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Why are health insurance premiums higher in the healthiest areas?

(FINANCE) Rising health insurance costs are a perplexing mystery in some of the nation’s healthiest places to live, but why?

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You would never guess it by the fit people, the Whole Foods Markets, the abundance of cycling and snow sports, but some of the highest insurance costs can be found in some of the county’s with the nation’s lowest mortality rates.

Counties home to famous mountain towns like Breckenridge, Aspen, and Vail are home to some of the highest insurance costs for individuals and families purchasing insurance in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

According to research done by FiveThirtyEight, premiums in Summit County, home of Breckenridge, have gone up 32 percent for 2018 over the previous year. Summit County has the lowest mortality rate in the nation, yet still is home to some of the highest premiums provided by the ACA. This problem has even gotten itself some statewide recognition, being dubbed the “Summit County Paradox.”

Its not just Summit County. With the second and third lowest mortality rates in the country, Pitkin and Eagle counties are facing the same problem. Despite low rates of smoking and obesity, the unsubsidized lowest-cost bronze premium for a 40 year old in Summit, Eagle, and Pitkin counties (Eagle home to Vail and Pitkin home to Aspen) is above the 95th percentile when compared to the rest of the nation.

Generally, when rates are rising for insurance, it is due to the high cost of insuring sick people. But these counties show that this is not always the rule. Being healthy doesn’t always mean paying less for insurance.

Summit County officials are baffled by the high costs and are left searching for answers, “It’s something we’re scratching our head about,” Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. “It’s a crisis situation for many working families who can’t afford health insurance now.”

As one of the states that created its own ACA health insurance exchange, Colorado government has been very hands-on when it comes to managing insurance in their state, and their constituents have let them know that that something has gone awry here.

Two big reasons found for this spike in insurance cost are availability of services and residents of these counties’ needs for more thorough, and subsequently more expensive, services. In an area with so few people yet such high cost of living, convincing health care workers to move permanently to the area is difficult, without paying them through the roof.

While there are extra hospital wings open to treat ski injuries through peak seasons, the availability of services is extremely low compared to a big city.

Also, residents seem to be requiring MRI and other imaging services at a much higher rate than the rest of the nation, and not just looking for bone breaks and tendon tears, but for cancer and other problems as well.

With multiple reasons for this spike in cost, there is no simple solution. However, recent studies and reports are teaching us a lesson regarding overall healthcare costs. Not only do we need to worry about getting people healthy, it is also extremely important to make the best use of expensive care and overuse of expensive testing.

Will hails from Northern California, earned a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, and now calls Austin, Texas home where he works at a tech startup. He likes riding his bike an ungodly amount of miles and his favorite aesthetic is an open road. If you see him around he'll likely be reading a classic American novel and drinking a Topo Chico.

Business Finance

Google to enter the finance market; reactions are mixed

(TECH NEWS) Googles “cache” is their new banking venture, but should you be worried that the big tech company has all of your search and spending data?

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Buying kitten sweaters, smoking devices or certain adult toys online might become a little more challenging once Google enters the banking business.

What began as a basic search tool, led to Google transitioning to eyeglasses with Google Glass, phones with its Pixel and an easy way to pay through its Google Pay and Google Wallet services. Now, the tech giant will soon offer customers online banking services.

Google’s project codenamed “Cache” is set to launch in 2020. It’s partnering with Citigroup and The Stanford Federal Credit Union for the service. The financial organizations will run the day-to-day business, while Google will reap the information.

“If we can help more people do more stuff in a digital way online, it’s good for the internet and good for us,” Google Exec. Caesar Sengupta told the Wall Street Journal.

Google will provide checking accounts using the branding of its financial partners and not its own. While the company says it will not sell consumers’ data, it will definitely be able to monitor consumer behavior and spending habits.

With its move to turn “Cache” into cash, Google is in its own way – keeping up with Jones’ as Tech Crunch highlighted. Apple has its own payment program Apple Pay and a credit card and Facebook recently introduced its Facebook Pay App.

Sengupta explained that people are already worried tech is taking over the world and too invasive in their private lives, so it tapped the financial institutions to run the show, which will benefit Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit, providing them with a younger banking demographic.

