Chelsea ace Hazard: Kicking me inspires more magicby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveChelsea ace Eden Hazard admits he welcomes being kicked in games.Hazard finds it a compliment.He has been one of the five most-fouled players in the league every year since he joined Chelsea. Twice he has been the most fouled (the title-winning campaigns of 2014/15 and 2016/17) and already this term he leads the way, illegally halted on average every 24 minutes.”Sometimes it’s tough. For seven years I have got kicked all the time. But now I take care of my ankles, my knees! We have one of the best medical departments in the world.”I don’t like to say I like it, but when people kick me it gives me a feeling that I am too good, or they just want to stop me and they can’t. That gives me extra power to do something magic.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say
Former Auburn running back Corey Grant is doing a pretty good job impressing the scouts at the Tigers’ pro day this afternoon. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back did not receive an invite to the Senior Bowl or the NFL Combine, but he’s making up for that today. Grant might be the fastest player available in the upcoming NFL Draft. According to multiple people in attendance at Auburn’s pro day, Grant ran a sub-4.3 40-yard dash. Hearing unofficial 40 chatter of 4.27 and 4.28 for AU RB Corey Grant. Workout wonder. #AUProDay— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) March 3, 2015BREAKING: Corey Grant is fast. Unofficially a 4.27 40 at Pro Day— Tom Green (@Tomas_Verde) March 3, 2015Times are often a little faster at pro days than they are at the combine or at NFL team’s individual workouts, but that’s still an incredibly impressive performance by Grant. He’s certainly helping his draft stock today.
In football, there are constant power struggles, both on and off the field: players battling players, offenses battling defenses, the passing game battling the running game, coaches battling coaches, and new ways of thinking battling old ways of thinking. And then there are kickers. Battling no one but themselves and the goalposts, they come on the field in moments most mundane and most decisive. They take all the blame when they fail, and little of the credit when they succeed. Year in and year out, just a little bit at a time, they get better. And better. And better. Until the game is completely different, and no one even noticed that kickers were one of the main reasons why.If you’ve been reading my NFL column Skeptical Football this season, you may have noticed that I write a lot about kickers. This interest has been building for a few years as I’ve watched field goals drained from long range at an ever-increasing rate, culminating in 2013, when NFL kickers made more than 67 percent of the kicks they took from 50-plus yards, giving them a record 96 such makes. There has been a lot of speculation about how kickers suddenly became so good at the long kick, ranging from performance-enhancing drugs (there have been a few possible cases) to the kickers’ special “k-balls” to more kick-friendly stadiums.So prior to the 2014 season, I set out to try to see how recently this improvement had taken place, whether it had been gradual or sudden, and whether it was specific to very long kicks or reflected improvement in kicking accuracy as a whole.What I found fundamentally changed my understanding of the game of football.1And possibly offered insight into how competitive sports can conceal remarkable changes in human capability.The complete(ish) history of NFL kickingPro Football Reference has kicking data broken down by categories (0-19 yards, 20-29, 30-39, 40-59 and 50+ yards) back to 1961. With this we can see how field goal percentage has changed through the years for each range of distances:It doesn’t matter the distance; kicking has been on a steady upward climb. If we look back even further, we can see indicators that kicking has been on a similar trajectory for the entire history of the league.The oldest data that Pro Football Reference has available is from 1932, when the eight teams in the NFL made just six field goals (it’s unknown how many they attempted). That year, kickers missed 37 of 113 extra-point attempts, for a conversion rate of 67.3 percent. The following year, the league moved the goal posts up to the front of the end zone — which led to a whopping 36 made field goals, and a skyrocketing extra-point conversion rate of 79.3 percent. With the uprights at the front of the end zone, kickers missed only 30 of 145 extra points.For comparison, those 30 missed extra-point attempts (all with the goalposts at the front of the end zone) are more than the league’s 28 missed extra-point attempts (all coming from 10 yards further out) from 2011 to 2014 — on 4,939 attempts.In 1938-39, the first year we know the number of regular field goals attempted, NFL kickers made 93 of 235 field-goal tries (39.6 percent) to go with 347 of 422 extra points (82.2 percent). In the ’40s, teams made 40.0 percent of their field goal tries (we don’t know what distances they attempted) and 91.3 percent of their XPs. In the ’50s, those numbers rose to 48.2 percent of all field goals and 94.8 percent of XPs. The ’60s must have seemed like a golden era: Kickers made 56 percent of all field goals (breaking the 50 percent barrier for the first time) and 96.8 percent of their extra points.For comparison, since 2010, NFL kickers have made 61.9 percent of their field goal attempts — from more than 50 yards.In the 1960s, we start to get data on field