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Special News Reports

Thu07192018

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Consumer Daily Reports


Trusted reliable news sources from around the web. We offer special news reports, topic news videos, and related content stories. Truly a birds eye view on news.

Consumer News: Consumer groups warn lawsuit threatens Obamacare protections

PhotoA lawsuit filed by 20 states could have a huge impact on the millions of consumers who still have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

While Congress has been unsuccessful in its attempts to repeal the law, the Trump administration has taken steps to dismantle parts of it.

The tax cut passed by Congress in December removed the fine associated with the individual mandate, the requirement that everyone have health insurance. That led to the lawsuit, currently making its way through the courts.

The states claim that ACA is now unconstitutional, since the Supreme Court upheld the law only because it said the individual mandate penalty was a tax. Now that the penalty is not being imposed, the states say the individual mandate -- forcing consumers to purchase something the might or might not want -- is unconstitutional.

But the government estimates nearly 9 million consumers are covered by an ACA policy, even though the law has been weakened and insurance premiums have skyrocketed.

In many cases, policyholders can't get insurance through their employers or couldn't afford health insurance before ACA was passed.

Preexisting condition protection at stake

Many who could afford policies were denied coverage because they had preexisting conditions. Under ACA, insurance companies can't deny coverage because of a preexisting condition, but public health advocates now worry that protection is in the crosshairs.

The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) says the Trump Administration's support of the states' lawsuit is worrisome.

"The Administration's decision to oppose existing federal law imperils millions of patients nationwide," said the group's CEO, Alan Balch. "Not only does it bring back uncertainty to individuals' lives, it also destabilizes the entire marketplace, driving up costs for everyone."

Balch says if the states win in their court battle to overturn the ACA, consumers will return to the time when health insurance was unaffordable -- and for millions of people with a preexisting condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, unattainable.

Back to the past

"By allowing insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, the Administration will thrust millions of Americans back into that life," Balch said.

As the states' lawsuit awaits action by the courts, the Trump administration continues to whittle away at the law, which it has vowed to abolish. This month it all but eliminated advertising to encourage enrollment. It also cut funding for "navigators," people to help consumers select the right policy, by 40 percent.

It also cut $10 billion in "risk adjustment" payments to health insurance companies that provide policies to the sickest customers.

Read more ...

Consumer News: Prime Day continues to set records for Amazon

PhotoAmazon’s Prime Day continues to grow each year, and the 2018 event was no different.

The company is hailing it as the “biggest global shopping event,” with customers purchasing over 100 million products. Sales surpassed Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and 2017’s Prime Day -- even when adjusted for the 36-hour period of the sale.

“The first ten hours of Prime Day grew even faster, year-over-year, than the first ten hours last year,” the company said in a press release.

This year’s Prime Day had extended hours, was featured in four new markets, and internet traffic so heavy it overwhelmed the company’s servers. Though many users had connectivity issues over the course of Prime Day, analysts say it was nothing more than a hiccup.

“Amazon Prime Day’s ‘early jitters’ with website glitches had minimal impact on the sales success of the annual event, with our view that given Amazon’s prodigious spending, it is safe to say that any day compared to the prior year should be much better from a sales perspective, with the continuing challenge for the company driving margin and profitability in its retail business,” said Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s Lead Retail Analyst.

Prime Day stats

According to Amazon, the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and the Echo Dot were the two best selling items of the sale. Also of note was the surge in Prime membership, as Amazon reported more new subscriptions to the Prime service on July 16th than it has on any other day in its history. The company has nearly doubled its Prime members since 2016, with over 100 million paid Prime members -- a figure that’s 20 million more than just last year.

Amazon sold over 300,000 six-quart Instant Pots and 150,000 LifeStraw personal water filters. Additionally, the 23andMe DNA test was another best seller in the United States. The Instant Pot was the highest-selling non-Amazon device in the United States.

Prime Day was celebrated in 17 countries, and the top-selling items in different countries were just as varied as here in the U.S. In Japan, customers favored Whey Protein and “Super Nanox Liquid Laundry Detergent,” while U.K. customers stocked up on Bosch Cordless Drills and the Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Light Strip.

Prime Day was just as lucrative for small- and medium-sized businesses that sell their products on Amazon, as they grossed over $1 billion in sales.

“Prime Day has always been our biggest day ever,” said Jurgen Nebelung, vice-president of e-commerce and digital at Tea Forte. “During our peak hour, customers were purchasing one Tea Forte product every two seconds.”