“Our approach is going to be to partner deeply with banks and the financial system. It may be the slightly longer path, but it’s more sustainable,” Sengupta told the WSJ.

The entry into the financial market is raising concern among lawmakers and regulators in the US. The news of the “Cache” launch comes at a time when Google is under investigation for “potential monopolistic behavior.” The investigation, being led by Texas, includes all 50 states and US territories.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the house committee that oversees banking is one of the most vocal opponents to big tech on Capitol Hill, told CNBC, “There ought to be very strict scrutiny,” as tech giants such as Facebook and Google enter new fields before there are rules governing them in place.

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Business Finance

Does Apple Card discriminate against women? Maybe…

(FINANCE) Is Apple kneecapping ladies in need of credit? Here’s what their response was… AND what it should have been.

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There hasn’t been this much side-eyeing of how an Apple treats men vs women since Genesis.

Buzz from the 12 remaining bees is the shiny new credit cards devised by Apple and Goldman Sachs are offering men up to twenty times the amount of credit as women, even when a lady’s credit score is better.

And here I thought passing up the chance to call it the ‘iOwe’ was going to be the worst of it.

I don’t have to tell y’all that reminding everyone of the days before 1974’s Equal Credit Act, when us skirts, dames, broads, and the like had to have a ring on it and hubby’s permission to open a line of credit is a bad look.

Here’s where it gets worse, though.

When a few gentlemen, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak included, launched a ‘What the dealio’ Apple’s way, the answer was: ‘Algorithms. Go fig.’ The solution implemented has been isolated credit increases for anyone who was either a big enough name to get them bad press, or complained through the help center.

‘Well, April, you fabulous creature,’ you might be saying. ‘How ever is this a problem, when a solution to subvert the issue exists?’

It’s a big enough issue that the New York Department of Financial Services is getting involved, actually! But yours truly isn’t a lawyer. Instead of breaking down any actual laws, let’s go through a few cardinal rules of business ownership to see what went wrong here from an entrepreneur perspective.

Rule 1: Thou must own thine s**t.

Now that everyone and their prepper uncles know what algorithms are (kinda), the word gets tossed around like a catch-all for tech-based blame even harder than Mercury Retrogrades. The difference here is that the planets’ movements are out of our hands.

Algorithms don’t spring forth from an application fully formed; they’re handcrafted, upgraded, and maintained by paid, human coders. And considering the two big players behind Apple Credit, and the talent they can procure, this fobbing off the blame onto ‘those wacky algorithms’ reeeeeally doesn’t cut it. And people know that. So…

Rule 2: Thou shalt remember always thine customer is smart.

Consumer savviness is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down. For some reason though, too many businesses think that Mary-Jo Mae off the turnip truck doesn’t have access to the same 5 free Medium articles a month that they do.

You can’t fob people off with ‘Eh, technology’ anymore — even at the level of first line tech support. Everyone expects an answer as well as your accountability, and if you didn’t take the steps to build your better mousetrap the first time, you need to have a press release with an apology and an actual fix in hand post-haste!

Rule 3 : Thou shalt never make the customer take extra steps to correct thine mistakes.

Scenario time!

Let’s say you’re at a nice restaurant, like dollops of house-prepared sauce on the plate instead of a cup of ranch kind of nice.

You’re having a great evening, until the waiter drops a bowl of soup on your table, and it gets EVERYWHERE. Management comes over while you’re brushing bisque out of your eyebrows and says ‘I’m SO sorry… the kitchen is down the hall to your left, go grab as many towels as you need, the buckets are in the red cabinet’

You heard that record-scratch sound effect in your head just thinking about it, didn’t you? That’s because, even when there’s an understanding that a solution is fairly simple, when it’s not your eff-up, you expect the people at fault to fix it.

Any institution that can give you a credit approval in seconds has enough power to update unfair decisions in real time. But prompting them to do so shouldn’t be the customer’s duty.

