NEW YORK (CNN) -- CNN Money's Maribel Aber has your top business and financial news on this Tuesday, May 21.
Employers eye bare-bones health plans under new law
Employers are increasingly recognizing they may be able to avoid certain penalties under the federal health law by offering very limited plans that can lack key benefits such as hospital coverage. Benefits advisers and insurance brokers-bucking a commonly held expectation that the law would broadly enrich benefits-are pitching these low-benefit plans around the country. They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn't cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. Others will be paired with limited packages to cover additional services, for instance, $100 a day for a hospital visit. Federal officials say this type of plan, in concept, would appear to qualify as acceptable minimum coverage under the law, and let most employers avoid an across-the-workforce $2,000-per-worker penalty for firms that offer nothing. Employers could still face other penalties they anticipate would be far less costly.
Suburban poverty soars
Poverty is growing faster in the suburbs than anywhere else in the United States, soaring 64% over the past decade. That was more than twice the growth rate of the urban poor population, according to the Brookings Institution, which released a book Monday titled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America. There are now almost 16.4 million suburban residents living below the poverty line, nearly 3 million more than in the cities. The poverty line for a family of four was $23,021 in 2011, the latest Census figures available. Low-income Americans have been moving to suburbs for many years, as wealthier Americans and companies relocated there. The poor were chasing the unskilled job opportunities that cropped up to cater to these people and businesses, said Elizabeth Kneebone, who co-authored the book
Amateur investors tap 401(k)s to buy homes
In order to get in on hot housing markets, amateur investors are buying up homes and taking risky measures -- like tapping their retirement accounts -- to fund the deals. "We're seeing many people cash out 401(k)s or IRAs because they want to take advantage of the market," said Sean Galaris of financial services firm LM Funding, based in Tampa. "This new scenario involves people losing significant personal funds since they are financing real estate through retirement accounts, savings and life insurance." Galaris should know. His company buys delinquent fee accounts from condo associations and collects the debts. Many of the condo owners he collects from either resort to tapping their 401(k)s or IRAs when they come up short for expenses like maintenance fees or have already used up those funds to buy the property in the first place.
Gas prices lower, but not leading to more spending
Gas prices are slightly lower this year, but that's not leading to a large pick-up in consumer spending, according to a survey by Bankrate.com. About 80% of the 1,000 people Bankrate surveyed said they have not increased their discretionary spending in response to falling gas prices this year. Perhaps it's because prices have been choppy? Gas prices rose for 34 straight days at the beginning of the year, then fell through most of March and April. They have since risen again slightly. That said, gas is still cheaper compared to a year ago. As of Friday, a gallon of unleaded gasoline cost $3.62, according to AAA. That's about 10 cents lower than the same time last year.