Obamacare's Impact on Health Costs

Morning Money Memo…

What is Obamacare doing to the cost of health insurance premiums? So far, not much. The closely watched annual survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation says the average price increase was 4 percent for family plans and 5 percent for individuals. That's similar to the rise in the last few years, and well below the average price increase during the 1990's and 2000's when the cost of health care coverage was soaring.

The survey of more than 2,000 employers finds that over 90 percent of firms with 50 or more workers offered health care benefits and 57 percent of all companies offered some kind of coverage, which is "statistically unchanged" compared to 2012. Critics of the health care law warned that it would lead to many companies dropping employee coverage. But the cost of health care coverage is still rising faster than inflation. Since 1999 average premiums have tripled while consumer prices rose 40 percent.

The housing recovery boosted results from Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW). Lowe's, the second-largest home improvement chain, reports its second-quarter net income rose 26 percent, which is stronger than expected. The firm raised its full-year earnings and revenue forecasts. The strong performance comes a day after rival Home Depot's results also topped analyst estimates and it lifted its outlook. The housing market has continued to improve this year.

Twitter's new six-second video app, Vine, now has 40 million registered users. The service had about 13 million users in June. "We've said this before and we'll say it again: this community - now more than 40 million of you - is amazing. Thank you for inspiring us," Vine said in a tweet. Vine is among the top 10 iPhone apps.

A federal judge has approved Kodak's plan to emerge from bankruptcy as a very different kind of business. Kodak was once a huge name in photography. The firm is expected to recreate itself as a new - and much smaller - business focused on commercial and packaging printing. US Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan Gropper called Kodak's struggles "a tragedy of American economic life." Creditors, shareholders and retirees are facing heavy losses. "Many are losing their retirement benefits," said the judge.

Banks and other financial firms may face more legal fall-out from the 2008 financial crisis. Attorney General Eric Holder tells the Wall Street Journal that the Justice Department is close to making decisions on investigations into the role played by large financial companies. "My message is, anybody who's inflicted damage on our financial markets should not be of the belief that they are out of the woods because of the passage of time. If any individual or if any institution is banking on waiting things out, they have to think again," Holder said in an interview with the paper.

The stock market closed mixed yesterday after four straight days of losses. The Dow Jones Industrial index has fallen 4 percent from last month's peak. Today, investors will be poring over minutes of the Federal Reserve's July meeting looking for hints about any change of policy. The Fed's huge purchases of long-term government bonds have made stocks more attractive. The worry is that when bond buying is reduced interest rates will rise. That concern has been behind the recent drop for stocks.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc

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