April 20, 2021

Percentage of Americans Lacking Health Coverage Falls Again

In 2012, the bureau said, 15.4 percent of people were uninsured, down from 15.7 percent in 2011. The number of uninsured people, 48 million, was not statistically different from the estimate of 48.6 million in 2011.

David S. Johnson, the chief of social and economic statistics at the bureau, said that much of the increase in coverage last year was attributable to government programs. Medicare covered 15.7 percent of the population, compared with 15.2 percent the previous year.

Census Bureau data showed significant changes in coverage over the last 13 years.

From 1999 to 2012, the bureau said, the proportion of people with private health insurance declined to 63.9 percent, from 73 percent, while the proportion with government coverage rose to 32.6 percent, from 24.2 percent.

One of the most popular provisions of the 2010 health care law allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. That provision appears to be having its intended effect.

Among people ages 19 to 25, the proportion who were uninsured declined to 27.2 percent in 2012. Though the bureau said that figure was not significantly different from the 2011 rate, it was down from 29.8 percent two years earlier.

The proportion of children younger than 19 without health insurance declined last year, to 9.2 percent, from 9.7 percent in 2011.

Chris Jennings, the health policy coordinator at the White House, said the census figures showed that President Obama’s policies were “making progress in expanding access to affordable health care.” Mr. Jennings said the progress would accelerate in coming months as millions of Americas gain access to coverage under the 2010 health care law.

Mr. Jennings said the data tended to disprove Republican predictions that the new law would undermine employer-sponsored coverage. The bureau reported that the proportion of people with employment-based coverage — 54.9 percent in 2012 — was “not statistically different” from the share in 2011.

Noting that children were much more likely than adults to have insurance, Mr. Jennings said this reflected “more than two decades of bipartisan effort to expand access” to coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The proportion of Hispanics who were uninsured last year declined by a percentage point, to 29.1 percent. But it was still much higher than the comparable rates for blacks (19 percent), Asian-Americans (15.1 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (11.1 percent).

The Census Bureau also reported these findings:

¶The proportion of the foreign-born population without health insurance in 2012 was about two and a half times that of the native-born population — 32 percent, as against 13 percent.

¶Two of the nation’s four major regions, the South and the West, accounted for 61 percent of the nation’s population, but 71 percent of all the uninsured.

¶The uninsured rate was higher among people with lower incomes and lower among those with higher incomes. For example, 24.9 percent of people in households with annual incomes of less than $25,000 had no health insurance coverage last year. Among people in households with incomes of $75,000 or more, the comparable figure was 7.9 percent.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/us/percentage-of-americans-lacking-health-coverage-falls-again.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Student Loan Hurdles for Members of Military

U.S. soldiers near Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this year.Associated PressAmerican soldiers near Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this year.

You would think that military members who are actively serving their country shouldn’t have to spend time arguing with their student loan servicing company, right?

Apparently, that’s not the case.

A recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds that service members often have a tough time getting access to loan benefits that are supposed to be available to those serving on active duty, like interest-rate reductions and loan forgiveness programs.

The average cumulative amount of student loan debt for active-duty service members graduating from college in 2008 was $25,566, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are a number of special benefits and protections available to help service members manage this debt, but the programs were enacted through a patchwork of laws, and the benefits vary depending on the type of loan in question. Sometimes, details of how the programs work can be confusing — and loan servicing companies don’t always help clarify things.

“Unfortunately, the complexities of these provisions, together with problems in loan servicing, have created difficulties for many military families when attempting to manage their debt,” the agency reports.

Many service members, for instance, simply defer their loans or obtain a forbearance, which lets them skip monthly payments while on active duty. But they may not always understand that on some types of loans, interest may still accrue, often resulting in ballooning loan balances. And they may not be told about possible alternatives that can lower their monthly payments to more affordable levels.

One parent of a service member told the bureau that his son’s three loans totaled just over $61,000 when his son graduated. But the servicer now says the total is almost $85,000, because of a five-month deferral of payments during military service.

One borrower told the bureau that his loan servicer automatically put his loans into forbearance without his permission. “I did not ask for my account to be placed in forbearance and as a result of this action, it is currently accumulating interest,” he wrote.

Programs like “income-based repayment” may allow service members with federal loans to reduce their monthly payments while on active duty. Then, if they remain in the service for 10 years and make 120 on-time payments, they can take advantage of the “public service loan forgiveness” program, which forgives the remaining balance.

Borrowers with both private and federal loans may be eligible for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which reduces the interest rate on loans to 6 percent.

