation about one of the most important issues of the day. The education of the next generation.

Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps

Wed, 2014-05-28 00:03

My drill instructor's name was Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps. That wasn't his given name, of course.

It was Jerry. Jerry W., to be more specific.

But lord help any of us if we ever were caught referring to him as anything but Gunnery Sgt. Holtry, United States Marine Corps.

That's him, by the way, fourth from the right in the picture above, just about the time I was in Officer Candidate School down in Pensacola, Florida.

It only lasted 14 weeks, but it's kind of telling that that's still how I remember him, almost 30 years on.

Why am I telling you this? Well, a couple of reasons, not necessarily connected but all of a piece somehow.

Item 1: On Tuesday, President Obama laid out his timeline for leaving Afghanistan. The official combat mission ends this year, 4,500 or so troops in-country by the end of next year, and by the end of 2016 what the White House calls "a normal embassy presence." According to the website icasualties.org, 2,322 Americans have died there since 2001.

Item 2: CNN anchor Jake Tapper's Twitter timeline this past weekend was, in honor of Memorial Day, a steady stream of remembrances of America's war dead. Makes you think.

SPC Casey Sheehan, 24, of Vacaville, Ca., was killed by RPGs/small-arms fire 4/4/2004 in Baghdad. #MemorialDay pic.twitter.com/PWaGaGRwM6

— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 27, 2014

Item 3: This past week or so having been, in addition to Memorial Day, graduation week at a lot of colleges, this commencement address by Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, stuck.

That's it. That's all I've got today. No Marketplace angle. No business, no economics.

I never served in combat. Not even close. But for some reason, Memorial Day this year hit me harder than usual.

Is China's property market crashing?

Tue, 2014-05-27 21:40

Housing sales in China have dropped nearly 10% over last year, and construction starts are down nearly 25%, despite nationwide easing of government restrictions on home buying and lending. The sluggish sector has left many wondering if China’s real estate market slowdown will end with a crash.

“I think that the property crash is underway,” said Anne Stevenson-Yang, research director at J-Capital in Beijing. “Once you lose the consumer’s confidence that there’s going to be price appreciation, then you can’t recover it.”

Stevenson-Yang’s team recently surveyed hundreds of properties in 44 cities throughout China. They found discounts as high as 40% on properties in all but one of those cities. In twelve of the cities they surveyed, developers were offering to finance or forgive down-payments on homes to get around a rule requiring buyers to put 30% down on a home purchase.

“So now the developers in these cities will basically write a contract that says ‘this guy already paid me 30%,’ and then give that to the bank in order to induce it to lend, when really they haven’t paid it at all,” said Stevenson-Yang.

In a country where many people buy property more as an investment rather than a place to live, economists say the threat of a property crash will mean a downturn in China’s consumer spending and will have a ripple effect throughout the world’s second-largest economy.

Share your experiences with tech in the classroom...We did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

Share your experiences with tech in the classroom...We did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

Share your classroom tech experiences... we did!

Tue, 2014-05-27 15:14
.awesome{ background: #222 url(/images/alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 5px 10px 6px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px #999; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px #222; border-bottom: 1px solid #222; position: relative; cursor: pointer; } .large.awesome { font-size: 14px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome { background-color: #2daebf; } Share Your Tech

The things you can learn about the people you work with….We asked staffers to contribute their classroom- tech memories to LearningCurve’s new tumblr, and the geek-out got underway in no time. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal,  remembered his efforts to blast a Klingon ship in a very early “online” Star Trek game he played in his 9th-grade computer lab..

A teletype machine was hooked up to a modem so old that it actually had a telephone headset on it. The commands and interactions were text-only and would blip by a couple of lines at a time, allowing Kai to boldly go where no man had gone before, but in very slow motion.

Oregon Trail, one of the first video games that was acceptable to play in school, got multiple shout outs (which should tell you something about the age of our staff). Even lower on the education scale: somebody posted a picture of the Nintendo game “Duck Hunt.”  That contributor preferred to remain anonymous . LearningCurve reporter Adriene Hill figured out how to hack the scantron machine in her high school, but says she didn’t rig the test results. We’ve got memories of Windows 95, film-strip projectors and JFKs funeral on TV.   You can see our tech memories, and add your own, on our Tumblr page.

