Trump vows premiums will fall, but these Obamacare insurers want big hikes for 2018

President Trump may promise that health insurance will get cheaper, but that’s not stopping insurers from asking for big premium hikes for next year.

Insurers are starting to file their 2018 rate requests with state regulators, and the initial results aren’t pretty. Maryland and Virginia just released what carriers want to charge consumers on the states’ Obamacare exchanges.

It’s still early in the process, and regulators likely won’t approve increases as large as the companies are requesting. But the filings show that some carriers continue to struggle with costly patients — even after many jacked up rates for 2017 — and with the uncertainty emanating from the White House and Congress.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is looking for an average rate increase of 52% for its individual market plans in Maryland, said spokesman Michael P. Sullivan. It also requested hikes of 35% in Virginia and 29% in Washington D.C. It has a total of 215,000 customers in the individual market, making it the dominant carrier in the individual market in the mid-Atlantic region.

The company said it needs to boost its rates substantially to insure its policyholders, who are older and sicker than it expected.

“The cost of covering this population has risen dramatically… which reflects their substantial health care needs — often of a chronic nature,” Chet Burrell, CareFirst’s CEO, said in a statement.

Also, the insurer is concerned that the Trump administration and Congress will kill Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty. This provision is designed to draw healthier people into the exchanges. The Republican bill to repeal Obamacare, which passed the House on Thursday, calls for eliminating the mandate immediately.

“Failure to enforce the individual mandate makes it far more likely that healthier, younger individuals will drop coverage and drive up the cost for everyone else,” Burrell said.

CareFirst also issued a dire warning, saying it has already racked up $500 million in losses since the exchanges opened in 2014 and expects that figure to grow to $600 million by the end of this year. Such losses jeopardize its own long-term financial stability, he said.

Burrell also urged federal officials to let insurers know whether the government will continue paying them the cost-sharing subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income enrollees.

Other insurers in Maryland are also asking for hefty premium hikes. Cigna has requested a 37% increase, on average, Evergreen Health a 28% boost and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan an 18% jump.

In Virginia, Cigna wants to raise rates by an average of 45%, while HealthKeepers, an affiliate of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is looking for an 38% increase.

Some carriers are asking for more modest boosts. Piedmont Community HealthCare is seeking an average increase of 10%, while Optima Health Plan wants to raise rates 11% and Kaiser 15%.

Virginia has a rather robust Obamacare exchange, but it did lose two insurers for 2018. UnitedHealth and Aetna, which also offered policies under its joint venture Innovation Health, withdrew. Aetna cited growing losses in its individual market products.

These rate requests cover all the policies that the insurers offer in the marketplace so it is difficult to compare them across the board and to prior years’ filings. Also, they are not comparable to the nationwide average increase of 22% for the benchmark silver plan for 2017.

Officer responds to girl stealing $2 shoes for her sister

It was Atlanta police officer Che Milton’s first week on the job when the call came in: Head on over to the neighborhood dollar store where someone was trying to shoplift a pair of shoes.

The suspect, he found out, was only 12. And the shoes she was trying to steal were a mere $2.

Between tears, the girl told Milton how even a $2 pair was too much for her family to afford and that she was just trying to do something nice for her 5-year-old sister.

This is where this story takes a turn, where it goes from an officer responding to a crime to his entire department banding together to help a little girl.

What he saw

Milton asked the girl to show him where she lived. She took him to a small house in a rough part of town.

The home was bereft of furniture. Sheets lay on the floor where a bed would normally go.

Her mom, balancing one child on her hip, was trying to tidy up.

She told Milton theirs was a family of seven: mom, dad and five children.

She explained that her husband worked a lot and she stayed home. She couldn’t work because she couldn’t afford daycare for the little kids.

“I saw the conditions. There was no food in the house and the kids were there,” Milton said.

Milton went to a nearby pizza shop and picked up four large pies. He went back to the house and dropped it off.

That was in February and Milton’s gone back a couple of times, dropping off diapers or clothes or checking up on them.

“I have made mistakes in my life also,” he says. He knew he wanted to help.

What happened next

Soon after the shoplifting incident, when Milton’s sergeant called him in, he thought he was in trouble.

It was the opposite.

The department heard about the little girl and decided to share her story.

The support was overwhelming. It received numerous calls to help the family.

And soon, it will post clothing sizes of the children on its Facebook page so people can help donate.

