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Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance

Double-digit rate increases are hitting most individual health-insurance plans in Washington state, hurting jobless workers and worrying insurance regulators.

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Carol M. Ostrom, Seattle Times | WA

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Whopping rate increases are coming soon for many people with individual health-insurance policies.

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Most insurers offering individual policies in the state have asked for and been granted rate increases, effective Oct. 1, according to the state's insurance commissioner.

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Regence BlueShield's rate increase — an average 16.5 percent — was one of the highest. It was topped by Asuris Northwest Health, a Regence subsidiary, with an increase of 23.7 percent.

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Group Health Cooperative, the fifth-largest insurer of individuals, was considerably lower, with an 8.2 percent increase. But its newer program, Group Health Options, asked for a 22 percent increase.

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A lot of angry customers are asking why. Fat-cat insurance executives raking in bonuses? Hospitals and docs cranking up prices? Aging boomers insisting on MRIs for every ache? Pricey health-care mandates?

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State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who reviews rate requests, has some answers, but his lips are sealed somewhat — by law. He can't talk about insurers' costs or profit margins.

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Mobile Payment Systems Could Leave Consumers At Risk


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Consumers Union Calls on Regulators to Require Mobile Payment Providers Abide by Strong Consumer Protections

Consumers Union

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Recent news stories have highlighted how consumers in the U.S. soon will be able to pay for products and services with a wave of their smart phones. But while mobile payment technologies may offer a convenient new way to pay for goods and services, consumers could be at risk of losing money when mistakes are made by merchants and processors or as a result of fraud, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

“As mobile payments systems come to the U.S., product providers and regulators need to make sure that they are at least as safe for consumers to use as traditional credit card and debit card payments,” said Michelle Jun, staff attorney for Consumers Union. “It is critical that mobile payment systems are covered by strong rules to protect consumers from losing money because of fraud, processor error or a dispute with a retailer.”

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Less college? First, define your terms

A more educated workforce is a must, but schooling can take various forms.

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Jennifer Godinez and Matt Kane, Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN

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In "Maybe fewer people should go to college'' (Aug. 15), Mitch Pearlstein laid out some key challenges in higher education, especially the problems with soaring college costs and debt, and the inordinate time many students are taking to acquire a four-year degree nowadays.
And it was courageous of Pearlstein to suggest that some current university students from affluent families might not really be motivated or qualified for the demands of traditional four-year colleges.

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Unfortunately, the headline may have implied to many readers that fewer students overall should obtain some form of post-secondary education. That would be about as wrong a signal as one can send on this subject. And it's especially discouraging to the aspirations of our students of color, who need to dramatically improve their higher-education completion rates.

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Maybe fewer people should go to college, Mitch Pearlstein, Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN
Maybe they'd be happier learning a trade. ... Or maybe nothing will change.

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Deregulation, Market Concentration at the Root of Egg Recall

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  • And this is how we get the circumstance that the FDA cannot even recall foods, and has to hope that corporations do it on a voluntary basis.
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  • Proper levels of funding for the agency have languished
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  • Please ask your senators to make recalling unsafe food mandatory.
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David Dayen, FireDogLake

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

Jon Cohn explores the egg recall in greater detail, and comes to a similar conclusion as I did: that it just shows a continuation of e.coli conservatism, particularly the fervor for deregulation that goes back 30 years:

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This is not a story that begins with the administration of George W. Bush. It begins, instead, with the administration of Ronald Reagan. Convinced that excessive regulation was stifling American innovation and imposing unnecessary costs on the public, Reagan’s team changed the way government makes rules.
Prior to the 1980s, agencies like the FDA had authority to finalize regulations on their own. Reagan changed that, forcing agencies to submit all regulations to the Office of Management and Budget, which cast a more skeptical eye on anything that would require the government or business to spend more money. The regulatory process slowed down and, in many cases, the people in charge of it became more skittish.

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There are new egg regulations in place now, implemented this year, but the food safety bill, which would give the FDA authority over recalls, has languished. So has proper levels of funding for the agency.

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Rotten Eggs, Andre Delattre, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)
Please ask your senators to make recalling unsafe food mandatory.

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