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Furloughed federal workers may lose some health benefits: US senators

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Four U.S. senators expressed concern on Wednesday that federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown could lose their dental and vision health insurance benefits if they are unable to pay their premiums.

In a letter to the government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said forcing workers to pay the premiums during the shutdown would be “unacceptable.”

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Some 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or are working without pay since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, after Republican President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress deadlocked over his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall with Mexico.

With no paychecks and thus no payroll deductions, federal workers subject to the shutdown will miss paying their vision and dental premiums. OPM has said workers would start receiving bills for the premiums depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

“We are alarmed that unpaid federal employees will be required to incur this additional financial hardship during a time when they can least afford it,” the senators said.

The senators said some insurers were willing to allow workers to continue coverage without payment and urged OPM to work with all insurers to help employees maintain their coverage.

The states the senators represent – Virginia for Warner and Kaine and Maryland for Cardin and Van Hollen – have a large population of federal workers. Many of those affected by the shutdown have turned to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support, or have sought new jobs.

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OPM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney


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McDonald’s workers shut down restaurant after being told to wear masks made from ‘dog diapers’

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Employees of a California McDonald's went on strike this Tuesday after allegedly being told to wear masks made out of dog diapers, The Mercury News reports.

The strike involved 22 workers and effectively shut down the Oakland restaurant after they didn't show up for work on Tuesday. The workers are demanding a two-week quarantine period, company-paid medical costs, and a deep cleaning of the restaurant.

At least four workers tested positive for coronavirus within the past week, with three of those workers exhibiting symptoms. Family members of those tested positive also became infected.

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Trump goes on a gross trolling spree with 100,000 dead and 39 million out of work — and his fanboys love it

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Memorial Day weekend will likely be remembered by history as one marked by unimaginable tragedy. The official count of people dead from COVID-19 approached 100,000 — a milestone that will surely be passed on Tuesday or Wednesday — and the actual death toll is likely much higher. The weekend kicked off with new reports of soaring unemployment, putting the number of Americans who have filed benefit claims at 38.6 million, nearly one of every four workers in the United States.

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India's top biomedical research body on Tuesday backed the use of the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a preventive against coronavirus, after the WHO suspended clinical trials of the drug over safety concerns.

The endorsement from the Indian Council of Medical Research came a week after US President Donald Trump said he was taking the drug as a preventative measure.

Observational and case control studies in India showed there were "no major side effects" of taking the drug as a prophylactic, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said.

Cases of nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations were noted, he added.

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