The end of the job listing?

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:57

The rituals of applying for a job are well known to many at this point: Pick out something nice to wear, bring an extra copy of your resume, and maybe research the company before going into your interview. But along the way, several companies have made attempts to reinvent the hiring wheel. Most recently, Zappos got rid of job listings entirely, opting instead for a system in which interested individuals sign up to be part of a network of candidates that the company vets for open positions.

They're not the first to try a holistic approach to hiring, either. Messaging company Kik asks potential hires to start work part-time before they agree to the full time position. For those who already have a full-time gig, Kik invites them to work evenings, or during a vacation on a project that relates to their new position. The company believes that it works better for employers and employees to know if the job is a good fit.

Other companies partake in intense rites of passage for new hires. As outlined in this article on bizarre hiring rituals, Moving company GentleGiant asks employees to run stairs at the Harvard Stadium with their boss as part of a team building exercise. Foot Levelers, which makes chiropractic products in Virginia, has all new employees attend a screening of the film "Rudy" to gain inspiration.

But back to getting the job in the first place. Some would say that all of this is too much time spent vetting new hires and then ingraining them into the system. For those who shoot more from the hip, Travelodge tried out the speed-dating of interview processes back in 2008, giving each potential candidate just 3 minutes to prove themselves. Sometimes, first impressions are everything.

How not to slip slide the summer away

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:05

The "summer slide," as it's known, is what happens when you let your child do exactly that: sit around, play video games, watch TV and generally not do much to keep up the brain action. The Department of Education estimates that, on average, the "slide" can set students back two months in reading and math.

Here are four ways to stem the slide:

1) Crack the code. Coding camp may be the next best thing to playing a video game. No tents or marshmallow-roasting here. These camps are pretty much indoors, and range from day programs to overnight options at universities to online camps. EdSurge has a good round-up.

2) Virtual summer camp. If lanyards and popsicle-stick sculpture are not your thing,the online DIY company Make Media has partnered with Google, for Makers Camp. The "camp" lets students collaborate on creative engineering projects and share them with other kids across the country, using Google+. Like most Google products, it's free - the only price is letting Google know what your kid is up to.

3) There’s an app for that. There's no mistaking these apps for what they are: school. There are apps to track reading, apps featuring math and science activities, and a whole lot of others to help kids boost their skills over the summer.

4) Go traditional. The Department of Education suggests some quaint alternatives to the digital world on its blog. Spending time at the library, volunteering at the local dog shelter or hospital, or making a summer reading list, with a reward for each book completed.

The EPA starts targeting carbon dioxide in earnest

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:51

Expect to hear a lot about carbon dioxide in the next week. It's the main gas that's collecting in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Next Monday, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose rules limiting the carbon dioxide emitted by the power plants that produce most of our electricity. If the U.S. is going to play a role in the global reduction of greenhouse gases, the regulations the EPA is preparing are the most likely way that will happen any time soon.

Previous EPA rules have hit existing coal-burning plants by focusing on pollutants, like mercury and sulphur dioxide, that older coal plants produce. Pending rules would limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants and factories.

“The rule the EPA will introduce next week is the first step that’s specifically aimed at the power sector— reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector,” says Jonas Monast, director of climate and energy programs at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The administration will create carbon-reduction targets for states and allow each state to make a plan for hitting its target. One of the most efficient ways to hit a target: Shut down older, heavily-polluting coal-burning plants.

This isn’t exactly war on coal. “The real war on coal is not being waged by the Obama administration. It’s being waged by cheap natural gas,” says Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and environmental think tank.

Coal’s biggest advantage as a power source has been that it’s cheap. Low natural gas prices have eaten away much of that advantage. Utilities have been shutting down older coal plants and opening up new gas plants that also pollute less.

