Getty ImagesHere’s a quick rundown from the world of business and economics this morning: the things you need to know, and some you’ll just want to know.
• Flexible spending accounts are a great way to save on health care: By funding them with pre-tax dollars, you get an instant discount on copays, prescriptions and other medical expenses. But they’ve always come with one annoying downside: a use-it-or-lose-it rule. Any funds left in an FSA on Jan. 1 from the previous year were forfeit. Not anymore: On Thursday, the Treasury Department said it was modifying that rule. From now on, employers will be able to allow their FSA-using employees to carry over up to $500 funds into the next year.
• When you read the word “McDonald’s,” (MCD) coffee may not be the first menu item that leaps to mind, but a heck of a lot of people get their morning cup of Joe from the fast food giant. Starting next year, they’ll be able to get it at home, too. Following in the footsteps of Dunkin Donuts (DNKN) and Starbucks (SBUX), McDonald’s will begin selling its coffee in grocery stores. The U.S. roll-out will include packaged ground, whole-bean and single-cup varieties. (Sounds promising to us, but we fear it just won’t be the same without an Egg McMuffin.)
• Certain segments of the media recently have been in a froth about the millions of Americans upset that their individual health care plans are being canceled for failing to meet the bare minimum standards set by Obamacare. CNBC has some advice for all of them: Please calm down. If that’s why your plan got canceled, you’ll be able to get a replacement health care plan that’s better, often for less than you were paying.
• The clouds are lifting for the solar energy business after several years of falling profits and oversupply of solar panels, and there’s one big reason why. Fukushima. The partial meltdown of the nuclear reactor there after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has induced Japan to shut down all its nuclear power plants (and there were quite a few). To replace some of that lost electrical generation, Japan is subsidizing a solar boom.
• And finally, it looks like Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang are getting Hollywood makeover. The “Peanuts” gang will be starring in a new feature film, scheduled to be released in autumn 2015. Iconix (ICON), which owns majority rights to “Peanuts,” is looking to bump up the revenue it draws from the classic strip. But we don’t expect it to stray to far from its roots: Charles Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan have signed on as screenwriters.