goal attempts broken down by distance, allowing for the more complete picture above. In 1972, the NFL narrowed the hash marks from 18.5 yards from 40, which improved field goal percentages overall by reducing the number of attempts taken from awkward angles. And then in 1974, the league moved the goal posts to the back of the end zone — but as kick distances are recorded relative to the posts, the main effect of this move was a small (and temporary) decline in the extra-point conversion rate (which you can see in the top line of the chart above). Then we have data on the kicks’ exact distance, plus field and stadium type, after 1993.2This info is likely out there for older kicks as well, but it wasn’t in my data.So let’s combine everything we know: Extra-point attempts and distances prior to 1961, kicks by category from 1961 to 1993, the kicks’ exact distance after 1993, and the changing placement of goal posts and hash marks. Using this data, we can model the likely success of any kick.With those factors held constant, here’s a look at how good NFL kickers have been relative to their set of kicks in any given year3This is done using a binomial probit regression with all the variables, using “year taken” as a categorical variable (meaning it’s not treated like a number, so 1961, 1962 and 1963 may as well be “Joe,” “Bob” and “Nancy”). This is similar to how SRS determines how strong each team is relative to its competition.:When I showed this chart to a friend of mine who’s a philosophy Ph.D.,4Hi, Nate! he said: “It’s like the Hacker Gods got lazy and just set a constant Kicker Improvement parameter throughout the universe.” The great thing about this is that since the improvement in kicking has been almost perfectly linear, we can treat “year” as just another continuous variable, allowing us to generalize the model to any kick in any situation at any point in NFL history.Applying this year-based model to our kicking distance data, we can see just how predictable the improvement in kicking has actually been:The model may give teams too much credit in the early ’60s — an era for which we have a lot less data — but over the course of NFL history it does extremely well (it also predicts back to 1932, not shown). What’s amazing is that, while the model incorporates things like hashmark location and (more recently) field type, virtually all the work is handled by distance and year alone. Ultimately, it’s an extremely (virtually impossibly) accurate model considering how few variables it relies on.5So how accurate is this thing? To be honest, in all my years of building models, I’ve never seen anything like it. The model misses a typical year/distance group prediction by an average of just 2.5 percent. Note that a majority of those predictions involve only a couple hundred observations — at most. For comparison, the standard deviation for 250 observations of a 75 percent event is 2.7 percent. In other words, the model pretty much couldn’t have done any better even if it knew the exact probability of each kick!While there is possibly a smidge of overfitting (there usually is), the risk here is lower than usual, since the vast majority of each prediction is driven solely by year and distance. Here’s the regression output:I wish I could take credit for this, but it really just fell into place. Nerds, perk up: The z-value on “season” is 46.2! If every predictive relationship I looked for were that easy to find, life would be sweet.This isn’t just trivia, it has real-world implications, from tactical (how should you manage the clock knowing your opponent needs only moderate yardage to get into field goal range?) to organizational (maybe a good kicker is worth more than league minimum). And then there’s the big one.Fourth downIf you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you scream at your television a lot when coaches sheepishly kick or punt instead of going for it on fourth down. This is particularly true in the “dead zone” between roughly the 25- and 40-yard lines, where punts accomplish little and field goals are supposedly too long to be good gambles.I’ve been a card-carrying member of Team Go-For-It since the ’90s. And we were right, back then. With ’90s-quality kickers, settling for field goals in the dead zone was practically criminal. As of 10 years ago — around when these should-we-go-for-it models rose to prominence — we were still right. But a lot has changed in 10 years. Field-goal kicking is now good enough that many previous calculations are outdated. Here’s a comparison between a field-goal kicking curve from 2004 vs. 2014:There’s no one universally agreed-upon system for when you should go for it on fourth down. But a very popular one is The New York Times’ 4th Down Bot, which is powered by models built by Brian Burke — founder of Advanced Football Analytics and a pioneer in the quantitative analysis of football. It calculates the expected value (either in points or win percentages) for every fourth-down play in the NFL, and tweets live results during games. Its 19,000-plus followers are treated to the bot’s particular emphasis on the many, many times coaches fail to go for it on fourth down when they should.A very helpful feature of the 4th Down Bot is that its game logs break down each fourth-down decision into its component parts. This means that we can see exactly what assumptions the bot is making about the success rate of each kick. Comparing those to my model, it looks to me like the bot’s kickers are approximately 2004-quality. (I asked Burke about this, and he agrees that the bot is probably