Regulations can lock in that shift and extend it, says Kevin Book, with ClearView Energy Partners. Adding next week’s proposals to what’s already been proposed could mean the U.S. ends up getting about a third less energy from coal than it did a few years ago. How much carbon emissions get reduced will depend on the targets EPA sets.

“This is the crown jewel of the Obama’s administration’s climate policy,” says Book. The rules could enable U.S. policy to have a global impact. In effect, they could put a price on carbon emissions. 

A bond that can't be broken

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:40

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Wednesday, May 28:

President Obama is scheduled to be in West Point to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2014.

Shoe company DSW releases quarterly earnings.

The Senate is on break this week.

The "Empress of Soul," Gladys Knight, turns 70.

And author Ian Fleming was born on May 28, 1908. You're probably familiar with one of his very charismatic characters: James Bond.

Pilgrim eyes Hillshire as tasty morsel

Tue, 2014-05-27 13:12

Chicken-producer Pilgrim's Pride has made a bid for sausage supremo, Hillshire Brands, and is offering $45 per share, or, what it says is a transaction valued at $6.4 billion

Would you like the chicken, or, the pork? That’s the question Pilgrim’s Pride wants to ask.

“When you call on a retail client, you want to give them as broad a choice of products as possible,” says John Stanton, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University. Stanton says for Pilgrim Pride’s, mainly a poultry producer, the plan to buy a company that sells pork, Hillshire farms,  makes sense.

“You want to say, 'You don’t need to talk to sausage people, you don’t need to talk to pork people,' because when you talk to me I can sell you all your poultry and all your pork products you want,” he says.

But Rob Campagnino, director of consumer research for Sector and Sovereign, notes that chicken and pork are both commodities, which means their prices are not very flexible. 

“So the price of chicken goes up and down, but that’s solely determined by the cost to produce it,” he says. 

So, Campagnino notes Pilgrim Pride’s bid isn’t just about gaining the ability to sell more kinds of protein. Instead it’s about moving beyond commodities, and getting into brands like Jimmy Dean sausages which is owned by Hillshire Farms.

"What you can do with something like Jimmy Dean is you can innovate," he says,  You can raise prices, and when you raise these prices they’re price increases that aren’t necessarily driven solely by changes in what it costs you to make it.”

Consolidating the two companies, would also offer some savings, but says Campagnino, that’s not the meat of the deal.

By Shea Huffman/Marketplace

Curveball: Is Harvard just for the wealthy?

Tue, 2014-05-27 12:13
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/ivy-league">View Survey</a>

The next big challenge in Afghanistan is payroll

Tue, 2014-05-27 11:14

President Obama said that the U.S. plans to leave about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations end in December. That’s down from the 100,000 U.S. troops that were in the country during the war’s peak.

It may seem like we’re packing up and pulling out. But Jenine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council for Foreign Relations, says what Afghanistan needs now is a different kind of aid.

“For us to be able to leave Afghanistan... we may be able to take the troops out but they will continue to need economic assistance.”

Davidson says that the Afghanistan security forces are largely capable.

“The issue going forward is their institutional capacity to maintain their forces. Mundane things like payroll and training.”

Even though active duty troop numbers are shrinking, Davidson says the Pentagon should stay prepared.

“You never know what the future holds. Nobody thought we would be at war in Afghanistan in the year 2000. Nobody thought we would be in Iraq... That’s why the military needs to be organized trained and ready. Though not necessarily deployed.”

Discovering the original Disneyland

Tue, 2014-05-27 10:48

When Walt Disney first proposed the idea of Disneyland, he planned to have a much more ambitious shopping catalog than the park does today.

BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow recently unearthed the original 1953 prospectus for Disneyland, which was a pitch for more than just a theme park. It was slated to become, as Disney first called it, a hub for "merchantainment"--or, in other words, the precursor to the modern shopping mall.

"He wanted to make a place where you could get the kind of things that you had to be a very sophisticated person indeed to get in 1953 post-war America," Doctorow said. "It wasn't just that he wanted to sell you tropical fish and even tropical birds; he wanted to sell you miniature ponies."

