US Economy May Still Face Recession

After 3 years of Covid related issues, the US economy is still facing a recession as the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, leading to a slowdown in economic growth. The US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, has expressed a guarded optimism that mentions positive changes in CPI reduction (the Consumer Price Index that measures how expensive goods are in the US), but still, she voiced her concerns about the current state of the economy and warned that the US could be heading for a recession.

Interest Rates –

How Did We Get Here?

When COVID lockdowns first took ahold in early 2020, the US economy was particularly vulnerable to the effects of an economic recession, with unemployment rising to its highest level since the Great Recession of 2008-2009 due to an inability to engage in normal economic activity.

In that moment, the US Federal Reserve responded by cutting interest rates to near-zero levels and launching quantitative easing programs to inject liquidity into the financial system. This enabled money to flow into the financial system from middle class and working class individuals who had less overhead and increasing government support to supplement their usual income. This led to a prolonged stock valuation that lasted all the way until the latter end of Fall 2022, with December and January proving to be difficult months.

High Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates has had a profound impact on the economy, and it could be setting the stage for a recession. The Fed has raised rates four times since December 2015, with the most recent increase coming in June 2018. The goal of these rate hikes is to keep inflation in check and ensure that the economy is growing at a sustainable pace. But while this may be beneficial in the long run, it can also have negative consequences in the short term.

When interest rates are increased, borrowing costs go up for businesses and consumers alike. This makes it more expensive to buy homes, cars, and other big-ticket items, which can slow economic growth. Higher rates also make it more difficult for companies to borrow money for expansion or investment purposes, which can lead to job losses and reduced consumer spending. In addition, higher interest rates can lead to a decrease in stock prices as investors become wary of investing in riskier assets. This can further dampen economic growth as businesses struggle to access capital and consumers become less confident about their financial future.

Ultimately, if the Fed continues to raise rates too quickly or too aggressively, it could trigger a recession as businesses cut back on spending and consumers become more cautious with their money. While this may seem like an unlikely scenario right now, it’s important for policymakers to keep an eye on this situation and take steps to ensure that any rate hikes are done in a measured manner that won’t have an overly negative effect on the economy.

Uber Wins Big In Quintana Roo Upsetting Local Taxi Operators

Uber, the ride-hailing app, has had a long and tumultuous history in Mexico. After years of legal battles, the company has finally been granted permission to operate in the country’s tourist-friendly state of Quintana Roo.

Taxi protests and lobbies can sway decisions of this type. Throughout the nation, taxi drivers are also known to brutalize both Uber drivers and passengers.

Social media users warning Uber riders to be wary.
Taxi Driver protest in Cancun!

The decision to allow Uber to operate in Quintana Roo was made by a federal court, the Third Tribunal, which argued that the state’s laws are unconstitutionally being applied to private enterprise. Quintana Roo’s laws can only be applied to public entities, it argued.

Uber has faced legal challenges in Mexico since it first launched in the country in 2013. Globally, the company has been accused of operating without proper permits and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits. When drivers have their vehicle impounded by local authorities, Uber will pay for the legal fees and resulting lot fees suggesting that it will pay to flaunt a jurisdictions laws. Additionally, the taxi protests has created massive amounts of traffic in Cancun earlier today:

Many locals in Quintana Roo argue against Taxi protests, labeling these as tantrums.

The Debt Crisis That Sick Americans Can’t Avoid

Elisabeth Rosenthal

02 de agosto de 2022

President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to cancel student debt for the first $10,000 owed on federal college loans has raised debate about the fairness of such lending programs. While just over half of Americans surveyed in a June poll supported forgiving that much debt incurred for higher education, 82% said that making college more affordable was their preferred approach.

But little public attention has been focused on what is — statistically, at least — a bigger, broader debt crisis in our country: An estimated 100 million people in the U.S., or 41% of all adults, have health care debt, compared with 42 million who have student debt.

The millions under the weight of medical debt deserve help, both because medical debt is a uniquely unfair form of predatory lending and because of its devastating ripple effects on American families.

Unlike college tuition or other kinds of debt, outlays for medical treatments are generally not something we can consider in advance and decide — yes or no — to take on. They are thrust upon us by illness, accident, and bad luck. Medical treatment generally has no predictable upfront price and there is no cap on what we might owe. And, given our health system’s prices, the amount can be more than the value of the family home if incurred for a hospital stay.

When it was time for my kids to choose a college, I knew in advance almost exactly what it would cost. We could decide which of the different tuitions was “worth it.” We made a plan to pay the amount using bank accounts, money saved in college savings plans, some financial aid, a student job, and some money loaned by a grandparent. (Yes, we had enough resources to make a financially considered choice.)