at least a few years behind,6I don’t blame Burke or others for not updating their models based on the last few years. It’s good to be prudent and not assume that temporary shifts one way or the other will hold. Normally it is better to go with the weight of history rather than with recent trends. But in this case, the recent trends are backed by the weight of history. and says that its kicking assumptions are based on a fitted model of the most recent eight years of kicking data.7Here’s his full statement: “The bot is about 3-4 years behind the trends in FG accuracy, which have been improving at longer distances. It uses a kicking model fitted to the average of the recent 8-year period of data. AFA’s more advanced model for team clients is on the current ‘frontier’ of kick probabilities, and can be tuned for specific variables like kicker range, conditions, etc. Please keep in mind the bot is intended to be a good first-cut on the analysis and a demonstration of what is possible with real-time analytics. It’s not intended as the final analysis.”)But more importantly, these breakdowns allow us to essentially recalculate the bot’s recommendations given a different set of assumptions. And the improvement in kicking dramatically changes the calculus of whether to go for it on fourth down in the dead zone. The following table compares “Go or No” charts from the 4th Down Bot as it stands right now, versus how it would look with projected 2015 kickers8The exact values in the chart may differ slightly from the reports on the Times’ website because I had to reverse-engineer the bot’s decision-making process. But basically I’m assuming the model gets everything exactly right as far as expected value from various field locations, chances of converting a fourth-down attempt, etc., then recalculating the final expected value comparison using 2015 kickers.:Having better kickers makes a big difference, as you can see from the blue sea on the left versus the red sea on the right. (The 4th Down Bot’s complete “Go or No” table is on the Times’ website.)Getting these fourth-down calls wrong is potentially a big problem for the model. As a test case, I tried applying the 4th Down Bot’s model to a selection of the most relevant kicks from between 25 and 55 yards in 2013, then looked at what coaches actually did in those scenarios. I graded both against my kicking-adjusted results for 2013. While the updated version still concluded that coaches were too conservative (particularly on fourth-and-short), it found that coaches were (very slightly) making more correct decisions than the 4th Down Bot.The differences were small (coaches beat the bot by only a few points over the entire season), but even being just as successful as the bot would be a drastic result considering how absolutely terrible coaches’ go-for-it strategy has been for decades. In other words, maybe it’s not that NFL coaches were wrong, they were just ahead of their time!Time-traveling kickersHaving such an accurate model also allows us to see the overall impact kicking improvement has had on football. For example, we can calculate how kickers from different eras would have performed on a common set of attempts. In the following chart, we can see how many more or fewer points per game the typical team would have scored if kickers from a different era had taken its kicks (the red line is the actual points per game from field goals that year):The last time kickers were as big a part of the game as they are today, the league had to move the posts back! Since the rule change, the amount of scoring from field goals has increased by more than 2 points per game. A small part of the overall increase (the overall movement of the red line) is a result of taking more field goals, but most of it comes from the improvement in accuracy alone (the width of the “ribbon”).How does this compare to broader scoring trends? As a baseline for comparison, I’ve taken the average points scored in every NFL game since 1961, and then seen how much league scoring deviated from that at any given point in time (the “scoring anomaly”). Then I looked at how much of that anomaly was a result of kicking accuracy.9The scoring deviation on this chart is calculated relative to the average game over the period. The kicking accuracy is relative to the median kicker of the period.:Amid wild fluctuations in scoring, kicking has remained a steady, driving force.For all the talk of West Coast offenses, the invention of the pro formation, the wildcat, 5-wide sets, the rise of the pass-catching tight-end, Bill Walsh, the Greatest Show On Turf, and the general recognition that passing, passing and more passing is the best way to score in football, half the improvement in scoring in the past 50-plus years of NFL history has come solely from field-goal kickers kicking more accurately.10Side note, I’ve also looked at whether kicking improvement has been a result of kickers who are new to the league being better than older kickers, or of older kickers getting better themselves. The answer is both.The past half-century has seen an era of defensive innovation — running roughly from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s — a chaotic scoring epoch with wild swings until the early ’90s, and then an era of offensive improvement. But the era of kickers is forever.Reuben Fischer-Baum contributed graphics.CORRECTION (Jan. 28, 2:22 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave the distances from which extra-point kicks were taken in 1933 and in recent years. Actual extra-point distances aren’t recorded.