The prospectus includes an illustrated map of the original plans for Disneyland--which looks remarkably similar to the park we know today. For this reason, Doctorow says, if Walt Disney himself were to walk through the park gates today, he'd be pleased with what he'd see.

"There's no way you can justify to investors putting on that little bit of gold plating, that little bit of 'plussing up,' as Walt used to say," Doctorow said, "and I think the only description you can make for things that people do because they're aesthetically pleasing even though there's no rational return on the investment is art. And I think the park is still the domain of people who think of themselves as artists, and of the park as a work of art."

The house call makes a comeback

Tue, 2014-05-27 10:16

Back in the day, doctors made house calls and actually got to know their patients. But as times and technology changed, a home visit from your doctor became a luxury for the 1 percent. Dissatisfied doctors and frustrated patients have forced the industry to adjust, and house call doctors are making a comeback. But are they for everyone?

Patients want that personal relationship as well. People who grew up with house call doctor visits remember them fondly.

Dr. Michael Farzam is CEO of House Call Doctor Los Angeles. He's been seeing patients in their homes for 13 years, and almost never has to make a referral. Part of the reason is he speaks with patients on the phone before making the trek in LA traffic to their home, but also, he says, "I can do everything in the home, essentially, a doctor's office or a typical urgent care can do. So, we do x-rays and ultrasounds, we administer IV fluids."

And there are advantages to seeing patients in their homes. Some cases can only be solved by a home visit, like the time he diagnosed a whole family with carbon monoxide poisoning from an old furnace.

"It's just something you had to see visually in the home to be able to make that diagnosis. You know, if they had been in the house one more night, they probably all would have died. And that was a nice day. That makes the job very worthwhile."

During our interview, Dr. Farzam took several calls from patients on his cell phone. It's this personal care and the access his patients have that make them so satisfied. But this kind of service must be for the super-wealthy. Right? At around $400 a visit, Dr. Farzam says he does see the 1 percent here in LA – corporate executives and celebrities who want the privacy and convenience. 

However: "But I'd say 95 percent of my patients are middle income people, who hold average jobs, and any way you look at it, our fee is less expensive than an emergency room visit, even if you have good insurance."

The tech startup Medicast uses a house call model they call "Uber for healthcare". Patients can hail a doctor 24/7 from a mobile app.

"It's really as simple as just clicking a button when you're not feeling well,” CEO Sam Zebarjadi says, “and we find a nearby on-call doctor who will come to your home, your office or hotel in under two hours."

Patients can also summon a doctor from their website or by calling in to the call center. Medicast has been up and running in Miami and South Florida for almost a year and it launches in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in the beginning of June.

Of course, there was a reason house calls all but disappeared in the middle of last century. Medicine became more expensive, having medical insurance became necessary, and dealing with that ate into doctors' profits.

"About 60 to 70 percent of the costs of healthcare are really in the overhead that come with traditional practices," Zebarjadi says -- and to make up for all that overhead, doctors might have to see 30 patients a day. "They spend about 6-8 minutes per patient…so it's a very stressful experience."

The Medicast model is a twist on a relatively new trend. It's called private medicine and it's growing by 25 percent a year. The idea is to eliminate some of the costs associated with billing insurance. That way, doctors can afford to spend more time with patients. These house call practices are a cash business – they don't take insurance. They also don't need nurses, receptionists… they don't even need the office.

But still, these are doctors driving to your homes. How do the non-millionaire patients afford that? Zebarjadi says people are saving money on insurance by choosing policies with high deductibles.

"A lot of people are using healthcare for catastrophic events and actually looking elsewhere to services like ours for basic wellness and urgent care needs."

So when you go to sleep with a high deductible insurance plan and wake up in the middle of the night with an alarming fever, you're faced with a choice: a potential $3,000 in the Emergency Room, or $400 or so for a home visit. That house call might just be the frugal choice, as well as a lot more restful.