Remember how irritated we all were when Equifax leaked our data? Then, instead of mailing us all a check (which they could), we all had to rely on news outlets to tell us where to go to claim our piece of the settlement (I’ll take my $1.25 where I can get it), and then had to do so again with the implication that we might have been lying if we chose the money over the free credit monitoring the first time? I remember.

What’s going on now has one major difference from the hypothetical and the real-world happening I just presented though. Apple Credit did not have these people’s money yet.

And if anyone offended by this were to pull an En Vogue, they’re “never gonna get it!”

Sometimes launches don’t go perfectly. There are times when campaigns, or software, or hard tech have issues that give off the appearance of systemic malice, even if there’s none behind it. But the fact remains that when there’s a problem, top execs need to come out and speak against it before anyone can start attributing a mistake to intentional discrimination.

Keep your head, beta test everything with as wide and diverse a pool of users as you possibly can, let your firstline staff approach you with trends they’ve noticed, and remain open to telling consumers you made a whoopsie, so you won’t have to scramble later in the game!

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Business Finance

Millennial women share about how they spend (and save) money

(ENTREPRENEUR) A group of millennial women were surveyed about how they save their money. These are their stories…

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This year, I turned 24, and while I know this isn’t old, I never thought I’d be this old. With this in mind, I’ve been asking all of my friends and family members the same question: “If you could give any piece of advice to your 24 year-old self, what would it be?”

While I’ve been getting varied and interesting pieces of advice, the one I need to focus on more is working on saving more money. This can be tricky, especially when you first start making money, so it helps to hear how others do this.

Recently, Bustle surveyed over 1,000 millennial women, in their 20s and 30s, and they shared how they save money. Their incomes ranged anywhere from $30k to $150k. Included below are some of the individual responses that include innovative ideas that anyone at any age could potentially implement.

1. Samantha, 30: Uses a budget for her finances. Rather than enjoying instant gratification, Samantha makes a wish list of things and experiences she wants to save money for. Then if she accomplishes a goal, she treats herself to something on the list.

2. Ronnika, 33: Instead of continuing a habit of meeting friends for drinks every week, Ronnika has found it is more fiscally responsible to invite friends over. Also, She takes any extra money from her paychecks and puts it in a checking account that is not locally accessible.

3. Michelle, 24: To save on entertainment, Michelle has opted for only using WiFi rather than getting cable. Additionally, she keeps her thermostat set at 62-64 degrees and uses layers and space heaters to save on costs. She also encourages packing a lunch everyday, as that is a big saver.

4. Kelly, 24: Kelly attributes her money saving to living with her parents. She also suggests an app called Qapital: “You can set your own rules for how you want to compile your savings — for example, I have a ‘Round-Up Rule,’ which rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar and puts that change into savings, as well as a ‘Set and Forget Rule,’ which just automatically takes out a pre-selected amount. For me it’s $10/weekly.”

5. Libby, 24: Libby only uses her credit card for necessary expenses (such as payments for her car) and puts anything else on debit. With her credit card, she makes sure she pays off the balance in full each month so that she does not fall into debt.

6. Savannah, 25: Savannah keeps a peaceful mind savings to fall back on in case of emergencies. “I’ve found having a savings account balance equivalent to two months of my salary is a good cushion.”

7. Alexandra, 26: Alexandra keeps an Excel spreadsheet that tracks all of the money she has coming in as well as what is going out. She helps herself save by setting goals of what she wants to save and by when.

8. Lyn, 29: Lyn saves her money by looking at it as a way of paying herself first. She puts a large portion of her paycheck into her 401k and puts the maximum amount of her paycheck into her Roth IRA each year. She will then spend liberally on the things that are important to her, and harshly cut anything that she deems frivolous or won’t make her happy.

9. Marissa, 26: Marissa budgets her money and attempts the tactic of cooking for herself as much as possible. She has found that one meal out is equivalent to five meals at home.

10. Danielle, 23: Danielle saves by setting up two automatic transfers from her paycheck to budgeted savings. “So it’s like I don’t even notice the money is there. One transfer goes to ‘future me’ in the form of RRSPs or other investments, and one transfer goes to ‘fun times,’ like trips abroad.”

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