OSU sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker (17) and senior linebacker Chris Worley (35) combine on a sack againstr Michigan junior quarterback Wilton Speight (3) during their game on Nov. 26 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 30-27. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorLinebackers at Ohio State have a history of becoming on-campus legends, and emerging as NFL-ready talents by the time they decide to make the leap to the next level. More often than not, the biggest leaders on the defensive side of the ball come from this unit, and soon-to-be junior linebacker Jerome Baker could be just like the players who came before him.From names like James Laurinaitis, Tom Cousineau, Chris Spielman and A.J. Hawk, Baker has some lofty expectations to live up to. Since coming into Columbus as a linebacker and a running back in high school, the Cleveland native has lived up to every expectation placed on him.Totaling 83 tackles this season, Baker flashed his ability to get to the ball carrier, while also racking up 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Although he made lots of plays by himself, he credited the mentorship of Raekwon McMillan and soon-to-be redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley as an instrumental piece to his success.“It’s very easy playing alongside Raekwon and Worley,” Baker said at OSU’s media day prior to the Fiesta Bowl. “Their ability alone is really a blessing. It’s made it easier on my confidence. They’re always telling me I can do it. They’ve believed in me from Day One. I’m just glad I can finally play alongside those guys and do what I love doing.”However, Baker will not be playing alongside McMillan, who decided to forgo his senior season for the 2017 NFL Draft. The unquestioned leader of the defense last year, McMillan’s shoes will be hard to fill. The competition for the lead role at linebacker will come down to Worley and Baker, with the advantage going to Worley since he will be in his final season of eligibility. However, McMillan spoke of Baker at media day, saying his play should be singled out. “For a portion of the season, he was playing the best ball on the defense, I figure,” McMillan said. “Against Oklahoma, he was pivotal when it came to stopping Baker Mayfield and other guys like that.”Worley is no slouch either, and seems like the most likely candidate for fulfilling the void left by McMillan. Worley has been around the program long enough that he should be able to fulfill the crazy process McMillan went through before the snap this year.However, Baker’s output this season and the fact he was named as an honorable mention for All-Big Ten has put him close to being named as the leader on defense. That, paired with the praise from McMillan, makes Baker a name to watch for once again next year.“He’s a baller, and he’ll definitely have a tree at Ohio State soon,” McMillan said.
The departing Fernando Torres will receive a special tribute by Atletico Madrid in their final game of the season against EibarThe forward’s contract will expire at the end of the season and he has now announced that he will leave his boyhood club for the second and final time.While Torres has not given any indication over his future plans, Atletico are determined to give their long-serving player a deserved fond farewell at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano next month.“Fernando is a legend of our club,” said the club president Enrique Cerezo, according to Marca.Fati and Suarez shine against Valencia at Camp Nou Tomás Pavel Ibarra Meda – September 15, 2019 With a mesmerizing first half from Ansu Fati and a brace from Luis Suarez in the second half, Barcelona demolished Valencia at Camp Nou.Valencia…“We have always said that he will make the decision on his future because this is his home.“If he wants to continue his professional footballing career next season in another place we can only thank him for all he has given us, which is a lot, and tell him that the doors of Atletico Madrid will always be open to him when he decides to put an end to his career as a player.“Fernando Torres deserves the best of goodbyes as an Atletico Madrid player and that’s why I’m sure our fans will join us for a special day.“We are already working on making it an unforgettable day for the Atletico family and especially for Fernando.” Torres has said that he is already considering a number of offers as he ponders over his next step in football.