House call doctors make a comeback

Tue, 2014-05-27 10:16

Back in the day, doctors made house calls and actually got to know their patients. But as times and technology changed, a home visit from your doctor became a luxury for the 1 percent. Dissatisfied doctors and frustrated patients have forced the industry to adjust, and house call doctors are making a comeback. But are they for everyone?

Patients want that personal relationship as well. People who grew up with house call doctor visits remember them fondly.

Dr. Michael Farzam is CEO of House Call Doctor Los Angeles. He's been seeing patients in their homes for 13 years, and almost never has to make a referral. Part of the reason is he speaks with patients on the phone before making the trek in LA traffic to their home, but also, he says, "I can do everything in the home, essentially, a doctor's office or a typical urgent care can do. So, we do x-rays and ultrasounds, we administer IV fluids."

And there are advantages to seeing patients in their homes. Some cases can only be solved by a home visit, like the time he diagnosed a whole family with carbon monoxide poisoning from an old furnace.

"It's just something you had to see visually in the home to be able to make that diagnosis. You know, if they had been in the house one more night, they probably all would have died. And that was a nice day. That makes the job very worthwhile."

During our interview, Dr. Farzam took several calls from patients on his cell phone. It's this personal care and the access his patients have that make them so satisfied. But this kind of service must be for the super-wealthy. Right? At around $400 a visit, Dr. Farzam says he does see the 1 percent here in LA – corporate executives and celebrities who want the privacy and convenience. 

However: "But I'd say 95 percent of my patients are middle income people, who hold average jobs, and any way you look at it, our fee is less expensive than an emergency room visit, even if you have good insurance."

The tech startup Medicast uses a house call model they call "Uber for healthcare". Patients can hail a doctor 24/7 from a mobile app.

"It's really as simple as just clicking a button when you're not feeling well,” CEO Sam Zebarjadi says, “and we find a nearby on-call doctor who will come to your home, your office or hotel in under two hours."

Patients can also summon a doctor from their website or by calling in to the call center. Medicast has been up and running in Miami and South Florida for almost a year and it launches in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in the beginning of June.

Of course, there was a reason house calls all but disappeared in the middle of last century. Medicine became more expensive, having medical insurance became necessary, and dealing with that ate into doctors' profits.

"About 60 to 70 percent of the costs of healthcare are really in the overhead that come with traditional practices," Zebarjadi says -- and to make up for all that overhead, doctors might have to see 30 patients a day. "They spend about 6-8 minutes per patient…so it's a very stressful experience."

The Medicast model is a twist on a relatively new trend. It's called private medicine and it's growing by 25 percent a year. The idea is to eliminate some of the costs associated with billing insurance. That way, doctors can afford to spend more time with patients. These house call practices are a cash business – they don't take insurance. They also don't need nurses, receptionists… they don't even need the office.

But still, these are doctors driving to your homes. How do the non-millionaire patients afford that? Zebarjadi says people are saving money on insurance by choosing policies with high deductibles.

"A lot of people are using healthcare for catastrophic events and actually looking elsewhere to services like ours for basic wellness and urgent care needs."

So when you go to sleep with a high deductible insurance plan and wake up in the middle of the night with an alarming fever, you're faced with a choice: a potential $3,000 in the Emergency Room, or $400 or so for a home visit. That house call might just be the frugal choice, as well as a lot more restful.

PODCAST: Women and minorities ignored by VC

Tue, 2014-05-27 07:27

This week is Hurricane Awareness Week, which precedes the official start of the hurricane season. While storms like Hurricane Sandy are still unusual, protecting populated coastal areas like New York City is a technological challenge.

Innovation requires brains, but also requires money -- and the early money often comes from venture capitalists. But all too often minority and women innovators miss out on venture capital funding.

Fixing the VC gender gap

Tue, 2014-05-27 04:35

Innovation requires brains, but also requires money -- and the early money often comes from venture capitalists. But all too often minority and women innovators miss out on venture capital funding.

Jules Pieri, found and CEO of the product launch platform, The Grommet, sees a bias in the system, but she also sees a simple, practical solution. Pieri calls her idea “Title IX for business.” In short, remove the lucrative carried interest tax loophole from any venture firms that do not fund women’s businesses proportionate to men's.

