Remodeling activity rebounds in July
Residential remodeling activity in the United States rose 6% in July 2012 compared with the previous month, according to an index compiled by BuildFax, a national database of building permit data. The July 2012 figure is 15% higher than residential remodels in July of 2011, according to the index.
Annual rates of remodeling authorized by building permits across the country in July 2012 were estimated as follows: Northeast, 765,000 (up 11% from June and up 31% from July 2011); South, 1,420,000 (up 24% from June and up 29% from July 2011); Midwest, 507,000 (down 4% from June and up 1% from July 2011); and West, 846,000 (up 2% from June and up 9% from July 2011).
“Remodeling activity rebounded in July after a slower June, and residential remodeling activity in 2012 remains significantly above what we saw in 2011,” said Joe Emison, VP research and development at BuildFax.
Co-headquartered in Austin, Texas, and Asheville, N.C., BuildFax, a division of BUILDERadius, maintains a national database of historical building permit data. It also operates a proprietary property intelligence engine that contains building and permitting information from more than 4,000 cities and counties throughout the country.
Research shows high demand for hand tools
Total home improvement dollars increased by 7% when comparing the 12 months ended July 2012 with the previous 12 months, according to consumer research from The NPD Group.
The units of home improvement items sold grew less than 2%, according to the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm.
Much of the unit growth in the home improvement industry was driven by hand tools, the second largest segment based on unit sales after storage and organization. Hand tools saw an 8% increase in units between August 2011 and July 2012.
In the storage and organization category, female spending increased 6%, while male spending slightly declined.
NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service also found that more than half of the home improvement dollar growth between August 2011 and July 2012 came from outdoor power equipment, the largest segment on a dollar basis, with double-digit increases in dollar sales over the previous 12-month period.
Both men and women increased their home improvement spending by 7% between August 2011 and July 2012.
The bright side of high-deductible health plans
Satisfaction levels are rising among Americans enrolled in consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs), while they are declining among those in traditional health plans, according to a new report by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
In particular, satisfaction rates for out-of-pocket costs appear to be trending downward among those with traditional coverage and upward for those with consumer-driven plans, according to the report.
CDHPs typically combine high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) with a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) to help enrollees pay for out-of-pocket expenses.
A growing number of U.S. employers have adopted CDHPs over the past decade to provide employees with incentives to make cost-conscious decisions when selecting health care services and to limit unnecessary health care spending.
In EBRI’s 2011 survey, individuals with a CDHP or HDHP had deductibles of at least $1,000 for individual coverage or $2,000 for family coverage in addition to an HSA or HRA with a rollover provision they could use to pay for medical expenses. The report, which incorporated earlier years of the survey, was published in the August 2012 EBRI Notes, “Satisfaction with Health Coverage and Care: Findings from the 2011 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey.”
Key findings include the following:
Overall satisfaction with health plan: Overall satisfaction levels among CDHP enrollees increased from 37% to 52% between 2006 and 2009, although there was a drop in satisfaction rates between 2009 and 2010. Satisfaction rates increased from 43% to 46% between 2010 and 2011.
Satisfaction rates among traditional enrollees decreased in most years. Between 2006 and 2008 they slipped from 67% to 63% and, after increasing between 2008 and 2009, they fell from 66% to 57% between 2009 and 2011.
Out-of-pocket costs: Attitudes about out-of-pocket costs may explain some of the difference in overall satisfaction rates among enrollees in traditional plans, HDHPs and CDHPs. In 2011, 41% of traditional-plan participants were either extremely or very satisfied with out-of-pocket costs (for health care services other than for prescription drugs), while 16% of HDHP enrollees and 24% of CDHP participants were extremely or very satisfied. Satisfaction rates appear to be trending downward among those with traditional coverage and upward for those with a CDHP.
Access to doctors: Satisfaction levels with getting doctor appointments were high relative to other aspects of health care, regardless of plan type, yet some differences were found. In 2006, traditional-plan enrollees were more likely than CDHP enrollees to be extremely or very satisfied with their ability to get doctor appointments. However, between 2007 and 2010, differences were not statistically significant, and in 2011 CDHP enrollees were more likely than traditional-plan enrollees to be extremely or very satisfied with their ability to get doctor appointments. In 2011, 73% of CDHP enrollees were extremely or very satisfied with their ability to get doctor appointments, compared with 68% of traditional-plan enrollees.
Within those overall trends, EBRI noted a few divergent findings, such as that enrollees in CDHPs and HDHPs were less likely than those in traditional plans to recommend their health plan and to indicate a desire to stay with their current plan, if given an opportunity to switch. While their experience with high-deductible plans may be proving better than they expected, if given the option many still would prefer lower deductibles with the same or better coverage.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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