The Weekender: pick an Amazon adventure, healthcare costs retirees $ + on-demand short stories

‘The Weekender’ spotlights what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.

From BirdDog

Governor hopefuls received seven questions to the Tennessee governor hopefuls to illuminate policy stances on a range of health care topics, including outpatient treatment for substance abuse, balance billing, whether Medicaid expansion would be a priority, and whether the state and/or employers have an obligation to help with access to coverage.

Read responses from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, businessman Bill Lee, and a cameo from former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean on Medicaid expansion.

  • The state senate passed a bill to compel TennCare to negotiate a work requirement with federal officials. Dig into the questions the unprecedented approach to Medicaid eligibility raises about what happens in times of an economic downturn and how to track hours as the number of people in gig-type jobs rises.
BirdDog got a new look. You can always say ‘hi’ or weigh in on what interests you at

From Elsewhere

  1. Health care will cost $280,000 in retirement — and that doesn’t include this huge expense 

    Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch

A couple who retires in 2018 will need $280,000 for health care costs, according to Fidelity Investments. It doesn’t include long-term care, an expense that weighs heavily on families.

Fidelity estimates that women will need $147,000, or $14,000 more than men due to a longer life expectancy. The estimated health care costs for a couple has increased by $120,000 since Fidelity started the calculation in 2002.

This should matter to everyone who hopes to make it to retirement and have money to live on, in addition to providers who serve older customers, patients and clients.

Even with Medicare, which brings volume into providers and gives insurers prospective members for Advantage or supplement plans, there are drug and associated costs that can financially squeeze people living on savings or a fixed retirement income.

Older Americans are also among the most financially squeezed by rising rent prices, which are growing faster than incomes. Read more from Richard Eisenberg with Next Avenue and a PBS project. Bonus! Eisenberg and I met a couple of years ago at a healthcare business reporting fellowship. Next Avenue focuses solely on covering issues that impact the country’s growing older demographic.

Tennessee, particularly Franklin, is a draw for retirees.

Food for Thought: Thirty-seven percent of Tennesseans have $0 saved, according to gobankingrates. An estimated 57 percent of Tennesseans have less than $1,000 saved, although the number is down from 2016, meaning more people have $1,000 on hand. GoBankingRates theorizes the change is due to the state’s historically low unemployment rate.


  1. The Vending Machine That Spits Out Short Stories

Laura M. Holson, The New York Times

Vending machines that deliver short stories for free (instead of various types of sugar for cold hard cash) are being installed in cities around the U.S. by Short Edition, a short-form literature publishing start-up in France.

Some public libraries are getting funding to install the machines that print an on-demand story. The stories, which can be read in one, three, or five minutes, get submitted in contests.

This is a vending machine I’d giddily line up to use — and being a millennial, thusly enshrine the story on Instagram before reveling in the prose.


  1. Amazon. Amazon. Amazon.

Lots of news about the behemoth that potentially pertains to Nashville because 1) Amazon is increasingly carving out its health care business plans, which should make locally based companies think about whether they operate at their A game and 2) the city is vying to welcome Amazon’s HQ2.

There was so much, in fact, that you can pick-your-own Amazon Adventure:

  • Amazon workers’ median pay in 2017: $28,446
Matt Day, Seattle Times

Excerpt: “That data, disclosed Wednesday in Amazon’s annual proxy report, is a reminder that while the technologists, business managers and marketers at Amazon headquarters can make more than $100,000, in most of the country, Amazon is a blue-collar logistics company where workers take home far less.”

Interesting deep dive: “Amazon gets huge subsidies to provide good jobs—but it’s a top employer of SNAP recipients in at least five states” from The New Food Economy and The Intercept.

Stephanie Pandolph, Business Insider

It’s the first time the company has released that figure, and in 2018, 64 percent of the prime members are in the U.S. That’s a vast pool of shoppers, with implications for the retail, healthcare, and personal banking industries. Amazon just launched a debit card platform in Mexico to reach people who don’t have a credit card.

Jonathan O’Connell, Washington Post

Tennessee’s legislature hasn’t been LGBTQ friendly. Read a Q&A from Amanda Haggard at The Nashville Scene about why a lobbyist was preparing for a tough year in 2018.

  • What do Nashvillians think of Amazon and the potential reverbrations from it setting up shop?

Elon University, in conjunction with The Business Journals, polled people in 19 cities that are competing for Amazon’s second headquarters to gauge public opinion about how Amazon would impact a range of issues from wage and housing prices to political impact and commute times.

Of those polled in Nashville, 42 percent voiced “strong support” for the headquarters. A majority, 67 percent, would want the headquarters to be in a suburb instead of downtown.

Read the full survey.

  1. In Rural Tennessee, a Big ICE Raid Makes Some Conservative Voters Rethink Trump’s Immigration Agenda

Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker

It’s not every day that Bean Station and Morristown in East Tennessee make it into The New Yorker.

WPLN’s Julieta Martinelli is covering the raid and its impact on families and the small communities.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash