As the week continues, we’ll learn more about America’s housing market. But we do know that many of those buying homes are utilizing the 30-year fixed-mortgage rate, which last week was averaging 4.29 percent. In the first half of 2013, 90 percent of new home loans were the 30-year. Why are they so popular?
“[It’s] really pro-borrower,” explains Marketplace’s Adriene Hill. “These are fixed-rate loans with no prepayment penalty, which means you don’t carry risk if interest rates rise or interest rates fall.”
Click the player above to hear about some alternatives to these kinds of mortgages, and the concerns that arise as interest rates change.
The technological trials for the online health insurance exchanges have turned an enrollment period that was supposed to be a leisurely three-month stroll into a last-minute sprint for millions of Americans. People who want coverage that starts at the beginning of 2014 need to sign up no later than Dec. 23.
It’s far from "Mission Accomplished," but in a conference call with reporters yesterday, federal officials said healthcare.gov -- the website for people to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act -- is functional more than 90 percent of the time.
According to a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the site’s performance is up. The error rate, the number of times the pages would crash, has dropped from 6 percent a few weeks ago, to less than 1 percent today. And it’s quicker -- at the end of October, consumers were waiting about 8 seconds for a page to load, now it’s under 1. But the big thing is that now lots of people can be on the site at the same time -- up to 50,000 -- and the site doesn't crash, which means it can handle about 800,000 visitors a day.
But consumer use is just half the equation. There have been reports of so-called back end troubles, where insurers can’t get the information they need to complete enrollments.
In the call yesterday, officials said over the holiday weekend they put in some patches and upgrades to deal with some of those problems. Insurers are saying some consumers believe they’ve bought plans on healthcare.gov but the company can’t find any record of it. In other instances, key information is missing -- like how much federal subsidy someone should receive, so insurers don’t know how much to charge. It’s a mess and could only get worse at the start of the new year.
New insurance policies kick in on January 1, 2013 for people who sign up by December 23.
While CMS has made upgrades, one of the biggest changes appears to be management. Administration officials are now holding war room meetings twice a day to monitor problems in real time. The hope is this new structure -- and more time to focus on back end problems, now that the front end is doing better -- will help them to drill down and get the bottom of the problems.
The mission has become a reason for national pride in the country. If successful, China would join the U.S. and the former Soviet Union as the only countries to achieve a soft landing on the moon.
CEO Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes that the giant online retailer is looking at reducing its delivery times to 30 minutes or less in a few years. But the drones would have to overcome safety concerns and public perception.