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What We Read Today 15 June 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) (Doug Hill, The Atlantic) Norbert Wiener was an early leader in the science behind automation and the interfaces between man and machine. He was the developer of cybernetics a discipline at the heart of robotics, artificial intelligence and all the jobs destroying technology of the 21st century. The article is written because there is a memorial engineering conference scheduled in Boston later this month dedicated to Wiener and modern research on cybernetics.

  • China Now Has More Millionaires Than Any Country but the U.S. (Jason Chow, The Wall Street Journal) The number of millionaires in China increased 82% in 2013 to 2.378 million. This moved the country ahead of Japan which had 1.24 million millionaire households last year. The two countries had been in a virtual tie in 2012. If China were to experience two more years of 82% growth the country would reach a millionaire household count of nearly 8 million, eclipsing the current number of U.S. millionaires (7.135 million).

Click to see 'the kick' at The Verge.

Today there are 16 articles discussed 'behind the wall'.

The first seven articles discuss the latest adventures of Obamacare and other health insurance topics.

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  • Choice a ‘major disruptor’ to health care system (Michael Giardina, Employee Benefit Advisor) As choices enable more people to select high deductible health plans the provider market for health services will see more customer involvement in the "marketplace" for health services. Out-of-pocket spending for healthcare will go up as insurance premiums come down.

There is more "skin in the game for the employee and the individual," says Lambdin. [Paul Lambdin is a director at Deloitte Consulting].

The ACA requires improved transparency among health care quality and price data, components that are projected to allow consumers to make better choices. According to Susan Novak, senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, this will ultimately lead to the "unleashing [of] a more efficient market system."

She explains that the increase in the availability of cost data, and overall data in general, will allow employee populations, and individuals for that matter, to make more informed decisions.

  • Are we headed for a national ACA exchange? (Gillian Roberts, Health Insurance Exchange) There are only 14 states plus the District of Columbia with their own public health insurance exchanges (HIX). The other 36 states are using, the federal HIX. The author quotes a number of insurance experts who say that all states going to is not likely (New York and California have large and efficient state-run HIXs) but the number is likely to increase from the current 36. Some concern was expressed that loss of state control over insurance might not be the best for for local and regional insurers who would not offer national plans. Customers might lose access to locally tailored plans under such an outcome.
  • New ACA delay limits employee choice on SHOP exchange (Melissa A. Winn, Employee Benefit Advisor) SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) is just the latest Obamacare rollout SNAFU. CMS ((U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has granted implementation delay requests for the year 2015 to 18 states for the "employee choice option" which allows employees to pick any health plan with the actuarial value selected for support by the employer. According to an industry spokesperson there are only two reasons why SHOP offers advantage to insureds: (1) employee choice of policy and (2) ACA tax credit. With 18 states delaying the first and getting the second advantage requiring exclusion of coverage for family members, SHOP is not attractive for many employers or employees until the delay period is over.
  • Health Care Warning: Retiring at 62 Could Cost You $50,000 (Lisa Barron, ThinkAdvisor) The health care exposure is for those who retire from company group plans. But as more companies switch to HIX (health insurance exchanges) more of the health care costs are being shifted to the employee while they are still working. In such cases the $50 k estimate could be coming down (even though the health insurance and health care costs are not). See next article.
  • Are Private Exchanges Here To Stay? (Rob Lieblein, Health Insurance Exchange) The author thinks that private health insurance exchanges (HIX) will capture 30% of the market within 3-5 years. He doesn't discuss it but it is likely that public HIX will have a much larger share than that which would put traditional group plans and individually purchased insurance from agents and brokers, combined, into third place.
  • Private Exchange Enrollment Hits 3M (Brian M. Kalish, Health Insurance Exchange) The use of private insurance exchanges (totally separate from the public exchanges) is exploding.
Private exchanges are making a giant leap forward in how companies offer their employees benefits. For 2014 open enrollment, Accenture estimates that more than 3 million individuals enrolled in private exchanges - that's three times what the consultancy estimated last year.
People with multiple empty homes are responsible for the bulk of vacancies. Overall, the vacancy rate is very high and CHFS estimates there are ¥4.2 trillion in mortgages backing these empty homes.


  • All Our Patent Are Belong To You (Elon Musk, Tesla) Hat tip to Russell Huntley who says: "Elon Musk the new open source HERO." To those who think Tesla might be playing a public relations game too early and could be hury by this competitively, one commenter says that Tesla's patents are "defensive" (rather than exclusionary). PS: Proofreading headlines is not Tesla's strong point.


... they faced a median home price in San Francisco of $933,500 in May. While still up 7.3% year over year, it's down from the February peak of $945,000, which had been up 35% year over year and 16% higher than the peak of the prior bubble that blew up in November 2007. That prices would drop from February to May is unheard of. This is when home prices soar. Even in the crash years from 2008 through 2011, home prices rose during those months! So this is special; an early indication that this magnificent boom is curdling. In the tech bubble too, many recent IPOs have been eviscerated.


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