The potential cumulative benefits of these programs are shown in this example in the report: “A service member who takes out $81,000 in loans for school will ultimately owe up to $101,000 after his in-school deferment. If he elects to continue to defer his payments while serving on active duty, he will owe more than $165,000 over the life of the loan.”

But if he enrolls in income-based repayment, qualifies for public service loan forgiveness and receives the benefit of the interest-rate cap under the civil relief act while on active duty, he’ll instead pay about $110,000, saving almost $55,000 over the life of the loan.

The agency has received complaints, however, that service members are made to jump unnecessary hurdles to qualify for the programs, like the interest-rate cap. Some borrowers have said they were told by their loan servicers that the interest-rate cap would expire annually, and that they would have to resubmit additional orders to retain the benefit. It seems unfair and unrealistic, at a minimum, to expect someone who is perhaps dodging bullets to take time out to refile paperwork with a loan servicer.

That’s not how the program is supposed to work, according to the agency. Once a service member requests the interest-rate cap, “the servicer should apply the benefit for the duration of active-duty status.” No repeat filing is necessary.

Have you had trouble getting information about loan benefits for military members?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/student-loan-hurdles-for-members-of-military/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sustainable Profits: It’s Not Too Soon to Think About Crowdfunding

Sustainable Profits

The challenges of a waste-recycling business.

I have taken a real interest in equity crowdfunding and its potential impact on social entrepreneurs. One reason: I would have loved to have been able to take advantage of it when I was doing my initial financing of TerraCycle.  Had crowdfunding existed then, I would have been able to raise money faster, on better terms, and from a wider range of investors — all good things when it comes to financing a small business.

Here’s a quick update on where things stand (I have written about crowdfunding previously). Broadly speaking, a federal equity crowdfunding law that passed in April as part of the JOBS Act will allow an American company to use an online crowdfunding platform to raise up to $1 million from the general public without these shareholders counting toward the company’s private shareholder cap. I see this as a big opportunity because now entrepreneurs will be able to gain capital and momentum with an early shareholder base that is invested in the company’s success.

Although the law was passed in April, many of its specific provisions require further consideration and official rule-making by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The S.E.C. has until the end of 2012 to complete its rules. From what I’ve heard, the agency is working hard to hit this goal but it could spill over into 2013. After this, Finra has to write the rules that govern how the online intermediaries get registered and set up. Then these rules have to be reviewed and approved. Unfortunately, this could run into the second half of 2013.

But there are things entrepreneurs can do now to lay the groundwork for successful crowdfunding later. Here are three ideas:

1) Start crowdfunding now. You can use the current crowdfunding model, which is sometimes called “perks-based” crowdfunding or “donation” crowdfunding. In other words, you can pre-sell your product or give it as a perk to people who donate money to get your business off the ground. You can do this now on sites like Launcht.org, which focuses on social entrepreneurs and socially responsible projects, or on ThreeRevolutions, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and food projects. (Another site, the William James Foundation, expects to introduce a crowdfunding platform by early September as part of a business plan competition.)

I think sites like these offer a great way to start building a following and to assess whether anyone cares about your product or service. If you do this, you may have a crowd in place when equity crowdfunding comes along while others will still be looking for theirs.

2) If you are successful with the current model, you can use the money you raise to prove your concept, earn revenue and let your customers guide you. Then use public relations to expose your success, as I discussed in an earlier post.

3) Meanwhile, pay attention as the rule-making proceeds. Take this time to prepare for a crowdfunding offering around the middle of 2013. You will need to be ready to issue shares of your company to a potentially large number of shareholders. You will need to prepare financial statements for review and you will have to be ready to offer a valuation of your company. There will be other considerations, but if you’re ready with these pieces, you’ll be in good shape to move quickly.

Tom Szaky is the chief executive of TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/its-not-too-soon-to-think-about-crowdfunding/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: A Proposal to Simplify Credit Card Agreements

Bloomberg News for The New York Times

Credit card agreements are typically something you’d want to read only if you suffered from insomnia. A glance at a few lines of the dense type, printed on filmy paper, is sure to help you drift off.

But buried in all that fine print are important provisions that affect you financially. So the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing a new, simplified form, to help make the agreements more readable and useful to card holders.

“The bottom line is that many credit card agreements are confusing and most consumers don’t understand them,” said Raj Date, the agency’s temporary leader, in prepared remarks announcing the effort on Wednesday.

The prototype is short — about 1,000 words, compared with roughly 5,000 for the average industry agreement — and it does away with much of the legalese that is too dense for most consumers to digest. “Consumers won’t drown in page after page of difficult-to-understand terms,” Mr. Date said.

