Tag: Marijuana

Soaring Costs of Health Insurance and Increasing Use of Marijuana by Workers

Bloomberg – Health Insurance Costs Surpass $20,000 Per Year, Hitting a Record – John Tozzi 9/25/19

The cost of family health coverage in the U.S. now tops $20,000, an annual survey of employers found, a record high that has pushed an increasing number of American workers into plans that cover less or cost more, or force them out of the insurance market entirely.

“It’s as much as buying a basic economy car,” said Drew Altman, chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “but buying it every year.”

While employers pay most of the costs of coverage, according to the survey, workers’ average contribution is now $6,000 for a family plan. That’s just their share of upfront premiums, and doesn’t include co-payments, deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing once they need care.

The seemingly inexorable rise of costs has led to deep frustration with U.S. health care, prompting questions about whether a system where coverage is tied to a job can survive. As premiums and deductibles have increased in the last two decades, the percentage of workers covered has slipped as employers dropped coverage and some workers chose not to enroll. Fewer Americans under 65 had employer coverage in 2017 than in 1999, according to a separate Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. That’s despite the fact that the U.S. economy employed 17 million more people in 2017 than in 1999.

“What we’ve been seeing is a slow, slow kind of drip-drip erosion in employer coverage,” Altman said.

Employees’ costs for health care are rising more quickly than wages or overall economy-wide prices, and the working poor have been particularly hard-hit. In firms where more than 35% of employees earn less than $25,000 a year, workers would have to contribute more than $7,000 for a family health plan. It’s an expense that Altman calls “just flat-out not affordable.” Only one-third of employees at such firms are on their employer’s health plans, compared with 63% at higher-wage firms, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s data.

The survey is based on responses from more than 2,000 randomly selected employers with at least three workers, including private firms and non-federal public employers.

Deductibles are rising even faster than premiums, meaning that patients are on the hook for more of their medical costs upfront. For a single person, the average deductible in 2019 was $1,396, up from $533 in 2009. A typical household with employer health coverage spends about $800 a year in out-of-pocket costs, not counting premiums, according to research from the Commonwealth Fund. At the high end of the range, those costs can top $5,000 a year.

After years of pushing health-care costs onto workers, some employers are pressing pause. Delta Air Lines Inc. recently froze employees’ contributions to premiums for two years, Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York last week.

“We said we’re not going to raise them. We’re going to absorb the cost because we need to make certain people know that their benefits structure is real important,” Bastian said. He said the company’s health-care costs are growing by double-digits. The Atlanta-based company has more than 80,000 employees around the globe.

And on that note… marijuana use appears to be up.

WSJ – Daily Shot: Positive Testing for Marijuana in the Workplace 9/27/19

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February 2, 2018

Perspective

statista – The U.S. Cities With The Most Homeless People – Niall McCarthy 1/26

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Short sellers eye better days after Steinhoff and Carillion wins – Miles Johnson and Robert Smith 1/31

  • “A rising tide, as the saying goes, lifts all boats. This effect, which has been played out across financial markets for several years, has inflicted pain and frustration on specialist short sellers of stocks and bonds who try and profit by betting against companies they believe harbor accounting irregularities.”
  • “But after years of frustration, some of the funds who have been doggedly shorting certain companies have been rewarded. Hedge funds that made bearish bets against the South African retailer Steinhoff International and the UK construction group Carillion saw these trades dramatically pay off as both companies collapsed under the weight of their debts.”
  • “’In the past few months there have been a number of accounting-related shorts, such as Steinhoff International and Carillion, that have been big money makers,’ says Alper Ince, an investor in hedge funds at Paamco. ‘I think there is an expectation among short sellers that we may see more of these after years of companies making big acquisitions and taking on more leverage’.”
  • “’There had been chatter about Steinhoff’s accounting for years, but being short investment grade companies has been an absolute death trade,’ says a London based credit trader. ‘It’s a bit like the old mantra ‘don’t fight the Fed’ — you can’t short investment grade bonds when you know the ECB is buying them on the other side’.”
  • “The ECB was one of the largest holders of Steinhoff’s outstanding €800m bond, owning around €100m of the debt before it sold its position entirely at a deep loss earlier this month.”

NYT – Worries Grow That the Price of Bitcoin Is Being Propped Up – Nathaniel Popper 1/31

  • “A growing number of virtual currency investors are worried that the prices of Bitcoin and other digital tokens have been artificially propped up by a widely used exchange called Bitfinex, which has a checkered history of hacks and opaque business practices.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: German 5yr Bond Yield 1/31

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Crude Oil Production 1/26

FT – Shale powers US oil output to heights of 1970 – Ed Crooks 1/31

Cryptocurrency

Bloomberg Quint – India to Curb Cryptocurrency Use While Embracing Blockchain – Anto Antony 2/1

  • “India’s government said it doesn’t consider cryptocurrencies as legal tender and will take all measures to eliminate payments using them.”

How much.net – Visualizing The Meteoric Rise of Cryptocurrency in the Past 5 Years – Raul 1/30

Reuters – South Korea says no plans to ban cryptocurrency exchanges, uncovers $600 million (in) illegal trades – Dahee Kim, Cynthia Kim 1/30

Social Media

NYT – Twitter Followers Vanish Amid Inquiries Into Fake Accounts – Nicholas Confessore, Gabriel Dance, and Rich Harris 1/31

China

FT – Distressed debt investors line up to offer HNA financing – Henny Sender and Don Weinland 1/31

  • “Chinese conglomerate seeks up to $2bn secured against Hong Kong land holdings.”

