- - Monday, November 21, 2011


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has raised the ire of the Obama administration, which has called the rate hike unreasonable and said it should be repealed.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 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.


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.


Lawsuits targeted board, Cain over retirement fund

ATLANTA — Republican Herman Cain served on the board of a Midwest utility company that paid $10.5 million to settle claims it failed to protect the retirement savings of its employees and paid another $26.5 million over claims it manipulated gas prices, potentially embarrassing episodes for a candidate running for president on his business experience.

Mr. Cain sat on the board of directors for Aquila Inc., a Kansas City-based utility, from 1992 until it was acquired in 2008 by Great Plains Energy Inc. Employees alleged in a class-action lawsuit that they were pressured into investing their retirement funds and other savings in company stock.

Employees said Mr. Cain and other company officials should have warned their employees that the stock was becoming increasingly risky as the firm floundered financially.

Mr. Cain denies any wrongdoing and takes credit for helping stave off a corporate bankruptcy.


Romney’s first TV ad timed to president’s visit

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney is going on the air with a television ad timed to coincide with President Obama’s visit to New Hampshire on Tuesday.

The former Massachusetts governor said his first ad of the presidential race will feature Mr. Obama talking about the economy in the state that will hold the first presidential primary in the nation on Jan. 10.

Mr. Romney said the ad will show why he alone is the right person to lead the country.

The Romney campaign also collected some high-profile New Hampshire endorsements, including the state’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who said, “There’s one person in this field who is prepared to lead the United States of America, and that is Mitt Romney.”

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass joined the Romney backers.


Cain will do paper interview; session to be videotaped

CONCORD, N.H. — Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has decided after all to sit for a videotaped interview with New Hampshire’s largest newspaper.

Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, said Mr. Cain’s spokesman called Monday morning and asked whether Mr. Cain could come in next week for an hour-long, videotaped interview.

The change of heart came four days after a planned interview was scrapped about an hour before it was supposed to begin amid disagreements over timing and whether it would be videotaped. The rescheduled interview is set for Dec. 1.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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