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What We Read Today 03 December 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 (and sometimes longer ones) 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.

  • Ashton Carter To Replace Defense Secretary Hagel (Ginger Gibson, International Business Times) The proposed nominee appears to be "safe" as this article says he will likely have an easier time facing Republican questions than some other possible candidates. Carter might be considered a career DoD (Department of Defense) appointee, having served in three previous appointments under both Presidents Obama and Clinton. The IBT article says that, although he is considered likely to get approval, his confirmation hearings will offer an occassion for the Obama middle east policy to be discussed. Carter will have to answer questions about how he sees that policy developing going forward.
  • Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Ferguson Grand Jury Witness Testimony Disagrees On Events Leading Up To Michael Brown's Death (International Business Times)

Pack of teens beats man to death near Ferguson, but protests sparse (Fox News)

Four Denver cops hit by car amid Ferguson protest; one in critical condition (The Denver Post)


Belgian expert: WHO messed up Ebola response (Al Jazeera)

Islamic State

What the US doesn’t understand about ISIS, & must learn soon (Fabius Maximus) FM has contributed to GEI.


‘Turkey and Russia split politics from economics’ (RT)


Inside Kobani, scenes of devastation on every side (CNN)

Syria Goes Dark (Zero Hedge)

Sydney student Taha ElBaf and three brothers in Syria 'fighting for Islamic State' (The Sydney Morning Herald


ISIS Takeover In Iraq: Mosul University Students, Faculty Uncertain About The Future Of Higher Education (International Business Times)


Ukrainian PM reports accident at nuclear power plant (Reuters)

NATO announces new support for Ukraine Alliance to activate four trust funds for Ukraine army as it condemns Russia's "deliberate destabilisation" of Kiev. (Al Jazeera)


With Russia on Brink of Recession, Putin Faces ‘New Reality’ (The New York Times)

Rouble sinks to new lows as Russia's problems mount (BBC News)

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s stand-off is heading for a showdown – and Xi’s future is at stake (Minxin Pei, Financial Times)


Mexican Missing Students Update: National Mobilization for Peace in Mexico Marches Held To Protest Drug War (International Business Times)

There are 8 articles discussed today 'behind the wall', all dealing with the latest news about Obamacare.

Do not miss "Other Economics and Business Items of Note", the final section every day.

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  • A look at 2015 individual market health insurance rate filings (PCW, Health Research Institute) This data can supply a headline for everyone, just not the same headline. For Obamacare opponents the headline could be : ACA Premiums for 2015 Surge by up to 51%. For Obamacare supporters: ACA Premiums for 2015 Slashed by as Much as 25%. And for those trying to be objective: Incomplete Data Indicates Average ACA Premiums for 2015 May Increase by 3.7% to 5.4%. All three headlines are factually correct but none reflects with accuracy what is going on. For example, most states and the federal website have additional plans added to exchange menus. Thus an increase or decrease in average premiums does not indicate how premiums have changed for carry-over plans because the new plans are included. Examples of data from three states illustrates the variation in the data from state to state:

Minnesota: Premium Increase Range = -14.4% to +51.1%; Average Premium Increase = 12.4% (largest increase in country); Median Premium Increase = 9.2% (fifth largest); 2015 Average Rate = $319 (7th lowest); Number of New Plan Bids = 1. States with average 2015 premiums closest to Minnesota are Texas ($316) and Arizona ($313).

Mississippi: Premium Increase Range = -25.0% to +6.5%; Average Premium Increase = -9.3%% (largest decrease in country); Median Premium Increase = -9.3%% (fifth largest); 2015 Average Rate = NA ; Number of New Plan Bids = 1.

Arizona: Premium Increase Range = -25.0% to +23.5%; Average Premium Increase = 4.5%; Median Premium Increase = 9.7% (fourth largest); 2015 Average Rate = $313 (5th lowest); Number of New Plan Bids = 6.

