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What We Read Today 13 February 2015

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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Elon Musk’s Hyperloop takes a step closer to reality (giz mag)  This technology is ground level and cuts the travel time between Los Angeles and San Fransisco in half from air travel.  What is Hyperloop?  For more details see the next article.

How does Elon Musk's Hyperloop work? (Brian Dodson, giz mag)  What do you get when you cross a "Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table"?  You get from LA to SF in about 30 minutes, traveling just under the speed of sound and are never "detached" from the ground.  And you would go any time you choose:

Hyperloop is a non-scheduled service which leaves when you arrive, is immune to the weather and never crashes.


Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world








Another Argentine prosecutor says will pursue case against president (Reuters)

The New Dust Bowl:  Mortgage Purchase Applications Fall 9 Percent from Previous Week (Where is the Recovery?) (Anthony B. Sanders, Confounded Interest)  The huge one week drop headline hides the year-over-year change which is +1.2%.  But the graphic below tells the real story:  Mortgage applications, wage growth and employment remain in the equivalent of a new "Dust Bowl".  There is a lot of data reviewed in this article including the surge in mortgage refi applications since the beginning of 2015 at interest rates have tumbled lower.

Click for larger image at Confounded Interest.

Private exchange enrollment could triple (Bruce Shutan, Employee Benefit News)  Bet this is one you didn't see coming amidst all the news about the Obamacare insurance exchanges.  While all the hoopla about problems with the public HIX (health insurance exchanges) got headlines, private exchanges not part of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) system took hold and had registered 2.5 million enrollees (excluding retirees which also have a large enrollment) by the beginning of this year.  Reenita Das, a partner at growth-strategies adviser Frost & Sullivan, made the prediction (in a Forbes blog on 10 top health care trends) that the 2.5 million could triple.  Another healthcare  systems source says that the private exchanges are approaching a "hockey stick" uptick and then "many expect a piling-on effect".  Econintersect:  Is it possible that the private insurance exchange model will actually do more insurance placements than Obamacare?  It certainly seems possible.  Many who are not eligible for government subsidies may find private exchanges allow more flexibility in policy selection.  And it is also likely that employer group plans may be phased out to be replaced by company payments to employees to shop for their own insurance in the private HIX space.  Of course lower paid employees will likely use the ACA exchanges to get the government subsidies.

Big business is backing ACA ahead of Supreme Court hearing (Paul Barrett, Employee Benefit News)  Heavy support from the insurance and health care industries is behind business "friend of the court," or amicus, briefs filed for the March 4 hearing on the wording in the ACA law which plaintiffs argue limit those eligible for government subsidies for insurance premiums to only those getting insurance through state-run exchanges, excluding all those with policies through the federal exchange,  Those supporting the limiting interpretation of the law:

On the other side, the challenge to the ACA is a production of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a well-known anti-regulatory advocacy group. Procedural questions have arisen over whether the four plaintiffs recruited by the CEI are appropriate choices. Leaving those issues to one side, the motives of the challengers can easily be discerned from the briefs backing the plaintiffs. They include the conservative advocacy groups Judicial Watch, American Center for Law and Justice, Mountain States Legal Foundation, Pacific Research Institute, Cato Institute, Washington Legal Foundation, Missouri Liberty Project, and Landmark Legal Foundation.

The ACA opponents focus less on the practical consequences of sweeping aside health reform and more on principles of government. "Executive lawmaking—which has alas become commonplace—poses a severe threat to the separation-of- powers principles that undergird the Constitution and ultimately the rule of law itself," argues the libertarian Cato Institute in its amicus brief. "Accordingly, this Court should vacate the IRS rule that provides subsidies in states that did not establish exchanges. This rule violates Congress's limitation of such subsidies to insurance bought through exchanges 'established by the state.'"

The last two sentences take us to the statutory intricacies of the case. In the first Supreme Court challenge to the ACA three years ago, justices voted 5-4 that Congress possessed constitutional authority to require that people buy health insurance. This time around, the assault concerns the subsidies meant to make that mandated coverage affordable. 

200K to lose ACA coverage (Brian M. Kalish, Employee Benefit News)  Last September  the government took Obamacare coverage away from 115,000 who failed to respond to questions about their legal residence status.  Next week another 200,000 will suffer the same fate.  Undocumented immigrants aren’t allowed to use government-run health exchanges to buy insurance.immigrants aren’t allowed to use government-run health exchanges to buy insurance.

In this article, an update was given regarding enrollment status for the current open enrollment period which ends 15 February.  According to this article, as of 06 February 7.75 million had made policy selections.  (The government has larger figures - see next article.)  Anyone who has an application in process when enrollment closes on Sunday will be allowed to complete the process and obtain coverage.  So it will be some time after the 15th before a final count will be available.  And then it will be months after that before an estimate will be available as to how many insureds followed through and paid their premium.  At the end of 2014, after counting errors were corrected, it was estimated that nearly 7 million obtained policies and paid premiums under ACA.  Econintersect:  It may be that Obamacare coverage may not grow that much from 2014 to 2015.  See next article for the government summary of status. 

ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers (Obamacare Facts)

As of January 16th, 2015 7.1 million are enrolled in a plan through HealthCare.Gov and 2.4 million enrolled through state Marketplaces. This number spiked to 10 million total enrollments by February. Are also currently 10 million Medicaid sign ups and 3 million on the parents plan to date. This however does not give us a complete count of total enrollments due to ACA related provisions. Learn more about how to understand ObamaCare enrollment numbers. HHS originally projected 9.1 million enrollments by February 15, 2015 (the end of Open Enrollment).


Young Adult Enrollment Numbers (Obamacare Facts)  After sliding lower for several years, health care insurance coverage for young adults age 19-25 has risen sharply since the ACA provision allowing them to remain on parents' policies went into effect September 2010 (first graph below).  The data is also presented for private policies only (second graph below).  Note:  There is extensive discussion of criticisms of the data and for further information go to the article.  The author concludes:

My conclusion is that anywhere between 2.3 and 2.9 million young people gained insurance as a result of the ACA, with a best estimate of 2.6 million.



The Beginner’s Field Guide to Dim Sum (Carolyn Phillips, Lucky Peach)  Nowadays, the term “dim sum” (點心 in written Chinese, and pronounced dian xin in Mandarin) is a meal—usually taken on a weekend morning—that encompasses a vast roster of small dishes selected from carts.  The food descriptions are usually accompanied by symbols which are described in the graphic below.  For detailed descriptions of typical dishes go to the article.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

The Trouble With Disclosure: It Doesn’t Work (ProPublica)  The sunlight is directed by the thing receiving it.  The problem is asymmetry.

So many scandals in the US military: signs of rot or reform? (Fabius Maximus)  FM has contributed to GEI.

HSBC Got Away With Buying Cocaine Plane (The Daily Beast)  Car dealers who sold to cartel members went to prison; HSBC who financed drug jets off scot-free.  Individuals who were lured into tax evasion schemes by HSBC were aggressively prosecuted;  no action taken against HSBC.

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