Unless some major health care reform happens soon, employers may start using your less-than-ideal lifestyle choices against you and your employment status.
MSN’s Money reports that although Americans spend a whopping $2.5 trillion on health care and related expenses each year, employers cover in excess of 70% of the total cost of health insurance premiums.
As the health care reform wages on employers are bypassing politicians and insurance companies and are actively searching for their own ways to cut their workers’ health care expenses. As expected, employers’ primary targets are workers themselves.
How can your own behavior influence employers’ choice in hiring you?
Jackie Ford writes:
The facts are simple: Lifestyle choices, particularly those related to eating and smoking, play a major role in the development of chronic diseases, which in turn account for some 75% of all health care spending in the United States.
For example, smokers' health care costs run about 40% higher than nonsmokers' costs. Preventable illnesses caused by smoking and obesity annually account for more than $100 billion in overall health care spending -- and some experts estimate that smoke breaks and smoking-related absences cost employers an additional $100 billion in lost productivity every year.
Is this legal?
For smokers, there is no federal law protecting you. There are more than 20 states that prohibit discrimination against smokers, but many others have no such laws.
For obese workers the issue is far more complex as morbid obesity may constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and parallel state laws.
I’d rather smell failure than cigarette smoke and try to stay away from foods that will cause my heart to quit on me too early. As someone who recently lost their health insurance, I know the risk of unhealthy lifestyles all too well.
On one end we should have our own free will to eat and smoke as we please on our off time. However, if other people’s bad habits drive up the costs of everyone else’s coverage, what’s an employer to do outside of joining me in prayer for a single-payer system?
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Businessweek.com has unveiled their list of 40 American cities with the strongest economies. Did yours make the cut?
Though it doesn’t seem like it, there are some American cities still thriving in the recession. And when I say thriving, I mean by the standard of, “well, they’re not floundering as bad as the rest of the country.”
BusinessWeek.com has compiled a list of the nation’s 40 strongest economies.
On how they developed the list, the site wrote:
BusinessWeek.com used data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's new MetroMonitor to come up with the nation's 40 strongest economies. The MetroMonitor, which measures the nation's health on a quarterly basis, ranks the top 100 metros based on job growth, unemployment, gross metropolitan product, and home prices.
You will notice that cities in the state of Texas dominate the top ten. As a native Houstonian, I’d gloat if I hadn’t moved to a city not included on the list (hello, California). As the last state to be hit the recession, Texas’s has been aided by its oil and gas industries—which also helped the states of Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Louisiana.
Moreover, Texas’ affordable home prices and relatively low wages attract both residents and corporations.
The list reads as follows:
1. San Antonio, TX
2. Austin-Round Rock, TX
3. Oklahoma City, OK
4. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR
5. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
6. Baton Rouge, LA
7. Tulsa, OK
8. Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
9. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
10. El Paso, TX
11. Jackson, MS
12. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
13. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
14. Columbia, SC
15. Pittsburgh, PA
16. Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
17. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
18. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
19. Honolulu, HI
20. Rochester, NY
21. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
22. Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, PA
23. Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
24. Colorado Springs, CO
25. Madison, WI
26. Albuquerque, NM
27. Syracuse, NY
28. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
29. Kansas City, MO-KS
30. Raleigh-Cary, NC
31. Ogden-Clearfield, UT
32. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
New Haven-Milford, CT
33. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
34. Baltimore-Towson, MD
35. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
36. Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
37. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
Did your city make the list? If so, how comfortable are you?
And if you’re living in a city not doing as well as those that made the list, have you considered relocating?
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Richard Heene and his “balloon boy” hoax are clearly the work of a man itching for publicity. But can it be argued that his pursuit of the press’ attention speaks as much to the recession as it does a race for ratings?
One of my favorite Sunday rituals aside from shouting “hallelujah, hollaback” as I curl next to pillow (kidding, mom) is reading Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times.
This week, Mr. Rich tackled subject matter I’ve longed tried to avoid acknowledging: “Balloon Boy.”
I agree with Rich when he writes:
Richard Heene is the inevitable product of this reigning culture, where “news,” “reality” television and reality itself are hopelessly scrambled and the warp-speed imperatives of cable-Internet competition allow no time for fact checking.
Coverage of “balloon boy” usurping attention away from President Obama’s speech in New Orleans is a testament to the cable news cycle and their unwavering quest for ratings at the expense of you know, actual news.
But as Rich went on he tried to tie the plight of “balloon boy’s” hoax-generating father with the state of the economy. While he doesn’t absolve Heene from exploiting his child for financial gain, he does argue that there is “some poignancy in his determination to grab what he and many others see as among the last accessible scraps of the American dream.”
