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BREAKING NEWS

Discussing 'a $600 million dessert'

Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013
Discussing
KALAMZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In the days after the State Senate narrowly extended Medicaid coverage to nearly a half-million Michigan residents, it became clear that Senators want poverty-stricken people to help pay for their own health care.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says that by turning down more than a half-billion dollars in Obamacare reimbursements over the first quarter of next year, and then asking poor people to help make up the difference, paints a picture of a remarkably insensitive group of politicians.

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The Michigan Senate Minority Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, explained her Republican colleagues' opposition to medicaid expansion, which is a part of the affordable care act, this way:

"It's because (expansion) is associated with Obamacare and because the tea party in Michigan is the tail that's wagging the dog in this chamber."

And I think she's right.

There is no other logic to the Senate, 26 of whom are Republicans, and 12 are Democrats, in delaying enrollment from January 1st to April 1st.

By doing so they knew full well that they were turning their backs on $7 million a day in federal money to be used for Medicaid.

That's a total of more than $600 million. Six-hundred-million that the state loses.

That's not a number pulled out of the air by some hand-wringing alarmist. It comes from Jim Haveman, the Director of this state's Department of Community Health.

In fact, yesterday he said his estimate may, in fact, be too low.

Republican response? Well, we probably won't get that many enrolled right away, so that figure may be too high.

So what's their best guess? They haven't got one.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who to his credit, helped form the tiny coalition to get the matter through the Senate last week, doesn't even want to talk about it.

"It's like we had this really big dinner," he said. "We got the dinner done and people are going to ask for dessert.
 
“We're going to skip the dessert on this one. We're done. The legislature in total has gone through enough with this issue."

Dessert? He thinks $600 million is dessert? Sounds more like a main course of steak, potatoes, and choice of vegetable for a half-million people to me.

And of course during that same 90 day period state hospitals will continue offering what will amount to roughly a quarter of a billion dollars in expensive emergency room care to poor people.

Much of the cost of that gets picked up by the insured who pay higher premiums, and some of it gets picked up by federal reimbursement. But reimbursements will be reduced as of January 1, because that's ostensibly when people start signing up for Obamacare.

Look, you don't have to be a fan of Obamacare to take the money. Obamacare—even though it's the law of the land—may not work.

But the money is there for the taking. It's just smart government.

Phil Power, a former University of Michigan Regent, now a writer for Bridge Magazine, said yesterday he sometimes wonders if Republican lawmakers in Lansing would even vote against something called "Obamataxcut." Good point.

And then the icing on the cake. The Senate wants poor people, not just the new ones, the ones just above the poverty line, but all of them, to pay 5 percent of their income in copay fees.

So in addition to rent, food, transportation, clothing, and other things they can't afford, they have to fork over 5 percent in copay fees.

After four years it'll go up to 7 percent. Nobody knows how it'll get collected.

But its an intimidating little add-on that'll probably keep any number of qualified people from breaking the door down to enroll.

And those fees, all by themselves, could actually block the Medicaid expansion itself. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Expansion has to approve Michigan's legislation.

And an expert said yesterday she thought the CMS would be taking a close look at Michigan's bill before giving it an okay.

Forget dessert. We may lose the whole enchilada.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on December 19, 2014 18:50 GMT

SONY HACK

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI says it has enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind the hack attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

An FBI statement cites, among other factors, technical similarities between the Sony break-in and past "malicious cyber activity" linked directly to North Korea.

The Sony attack, reported late November, involved the use of destructive malware that caused the studio to take its entire computer network offline and left thousands of computers inoperable.

The breach resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials. It later escalated to terrorist threats that promoted Sony to cancel the Christmas release of the movie "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The FBI statement says North Korea's actions "were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves."

SONY HACK-MESSAGE FROM HACKERS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hackers have sent a new email to Sony Pictures Entertainment, praising the studio as "very wise" to cancel the release of "The Interview" and saying Sony's data is safe "as long as you make no more trouble."

The email was confirmed Friday by a person close to the studio who requested anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The message warned to "never" release the film "in any form," including on DVD. The email was sent to several employees of the Culver City, California company.

The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack.

T-MOBILE-CRAMMING SETTLEMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- T-Mobile US will pay up to $90 million, mostly in refunds, for billing customers for cellphone text services they didn't order, under a settlement with federal regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the agreement Friday with T-Mobile over billing for unauthorized charges, a practice known as "cramming." T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. cellphone company, is paying refunds to affected customers plus $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million in fines to the Federal Communications Commission.

The FTC sued T-Mobile in July, accusing it of billing customers for subscriptions to text services like $9.99-per-month horoscopes or celebrity gossip updates that they didn't want or authorize.

T-Mobile collected 35 percent to 40 percent of the charges, the FTC alleges.

FED-VOLCKER RULE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is criticizing a decision to delay full implementation of a rule that bears his name and aims to curb banks' risky investments.

The Fed said Thursday that it would delay until July 2017 the deadline by which U.S. banks will have to sell off potentially volatile holdings in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.

In a statement, Volcker calls it "striking that the world's leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients" need to take so long to reorganize their own activities.

Volcker says the banks' real aim may be to delay implementation of the law until they can get it changed. Congress passed the Volcker Rule in an overhaul of financial regulations after the 2008 financial crisis.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 41 U.S. states in November and were unchanged in six more, reflecting healthy job gains across the country.

