WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is proposing a one-year delay in a feature of the new health care law intended to give workers at small companies health plan choices similar to what employees of large businesses enjoy.
Starting Jan. 1 small companies with up to 100 workers will be able to buy coverage through new health insurance marketplaces called exchanges. These exchanges are the small business version of new markets also opening up for individuals.
As originally envisioned, employees would have been the ones to pick their plans. But now, for the first year, the employer will choose for the entire company.
Officials say the transition period is needed to smooth the introduction of the program.
U.S. manufacturing activity dropped slightly in March
WASHINGTON – A survey shows U.S. manufacturing activity expanded more slowly in March than February, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. But factories hired at the fastest pace in nine months, an encouraging sign ahead of Friday’s report on March employment.
The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of factory activity slipped to 51.3 percent. The index fell from 54.2 percent in February, which was the fastest growth since June 2011.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion. The index has signaled growth for four straight months. But the drop in March growth was bigger than economists expected.
Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to clients that the March decline might be the first sign that companies are worried about federal spending cuts that took effect on March 1.
Analysts unimpressed with Argentina debt plan
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina says its plan for paying $1.4 billion in defaulted debt is fully within the spirit of U.S. court rulings.
But Wall Street analysts say the offer, a mix of new bonds to be paid out over the next 25 years, looks nothing like the letter of the law as the appellate court sees it. They say it boils down to just one-sixth of what Argentina was told to hand over in cash.
Many experts looking over the weekend at what President Cristina Fernandez’s government filed with the court at midnight Friday said a new default by Argentina is now much more likely.
And some are predicting that if Argentina loses, it will try to take its money out of U.S. banks, rather than submit to U.S. justice.
Deep Medicare Advantage cuts now deemed unlikely
Medicare Advantage customers may not see the drastic 2014 benefit cuts or premium hikes that insurers have been warning about after all.
Experts say the popular, privately run versions of the government’s Medicare programs likely won’t have to make big changes to their plans to adjust to government funding next year.
Health insurers had warned about those changes after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in February that it expected the cost it pays per person to fall more than 2 percent next year. CMS said Monday after markets closed that it now expects that rate to climb more than 3 percent.
Dan Mendelson, president of the market analysis firm Avalere Health, says the revised rate will help give Medicare Advantage plans more stability.