Other Interesting Links

NYT – San Francisco Will Clear Thousands of Marijuana Convictions – Timothy Williams and Thomas Fuller 1/31

  • “Thousands of people with misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession dating back 40 years will have their criminal records cleared, the San Francisco district attorney’s office said Wednesday. San Diego is also forgiving old convictions.”

February 1, 2018

Perspective

Bloomberg – Marijuana Mapped: the Price of Weed Across the U.S. – Jen Skerritt 1/30

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Real Disposable Income and Consumer Spending 1/30

Pew – Remittances from abroad are major economic assets for some developing countries – Drew Desilver 1/29

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – What To Do When Your Stocks Are Soaring – Ben Carlson 1/30

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – US Homeownership Rate 1/30

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Change in Owner Occupied Housing Units 1/30

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – California Homeownership Rate 1/30

Energy

eia – U.S. crude oil exports increased following hurricane – related refinery disruptions – Corina Ricker 1/29

Cryptocurrency

WSJ – Bitcoin Is Having Its Worst Month in Three Years – Steven Russolillo and Eun-Young Jeong 1/31

WSJ – Daily Shot: Investing.com – Bitcoin 1/29

Bloomberg Gadfly – Crypto Trading Needs a New Model – Tim Culpan 1/28

  • “Many don’t understand how these exchanges work, and that’s why hacking is such a problem.”
  • “When someone buys cryptocurrency from a centralized exchange — I’m going to stick with Bitcoin (BTC) as an example — they swap fiat money for the nominated BTC. But that coin doesn’t get sent to the customer. If it’s bought from a non-exchange seller, then it comes into the exchange’s own wallet, and gets held there. A ledger entry is made, and the customer gets an IOU. If the seller is on the same exchange platform, no BTC even needs to be shifted, the exchange simply changes its accounts to note one less BTC for the seller, one more for the buyer.”
  • “The customer only actually holds the BTC if they then go through the process of sending it from their exchange wallet to another wallet, for example on their smartphone, and that usually incurs fees. Given the large amount of BTC held by just a few wallets — likely owned by exchanges —  it’s clear many customers don’t bother to take possession of the BTC themselves.”
  • “That’s why hacking is such a problem. Centralized exchanges are acting as custodians for a commodity that can’t be copied or double-spent, in an environment where possession is nine-tenths of the law, and using infrastructure that offers a certain amount of anonymity.”
  • “One obvious solution is to boost security protocols. The use of a cold wallet — one not connected to the internet — is now a common tactic. But clearly not all exchanges are practicing good digital hygiene.”
  • “Instead, I see decentralized exchanges becoming more popular. As with equity trading, such a platform is merely the place for a buyer and a seller to meet, and for prices to be discovered. The exchange can play a certain settlement and custodian role, but with blockchain technology, this can be simplified to the point of virtual elimination — atomic transactions could come into play here.”

Africa

NYT – Dangerously Low on Water, Cape Town Now Faces ‘Day Zero’ – Norimitsu Onishi and Somini Sengupta 1/30

  • “…after a three-year drought, considered the worst in over a century, South African officials say Cape Town is now at serious risk of becoming one of the few major cities in the world to lose piped water to homes and most businesses.”

Britain

FT – Property sales in London fall 20% in four years – James Pickford 1/30

January 25, 2018

Perspective

AZ Central – USA Today: Budweiser falls from top three U.S. beer favorites – Mike Snider 1/23

NYT – School Shooting in Kentucky Was Nation’s 11th of Year. It Was Jan. 23. – Alan Blinder and Daniel Victor 1/23

WSJ – Daily Shot: Vox – US Marijuana Laws 1/24

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

The Mission – Why The Smallest Steps Towards Your Goals Become Giant Strides of Momentum – Tony Fahkry 1/23

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Price War Pressures Consumer-Goods Giants – Sharon Terlep 1/23

  • “Procter & Gamble said average prices fell for first time since 2011; rival Kimberly-Clark to slash jobs.”

Real Estate

WSJ – What’s a House Worth? Wall Street Turns to Drive-By ‘Appraisals’ – Ryan Dezember and Peter Rudegeair 1/22

WSJ – Big Landlords Pile Into Co-Working as WeWork’s Ascent Continues – Peter Grant 1/23

Cryptocurrency

Economist – Daily Chart: Crypto-currencies are in a tailspin 1/22

Bloomberg – Bitcoin May Split 50 Times in 2018 as Forking Craze Mounts – Olga Kharif 1/23

Construction

FT – US ‘constructech’ start-up raises $865m in SoftBank-led round – Richard Waters 1/24

  • “Katerra aims to transform homebuilding by applying precepts of electronics outsourcing.”
  • “The company, which operates from a factory in Arizona, already has $1.3bn of committed orders from developers and hopes to build another four or five facilities by the end of next year…”
  • Katerra hopes to drive down costs by ordering materials for multiple developments at once, giving it negotiating leverage over suppliers, and by developing manufacturing techniques to lower overall construction costs.”
  • “In one sign of its ambition, Katerra recently broke ground on an $85m factory in the US state of Washington that it said would be the world’s biggest maker of cross-laminated timber, a more ecologically friendly building material that is increasingly being used instead of concrete and steel.”
  • “The investment, which lifts the total amount Katerra has raised to almost $1.2bn, values the company at more than $3bn, including the latest round…”