Instead, that language has been edited out and moved into a list of standard definitions that can be made available separately — online, for instance.

The resulting plain-language document, Mr. Date said, should do a better job of explaining how the credit card actually works, including what fees apply and when, and what to do if there is an error on the account.

The suggested form is meant as a “thought starter” and will be modified in response to feedback from card companies and the public.

At the same time, the agency is making available a database of existing credit card agreements from more than 300 card issuers, searchable by the name of the issuer as well as by specific terms. (If you have any doubt that the forms could use some simplifying, take a look at any one of the agreements.)

What do you think of the suggested form? What changes would you propose?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e5b1c7e1fc3d85488aed8816d1ad070d

DealBook: At Bank of America, an $8.8 Billion Loss

A Bank of America branch in Times Square.Andrew Gombert/European Pressphoto AgencyA Bank of America branch in Times Square.

8:34 a.m. | Updated Bank of America reported a loss of $8.8 billion in the second quarter as it doled out huge payments to settle legal claims related to its troubled mortgage division.

The loss, which amounted to 90 cents a share, was steep, but it was fully baked into expectations. Analysts predicted the bank would lose 90 cents a share, compared with a profit of $3.1 billion, or 27 cents a share, in the period a year earlier.

The mortgage problems also ate into revenue, which fell about 55 percent, to $13.2 billion. The drop came as the bank reported a large decline in noninterest income, the result of swelling mortgage provisions.

With the second quarter nearing a close, the bank agreed in June to pay $8.5 billion to a group of more than 20 big investors who bought billions of dollars’ worth of soured mortgage investments. The deal, which is still awaiting a judge’s approval, represents the single biggest settlement tied to the subprime mortgage crisis.

The bank also earmarked $5.5 billion in the second quarter to cover future claims linked to troubled loans and an additional $6.4 billion for a series of other charges, leading to an overall pretax mortgage-related hit of about $20 billion.

Excluding mortgage-related items, the bank would have earned $3.7 billion for the quarter, up slightly from the period a year earlier.

The results were in line with Bank of America’s own preliminary projections. After the mortgage settlement was announced in June, the bank offered an early peek at its results, indicating that it would have earned up to $3.7 billion, or 33 cents a share, absent its mortgage charges. The bank met the expectations, in part, thanks to its decision to release $2.4 billion from its reserves.

Brian T. Moynihan, chief of Bank of America.Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg NewsBrian T. Moynihan, chief of Bank of America.

“Obviously, the solid performance in our underlying businesses continues to be clouded by the costs we are absorbing from our legacy mortgage issues,” Brian T. Moynihan, the bank’s chief executive, said in a statement.

In some ways, the results painted two disparate pictures of the bank, with several divisions showing signs of digging out from the depths of the financial crisis.

On average, deposit balances rose 4 percent from the period a year earlier. Investment banking fees increased 28 percent, to $1.6 billion. And the bank’s global wealth management group, which includes Merrill Lynch, produced another strong showing, with asset management fees up 14 percent.

While revenue from sales and trading was down from the previous quarter, the business saw an improvement of $666 million from the second quarter of 2010.

Even the mortgage business showed signs of life, as the bank said the quality of loans improved.

“All signs point to continued improvement from here,” said Jason Goldberg, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

But the mortgage-related legal woes remained a serious burden. Many of the problems stem from the bank’s ill-fated acquisition of Countrywide Financial, the former subprime lending giant that came to represent the excesses of the housing boom.

Bank of America acquired Countrywide for $4 billion during the height of the crisis. The costs have been piling up ever since.

A range of institutional investors, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, want Bank of America to repurchase bad Countrywide mortgages, which they say failed to meet underwriting standards. The bank reached an $8.5 billion settlement with the likes of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“It certainly is a big step in putting the problems behind them,” said Mr. Goldberg. But he noted that “it’s not done.”

The bank still has exposure to lawsuits by mortgage insurers and other claims from private mortgage investors.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty continues to stall the bank’s long-awaited revival and weigh on its stock price.

The bank’s shares have dropped 28 percent this year. On Monday, the stock dipped below $10, in sharp contrast with competitors like JPMogran Chase, whose stock is trading at nearly $40.

Last week, JPMorgan far surpassed the consensus estimate of analysts, posting a profit of $5.4 billion, or $1.27 a share. Even Citigroup, which has struggled to shake off the legacy of the crisis, said its earnings rose 24 percent in the second quarter.

So why does Bank of America continue to struggle?

“The others don’t have Countrywide,” Mr. Goldberg said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=556e657fe878b14b03cb23f656a88050