Posts by guest blogger

Economists' Roundtable on February Jobs Report

By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

U.S. jobs numbers for March are due out next week. In anticipation, here is a quick review of what D.C.’s leading economists had to say about the February job numbers.

Cutting Routine Care to Save on Health Care Costs?

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By Jheanelle Chambers, Intern

Temple University professor and National Federation of Independent Business economist Bill Dunkelberg writes in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer column that health care coverage should be more like auto insurance, covering catastrophic illnesses only — and not routine preventive care:

For me, what we call "health-care insurance" should be more like car or home insurance. Health plans should cover catastrophic illness, but not preventive care.

When you change the oil in your car, does your car insurance cover that? New tires? A battery? That's maintenance.

But if you have a serious accident, that is "catastrophic," involving potentially large and uncertain costs, and insurance covers that.

The problem with this approach is people are not cars. Regular medical check-ups maintain good health, and if a person waits until a minor illness turns serious, the cost of treatment is much greater. There is also strong evidence that preventative care increases both the quality and the length of people's lives.

Length of Unemployment at All Time High

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

While the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 32-month low of 8.6% in November, the average duration of joblessness hit an all-time high — 40.9 weeks. This number has more than doubled since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise amid lingering unemployment. There are four job seekers for every job opening these days.

Using Temporary Workers to Forecast the PA Economy

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

The employment services industry provides a variety of human resources services, including most notably supplying temporary workers to other businesses. Because of the unique characteristics of this industry, economists often use its job market trends as an economic forecasting tool. The reason is simple: When the economy starts to slide, the first workers to go are usually the temporary employees, but when the economy begins to pick up, businesses will hire temporary workers first.

State Insurance Regulators Deny Ratepayers Public Hearing on Highmark Rate Hike

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By Athena Ford, Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN)
Originally published October 19, 2011 on the PHAN Blog

Thousands of activists with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) sent emails, signed petitions, called and showed up in person to ask the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for a real, public investigation into Highmark's proposed rate hike on the Special Care plan. But this week the department approved the increase, without holding a hearing.

Special Care is a limited benefit plan offered by the state's Blue Cross/Blue Shield providers. It was touted as an alternative when the Corbett administration ended the adultBasic health insurance program in February.

High Unemployment Leads to More Student Loan Defaults

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

The U.S. Department of Education recently released 2009 fiscal year data on the number of students defaulting on college loans. In a press release, the Department noted that the national default rate rose from 7% in 2008 to 8.8% in 2009, affecting loans for all types of colleges and universities. The default rate rose from 6% to 7.2% on loans for students at public institutions, 4% to 4.6% at private institutions, and 11.6% to 15% at for-profit institutions.

Among the states, Pennsylvania has the third highest number of higher learning institutions (behind California and New York) and a student default rate of only 6.6%, which is considerably better than the national rate. However, Pennsylvania is no exception when you compare the relationship between the unemployment rate and the borrower default rate. 

National Weakness in Economy Spreads to PA in August

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, Intern

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in August but remains below the 9.1% national rate. Pennsylvania has been below the U.S. unemployment rate for 40 consecutive months, and at or below the U.S. rate for 58 consecutive months. This trend is in jeopardy, however, as Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has risen eight-tenths of one percentage point since May.

About Those PA Job Numbers

Sean Brandon, InternBy Sean Brandon, intern

Last week (while Third and State was on holiday), Pennsylvania’s July jobs report came out. The unemployment rate for July jumped from 7.6% to 7.8%, with 493,681 Pennsylvanians out of work.

More Americans Drawing Income from Unemployment, Social Security

Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

The fact that the economy is still struggling is not news to anyone. The national unemployment rate has increased steadily since February. Now, at 9.2%, it is not too far from its peak of 9.9% in December 2009.

Nationally, the personal income of 20% of Americans comes from the government through programs like Social Security and unemployment benefits, according to a report in The New York Times. The percentage is even higher in the economically worst-off states – like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona.

Study Shows Medicaid Has Positive Health, Financial Impacts

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Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

This just in: providing the poor with medical insurance has a positive impact!