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The Dutch government should give the country’s pension funds more leeway in dealing with low interest rates, according to Marcel Andringa, CIO at the €40bn metal scheme PME.“Pension funds should either be permitted to use a higher discount rate for liabilities or be allowed to take more investment risk,” financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad (FD) quoted him as saying.Andringa took pains to explain that pension funds were gradually running out of investment options.“As yields of some German government bonds have even become negative, one could wonder whether it is still sensible from a long-term perspective to keep on investing assets against current low rates,” he said. And because many Dutch pension funds became underfunded at the start of the financial crisis, their risk profile has been fixed.“A snapshot of a situation seven years ago is still decisive for our investment policy,” Andringa said. “For schemes like us, making adjustments is very difficult.”PME’s CIO warned that, if interest rates fell further, the pension fund might have to apply another rights cut.Currently, PME’s coverage ratio is 103%.In other news, the ECB’s monthly bond-purchasing programme is likely to have caused a funding drop at several of the largest pension funds in the Netherlands.The €40bn metal scheme PME saw its coverage ratio fall by at least 1.5 percentage points during the first week of quantitative easing (QE), while the €48bn pension fund for the building industry, BpfBouw, suffered a 1 percentage point drop, according to IPE sister publication PensioenPro.The impact on coverage ratios is caused by the fall in interest rates, the criterion for the discount rate for Dutch pension funds’ liabilities.The 30-year swap rate has already dropped to less than 1%.A spokesman for the €60bn metal scheme PMT said the scheme had noticed an impact from QE but said it could not yet establish the scale of the problem.The large civil service scheme ABP declined to provide details on its current funding.However, Jos van Dijk, ABP’s spokeswoman, acknowledged that the pension fund had “recognised” the calculations of pensions adviser Mercer, which suggested the average funding of Dutch schemes would decrease by 2 percentage points during the first week of QE.Meanwhile, the large union FNV has warned against the impact of QE and called on the government to discuss measures to mitigate the consequences for pension funds.
The matches came thick and fast over the festive period, but the niggling strain would not go away. The 22-year-old has been passed fit for Sunday’s game at Swansea though after he came through a 45-minute run-out in the Under-21s on Tuesday. Townsend scored one goal and set up two more in a 4-1 win over Newcastle, and Sherwood was happy with the wide man’s contribution. “Andros had a quiet one on Tuesday,” Sherwood said with an ironic grin. “We all know what he can do. He gives us a different dimension. “He had a flying start to the season and we are happy to have him back in the squad.” Sherwood has had to deploy Christian Eriksen on the left wing in recent weeks because the natural replacements for Townsend – Erik Lamela and Gylfi Sigurdsson – have been struggling with injury. Townsend’s return should therefore give Spurs the natural width in midfield which is key to Sherwood’s attacking philosophy. Injury has decimated the Tottenham squad in recent weeks. As many as 10 first-team players have been out at one time during the festive period. Of all the injuries suffered, the most key have been to Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul. The absence of the tall, quick and powerful centre-backs has meant that Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches have started the last six games at centre-back. At first sight the two might not seem a natural pairing, but they have formed a decent partnership, conceding six goals. “We picked up a lot of injuries in the centre-back position, which was a problem for us but Chiriches and Dawson have been fantastic over that Christmas period,” Sherwood said. “We’ve managed to get positive results with basically just those two to choose from.” In reality Sherwood has Hugo Lloris to thank for the team’s decent defensive record of late. The Frenchman started to lose form towards the end of Andre Villas-Boas’ reign, but he has been back to his best. Lloris’ saves have helped Tottenham move to within two points of the top four, but the goalkeeper knows there is still much work to do if the north London club are to qualify for the Champions League. “Our hopes for the season are still alive because we’re getting points and we are closer to the top four, so we are still in a good way,” Lloris told Spurs TV. “But we have to be careful and if we want to finish where we want to be, we have to do more.” Swansea’s own injury problems mean they have dropped down the table of late, with Michael Laudrup’s men without a win in their last seven. Swansea’s home record is the joint-worst in the division, but Lloris has told his team-mates they cannot afford to underestimate the opposition. He said: “It’s always difficult to play against Swansea and we know they’re capable of getting some good results against big teams. “They play some really good football and if we are not focussed on the game and if we don’t play at 100 per cent, it will be very difficult.” Press Association Sherwood kept a watchful eye over Townsend’s impressive development during his time with the youth squads, but the Spurs boss has been unable to call upon the winger since he was named head coach. Townsend suffered a hamstring injury following Sherwood’s first game as interim boss – the Capital One Cup defeat to West Ham – and he has found the comeback trail hard to negotiate. Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood cannot wait to unleash Andros Townsend on terrified defenders once again.