Pieri joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Heroin, opiate addicts find it tough to get treatment

Tue, 2014-05-27 04:07

Sheryl Santiago's son, Erik, was addicted to pills he'd been prescribed for anxiety and depression.

But when he finally decided to quit, he learned that asking for help and getting it can be two very different things.

"As soon as he contacted [a treatment facility], he thought he could go that night,” Santiago recalled. “He was ready to go and then he just got more and more discouraged."

Erik didn't have health insurance, and neither he nor his parents could afford the private facilities, where a month of treatment can cost as much as $30,000. So the first step for the family was to purchase insurance for Erik.

"When we got the insurance, they only covered a couple places, and they had waiting lists," she said.

A few weeks later, Erik was moved off the waitlist at a local treatment facility in Ocean County, N.J. However, he had been trying to stop using drugs on his own while he waited for help, and the program he was accepted into was the kind of place that helps patients detox with the assistance of medication. Like many facilities of this type, it required potential patients to be active drug users to get treatment -- to actually fail a drug test.

"He told me, he goes, 'Don't be mad at me if I use something because I have to test dirty in order to go into their program,'” said Santiago. “And he did, he must have used whatever he was using prior — the dosage — and it was too much."

Santiago said Erik had been clean for four weeks before he overdosed and died. In that time, his body may have lost some of its tolerance for the drug.

He had just turned 31 when he died, so it's hard not to play a game of “what-ifs?” but Santiago believes her son would still be here today if he'd gotten into a program right away.

"There's not enough beds, there's not enough providers,” confirmed Bruno Silie, a health educator who helps place addicts in treatment facilities at a drop-in center run by the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City, N.J.

"There's options, but the waiting period is ridiculous,” he added. “I've had clients wait for 60-plus days, and by that time they've given up."

"You really have to strike when the iron's hot," said Kimberly Reilly, the alcohol and drug coordinator in Ocean County, N.J. "So if someone comes to us and says I'm motivated for treatment, you really want to get them in, really, within that hour, because the next hour they could be off looking for their next hit of heroin."

There are simply not enough beds to meet New Jersey’s growing demand for substance abuse treatment. Statewide, admissions are up nearly 40 percent since 2006. As the state diverts more nonviolent drug users to treatment over prison, the waiting lists are even more of an issue.

Increasingly, people are seeking treatment for heroin and opiate additions. In Ocean County, half the admissions last year were for heroin. It's cheap and easily accessible, so many users turn to the drug after getting addicted to prescription pills, such as OxyContin.

The situation in New Jersey is mirrored across the country, according to Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New Jersey.

Scotti noted the Affordable Care Act will eventually add coverage for many people with mental health and substance abuse issues. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that the ACA will eventually extend coverage to approximately 11 million people with behavioral health conditions, which include mental health and substance use issues.

Without significant expansion of treatment options, that expansion may create additional backlogs.

“In some states, like New Jersey, there just isn’t the infrastructure, at this point,” said Scotti. “There’s going to have to be new facilities, new providers, new licensed addiction counselors, and that’s going to take a while to ramp up.”

In addition to expanded access to insurance, other factors – like the aging population, the high turnover of substance abuse counselors, and better medical screening for addition – affect the availability of treatment options, according to Andrea Kopstein, a division director in SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

Kopstein says the Obama administration is making a “significant investment” in both the number of treatments slots and to expand the number of professionals working in the field, SAMHSA was unable to specify how much. The most recent figure available on U.S. spending for substance abuse was $24 billion in 2009. 

Rising risk in mortgage market

Tue, 2014-05-27 03:59

A new report from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that home-buyers are more likely to default on new mortgages.

The mortgages were subjected to a stress test. Under the worst case scenario, an increasing percentage of the loans would fall into foreclosure.

But when considered historically, housing consultant Thomas Lawler says new mortgages are, “Substantially lower in terms of overall risk than any time in 20 plus years.”

Lawler says the risk of another all-out housing crisis is much lower because fewer mortgages are backed with borrowed money.

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