Jürgen Klopp managed to guide his team to the Champions League finals but he also has to take care of the domestic league as Liverpool are still fighting for the top four finish.The German coach admitted that it would be far better to play for the title but it hasn’t been possible this season as Manchester City have been phenomenal – but the top four finish would be a success as well.The former BVB manager spoke about his side’s season’s ending as he said, according to Telegraph:Report: Origi cause Klopp injury concerns George Patchias – September 14, 2019 Divock Origi injury in today’s game against Newcastle is a cause for concern for Jurgen Klopp.Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday’s trip to Italy…“It would be massive. It was actually the main target we had at the start of the season. You want to be champions but it was clear after a few months that would not be possible.”“The target is qualifying for the Champions League. That would be a big success. With the group we’ve got, with how we came to the final and playing with the biggest intensity in all parts, being ready again, then the injuries we had, it would be a massive success. It’s exactly what we want.”
Marcus Rashford believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s guidance at Manchester United has been a “massive help” towards his development as a striker.Since Solskjaer took charge at Old Trafford in December on an interim basis, Rashford has embarked on a superb run of form in his favoured centre-forward role.The 21-year-old striker has scored six goals and provided three assists in 12 appearances under Solskjaer.The caretaker manager, who scored 126 goals in 366 games as a forward for United, has even challenged Rashford to match the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford.“For me, it’s been a massive help having that type of guidance around me,” Rashford told Sky Sports on Solskjaer’s role in his development.“But he’s been working with all of the players with everything he’s got, you can see even the defenders are improving, the midfield is improving, the team’s improved overall but we understand we can still take more steps forward.“He has that know-how, the understanding, that’s the kind of thing you just pick off naturally off these type of people.Liverpool legend Nicol slams Harry Maguire’s Man United form Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Steve Nicol believes Harry Maguire has made some “horrendous mistakes” recently, and has failed to find his best form since joining Manchester United.“Even not just out on the pitch, having conversations about it, it all adds up. It’s been a big turnaround. As long as we keep improving I don’t see why [he shouldn’t get the job permanently].”The England international went on to reveal that Solskjaer has even encouraged both himself and teammates Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to aim high and possibly match the feats he achieved at United during his own playing career.Aside from being a prolific scorer, Solskjaer also won six Premier League titles and two FA Cups.The 45-year-old even famously scored the match-winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final at Barcelona.Rashford added: “When we were in Dubai, we were having a bit of banter when the manager was speaking to me, Anthony [Martial] and Jesse [Lingard], and I just mentioned his goal in the Champions League final.“He was quick to let us understand that with what we have in this team, anything is possible and it’s not far-fetched to say we can recreate those moments.”United will host Solskjaer’s old rivals Liverpool in a Premier League match at Old Trafford in Sunday with kick-off set for 3:05 PM (CET).LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 13: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United gestures during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on January 13, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Chelsea assistant coach Gianfranco Zola claims that even though Eden Hazard may not be known for his industry off the ball, Chelsea still needs him to assist the team.The Belgium winger hasn’t really impressed in all his outing this term after he was deployed by new coach Sarri to play as a false nine.Chelsea defeated Tottenham 2-1 on penalties to reach the EFL Cup final on Thursday with Hazard scoring the Blues’ second goal in a second leg.“I was very much like Eden,” Zola told reporters, according to FourFourTwo.“I was a very positive player, I liked to move around the pitch, find the spots on the pitch where I could receive the ball, turn and make the damage to the opposition.Chelsea hat-trick hero Tammy Abraham hopes for more Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Tammy Abraham hopes this season will be his big breakthrough at Chelsea after firing his first hat-trick for the club in Saturday’s 5-2 win at Wolves.“I was very, very similar and I do understand that. I believe we try to give him this but also to be an organised team defensively and offensively. Especially offensively. That’s why we ask Eden sometimes to put himself about in working hard.“I know that’s not his best quality. We understand that sometimes he needs to be fresh when he receives the ball. There is no doubt that we are on the same page. We want to find a common ground where he can get the best out of himself and the team can benefit from him.“Not only when he is scoring goals but when we have moments in the game where we need everybody to defend and everybody to press. That’s exactly what we are trying to do. Eden, I think, I have to be fair that he has been doing it.“He has been trying to do it. We are very demanding because we want to do it all the time. I am sure that we will find a compromise. I am not in a position to criticise a player like Eden. We believe, Maurizio said one thing, that the potential of Hazard is greater than the performances.“So he is not criticising what Eden is doing but he believes he can do much more for himself and the team. That’s all he is saying. This is the situation he wants Hazard to understand. Again, when we see his performances we look forward to seeing more and more.”