With only a high school education, Rich argues that Heene “saw the ‘balloon boy’ stunt as a sad response to his economic plight.”
And in doing so, Rich concludes that Heene’s actions harkens back to the days of the Great Depression:
Heene is a direct descendant of those Americans of the Great Depression who fantasized, usually in vain, that they might find financial salvation if only they could grab a spotlight in show business. Some aspired to the “American Idol” of the day — “Major Bowes Amateur Hour,” a hugely popular weekly talent contest on network radio. Others traveled the seedy dance marathon circuit, entering 24/7 endurance contests that promised food and prize money in exchange for freak-show degradation and physical punishment. Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel memorializing this Depression milieu was aptly titled “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
While I do agree this could apply to the discover of such “fascinating” people like Jon and Kate Gosselin and the “Octomom,” I feel even if we were enjoying a great economic boom we’d still have plenty of people pulling publicity stunts in the chase for fame. Look at people of privilege like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Kim Kardashian and how they’ve mastered the art of being famous for nothing. They didn’t come from humble beginnings yet their lust for fame was arguably no less intense than Heene’s.
Granted, desperate times call for even more desperate measures, but these days, be it rich or poor don’t far too many have it in their mind that they’re meant to be a star?
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For many Americans it seems the only thing scarier than this recession is letting a holiday like Halloween go by without partaking in it.
Forgive me for not being caught up in the spirit of the boo, but I haven’t dressed up for Halloween since I was six-years-old. I dressed up as Buster Bunny from Tiny Toon Adventures. At the time (and probably still now) my teeth went perfectly with Buster’s aesthetic.
However, since then I haven’t paid any attention from the holiday as I don’t eat much candy and find people pretend more on any day of the week than they do in a costume in October.
But, most people don’t share my lackluster view of Halloween and even though it’s a recession there are lots of consumers out there spending their dough in celebration.
According to IBISWorld, a market-research firm, Halloween sales will reach a record-breaking $6 billion in 2009, up 4.2% from last year.
Toon van Beeck, a senior analyst for IBISWorld, told Time magazine: "A year ago, Halloween was all about escaping a crisis. This year, it's more about a celebration. It's a mood booster.”
A shopper conveyed those same sentiments to Time:
In spooky economic times, does Nicole Amaya, a college student who also works as a ticket agent at JFK Airport in New York City, really need the $200 worth of Halloween party supplies she's holding in two plastic bags? "No," says Amaya, 20, who just purchased a fog machine, black lights and spider-web decorations from Spirit Halloween, a specialty retailer. Amaya, who is throwing a bash with a friend, adds, "Honestly, it's hurting my wallet." So why suck the blood out of your finances? "With jobs and school, everyone is so tense," says Amaya, who lives on Long Island. "It's our a chance to step out of our element and go crazy a little bit. I've been working my ass off. It's my one day to go all-in."
I suppose maybe more of us should get into the spirit. I’ll dress up like someone with good credit for Halloween. How does that sound?
No good? Well, if that doesn’t work out, there’s always this idea:
How much do you plan on spending for Halloween?
If you want to play it cheap, I suggest celebrating Halloween on November 1.
Even if you pay your balances on time or even in full, credit card companies have managed to find a way to still stick it to you.
Do you know of any trifling people who unapologetically take two decades to pay off two shirts they charged on their credit card?
Congratulations, the fees banks used to slap on them to boost income have now been transferred to you.
At a time when the credit crunch shows no signs of improving anytime soon, loads of credit card users are resisting temptation and pinching their pennies in order to pay off their balances.
How do credit card companies respond to this? By punishing you for it. .
Following new legislation that helps curtail the excessive fees credit card companies placed on consumers, lending banks have unveiled new fees to slap on borrowers – even those who use their cards responsibly.
Starting next year, Bank of America will charge a small number of customers an annual fee, ranging from $29 to $99. The bank has characterized the fee as experimental. But card holders who have never carried a balance or paid late fees could be among those affected.
Citigroup, meanwhile, has started charging annual fees to card holders who don't put more than a specific amount on their cards, typically $2,400 a year. Other banks are charging inactivity fees if customers don't use their credit cards during a specific period of time. You heard that right: You could be spanked for staying out of debt.
No wonder the general consensus is that credit card companies are evil.
Credit card issuers are trying to come up with methods to increase profits before new rules that restrict their ability to raise interest rates on existing balances take effect in February.
You do have options, however.
You can call and complain; weigh the pros and cons of cards with annual fees and explore cards that offer other incentives; or simply leave the borrower. However, the last option may hurt your score.
Are you completely at the whim of the lender? Not necessarily. But isn’t it irritating to find yourself being charged for being a “good borrower?”
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