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Blue Cross parent hiked rates after paying out $39 million in bonuses

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California’s Anthem Blue Cross justified its whopping 39 percent insurance premium hike by citing rising medical costs. But, it turns out, its parent company Wellpoint, Inc. has been spending tens of millions on large executive bonuses and fancy retreats.

According to congressional investigators, Wellpoint dished out over $1 million in bonuses to each of 39 executives, and spent at least $27 million on 103 lavish company trips, McClatchy reports.

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The revelation throws something of a wrench into the claim by WellPoint’s president and chief executive officer Angela Braly that the rake hikes were an effort to remain financially solvent, which she said before the House committee.

“Raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do,” Braly said. “But we believe this was the most prudent choice given the rising cost of care and the problems caused by many younger and healthier policyholders dropping or reducing their coverage during tough economic times.”

She claimed the company’s decision was “actuarially sound and in full compliance with all requirements in the law.”

Braly herself was paid $4.01 million in total compensation in 2009. In 2007, however, her total payout was substantially more, at $14.9 million.

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Lawmakers grilled her over the increases, concluding through a series of obtained e-mails and company documents that WellPoint has worked to reduce costs by promoting plans with higher co-pays and cost-sharing, according to The Money Times.

“One question we asked is where does all of this money go?” asked Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) on Wednesday at a House subcommittee hearing. “Corporate executives at WellPoint are thriving, while its policyholders are paying the price.”

The revelation of Blue Cross’s rate hikes has led to controversy and fueled the resurgence of the health care reform debate in Congress, which lawmakers from both parties will hold a lengthy televised meeting about Thursday.

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Saying that Blue Cross’ rate hike signals a failure of states to effectively regulate private insurers, President Obama has called for a federal Health Insurance Rate Authority commission to oversee insurance practices.

The developments come against a bleak backdrop for the already uninsured. Over 45 million in America remain uninsured and medical bankruptcies continue to rise, as the nation’s economic woes threaten to further exacerbate the situation for consumers.

The debate over the Democrats’ reform proposal appears to be in its final stretch. The House and Senate have each approved bills, and Democrats are now working to reconcile the differences and create a package that can pass a final motion and be signed into law.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he’d use a procedural measure called reconciliation in 60 days if a compromise can’t be reached — the procedure would bypass a need to come up with 60 votes in the Senate. Democrats lost their 60th vote after Massachusetts elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.


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Millions around the world joined #ClimateStrike — demanding bold climate action

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Masses of children skipped school Friday to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was "only the beginning" in the fight against environmental disaster.

Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said, in what was billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.

Youngsters and adults alike chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.

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Trump announces new sanctions on Iran — and deploys US troops to the Middle East

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The United States announced Friday that it was sending military reinforcements to the Gulf region following attacks on Saudi oil facilities that it attributes to Iran, just hours after President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Tehran.

Trump said the sanctions were the toughest-ever against another country, but indicated he did not plan a military strike, calling restraint a sign of strength.

The Treasury Department renewed action against Iran's central bank after US officials said Tehran carried out weekend attacks on rival Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, which triggered a spike in global crude prices.

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‘Do a lot of stupid sh*t as quickly as possible’: Ambassador Power breaks down ’The Trump Doctrine’

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The former ambassador to the United Nations explained "The Trump Doctrine" during a Friday evening interview with comedian Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time."

Samantha Power, the author of the new book, The Education of an Idealist, was asked by Maher about the foreign policy mantra of the Obama administration.

"Obama's foreign policy doctrine was famously summarized as 'don't do stupid sh*t," Maher noted. "Trump's, of course, is 'Do stupid sh*t.'"

"Do stupid sh*t as quickly as possible," Power clarified.

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