"More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage," President Obama said during last night's State of the Union address. In a speech that touched on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class, Obama touted his signature domestic policy achievement. But is that 9 million figure accurate?
You can slip into quicksand really fast, if you're trying to figure out just how many people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Technically 9 million is accurate. About 3 million people have enrolled through the federal or state health exchanges, and about 6 million have signed up for Medicaid, the program that's primarily for low-income Americans.
But -- and here's the thing to remember -- insurance isn't static. People are signing up, and re-enrolling all the time. So 9 million doesn't mean 9 million new people have signed up. Undoubtedly, some of those people, particularly those who signed up for Medicaid, are getting access due to the Medicaid expansion. But we don't know how many, and we won't know for several more months.
Another thing that's unclear is how many people who weren't covered before the Affordable Care Act was passed are covered now. The thought is that 16-17 million uninsured people will get coverage through the exchanges or Medicaid by the March 31 enrollment deadline.
Earlier this month, a survey came out from McKinsey & Co. showing that only 11 percent of people who bought policies on the exchanges were previously uninsured. But those numbers are not confirmed.
Another goal of the ACA was, as Obama put it last night, protecting people financially so "if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything." While the ACA does provide more consumer protections, Obama's assertion could use some context.
There are now protections like out-of-pocket maximums for how much you will have to pay if things get really bad. While the maximum for an individual is about $6,000 and about $13,000 for a family plan, caps don't apply if you see a doctor who isn't in the network included in the insurance plan you have.
We all know health care is quite complicated. And consumers -- especially people new to health insurance -- have to make sure they understand how it works.
It now costs 49 cents to send a letter. The price of stamps went up another 3 cents on Sunday, meaning that if you've been hoarding Forever stamps since forever ago, you've made a pretty good return. At least, that's what Allan Sloan, Fortune Magazine's senior editor-at-large, thinks. To listen to Sloan praise the virtues of the exotic financial instrument known as the postage stamp, click the audio player above.
The players say they work hard and bring in millions of dollars for their school. They want the right to bargain collectively. The NCAA says that would "undermine the purpose of college: an education." Who is right?
Last night's State of the Union speech was all about the American perspective. President Obama focused on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class. Marketplace Morning Report guest host Lizzie O'Leary checks in with the BBC's Andrew Walker on how the speech is being received in the rest of the world. ("Basically, a much bigger American story for the most part has been the death of Pete Seeger," he says.) Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
After two years of debate and stopgap measures, we may finally have a new farm bill. The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up a compromise agreement today. The legislation includes a host of reforms to, among other things, food stamps and subsidies, but reforming subsidies might not save the government much money.
For almost two decades, farmers have gotten what are called “direct payments” from the government -- that’s a check from Uncle Sam, no matter what.
“With direct payments, you got paid the payment even if you had great yields and high prices,” explains Art Barnaby, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.
Last year, those direct payments cost taxpayers about $4.5 billion.
Crop insurance is one of the things that would replace those payments, and Bruce Babcock, the Cargill Endowed Chair of Energy Economics at Iowa State University, says that would be a big deal. “But it’s not clear that it is actually getting the government at all out of the subsidy business,” he adds.
That is because these payments would be tied to commodity prices, so they would fluctuate. Taxpayers would save money when prices are high, Babcock says, “but if they fall significantly, we will be spending a lot more money on farm subsidies than we would have under the old programs.”
And when commodity prices fall, they don’t tend to rebound overnight. Babcock says it’s likely we would face many years of high subsidy payments.
Nintendo announces third quarter earnings today and things aren’t looking good. The game maker already slashed its full year outlook -- instead of profit it now expects a net loss. You could say Nintendo’s facing an identity crisis. For thirty years, it’s made games you can only play on Nintendo hardware. But does it have to change to survive?
Every good identity crisis needs a foil. You know, that character who highlights your own weakness. Hamlet had Laertes (and Fortinbras and just about everyone else).
Nintendo has The Smart Phone.
“Because anyone who’s carrying a smart phone is carrying a mobile gaming device,” says Jeff Ryan, author of “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America.”
Ryan and other analysts say Nintendo’s market has been eaten away by phones and tablets where casual gamers get tons of games free. Nintendo fans buy a dedicated console that only plays Nintendo games.
So, will the company make its games available on other platforms? Michael Pachter is a research analyst at Wedbush Securities, and he’s dubious.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that they’ll do that,” he says. “They should. But I don’t think they have any intention of it.”
Nintendo is making a strategy announcement this week. Jeff Ryan says they may try to play nice with other people’s software. But not how you think.
“People are trying to invite Nintendo to their party, but instead Nintendo is going to invite the other people to Nintendo’s party,” he says.
He thinks they may try to increase the range of games you can play … on Nintendo consoles.