Think about how different educational debts are from those incurred in health care. In one case, profiled by KHN, the parents of twins, who were born at 30 weeks, faced out-of-pocket bills of about $80,000 stemming from charges in neonatal intensive care and other care that insurance didn’t cover. In another case, a couple ended up owing $250,000 when one spouse went to the emergency room with an intestinal obstruction that required multiple surgeries. They had to declare bankruptcy and lost their home. Even smaller bills lead to trashed credit ratings, cashing in retirement accounts, and taking on second jobs; in surveys, half of adults in the U.S. say they don’t have the cash to pay an unexpected $500 medical bill.

In “taking on” medical debt, patients sign only the sort of vague financial agreement that has become ubiquitous in American health care: “I agree to pay for charges my insurance doesn’t cover,” presented on the stack of forms to sign on arrival at an emergency room or a doctor’s office. But no one can fully consider options or say “no” to care while in pain or medical distress or even properly agree to pay an unknown amount.

Student debt causes hardships because it hits people who’ve just started careers, with salaries at the bottom of the pay scale, forcing them to delay life choices, like purchasing a home or starting a family. But medical debt often comes with all that plus medical woes: In a KFF poll, 1 in 7 people with health care debt said they’d been denied care by a provider because of unpaid bills. Sometimes a bill for as little as a few hundred dollars can turn into a collections nightmare.

Already, the federal government is stepping in to assist student loan borrowers. It has paused student debt payments during the pandemic, and the Biden administration has announced that it would forgive student debt for tens of thousands of public sector workers. Late last year, the Department of Education announced that it would no longer contract with outside debt collectors but would instead deal with loan defaults and potential defaults itself to better “support borrowers.”

Medical debt collection has typically been outsourced to aggressive private agents and the for-profit medical debt collection industry; there are few guardrails. Recently, consumer credit reporting agencies have said they will no longer put small medical debts on credit reports and remove medical debts that have been paid. For many people, that will take years. Some 18% of Americans with health care debt said they never expect to be able to pay off their debt.

The irony here is that medical debt is sometimes discharged in bulk by charities, like RIP Medical Debt and church groups, which will pay pennies on the dollar to make patients’ outstanding medical debt disappear. The absurdity of this fix was shown when the comedian John Oliver, in a late-night stunt, cleared $15 million of Americans’ debt after buying it for $60,000.

But medical debt isn’t a joke and now harms a broad swath of Americans. The government could act in the short term to relieve this uniquely American form of suffering by buying the debts for a modest price. And then, it needs to tackle the underlying cause: a health care system that denies millions of people adequate care while still being the most expensive in the world.

This story was produced by KHN (Kaiser Health News), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de California Healthline

Rosenthal, E. (2022). The Debt Crisis That Sick Americans Can’t Avoid. California Healthline. Recuperado el 01 de septiembre de 2022, de https://californiahealthline.org/news/article/medical-debt-costs-bankruptcy-college-loan-forgiveness/

Housing crisis hits women harder in California, group’s research finds

Anabel Munoz, ABC7

24 de agosto de 2022

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Woman are much more likely than men to struggle with the cost of housing in California, according to a new report.

“It was stunning how extreme the difference is between women and men,” said Nancy Cohen, president of the Gender Equity Policy Institute, which produced the report on housing and gender in California.

Researchers found that 49% of women are “rent-burdened” compared to 43% of men, meaning they spend 30% or more of their income on rent.

“Black women are facing the most acute crisis of affordability,” Cohen said. “Latinos, single mothers and elderly women, particularly those who are living alone, are really struggling to afford housing in our state.”

In Los Angeles County, some of the greatest gaps impact single mothers of color.

In LA County, about 31% of all households spend more than half of their income on rent. For women-led households, it’s about 41%. And for households led by a Black or Latina single mother, it’s 51%.”

The report was conducted at the request of the California Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.

Cohen cautions that the data was gathered prior to the pandemic and the cost of housing has only risen since then, meaning the gap now could be even higher than what was reported in the study.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de ABC7

Munoz, A. (2022). Housing crisis hits women harder in California, group’s research finds. ABC7. Recuperado el 29 de agosto de 2022, de https://abc7.com/affording-housing-womens-issues-cost-of-living-california-gender-equity/12159267/

For Medically Vulnerable Families, Inflation’s Squeeze Is Inescapable

Heidi de Marco, California Healthline

12 de agosto de 2022

ROSAMOND, Calif. — Deborah Lewis rose from bed before dawn and signed in to her phone so she could begin delivering fast food, coffee, and groceries to residents in this western patch of the Mojave Desert where test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier generations ago.

Lewis prayed she would earn $75, just enough to fill the tank of her Kia sedan so she could drive her 8-year-old daughter, Annabelle, 80 miles south to Los Angeles to receive her weekly chemotherapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Just a year ago, the same tank of gas would have cost $30 less.

After a full shift as a gig worker, the mother had earned close to what she needed. “It took a lot longer than I thought,” she said.

High inflation is hitting families across the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices in July were up 8.5% from a year earlier, one of the biggest increases in recent decades. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that consumers are spending the most on housing and utilities, food, and medical care.

