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🏥 Do you have medical debt?
June 23, 2022
Plus: A crazy Zoom vs. Exxon chart, fart jokes, Codie Sanchez, and a friendly lemur.
Today marks the 100th episode of The Hustle Daily Show. While we can’t stand the sound of our own voices, apparently others can. The pod recently cracked the top 5 in Apple’s business news category. Give us a listen at the link below.
In today’s email:
Medical debt: 41% of American adults have it.
Chart: The news around gas prices, explained.
Opinion: Is tech deflating prices?
Around the web: South Dakota’s divorce colony, a drawing game, writing tips, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Jacob and Juliet discuss all kinds of reasons behind rising prices at the pump, Biden’s gas tax holiday, and even the act of passing gas itself.
The big idea
Americans are really struggling with medical debt
Remember that show about a schoolteacher who became a meth kingpin to cover his medical bills? New Zealand’s Walter White wouldn’t have done that.
But in the US, 41% of American adults carry medical debt, according to research from Kaiser Health News and NPR.
Some may not have appeared in past surveys or estimates due to how people deal with it — for example, 17% of people shuffle their debt to credit cards, while 21% pay over time directly to a provider.
How much debt are we talking?
The survey found that 42% owe $1k-$5k, while 24% owe more.
What that feels like depends on each debtor’s situation, and those who are low-income, uninsured, Black, Hispanic, women, or parents are often hit hardest.
Eighteen percent of debtors fear they’ll never pay it off. And debt has branching effects:
48% of debtors say they’ve burned through their savings to pay down debt, and many put bills on credit cards, which rack up interest
1 in 7 debtors say they’ve been denied needed care due to unpaid bills
People who owe medical debt are 2x as likely to skip care
Many debtors have delayed college and homeownership, or have had issues buying a car or renting an apartment
What can be done to treat it?
Medical bills can often be shockingly high, even for the insured.
In 2020, a woman went to an in-network center for surgery, but was surprised by a $2k bill because the anesthesiologist wasn’t in-network.
The No Surprises Act seeks to prevent this, banning out-of-network bills for emergency care, supplemental care (e.g., anesthesiology, radiology), and out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities.
New transparency laws also require hospitals to post rates for 300 common services. However, as of February, only ~14% were compliant, perCNBC.
And the core issue remains: People can’t afford care, as both medical costs and deductibles have steadily increased.
BTW:Consumer Reports has some tips for avoiding high medical bills and dealing with them should they occur.
Vaporized: After a two-year review, the FDA is preparing to reject Juul’s application to keep its tobacco products on the US market. The company has struggled since 2019 when it stopped selling fruity flavors and changed its marketing to appease regulators.
Rider rebrand: Uber Pool is back with a new name. The service was suspended in the early days of the pandemic for social distancing purposes, but Uber revealed the new feature under the name UberX Share.
Presidential moves: The Obamas reached a “first-look” audio deal with Audible for their production company, Higher Ground, following news of their departure from Spotify in April.
Microsoft announced plans to remove facial analysis tools from its AI services in an effort to promote “responsible AI.” The controversial tools can predict a person’s age, gender, and emotional state.
How Nerdy Nuts 20x’d on TikTok: Trendster Craig Mount talks brand loyalty after his D2C peanut butter company sold $500k+ per monthin 2021.
Target’s Casa Cantina is a new private-label line of pre-mixed cocktails. Target already has several private-label adult beverages, including wines. #ecommerce-retail
Can renters use solar power? It’s possible, either by talking to your landlord, buying renewable energy certificates, or subscribing to community solar. #clean-energy
Proteus is Amazon’s “first fully autonomous mobile robot.” It can move stuff around warehouses and has safety features to avoid crashing into humans. #emerging-tech
KnownOrigin, an NFT marketplace that allows artists to create their own collectibles, has been acquired by eBay, which added NFTs to its platform in May 2021. #fintech-crypto
Meta, Microsoft, Adobe, and Epic Games are among 30+ companies to join the Metaverse Standards Forum to establish standards for metaverse tech. Apple has yet to sign on. #big-tech
The news around gas prices, explained
What’s worse: sitting in a car with someone who passes gas, or simply looking at gas prices that are up 60%+ since last year?
Here’s why prices at the pump are so high, and what’s being done to fix it.
First, what goes into the price of gas?
The price of crude oil accounts for 60%. Russia’s war in Ukraine led to a global reduction in crude supply, driving prices higher.
The other 40% comes from refining that oil, distribution, and taxes.
During the pandemic, practically all forms of transit ground to a halt and prices crashed with demand. Demand has recovered, but production hasn’t, further exacerbating prices.
Can’t we just produce more?
It’s possible, but it isn’t cheap. Drilling, refining, and transporting oil requires expensive machinery and talented manpower.
Despite record profits, oil companies are reluctant to invest in increasing outputs because:
They’re already short-staffed following pandemic layoffs.
Many machines have been decommissioned.
There’s a risk in producing too much and sinking prices.
The world is heading toward greener energy in the long term.
Of course, those reasons don’t sit well with activists and politicians, who have excoriated oil companies for buying back stocks instead of ramping up production.
Did Biden get rid of the gas tax yesterday?
Kinda. He called on Congress to implement a three-month gas tax holiday. Currently, there’s an 18 cent/gallon federal tax on regular gas.
Biden previously announced the release of 1m barrels of oil per day from US reserves.
But these are temporary Band-Aids for deep industry problems. For now, here’s a funny gas tweet.
If you can’t tell the difference, this one’s for you.
I’ve had many mornings lately that look like this:
Wake up. Pound my alarm and groggily check my sleep on Whoop. Meditate for 20 minutes using Insight Timer (I’m zen like that). Track my habits from the day before in the Way of Life app. Rapidly panic over my investments across Gemini, Here, Fundrise, and Wealthfront.
I then proceed to go to the gym for sanity and use the Ladder app to have my personal trainer take me through some pain.
Is this just a really disgusting affiliate play?
Nope. No ties here. This is a reminder that although the world around us is bleeding, it’s also innovating. We aren’t waiting for the metaverse — we already have one foot in it.
Personal trainer, in 2010 = $100 a session or $400-$800/mo. In 2022 = $30 with Ladder
Getting sleep tests, in 2010 = $100 copay each time + insurance. In 2022 = $30/mo. for daily tests with Whoop
While those are bougie examples, my point is, the world is simultaneously getting worse and better.
… if your portfolio looks like a slasher film and you’re reading this, you probably have many more years left to invest.
If history repeats itself (which it tends to do), judging by this chart, you’re probably gonna be just fine.
😨 On this day: In 2013, Nik Wallenda walked on a high wire 1.5k feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge in Arizona — without a safety harness. Wallenda comes from a family of circus performers and learned the skill as a child.
💔 That’s interesting: Thanks to its lenient laws at a time when divorce was controversial, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, used to be called the “divorce colony.” Unhappy couples flocked to the city to get unhitched with ease.
✏️ Cure boredom: “Quick, Draw” is a game in which you must sketch an object well enough that AI can guess what it is.
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