“The way that Officer Milton handled this incident showed that not only is he here to enforce the law but also to go the extra mile and be a bigger part of the community he is policing,” the department told CNN.

Immigrants In Georgia Detention Centers Hunger Strike For Medical Care, Instead Receive Solitary Confinement

“When I requested medical care, sometimes no one would reply. I was not given medical care until ICE later approved it. When I reached out for medical help, I was placed in solitary confinement.” Continue reading

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Warren Buffett says he dumped a third of his IBM stock

Warren Buffett, IBM’s largest shareholder, has dumped about a third of his stock in the blue-chip tech company.

Buffett disclosed the sale in an interview with CNBC. He said he started selling the shares once the price rose above $180 a share.

“I don’t value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying,” he said. “I think if you look back at what they were projecting and how they thought the business would develop, I would say what they’ve run into is some pretty tough competitors.”

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owned 81.2 million shares of IBM as of Dec. 31, roughly an 8% stake.

He said he sold the stock in the first and second quarters. He has not spelled out the details in SEC filings but is due to update his holdings later this month. He could also comment further at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.

IBM stock fell 2.4% in premarket trading to $155. It had already lost 13% since closing at $181.95 in early March.

Spanx founder: It’s fun to make money — and to give it away

Spanx founder Sara Blakely is not only good at making money — she prides herself at giving it away, too.

Blakely’s slimming bodywear made her America’s youngest woman to become a self-made billionaire, according to Forbes. And in 2013, she notched another first: becoming the first female billionaire to join The Giving Pledge, a campaign founded by Warren Buffett and Melinda and Bill Gates, through which the mega-rich pledge to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

“I always say it’s so much fun to make money. It’s fun to spend, it’s fun to give away,” Blakely told CNN’s Poppy Harlow in a new Boss Files podcast. “I donate my money back to women and I do that because it’s a pay-it-forward feeling.”

Since signing the pledge, her Sara Blakely Foundation has donated money and other resources to nonprofits like the Malala Fund, Women for Women International and Rainbow Village, a transitional housing community for homeless families in Atlanta. Her philanthropic endeavors also include The Belly Art Project, which raises money for Christy Turlington’s Every Mother Counts initiative.

Blakely launched Spanx in 1998 with just $5,000 out of her Atlanta apartment. Today, Forbes estimates Blakely is worth more than $1.1 billion. Blakely said she is still self-funded and owns 100% of the business.

“Nobody gave me any money and I also really didn’t understand that [venture capital] world,” said Blakely, “I did not understand how people raise money. I didn’t know anything about the undergarment industry. I just trusted my gut.”

Blakely was 27 years old and selling fax machines door-to-door when she cut the feet out of her pantyhose to provide a smooth look under a pair of white pants. She patented it almost immediately, called manufacturing plants and begging them to make a prototype for her. She taught herself about the hosiery business by reading about it online.

“I’m a believer of starting small, thinking big, and scaling fast,” said Blakely.

In the world of startups, Blakely is a rarity. Venture capitalists invested $58.2 billion in U.S. companies with all-male founders in 2016. Meanwhile, women received just $1.46 billion in funding last year, according to PitchBook, a database of private equity, mergers, acquisitions and venture capital deals.

Blakely credits her success to getting comfortable with failure and rejection early on in her career. After “failing” the LSAT law exam twice, she applied to work at Walt Disney World. She tried out for Goofy. But at 5’6′, she didn’t hit the height requirement, and became a ride attendant instead. Shortly afterward, she began making a living selling fax machines, where she was met with rejection on an almost daily basis.

“I just remember thinking ‘I’m in the wrong movie. Like, how did this happen? This is not my life?'” said Blakely. “I literally said out loud, ‘Call the director, call the producer. Cut. This is not right.'”

Blakely said the sales skills she acquired in her cold-calling days helped her get Spanx off the ground. The inventor stood in department stores nearly every day for two years talking to sales associates and customers to sell her shapeware products. When Oprah Winfrey named Spanx her favorite product of the year, the publicity catapulted.

“I ensured my own success. I was never going to allow my success to be in the hands of anybody else along the way. It meant I had to work like you cannot believe, but that’s what I found it took,” said Blakely.

The brand now has a cult-like following and can be found worldwide in more than 50 countries. The business has diversified and now includes activewear, menswear and maternity.