Overall wages continue to climb, but after adjusting for the rising price of goods and services, workers’ paychecks declined 3.5% over the past year. A recent KFF poll found that 74% of registered voters put inflation, including rising gas prices, at the top of their concerns.

For millions of families living with chronic diseases — such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — or other debilitating conditions, inflation is proving a punishing scourge that could be harmful to their health. Unlike dining out less or buying fewer clothes, many patients don’t have a choice when it comes to paying for medicine, medical supplies, and other ancillary costs. Some must drive long distances to see a specialist, and others must adhere to a strict diet.

“Chronic disease patients are usually on the front lines of seeing a lack of supplies or an increase in out-of-pocket costs,” said Paul Conway, chair of policy and global affairs for the American Association of Kidney Patients.

Health care has grown increasingly unaffordable. Half of adults report having difficulty paying their health costs, according to KFF polling. One-third say they or a family member has skipped recommended medical treatment in the past year because of the cost, and one-quarter of adults report rationing pills or leaving prescriptions unfilled.

Inflation has squeezed families further by driving up the price of gas and food, as well as medical products such as needles and bed-wetting pads. Health care costs have risen 5.1% since July 2021, and medical commodities — which include prescription and over-the-counter drugs, medical equipment and supplies — are up 3.7%.

Inflation is particularly detrimental to the health of low-income patients; studies have found a strong link between poverty and health. According to the California Budget & Policy Center, more than half of California households making $50,000 or less struggle to pay for food, housing, and medical costs.

For Deborah Lewis and her husband, Spencer, their concerns about the rising cost of gas have never been about skimping on summer travel or weekend getaways. It’s about making sure they have enough gas to drive Annabelle to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for chemotherapy and other medications delivered through a port in her chest.

The family relies on Spencer’s disability check, which he receives because he has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a hereditary disorder that causes him severe joint pain. He also copes with broken discs in his spine and a cyst pushing against his spinal nerves. In January, he stopped working as a pest control technician, shifting more financial responsibilities to his wife.

The disability check covers rent and utilities, leaving Deborah’s freelance work to cover gas. They also get $500 a month from Miracles for Kids, which helps families with critically ill children.

On a June morning, Deborah packed snacks for the drive ahead as Annabelle, wrapped in her favorite blanket, waited on the couch. Most of her long blond hair has fallen out because of her treatments. The night before, Deborah spent $73.24 to fill up at Costco.

Before they left, Deborah learned the couple carried a negative balance in their checking account. “I have so much on my plate,” she said.

The family has already delayed health care for one family member: Their dog, a Doberman pinscher named Chief, skipped a vet visit for a mass pushing up his intestines.

Politicians are keenly aware of inflation’s leaching effects. In October, most California households will receive “inflation-relief checks” of up to $1,050 to help offset the high cost of gas and other goods under a budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in June. The average price of a gallon of gas in California remains above $5, while the national average is about $4.

But health experts worry that even with the one-time aid, affordability could become a life-or-death issue for some Californians. For example, the price of insulin can range from $300 to $400 per vial without insurance.

“We’ve seen a number of patients living with diabetes and on a fixed income greatly impacted by rising inflation,” said Matthew Freeby, an endocrinologist and director of the UCLA Gonda Diabetes Center. “Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes typically require multiple prescription medications that may already be costly. Patients have had to choose between day-to-day finances and their lifesaving medications, such as insulin or other treatments.”

Inflation is also a challenge for people who depend on certain foods as part of their health care regimen, especially with food prices up 10.9% in the past year.

Toyan Miller, 60, an integrative nutritional health practitioner from San Dimas, California, has been diagnosed with vasculitis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, two autoimmune diseases that cause inflammation. Miller’s medically tailored diet requires gluten-free, organic food. Miller said she’s dipping into her savings to afford the average of $300 she spends each week on groceries. Last year, she spent about $100 less.

“The avocado mayonnaise price freaked me out,” she said. “It used to be $8. Now, it’s $16.99.”

Even those who are healthy may find themselves helping family or friends in need.

In the mountainous Los Angeles neighborhood of Laurel Canyon, Shelley Goldstein, 60, helps her parents, both in their 90s, pay for items, such as incontinence products, not covered by health insurance. Goldstein’s father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a retirement community with his wife, Doris.

“Those are basic things, but that’s like $70 a month between the two of them,” said Goldstein, who works as a speaking coach. “That’s a lot.”

Goldstein worries about how much more of her parents’ health costs she’ll have to shoulder since they are pensioners on fixed incomes.

“What keeps me up at night right now is what’s to come,” she said. “There’s two of them. My parents’ increased need for pads, meds, and other medical support increases as their health declines.”KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


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“El presente artículo es propiedad de California Healthline

de Marco, H. (2022). For Medically Vulnerable Families, Inflation’s Squeeze Is Inescapable. California Healthline. Recuperado el 18 de agosto de 2022, de https://californiahealthline.org/news/article/medically-vulnerable-families-inflation-squeeze/