“We’d just seen that our audience had been changing in how they consume media,” Izzo says. “A big part of the change for us was the significant adoption of mobile and the engagement on social media.”Izzo says ALM made a big effort to transform into a digital-first company as a result. Another factor that contributed to the program’s creation was the significant increase in traffic on ALM websites from mobile devices, an increase of around 80 percent July over July from last year, according to Izzo.“Digital membership establishes a simple way for us to serve today’s subscribers and future subscribers with the online news content they want, when and where they want it,” says Jeffrey S. Litvack, chief digital officer at ALM in a statement.The free membership package includes digital access to five news articles every month from three controlled circulation publications, online access to news alerts, newsletters and previously archived news stories, and discounts on ALM products and services.“Subscribers will now have an easier way to click through to the content they want to read and non-subscribers will have a viable option for continuing to read by viewing five free stories a month,” Litvack contends.UPDATE: This movement of content from behind the paywall to the forefront with free access is a key advantage for subscribers, says Izzo.“The benefit to paid members is the ability to share the content to colleagues and potential clients,” Izzo says. “This ability to pass on a story to a colleague digitally makes that sharing process, either from social media or from your inbox newsletter, easier.”Digital membership holders have free and unlimited online access to three controlled circulation publications: Corporate Counsel, Law Technology News and The Asian Lawyer. ALM maintains that their four paid premium publications—Supreme Court Brief, Litigation Daily, New Jersey Law Journal Decision Alert and Delaware Business Court Insider—will continue to be accessible only to each publication’s subscribers. Paid subscribers will also maintain exclusive access to premium reports and briefings, including the Am Law 100 report.UPDATE: The decision to only allow five free news articles per monthly cycle was a strategic move on ALM’s part.“We want non-paid subscribers to test, trial, read and consume at least five articles a month across the network,” Izzo contends. “We felt that five was reflective of the engagement level of our readers on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.”More on this topic ALM Forms New Marketing Services Team InsideCounsel Folds Print Edition People on the Move | 5.17.12 ALM Newsletter Open Rates Jump 60 Percent After Mobile Optimization ALM Expands Regional Publishing Services Jeffrey LitvackJust In Meredith Corp. Makes Digital-Side Promotions | People on the Move Bonnier Corp. Terminates Editor-in-Chief for Ethics Breach The Atlantic Names New Global Marketing Head | People on the Move BabyCenter Sold to Ziff Davis Parent J2 Media | News & Notes This Just In: Magazines Are Not TV Networks Four More Execs Depart SourceMedia in Latest RestructuringPowered by ALM is set to launch a free digital membership program for legal professionals later this month.The legal and commercial real estate news publisher is looking to expand its consumer base by offering a bundled news service package that includes five free articles a month, newsletters, news alerts and access to ALM’s database where some previously archived subscriber-only stories will now be made available. The digital reader program, launching August 23, 2013, is cost-free.UPDATE: The catalyst for the creation of the digital membership program, according to ALM SVP and chief marketing officer Lenny Izzo, is mainly consumer convenience.
