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

Employers Trim Health Costs By Cutting Coverage For Spouses

Sep 19, 2013
Originally published on September 19, 2013 10:05 am

When UPS told workers that it would no longer offer health coverage for spouses who had their own job-based insurance, it caused a big stir. But the shipping giant has plenty of company.

So many employers are trying to cut back on health coverage for spouses that it has become a trend. The practice began well before the Affordable Care Act passed, and the connection to the law, in some cases, isn't that direct.

About 12 percent of employers have this provision in their policies, says Tracy Watts, who heads the health care reform team at Mercer, a benefits consulting firm.

Mercer surveyed employers who have some sort of restriction on health coverage of spouses, and found that about half of those employers, or 6 percent, have imposed a surcharge for spouses who could get coverage at their own jobs.

"The other 6 percent exclude spouses who have coverage elsewhere," Watts says. That's the approach UPS is taking.

So is the University of Virginia. Susan Carkeek, the university's head of human resources, says the decision was mostly about simple arithmetic.

"When medical expenses go up, which they have for us, then we have two choices: We can either increase premiums, or we can reduce what we pay out in the way of benefits," Carkeek says.

Carkeek says the decision was tangentially related to the health law, because every company's health plan is going to pay some extra costs associated with new fees and other requirements next year. But the connection to the Affordable Care Act is slight.

"The tendency has been to attribute all these changes to the ACA, but we would have been facing all of these changes anyway," she says.

And why are employers targeting coverage of spouses in particular?

"Spouses cost more [than the employees]," Watts says. "They cost about $1,500 a year more."

It's not entirely clear why, but generally spouses covered on employer plans are either wives who are younger and have maternity claims, or husbands who are older and have chronic conditions.

"Women incur more claims when they are younger, and men tend to incur more claims when they are older," Watts says.

Employers have known this for a while, and the idea of charging workers more to cover their spouses is hardly new, says Julie Stone, a consultant with the benefits firm Towers Watson.

"A decade ago a number of employers were looking at spouse surcharges for employee spouses who declined coverage with their employer," she says.

Stone says the idea lost popularity for a while, but now it's making a comeback. She says there's actually a quirk in the health law that allows for it.

"Employers are not required to offer spouses coverage at all," Stone says. "They're required to offer dependent children, but not spouses."

But she says a wholesale dropping of coverage for spouses — even if those spouses could now get coverage through the new health care exchanges — isn't what seems to be happening.

"We're not seeing employers saying, 'I'm not going to change my plan rules, and I'm not going to cover spouses,' " she says. "The surcharge and the concept of a penalty for spouses who choose to opt out of their own employer coverage — that's not related to the health care reform law at all."

The bottom line, say benefit experts, is that with health costs continuing to rise, employers are trying to make sure they're running their health benefits programs as leanly as possible. And, for some, that means, not paying the claims of other employers' workers.

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Pretty much anything that happens in health care these days is being blamed on, or occasionally credited to the Affordable Care Act. But is every new healthcare development decision really the direct result of the huge health care law? The latest trend in employer health plans is trying to cut back on the coverage of spouses, for instance, and this began well before the health care law passed. The connection is not always direct. NPR's Julie Rovner reports.

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: When UPS announced last month that it would no longer offer coverage for spouses who had their own job-based insurance, it certainly caused a stir. But UPS is far from alone.

TRACY WATTS: It's about 12 percent overall of employers that have this provision.

ROVNER: Tracy Watts heads the National Healthcare Reform team at benefits consultant Mercer. She's talking about a survey Mercer did of employers who have some sort of restriction on health coverage of spouses. She says about half of those employers, or six percent, have imposed a surcharge for spouses who could get coverage at their own jobs.

WATTS: And the other six percent exclude spouses who have coverage elsewhere.

ROVNER: Which is what UPS is doing. So is the University of Virginia. Susan Carkeek is the University's Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer. Carkeek says the decision was mostly about simple arithmetic.

SUSAN CARKEEK: When medical expenses go up, which they have for us, then we have two choices: We can either increase premiums or we can reduce what we pay out in the way of benefits.

ROVNER: Carkeek says the decision was tangentially related to the health law, because every health plan is going to pay some extra costs associated with the new fees and other requirements next year. But mostly not.

CARKEEK: The tendency has been to attribute all these changes to the Affordable Care Act, but we would have been facing all of these changes anyway.

ROVNER: And why are employers targeting coverage of spouses in particular? Mercer's Tracy Watts says that's pretty simple, too.

WATTS: Spouses cost more. They cost about $1500 a year more.

ROVNER: It's not entirely clear why, but generally spouses covered on employer plans are either wives who are younger and have maternity claims, or husbands who are older and have chronic conditions.

WATTS: Women incur more claims when they are younger, and men tend to incur more claims when they are older.

ROVNER: But employers have known this for a while, and the idea of charging workers more to cover their spouses is hardly new says Julie Stone. She's with the benefits firm Towers Watson.

JULIE STONE: A decade ago a number of employers were looking at spouse surcharges for employee spouses who declined coverage with their employer.

ROVNER: Stone says the idea lost popularity for a while but now it's making a comeback. She says there's actually a quirk in the health law that allows for it.

STONE: Employers are not required to offer spouses coverage at all. They're required to offer dependent children, but not spouses.

ROVNER: But she says a wholesale dropping of coverage for spouses - even if those spouses could now get coverage though the new health care exchanges - isn't what seems to be happening.

STONE: We're not seeing employers saying OK, I'm going to change my plan rules and I'm not going to cover spouses. The surcharge and the concept of a penalty for spouses who choose to opt out of their own employer coverage, that's not related to the health care reform law at all.

ROVNER: The bottom line, say benefit experts, is that with health costs continuing to rise, the trend seems to be more that employers are trying to make sure they're running as lean a health benefits program as they can, while not paying the claims of other employers' workers. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.