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WHITE HOUSE

Rethink rate hike, HHS advises insurer

A Mennonite insurer that wants to charge more for premiums has raised the ire of the Obama administration, which has called the rate hike unreasonable and said it should be repealed.

Nearly three months after the federal government started scrutinizing companies that want to significantly raise premiums, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is urging Pennsylvania-based Everence Insurance to abandon its plan to raise rates by an average of 11.6 percent in the small-group market.

“This sends a message to insurers around the country that the days of unchecked, double-digit increases are over,” Mrs. Sebelius said.

Because the federal government can’t reject rate increases, Everence can proceed with the hike but must publicly justify it on healthcare.gov. The procedure varies by state, however, because a small number do have the authority to prevent insurers from raising rates.

MICHIGAN

Michigan poll shows Romney besting Obama

LANSING, Mich. — A poll of likely Michigan voters shows Mitt Romney beating President Obama in a hypothetical matchup, but two other leading Republicans losing to the president.

The poll released Sunday shows the Michigan-born former Massachusetts governor getting 46 percent compared with 41 percent for Mr. Obama. Mr. The president beats Newt Gingrich, 45 percent to 40 percent, and Herman Cain, 50 percent to 36 percent.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Gingrich offers students Social Security alternative

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich told college students he would let them use their payroll taxes to fund private retirement accounts instead of putting the money into Social Security, if they so desired.

Younger workers could also opt to stay in the Social Security system.

Mr. Gingrich said his proposal would let those workers decide what to do with their money and how to save for retirement. He said private accounts are likely to perform better than Social Security, even in grim economic times.

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