Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday where she sought to use the symbolism of a historic landmark to draw parallels to a present-day America that is in need of repairing deepening racial and cultural divides.

The Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "A house divided" speech in 1858 warning against the ills of slavery and where Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in 2007 — served as the backdrop for Clinton as she spoke of how "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Episode 711: Hooked on Heroin

1 hour ago

When we meet the heroin dealer called Bone, he has just shot up. He has a lot to say anyway. He tells us about his career--it pretty much tracks the evolution of drug use in America these past ten years or so. He tells us about his rough past. And he tells us about how he died a week ago. He overdosed on his own supply and his friend took his body to the emergency room, then left.

New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

4 hours ago
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages

Administration Touts Lower-Than-Expected Obamacare Premiums

Sep 25, 2013
Originally published on September 25, 2013 11:42 am

Premiums in the health insurance exchanges set to open next week will be lower than anticipated, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, "premiums nationwide will ... be around 16 percent lower than originally expected," and 95 percent of uninsured people live in a state with average premiums that are lower than expected.

But while the premium "rate shock" that many predicted may not be materializing, there may be other things about the new health plans that consumers may not like that much.

Until now, the only premium information that's been released publicly about the Obamacare exchanges has been for states running their own, and in many, the rates have been lower than expected.

Now, however, the administration has released information for the 36 states where the federal government will operate the new exchanges in full or in part.

"Six in 10 Americans who currently lack insurance will be able to find coverage that costs less than $100 a month," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters in a conference call.

And in some cases, available tax credits can make health insurance really inexpensive. For example, said Sebelius, "Dallas families earning $50,000 a year will be able to buy quality coverage for as little as $26 a month."

One reason for the lower-than-expected premiums is higher-than-expected participation by insurance companies.

All year, it seemed that many insurance companies would stay on the sidelines, at least for this first year of the program. A few states and some counties within states will only have spotty competition. But administration officials say people in the 36 states where the feds are in charge will have an average of 56 different plans to choose from, offered by multiple insurance companies.

And competition is key to those lower rates.

"Parts of the country that have a number of insurers participating and competing for business, are coming in with lower premiums," says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who's been studying the development of the exchanges. "So the market appears to be working."

But it seems that another reason that the rates are lower — at least some of them — is that insurance companies have limited the size of their doctor and hospital networks in some of the cheaper plans.

"The lowest-cost plans are coming in a lot lower than people were predicting, because the networks are coming in with a lot fewer doctors and hospitals than people were predicting," says Robert Laszewski. He's an insurance industry consultant and longtime observer of the health care system.

Because the law requires all insurers to basically offer the same package of benefits, varying the size of the network was about the only tool they had left to try to create a less expensive plan.

"For example, in California, the lowest cost Silver plan is one that has only about half the doctors and hospitals that particular health plan has in their standard employer network," says Laszewski. Silver is the second cheapest plan among bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Laszewski says that for people who are currently uninsured, these more limited network plans will probably be just fine. But for people who have been buying their own insurance, or if they've had employer-provided insurance, they're likely used to having a freer choice of doctors and hospitals. And they're going to find that comes with a price.

"You're going to have to pay $100, $150 a month more than that to be able to get access to those kinds of networks," he said.

Administration officials, however, dispute the idea that consumers will rebel against the plans with the narrower networks. Gary Cohen, the official at HHS who is overseeing the exchanges, told reporters that state insurance officials have a long history of regulating insurers — making sure that their networks have enough doctors and hospitals to provide adequate care.

"They certainly don't want to get a bunch of phone calls from people who have health coverage but can't get health care," he said.

Still, the data released by the administration likely won't settle the premium fight once and for all. The numbers are all averages. The premium individual consumers will pay will depend on where they live, how old they are, number of family members, household income and other variables.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

We're obliged this morning to explain a rule of the United States Senate. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has been speaking all night against Obamacare. But we're told this is technically not a filibuster.

GREENE: Debate is limited, so he cannot talk to death a resolution funding the government past October 1st. The Senate will vote to end debate today, and may pass the measure within a few days.

INSKEEP: But Cruz said he would talk as long as he could stand. By last evening, Senator Cruz was filling time reading a bedtime story to his daughters, who he hoped were watching on C-SPAN at home.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE SESSION)

SENATOR TED CRUZ: (Reading) Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam I Am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

GREENE: Cruz read the story well, but neglected to hold up the Dr. Seuss book so his kids could see the pictures.

It's still not clear exactly how Congress will approve a measure to keep the government running.

INSKEEP: But the Affordable Care Act is considered likely to survive, and the debate continues over its effects. The Obama administration contends the premiums will be lower than expected, but consumers may not like other parts of the plan, as NPR's Julie Rovner reports.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: Until now, the only premium information that's been released publicly about the Obamacare exchanges has been for states running their own. And in many, the rates have been lower than expected. Now, however, the Obama administration has released information for the 36 states where the federal government will operate the new exchanges, in full or in part.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters the news for these states, too, is positive.

SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: In many cases, premiums will cost significantly less than was originally projected.

ROVNER: Nationwide, administration officials say, six in 10 Americans who currently lack insurance will be able to find coverage that costs less than $100 a month. And in some cases, available tax credits can make health insurance really inexpensive. For example, said Sebelius...

SEBELIUS: Dallas families earning $50,000 a year will be able to buy quality coverage for as little as $26 a month.

ROVNER: One reason for the lower-than-expected premiums is higher-than-expected participation by insurance companies. All year, it seemed that many insurance companies would stay on the sidelines, at least for this first year of the program. A few states and some counties within states will have only spotty competition. But administration officials say people in the 36 states where the feds are in charge will have an average of 56 plans to choose from, offered by multiple insurance companies.

Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who's been studying the development of the exchanges, says competition is the key to those lower rates.

LARRY LEVITT: Parts of the country that have a number of insurers participating and competing for business are coming in with lower premiums. So the market appears to be working.

ROVNER: But it seems that another reason that the rates are lower - at least some of them - is that insurance companies have limited the size of their doctor and hospital networks in some of the cheaper plans.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI: The lowest-cost plans are coming in a lot lower than people were predicting because the networks are coming in with a lot fewer doctors and hospitals than people were predicting.

ROVNER: Robert Laszewski is an insurance industry consultant and longtime observer of the health care system. Because the law requires all insurers to basically offer the same package of benefits, he says, varying the size of the network was about the only tool they had left to try to create a less expensive plan.

LASZEWSKI: For example, in California, the lowest-cost Silver Plan is one that has only about half the doctors and hospitals that that particular health plan has in their standard employer network.

ROVNER: Silver being the second-cheapest plan among Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Laszewski says that for people who are currently uninsured, these more limited network plans will probably be just fine. But for people who've been buying their own insurance, or if they've had employer-provided insurance, they're likely used to having a freer choice of doctors and hospitals. And they're going to find that comes with a price.

LASZEWSKI: You're going to have to pay 100, $150 a month more than that to be able to get access to those kinds of networks.

ROVNER: Administration officials, however, dispute the idea that consumers will rebel against the plans with the narrower networks. Gary Cohen, the official at HHS who is overseeing the exchanges, told reporters that state insurance officials have a long history of regulating insurers, making sure that their networks have enough doctors and hospitals to provide adequate care.

GARY COHEN: They certainly don't want to get a bunch of phone calls from people who have coverage but can't get health care.

ROVNER: The data released by the administration likely won't settle the premium fight once and for all. The numbers are all averages. The premium you pay will depend on where you live, how old you are, how much you earn and other variables. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.