Chris Guiher owns Vintage Book Art Co. and said his company sold ten times as many items as they do on a regular, marking Prime Day as “the biggest sales day of the year.”

The sales event also benefited other retailers like Target, as the company said it experienced “the highest single day of traffic and sales of 2018” on its website.

Read more ...

Consumer News: Comcast drops its bid for Fox

PhotoThis morning, Comcast announced it will no longer be in the mix to acquire 21st Century Fox and its film and television assets. Instead, the company will focus on the acquisition of the European satellite provider Sky. The decision is likely to clear the way for Disney, who recently upped its bid to $71.3 billion -- split between cash and stock.

“Comcast does not intend to pursue further the acquisition of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets, and, instead, will focus on our recommended offer for Sky,” the company said in a statement.

Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast, said, “I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the Murdoch family and Fox for creating such a desirable and respected company.”

Fox has currently set a shareholder meeting for July 27 to vote on the deal with Disney. If either Comcast or Fox’s acquisition of Sky has yet to be completed by that date, Disney would be forced to bid £14 a share for the 61 percent of Sky that Fox doesn’t own -- which is less than the £14.75 a share that Comcast offered last week.

History with Disney

Last December, Fox and Disney agreed to a $54.2 billion deal that would include control over many of Fox’s assets, including: the FX and Nat Geo cable channels, the 20th Century Fox film studio, and Fox’s stake in Hulu.

Then, just last month, Comcast came onto the scene with an “unsolicited” $65 billion offer.

That prompted Disney to raise its bid to $71.3 billion in late June. The new deal increases the value of Disney’s original offer from $28 a share at $52.4 billion to $38 a share at $71.3 billion -- plus a new cash component. At the time of the bid’s announcement, a Fox representative said the offer was “superior to the proposal” from Comcast.

Fox’s Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said a Disney-Fox merger “will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world.”

“We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry,” Murdoch said.

Comcast and Sky

Now out of the bidding war for Fox, Comcast is looking to focus its efforts on acquiring Sky Network.

Early last month, 21st Century Fox was given the green light to proceed in negotiations for Sky Network, in an entirely different bidding war involving both Disney and Comcast. Initially, U.K. Culture Minister Matt Hancock was skeptical of the United Kingdom’s media losing its independence based on the Murdoch family’s influence. However, both Sky and Fox were pleased with the decision.

Comcast made a $29 million offer for the British broadcasting network, and acquiring the company would be a huge win. Sky currently has 23 million subscribers across five countries, and owns broadcasting rights that are particularly valuable in today’s market, such as English Premier League games, Formula One races, and other sporting events.

Read more ...

Consumer News: The State Department updates its travel advisory for Mexico

PhotoThe United States State Department has updated its travel advisory for the country of Mexico. The agency’s warning to American citizens going to Mexico is to exercise increased caution due to crime.

“Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” wrote the agency in its advisory.

“The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas,” essentially saying if you go, traveler beware.

High on the department’s list of areas that come with safety and security risks are the Mexican states of: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas -- all due to crime.

“Even though most of those homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents,” the agency warns.

What Mexico has to say about this

Despite the State Department’s ever-present travel advisories, Mexico's tourism department has to like the numbers it sees.

In 2017, more than 35 million Americans travelled to Mexico, up from 20 million five years ago. Many -- if not most -- got there by air, and Mexico’s secretary of tourism Enrique de la Madrid appreciates how that bread’s getting buttered.

“Today, our close partners at American Airlines, confirmed to me how important Mexico is for their business,” Madrid wrote in a tweet. “After years of hard work, we have strengthened our air connectivity with the help of the biggest airline in the USA. Thank you, @AmericanAir.”

Can I go anywhere in Mexico?

The good news from the State Department is that there are still plenty of areas that it considers safe for tourists.

There are 22 tourist spots in Mexico that have been given the all-clear. Those include: Baja California (Ensenada, Rosarito, Tijuana); Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Palenque, San Cristobal de las Casas, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, Ajijic, Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, the Riviera Maya, Chichen Itza, Merida, Uxmal, and Valladolid.

Many of those approved destinations have all-inclusive resorts where tourists can enjoy South of the border life without danger.

Two of those popular resort communities -- the Cabos and Cancun -- appear to have turned things around from the warning the State Department issued for those destinations a year ago. However, Acapulco, once an American favorite, continues to be blacklisted by the State Department.

