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A climate-friendly 401(k) option

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

New proposal to cancel student debt
Top Democrats are again calling on President Biden to cancel student debt, said Aarthi Swaminathan at Yahoo. A bicameral resolution brought by Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth ­Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) is similar to one introduced last year calling on the Trump administration to forgive up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt. Though the move would be unprecedented, Warren has argued that there is "sufficient backing in the law" to allow the new education secretary, Miguel Cardona, to "cancel existing student loan debt" under his statutory authority to modify existing loans. But while Biden supports some debt cancellation — up to $10,000 — he has "stressed he preferred a legislative route" over executive action.

Squeezing cash from crash victims
Hospitals are routinely bypassing the discounts given to insurers to get more money from people injured in auto accidents, said Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg at The New York Times. Instead of charging an accident victim's insurer, the hospitals place a lien — a claim on an asset — on the patient's accident settlement. Hospital lien laws, passed by many states a century ago, were "meant to protect hospitals from the burden of caring for uninsured patients." Today, however, the practice has become so common and lucrative (especially in the case of Medicaid patients) that some hospitals hire "outside debt-collection companies to scour police records for recent accidents" to pursue liens. Some hospitals ask patients to sign waivers "stating they do not want their health plan billed for care" — a practice that left one woman with a $34,106 lien.

A climate-friendly 401(k) option
An investment adviser wants to fight climate change with retirement plans, said Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. Betterment, a "robo-adviser" that builds a portfolio through algorithms, offers a climate-focused 401(k) that goes beyond the "laudable but frankly nebulous" promises of environment, social, and governance (ESG) funds. About half the portfolio in the new offering is invested in exchange-traded funds that exclude oil, gas, and coal extraction. "So Microsoft is here, but no Exxon." The rest is committed to a fund called CRBN, which invests in the companies with the lowest carbon emissions in their sectors. The fund also invests in green bonds that "directly finance climate-friendly investments."

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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