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The Washington Post: In State Of The Union Address, Obama Lays Out His Second-Term Agenda Somewhat more substantively, he called for a larger deficit-reduction deal built around loophole-closing tax reform and what he called “modest” reforms to Medicare and entitlements. In an apparent effort to rally Democrats to this cause, he called on “those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare” to “embrace” reform. Yet in promising the same amount of Medicare savings as the Simpson-Bowles commission proposed, Mr. Obama did not mention that this would be a mere $341 billion over 10 years (2/12).Los Angeles Times: Obama’s Less-Is-More Agenda He exhorted Republicans (for the umpteenth time) to adopt his solution to the impending crisis over automatic spending cuts: closing tax loopholes that benefit “the well-off and well-connected.” In return, he offered to support modest reforms in Medicare, an offer he has also made before. And, significantly, he contended that a modest amount of deficit reduction is all we need (Doyle McManus, 2/13). The Wall Street Journal: The President’s Plans He also spoke of “entitlement reform,” but his only two concrete ideas were price controls on drug companies and more means-testing for affluent seniors. These won’t come close to solving the health-care entitlement problem that even he admits is unsustainable, which is why Republicans don’t think he’s serious (2/13). The New York Times: Rubio’s Rebuttal In his speech, Mr. Rubio followed the Republican rebranding strategy by rephrasing the party’s grand old policies without offering any new ideas. … Mr. Rubio declared that he was particularly concerned about seniors who depend on Medicare, like his mother, and that “anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.” Funny Mr. Rubio should say that, because on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama argued that we can’t leave Medicare as is: “Those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms.” … Mr. Rubio didn’t actually mention how he would fix Medicare. But we all know that he supported Paul Ryan’s plan to turn it into a voucher system (Andrew Rosenthal, 2/12). Bloomberg: The Medicare Change Obama Was Talking AboutPresident Barack Obama promised to save as much money on Medicare in the next decade as was proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission. That would include, he said, lowering tax subsidies for drug companies and asking more affluent beneficiaries to pay more. And he said it would also include making a fundamental change in the way the government pays for care — by basing bills not on fee-for-service but on “the quality of care our seniors receive.” This explains why John Kitzhaber, the governor of Oregon, was watching the State of the Union address from first lady Michelle Obama’s box. Kitzhaber has made his state’s Medicaid program a laboratory that will test a promising model for making that change (Mary Duenwald, 2/13).The Washington Post: Obama’s Message: ‘We Can Fix This’ Obama even made the country’s intractable fiscal mess sound soluble. He didn’t offer new proposals, but he made clearer than in any speech I can recall that he’s willing to make real changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs to begin to get the deficit under control. He said he was willing to offer savings on Medicare that would equivalent to those proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission. Now he should show the way by proposing those cuts, rather than throwing this rhetorical pledge into the miasma of congressional budget politics (David Ignatius, 2/12). Los Angeles Times: Obama’s New Vision: Doable? Yes, there are problems left over from his first four years: high unemployment and slow economic growth. He rightly called on Congress to close the nation’s long-term budget gap by reforming entitlements and simplifying the tax code, rather than making across-the-board reductions that only chip away at the deficit. But it wasn’t clear how he’d get his ideas, many of them recycled from his first term, through a polarized Congress (2/13). And a few opinions on topics other than the State of the Union address –The New York Times: Calorie Detective Diet programs revolve around a proven principle: if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. The calorie is the defining metric. And so, in the interest of public health, the Food and Drug Administration requires most packaged foods to list their calories, among other data, on labels. To help combat obesity in New York City, the Department of Health requires most chain restaurants to post calorie content on their menus and fines those who don’t comply. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a national program will soon follow (Casey Neistat, 2/12). Los Angeles Times: Susan Love, Doctor/Patient And now, she is the patient. For decades, as a surgeon, researcher, professor and medical celebrity of sorts, Susan Love has led the charge against breast cancer and for women’s health. She served on President Clinton’s cancer advisory board. She set up a research foundation. Her book on breast cancer is on the short shelf for clinicians and counselors. And last June, when, like so many women, she was feeling and doing fine, the diagnosis came. Except it wasn’t breast cancer but leukemia (Patt Morrison, 2/13). Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Finds The Medicaid Middle GroundGov. Scott Walker has decided to decline federal funds that would have allowed the state to expand Medicaid coverage, sources in his administration say. Walker is right to do this. Last week, legislative Democrats urged the governor to participate in the Medicaid expansion program created under the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it would allow Wisconsin access to “free” federal money. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin would be eligible for $4.38 billion in federal aid until 2020 under the plan, with the state picking up an increasing share as the program moves forward (Christian Schneider, 2/12). Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Health Care Cost Increases Under Scrutiny In San Luis ValleyIn 2012, (the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), a grant-making foundation focusing on improving health, conducted focus groups in four American cities to gauge consumer attitudes on health care costs. The focus groups revealed that although most Americans are unclear as to why health care costs are increasing, many if not most know down to the penny how those increases are affecting their wallets. This should be expected in a time when workers covered through their employers pay 97 percent more for their family insurance premiums than they did in 2002, while wages increased just 33 percent over the same period (Gena Akers, 2/12). Viewpoints: Obama Prescription For Medicare Is ‘Modest;’ GOP Doubts Entitlement Plan Is Serious