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Category: Business

Actuarial Study Predicting Soaring Health Care Costs Failed to Disclose Industry Ties

A study produced by the Society of Actuaries predicted medical claim costs could jump 32 percent nationally by 2017 for individual policies under the Affordable Care Act. The research study was widely written about in the press, including The Daily News.

Kaiser Health News and Politico Pro are now reporting the study failed to note the close ties between the actuaries making the forecasts and the insurance industry.

“Undisclosed in the SOA report was the fact that about half the people who oversaw it work for the health insurance industry that is warning about rate shock. The chairman of society committee supervising the project was Kenny Kan, chief actuary at Maryland-based CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield,” Kaiser Health News and Politico Pro reported.

Optum, the sister company of UnitedHealthcare, performed the research for the study. UnitedHealthcare is the nation’s largest private health insurer, the news organizations jointly reported.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act pointed out that the actuary society’s study failed to factor in the potential for competition to lower prices and the subsidies people will receive to purchase coverage.

Arkansas Medicaid Expansion Alternative Clears State Legislature

Arkansas lawmakers in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature last week endorsed a plan to accept federal Medicaid money under the Affordable Care Act, but to use the new money to buy private insurance for eligible residents.

The Obama administration and federal officials haven’t approved the Arkansas plan, but the outcome is sure to be closely watched in Tennessee.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also has said he will not expand TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Haslam favors a model similar to the one proposed in Arkansas: the state would use federal funds to purchase private insurance for residents who can’t afford it. Ohio also is seeking permission from the Obama administration to pursue a similar option.

The TennCare expansion would have covered an estimated 140,000 of the state’s 1 million uninsured residents, the Associated Press reported. Haslam has said leveraging federal dollars to purchase private insurance will insure 175,000 state residents.

FedEx Wins $10.5 Billion U.S. Postal Service Contract

FedEx Corp. said today it won a $10.5 billion contract to provide domestic air transportation services for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Memphis-based shipping giant had previously warned that the contract could be transitioned to another provider, like rival UPS, and that the terms and conditions of the new arrangement could be “less favorable” than the current contract, which expires in September 2013. The new contract begins in October 2013.

FedEx will keep the Postal Service contract to provide airport-to-airport transportation of Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail for another seven years.

“Following a rigorous evaluation of technical aspects, pricing, and other factors in the proposals, the Postal Service determined that the FedEx proposal represented the best value,” the agency said in a prepared statement.

The new deal allows for service improvements, capacity flexibility and other operational benefits, the Postal Service said.

FedEx says it expects Postal Service bid decision “shortly”

FedEx Corp. said it expects a decision “shortly” from The U.S. Postal Service on whether it will continue providing domestic air transportation services for its First-Class, Priority and Express Mail services.

The Memphis-based shipping giant disclosed that it anticipates a contract announcement soon in its most recent quarterly regulatory filing.

The U.S. Postal Service has solicited proposals for the delivery of these services after FedEx Express’ current contract ends in Sept. 2013. FedEx warned that the services could be transitioned to another provider, and that even if the Memphis-based company does retain the contract, the terms and conditions of the new arrangement may be “less favorable.”

FedEx also said that any changes in the Postal Service’s operations, network, services offerings or pricing could have an adverse result on FedEx’s financial results. Because the independent government agency is both a customer and a vendor for FedEx, the Postal Service’s financial struggles could also have an adverse impact on FedEx.

The Postal Service has said it could run out of money if Congress does not allow it to change its business model and increase profitability. Yesterday, The Postal Service said it would not end Saturday delivery of first-class mail, citing Congressional opposition.

Memories of CNBC Anchor Mark Haines (1946-2011)

Mark Haines, CNBC’s likeable curmudgeon of an anchor, died this week.

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange observed a spontaneous moment of silence Wednesday.

Tributes poured in from around the nation’s business community, including from the likes of the chairman of Boeing and from former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan .

Memphis financial advisor David Waddell was interviewed by Haines on CNBC. Waddell said “he was a very good interviewer and never let you get away with an unsubstantiated comment … I really appreciated his integrity.”

Chris Low, chief economist for FTN Financial (a unit of Memphis-based First Tennessee Bank), is interviewed frequently in the financial press. In a note sent to his email list Thursday morning, Low said his first TV appearance many years ago was with Haines on the CNBC show “Squawk Box.”

“Impeccably dressed above the desk in a blue suit jacket, white shirt and solid tie, Mark was wearing faded blue jeans and scuffed basketball sneakers under it,” Low said. “He was as tough with me as he was with any of his guests, but he also recognized the deer in the headlights fear in my eyes, because, before we went on air, he told me to relax.

“Then he said, ‘I’m going to come at you hard, but if you believe in your forecast, come right back at me. That’s good TV. Don’t take it personally, and don’t worry about hurting my feelings.’ It was just the right thing to say to a rookie, and was typical of the man. I will miss him.”

Dansette

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