Japan Leads New TPP, Economists Concerned About Skills Gaps
February 21, 2018
Trump administration opens access to insurance outside Obamacare; Final TPP deal leaves out US rules; Business leaders confident in economy, but worried about the skills gap; Oil falls on US stockpiles.
- Trump administration opens access to insurance outside Obamacare. The Trump administration moved Tuesday to expand access to short term, non-Obamacare insurance plans, changing the maximum coverage amount for such plans from 3 months to 12. Importantly, the administration will no longer require the short-term plans to comply with Obamacare requirements: plans can charge users with preexisting conditions more, and can deny coverage for services like mental health and prescription drugs. Critics worry the move will further undermine Obamacare by incentivizing healthier people to choose less comprehensive plans, while the administration emphasizes it aims to make health insurance cheaper. [The Hill]
- Final TPP deal leaves out US rules. The final version of the landmark Trans Pacific Partnership was released Wednesday, led by Japan rather than the United States. The trade deal, aimed at reducing barriers in Asia-Pacific’s rapidly growing economies, promises to cut tariffs in economies with $10 trillion in GDP annually. The version released has notably absent 20 provisions that called for, among other things, intellectual property protections, especially around prescriptions drugs, provisions pushed for by the US before President Trump dropped out of the deal. The deal is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8. [Reuters]
Economic Indicators & News
- Business leaders confident in economy, but worried about the skills gap. Two thirds of business leaders of midsize businesses polled by JPMorgan Chase have confidence in the economy, up 39 points since 2017. 17% reported the new tax law would be a major boost, and 53% predicted modest benefits. Business leaders reported they’d mostly use their tax savings to pay down debt, invest in capital and increase wages. Only 12% said they’d repatriate overseas earnings. Small businesses however reported similar rates of hiring and raising wages as in 2017, before the tax bill. Economic confidence was most commonly tempered by worries about the skills gap, which makes jobs difficult to fill with talented applicants. [The Hill]
- Oil falls on US stockpiles. Oil fell as US stockpiles expanded for a fourth consecutive week, calling into question OPEC’s ability to cut down on oversupply. NY crude fell 1.4%, as American inventories rose by 3 million barrels. According to the Energy Information Administration, crude inventories have kept above 420 million barrels this month, indicating “phenomenal” production. [Bloomberg]