See also next article. Click on map for interactive display of data state-by-state:


  • Early Exchange Outlook 2015 (Ceci Connolly and Caitlin Sweany, The Health Care Blog) The early indications for 2015 is that there will be major expansion of plan offerings under ACA (Affordable Care Act). At least 15 of the first 28 rate filings will offer additional plans this year. Of the 176 plans filed for ACA coverage in 2015, 36 (20%) are new. In Arizona, 6 new plans have been submitted to the state and five in Virginia; Washington, Arkansas and Tennessee show three new plans each. According to this article, insurance giant United Health Group is planning a major expansion of offerings for 2015. There are also indications that healthcare co-ops will be expanding significantly. These member owned and operated healthcare insurance arrangements covered 400,000 in 2014. There will likely be fallout from the current number of co-op plans over the next several years as smaller entities may have difficulty in paying back federal start-up loans totaling about $2 billion. Note: This article is four months old and the specific numbers contained are different from the up-to-date data in the preceding article.
  • Risk Of IT Security Breach On Exchanges ‘Very Real’ (Ryan Baldwin, HIX, Health Insurance Exchange) The ACA exchanges (and private exchanges as well) do not collect credit card information (billing is handled offline) but there is a lot of personal information that is collected (names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and Social Security numbers) which makes the millions of user files prime targets for identity theft hackers. Any system that can be logged into can be broken into and it is only a matter of time until some data security event occurs.
  • Public Approval of Health Care Law (Real Clear Politics) Obamacare remains highly unpopular. But current polling is slightly less unfavorable that a year ago. The average spread for the results shown below is 14.6%. For November 2013 the negative spread was 17.7. In previous years (October-November polling) there were less negative spreads at 11.4 in 2012 and 13.3 in 2011. See also Kaiser Family Foundation article, third below.

Click for polling data back to 2009 at Real Clear Politics.

  • Small businesses slow to adapt to ACA tracking technology (Michael Giardina, Employee Benefit News) Only 4% of small businesses are looking at software that helps companies meet qualifications and reporting standards associated with the Affordable Care Act. Of course those with less than 50 employees are not affected. But for those larger, more than 90% already offered health care benefits and those are "not even thinking about this change". The existing manual methods work just fine for these smaller companies. But if the grow into the few hundred employee range the use of spread sheets and manual operations will no longer be feasible. What works well for 60 employees may be unworkable for 260. The inference of this article is that company growth will select those that can no longer be slow to adapt.
  • 5 ways a Republican Congress could change health policy (Allison Bell, Life Health Pro) There are not a lot of changes that can be made, and only those backed by some Democrats will even come up for a vote in the Senate. And don't forget that it would take 67 votes in the Senate to overcome a President Obama veto. See also 5 more ways a Republican Congress could change PPACA (Allison Bell, Life Health Pro). One factor that is weighing against changes is that hospitals are largely very pleased with ACA, as are large insurance companies. These two sources have a lot of influence with both parties because they are major political contributors.
  • Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: April 2014 (Liz Hamel, Jamie Firth and Mollyann Brodie, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation) One conclusion about Obamacare opinions is that for many who belong to a political party the opinion may be determined largely by what one has been told, more than by what they have experienced. How else can the dramatic differences between political party affiliation be explained? See graph below.


  • Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Fewer Hospital Mistakes Saved 50k Lives (The Daily Beast) Also saved about $12 billion.

Why Economists Are Paid So Much (Bloomberg View)

What We Remember About Home Economics -- The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Huffington Post)

Australia’s Cooling Home Prices Challenge Regulators’ Stance (The Wall Street Journal)

The Tooth-Fairy Economics of Jeff Madrick (Value Walk)

Behavioral Economics Summit, March 4, 2015, Yale Club, NYC (Yale School of Management)

Professor Gordon Tullock: A Personal Remembrance (Library of Economics and Liberty)

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