Oivind Hovland/Ikon Images/Getty ImagesA health savings account works much like a personal savings account — with a difference. Any money in it that we use to pay for certain medical expenses isn’t taxed.Spending your own money on health care might mean that you’ll be more frugal with it. That’s the theory behind health savings accounts, a decades-old GOP concept that’s sparking renewed interest on Capitol Hill as Republican lawmakers look for ways to replace the Affordable Care Act.HSAs are like personal savings accounts — with a difference. As with a retirement account, money put into an HSA can be invested, and any growth in the fund accumulates tax-free. Withdrawals can be made at any time, and they are tax-free, too — but the money can be used only to pay for certain medical expenses, such as health insurance deductibles, or for copays for hospital care or a visit to the doctor.Currently, HSAs are only available to people who have high-deductible health plans, meaning they usually pay a few thousand dollars for medical care each year before their insurance kicks in to pay its share. While HSA participation is growing, only about 20 million people out of the 176 million who have health insurance participate in these savings accounts, according to a 2015 report by the Association of Health Insurance Plans.Why don’t more people who are eligible for HSAs have them? For one thing, not everyone has money to contribute upfront. But psychologists and behavioral economists point out that even many people who have the extra cash on hand confront big psychological barriers to saving.“How we think and feel is directly tied to our ability to make ‘good’ financial decisions,” says Alycia DeGraff, a board member and secretary of the Financial Therapy Association. DeGraff says when faced with financial decisions about the future, many people simply get stressed out.“These stressors can become so overwhelming that … we can become debilitated and ignore the situation altogether,” she says. “Or we can practice any kind of defense mechanism — entitlement, suppression, overcompensation, isolation, etc. — to try and deal with [it].”This may explain, at least in part, why middle-class Americans are pretty bad at saving money in general. Only about half of us have money in any sort of retirement account. And those of us who are parents have only saved, on average, enough to pay for about one year at an in-state college for our kids.Saving money is hard. It means setting aside what we want now for something we think we’ll want or need later. And we live in a culture that offers a lot of pretty, shiny, things to buy RIGHT NOW.Plus, we all pretend we won’t get old or sick.“People are predictably irrational,” says Dr. Mitesh Patel, especially when it comes to money. He’s a behavioral economist, physician and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.But many of us really hate to lose money, Patel says, which is what makes the concept of HSAs is so appealing.For example, he and his colleagues published a study last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine on what motivates people to lose weight, and found that the way a financial incentive was framed made all the difference.The researchers observed three groups of people for 13 weeks. They told one group to walk 7,000 steps a day. About 30 percent of the group did so. Meanwhile, people assigned to the second group were told they’d be paid $1.40 every day they walked 7,000 steps. About 35 percent of the second group did so.Here’s the kicker: Each person in the third group was paid $42 upfront and was docked $1.40 each time they failed to meet their goal. Forty-five percent of that group met the assigned goal, Patel says. People hate to lose money.Another way to encourage more saving might be to make HSAs operate more like the 401(k)s that required people who didn’t want to participate to actively opt out of the plan — rather than requiring people who want to contribute to opt in. “This creates a path of least resistance,” Patel says.Of course, setting up and overseeing such a plan would likely cost the government some money, he notes.People with HSAs do use less health care than those without such plans, a recent study from the Employee Benefits Research Institute suggests. But it’s unclear whether they actually improve their health. Prescription drug costs went down for people enrolled in HSAs in the EBRI study, but emergency room visits went up — particularly for lower-income families.Then there’s the issue of figuring out how much you, as an individual or a family, would need to save for health care — it’s not easy to find out the average price for a medical test or procedure in your town, let alone how much that price varies from doctor to doctor or hospital to hospital.“If you want to save for a house, you can pretty much figure out the math,” Patel says. “But if you go to a doctor, they don’t give you a menu for prices.”To really increase their health savings — or any savings — we’d all need to change our mindset, says Degraff, the financial therapist.“People would have to first take a dose of reality and get real about their future selves,” she says. Naturally, we think our future selves will be “better, healthier, more financially secure,” she adds. But, for many of us, health and income eventually decline with age. We need to save more now for later.HSAs can be useful, Degraff notes, but only for those who have enough cash to pay their day-to-day expenses — plus a little left over.“A lot of people don’t even have a regular emergency fund savings,” DeGraff says, “especially those that are already struggling to pay for health insurance.”Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Share
Kolkata: A fresh low-pressure area that has been created over North Odisha and adjoining Bengal would bring moderate to heavy rainfall in various parts of the state, the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore predicted. However, the city may receive light to moderate rainfall in the next three days while some districts will witness heavy to very heavy rain. North-Eastern states are expected to see moderate rains in the next few days. States like Jharkhand, some parts of Bihar and Sikkim may also witness light to moderate rains. According to a senior weather official, the low pressure which was currently situating over North Odisha and adjoining parts of Bengal has gained some strength as a result of which various districts — both in North and South Bengal — will receive moderate to heavy showers depending on their geographical locations.