“The reason why I think I’m still here is because of my obsession with the product and never compromising on the fit and the quality and the results of the product,” said Blakely.

Blakely is now a mother of four kids, all under the age of seven. Scroll through her Instagram feed and you’ll find her working out at the gym with her baby daughter, what she captions “Baby Boot Camp,” or posing with her family at an Easter party and recognizing she’s “accidentally” wearing two different shoes.

“My hat comes off like you cannot believe for mothers that start their entrepreneurial journey as mothers,” Blakely told Harlow, “I compartmentalize my days so that I feel like I can be really present in one bucket and really present in the other.”

So will Hollywood tell Blakely’s story? CNNMoney hears there is interest.

“People have reached out to me on and off for the last 10 years wanting to do something big like that and I’ll just say that it feels more right now than any other time,” said Blakely, “And really about it just inspiring and, and motivating other women.”

Whitewashing An Extremist Kingdom: Corporate Pundits Shill For Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has benefited from its cozy relationship with the United States for decades, receiving funding and arms despite its horrific human rights track record. Mainstream media outlets continue to lavish praise on the kingdom while largely ignoring its misconduct.
Continue reading

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Congressman admits he didn’t read full health care bill before voting

Republican Rep. Chris Collins admitted Thursday that he did not read the full health care bill before voting for it.

“I will fully admit, Wolf, I did not. But I can also assure you my staff did. We have to rely on our staff,” Collins told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”

The New York lawmaker said he had several meetings to discuss how this plan would affect Americans and he’s “very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called ‘Obamacare.'”

Blitzer pressed further, “This legislation affects one-fifth of the U.S. economy and millions of millions of Americans. Don’t you think it was important to sit down and read the language of this bill?”

But Collins stuck to his admission and noted he probably wasn’t the only congressman who didn’t read the bill in its entirety.

Collins said, “I have to rely on my staff. And I can probably tell you that I read every word, and I wouldn’t be telling you the truth, nor would any other member. We rely on our staff and we rely on our committees. I’m comfortable that I understand this bill in its entirety, Wolf, without poring through every word. I’m being quite honest, that’s the way it is.”

Earlier in the day, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “every member who voted on this bill had more than enough time to read every aspect of it.” He said that the full bill was less than 200 pages, and the changes made Thursday were about three pages long.

Last-minute amendments were added to the previous bill, and the House voted to make sweeping changes to America’s health care system.

US jobs report: 5 things to know

America’s job market is poised for a rebound after a slowdown in March.

The Labor Department will publish the April jobs report at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Here are five things to know.

1. Jobs set to bounce back in April

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney predict the U.S. economy added 190,000 jobs in April, which would be far better than the 98,000 jobs added in March. The figure for March will be revised on Friday. Experts expect the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.5% — its lowest point in a decade. Wage growth is expected to post a solid 2.6% gain.

2. Trump jobs under the microscope

President Donald Trump has taken credit for adding as many as 600,000 jobs, and the White House has dialed that back to 533,000 jobs. The reality is that since the president has taken office, the jobs survey has been conducted only two times — in February and March. Counting those two months, the economy has added 317,000 jobs during his tenure. April will be Trump’s third jobs report.

This is not to say the administration can take credit or blame for the job market’s performance: These are just the job gains that occur during Trump’s presidency.

3. Manufacturing jobs looking good so far

Trump’s focus on creating more manufacturing jobs seems to be encouraging factory owners. They’ve added 37,000 manufacturing jobs in Trump’s first two reports. The sector lost 32,000 jobs in the same two months last year.

Other factors beyond Trump’s control — such as the value of the U.S. dollar and the strength of the global economy — influence employers’ hiring decisions too. Friday’s report will show if the momentum has continued.

4. The economy is in pretty good shape

Falling unemployment, rising wage growth and strong job gains in recent years have put the U.S. economy in a better spot than it has been. Growth has been slow but consistent for the last eight years.

Growth and employment prospects in the US have been much better than in Europe, the other major advanced economic bloc. US stocks — which is one gauge of the health of the economy — have been in a bull market since 2009.

5. But concerns about jobs persist

Still, the U.S. faces many key issues: millions of “prime age” Americans have left the job market and an unusually high number of workers have part-time jobs but want full-time jobs. While wage growth is picking up, it’s well below where the Federal Reserve would like to see it — 3.5%.