The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in only three states: Connecticut, Louisiana, and Washington state.

Solid economic growth since the spring has encouraged more employers to step up hiring. The U.S. has added nearly 2.7 million jobs this year, the most since 1999. That has lowered unemployment rates in most of the country.

North Dakota's 2.7 percent unemployment rate was lowest in the nation. Mississippi's 7.3 percent rate was the highest.

The biggest job gains occurred in California, which added 90,100 jobs in November, followed by Florida, which gained 41,900. Texas added the third-most jobs, with 34,800.

GAS PRICES

CHICAGO (AP) -- The average price for a gallon of gas has fallen below the $2.50 mark for the first time in about five years. Oil analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com says the price of gas has dropped 41 cents over the last month with the average now at $2.46 a gallon.

According to GasBuddy.com, Texas features the lowest gas price with a station in Keller selling fuel for $1.69.

DeHaan says while the price of gas should continue to fall as the year comes to a close, the rate will not be as dramatic since gas prices have just about matched the steep decline in oil prices.

CHRYSLER-PICKUP RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler is recalling nearly 257,000 older Ram pickup trucks because the rear axle can seize or the drive shaft can fall off.

The recall covers Ram 1500 pickups from the 2005 model year.

Chrysler says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the rear-axle pinion nut can come loose. That can cause problems that make the trucks spin out of control.

The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that began in June.

The agency found 15 complaints, including seven drivers who reported that the wheels locked at speeds over 50 miles per hour. At the time, no crashes or injuries were reported.

Dealers will install a fix at no cost to owners. The recall will begin in February.

CARAMEL APPLES-DEATHS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health officials say prepackaged caramel apples are linked to five deaths and more than two dozen illnesses in 10 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says investigators are trying to determine the specific brands that were involved. But consumers are being warned not to eat prepackaged caramel apples until more is known.

The CDC says it knows of 28 cases in which people were sickened by a form of bacterial food poisoning called listeria, with 26 hospitalized. They got sick between Oct. 17 and Nov. 27. CDC said it's possible other illnesses have occurred since then.

Two of the deaths were in Minnesota, according to state health officials. The CDC said the illnesses also occurred in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

JUNO THERAPEUTICS-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of cancer treatment company Juno Therapeutics Inc. are surging 60 percent in their stock market debut.

Juno genetically engineers a patient's own white blood cells to find and kill cancer cells in the body. It says its clinical trials have shown evidence of tumors shrinking.

The Seattle-based company raised $264.5 million after selling more than 11 million shares at $24 per share. It plans to use the cash raised to continue trials and studies. The stock is listed on the Nasdaq stock market under ticker symbol "JUNO."

EARNS-BLACKBERRY

NEW YORK (AP) -- Blackberry reported an adjusted profit for its fiscal third quarter, surprising Wall Street.

The Canadian company's stock climbed almost 3 percent in Friday premarket trading.

For the period ended Nov. 29, the company lost $148 million, or 28 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $4.4 billion, or $8.37 per share, a year earlier.

Stripping out some charges, earnings were a penny per share.

Analysts polled by Zacks Investment Research predicted a loss of 6 cents per share.

Revenue declined to $793 million from $1.19 billion. Analysts were looking for $927.8 million, according to Zacks.

Blackberry Ltd. said that it continues to target sustainable adjusted profitability some time in fiscal 2016.

AMAZON-MACMILLAN

NEW YORK (AP) -- Another major publisher has reached a multiyear deal with Amazon.com.

Amazon and Macmillan CEO John Sargent confirmed this week that they had agreed to terms for both print and electronic books. The deal will allow Macmillan to set prices for e-books, an arrangement known as the "agency model," and appears similar to agreements Amazon reached in the past two months with Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster. Authors at Macmillan range from Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly.

Both Macmillan and Hachette have had public feuds with Amazon over terms for e-books. In 2010, Amazon briefly removed "Buy' buttons for all Macmillan releases. For months in 2014, the retailer restricted availability and reduced discounts for numerous Hachette books.

THAILAND-US-BUMBLE BEE

BANGKOK (AP) -- Thai Union Frozen Products is acquiring Bumble Bee Seafoods, a major seller of canned tuna in the United States, for $1.5 billion.

The Thai company says Friday that the purchase of Bumble Bee, which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital, should be completed by the second half of 2015,

Its statement said Thai Union has annual sales exceeding 100 billion baht ($3 billion), and San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods generates annual sales of approximately $1 billion.

The Thai company already owns Chicken of the Sea, another major U.S. provider of packaged seafood.

CUBA-CIGARS

MIAMI (AP) -- The Cuban cigar is set to make its first legal appearance U.S. in years, with relaxed guidelines allowing travelers to return with a few in their suitcases. But the cigars won't roll into stores just yet, and owners say they aren't worried about business.

Some tobacco shops owners in Miami's Little Havana say most customers can't afford to travel to Cuba for cigars and won't do so regularly.

Licensed American travelers can return home with $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. Experts say that's three to 20 cigars.

Cigars brought back to the U.S. must be for personal use, not resale. If the U.S. embargo with Cuba is eventually lifted, many tobacconists say they'd welcome the change. They could add Cuban tobacco to their blends, and many believe they interest in cigars would increase.

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