If you’re going to Mexico, use precaution

If traveling to Mexico is a must, the State Department has a checklist tourists should follow:

  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night.

  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.

  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.

  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.

  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.

  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

  • Visit the U.S. Embassy in Mexico’s website for both security and weather alerts.

Read more ...

Consumer News: Auto insurers say tariff on auto parts would raise policy premiums

PhotoU.S. tariffs imposed on a wide variety of imports will likely raise prices for consumers, and some of the price increases may come in unexpected places.

A coalition of car insurance industry groups is warning that if the U.S. imposes a 25 percent tariff on auto parts, an unintended consequence would be a rise in most consumers' car insurance rates.

In comments filed with the Commerce Department, the American Insurance Association, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said insurance costs could rise an average of 2.7 percent.

That's because it will cost significantly more to repair vehicles that have been in accidents. Not only would the parts cost more, they could be harder to get. That could lead to repair delays, increasing costs for consumers.

More car thefts

“Motor vehicle theft rates could well rise, as many stolen vehicles are sold for their parts,” the groups said in their comment.

U.S. tire manufacturers warn of a ripple effect. In joint comments filed with the government, they say car owners facing higher expenses for maintaining their vehicles are more likely to put off replacing their tires, which could become a safety issue.

As yet, a tariff on auto parts is only under discussion. However, tariffs that have already been imposed are creating problems for some American industries.

Alcoa is calling U.S. tariffs on aluminum imports "a significant headwind" to its profits. In its 2018 profit projection, the company said it has already incurred $15 million in additional costs because it produces some of its aluminum in Canada and imports it to the U.S.

Worrying about tariffs

Just about everyone, it seems, is worried about rising trade tensions. In its latest Beige Book report, the Federal Reserve said it found growing concern about the potential impact of tariffs on business in all regions of the country.

“Manufacturers in all districts expressed concern about tariffs and in many districts reported higher prices and supply disruptions that they attributed to the new trade policies,” the report said.

The report found businesses have already faced higher costs for metals and lumber, but so far had not passed along those costs to consumers.

In spite of business concerns about tariffs, the Fed survey found moderate economic growth is occurring in 10 of the 12 regions of the U.S.

The exceptions were the Dallas District, where growth was described as "strong," and the St. Louis District, where growth was labeled "slight."

Read more ...

Consumer News: Survey finds average millennial wants to retire at 61

PhotoPeople are living longer and many are staying on the job long past the traditional retirement age of 65.

But when Bankrate recently surveyed millennials, the generation between the ages of 18 and 37, it found a group of Americans planning on retiring early, not later.

When asked when they would like to retire, the average millennial said age 61. The earliest Americans can start drawing Social Security is age 62.

There are plenty of people who retire early, but they generally have won the lottery or have saved a lot of money during their working years. But as we reported in March, there is a rather large disconnect between millennials' goals and their preparations to reach those goals.

Disconnect with reality

A report by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) found that about 66 percent of people between the ages of 21 and 32 haven’t even put the first dollar toward their retirement fund. The report is based on Census data collected in 2014.

Jennifer Erin Brown, manager of research for NIRS, says many millennials never got into the savings habit because of the “harsh economic landscape” they encountered when they first entered the workforce.

In the years between 2008 and 2012, it was hard enough to find a job, especially one that paid enough to meet expenses and have money left over for savings.

A 2015 survey suggests there should be no generational finger-pointing when it comes to how well or poorly we manage our money for the future. Financial Finesse, a company running financial wellness programs in the workplace, suggests people of all ages need to be doing a better job of savings.

The company studies financial priorities and vulnerabilities of millennials, generation X, and baby boomers. It says different circumstances may be causing them pain, but members of all three generations appear to have money problems.

What to do

Saving money starts with a goal. Ideally, you should plan on at least two savings accounts -- one to meet emergency expenses and another for your financial goal, such as saving for retirement.

Planning to save is one thing, of course, and actually doing it is another. According to America Saves, a non-profit organization that encourages consumers to save for the future, making a budget and sticking to it is a critical element of a successful savings plan.

The group suggests 10 ways to save, even on a tight budget.

If your employer offers a 401(k) retirement plan at work, have a portion of your paycheck go into the account each month. If your employer matches your contribution, by all means take advantage of that since it's free money.

Read more ...

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