Freelance journalists and sex workers find common ground: Obamacare

What do San Francisco sex workers and President Obama's Affordable Care Act have in common? The answer is: More than you think. While many people are frustrated and complaining about not having access to the health insurance marketplace website at HealthCare.Gov, the website has its fans: this city's so-called "sex workers." CNNMoney reports that they held a rousing registration drive in the City by the Bay recently, signing up at least 40 male and female prostitutes, masseurs, dominatrix and those more politely known as "escorts." Unaccountable And they did it mostly the old fashioned way: Manually filling out paper applications. But let's be honest, they were highly motivated. Most prostitutes don't earn a lot of money, endure an enormous risk of both violence and disease, and operate -- with the exception of the infamous Mayflower Madam -- in an all-cash environment. Since they show little or no income from their work, these sex workers are eligible for the huge subsidies offered under Obamacare. Sex worker "Jolene" told CNN she would likely pay only $36 a month, much less than most of us put out in co-pays alone. And what makes it even more lucrative is that none of the sex… (continue reading......)

Rise in price of flood insurance could cost New Jerseyans their homes

Homeowners get them all the time in the mail. So it came as no surprise when the latest postcard with the smiling face of a local realtor arrived, boasting about a recent sale down the block from my house at the New Jersey shore. But the realtor really didn't have any bragging rights. The pictured waterfront home sold for a paltry $155,000, compared to a few years ago before Superstorm Sandy, when these properties were assessed at $350,000, and often sold for much more. Down for the count Times have changed, and while Sandy delivered the first crippling blow, the knockout punch came from, of all places, the federal government, in the form of 10-fold flood insurance price increases. Those of us who live on the Jersey shore have been told in no uncertain terms that flood insurance to cover small homes like mine could cost up to $31,000 a year. Even health insurers wouldn't -- and couldn't -- do this kind of damage without facing retribution from regulators and voters. But there is strong support in Congress, and by lobbying groups, to raise rates to the point where they literally wipe out middle-class coastal homeowners. Stronger than the storm?… (continue reading......)

Teen deaths drop with graduated licenses, but insurers don't cut rates

Since North Dakota adopted its law in 2012, every state now requires a graduated driver license (GDL) program for any teenager to get behind the wheel of a car. And from what I've seen, there is significant evidence that these programs, which compel teens to go through an extensive and lengthy "drill" before graduating to full driver’s licenses, work. From 1996 -- when Florida passed the first GDL program -- to 2010, the death rate for 16-year-old drivers fell 68 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And 17-, 18- and 19-year-old drivers also had significantly fewer road fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control said in 2010 that the number of fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-olds dropped by more than a third, due in part to GDLs. And in the mountainous, winding road state of Colorado, officials cited GDLs for having reduced teenage road deaths by 60 percent in five years. Safer but still costly Auto insurers are quick to cite these statistics when it comes to encouraging state legislatures to adopt even tougher laws controlling teenage drivers. Among the restrictions they want enforced: no less than 65 hours of supervised practice, no other teens in the… (continue reading......)

Will housing boom continue? Mortgage insurers could have the answer

Interested in buying a home? Then your first question should be: Is it a good investment? And right now the answer is probably yes. Housing values are soaring, up as much as 50 percent in parts of the Sunbelt. Buyers are competing with hedge funds to purchase the home of their dreams, and often are outbid by these "flippers" whose game plan is to sell in another year or two at a higher price. Use caution If this sounds all too familiar, it is. This scenario could be a retread of 2006, just before the overheated real estate market crashed and burned. And that is why many sadder and wiser heads are sounding a note of caution: Don't jump in too soon … or at too high a price. But the real question is: Where is the smart money going? And the answer is: Wall Street is pumping billions of dollars into mortgage insurers, which means that The Street expects the housing market upturn to continue. Here's some background. A mortgage insurer guarantees that when you get a home mortgage, you pay it back. If you were to die, become disabled or lose your job and be forced into foreclosure,… (continue reading......)

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