By Peter Ward August 19, 2016
Aetna Threatened Obamacare Withdrawal Over Merger
Health insurance giant Aetna announced on Monday that it was scaling back its participation in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The company blamed the withdrawal on losses it was incurring on the Obamacare health insurance exchange, but an article by the Huffington Post published on Wednesday reveals the move was also related to the Department of Justice decision to block a lucrative merger between Aetna and rival Humana.
A letter from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini to the Department of Justice, obtained by the Huffington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that Aetna warned the Obama administration that it would be foreced to withdraw from most, or all, of its Obamacare markets if the government blocked the merger.
The DoJ had initially written to Bertolini to ask if the merger decision would have any effect on Aetna’s willingness to offer insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. The CEO’s answer was blunt.
“[I]f the deal were challenged and/or blocked we would need to take immediate actions to mitigate public exchange and ACA small group losses. Specifically, if the DOJ sues to enjoin the transaction, we will immediately take action to reduce our 2017 exchange footprint,” Bertolini wrote.
The withdrawal of Aetna and looming rate increases from other large health insurance companies have jeopardized the future of Obamacare, a subsidized system of health insurance plans.
Walmart’s Crime Wave
Wal-Mart may be one of the biggest retail companies in the U.S., but its stores are also some of the country’s most notorious crime hotspots, according to an in-depth article published in Bloomberg’s Businessweek this week.
Police reports from dozens of Walmart stores suggest that hundreds of thousands of petty crimes will have been committed on the company’s properties across the U.S. this year, but that is only part of the problem. More than 200 violent crimes, including attempted kidnappings, stabbings, shootings and murders, have occurred in Walmart stores so far this year.
In June a SWAT team killed a hostage taker in Texas, and in July three employees in Florida were charged with manslaughter after a shoplifter they chased and pinned down died of asphyxia. A more bizarre crime was reported in October, when police found a meth lab inside a drainage pipe under a Walmart parking lot in Amherst, New York.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillion has made reducing crime at Wal-Mart stores a top priority. The company has introduced a policy where first time offenders caught stealing items below a certain value can avoid arrest if they agree to go through a theft-prevention program, as a way to reduce police call outs. Walmart is also installing cameras at eye-level in high-theft areas like cosmetics sections, and is stationing employees at self-service checkouts. At some of the stores with higher crime rates, off-duty police and private security officers have been hired.
Uber to Launch Self-Driving Cars Next Month
Self-driving cars may arrive on our roads sooner that expected. For the first time, Uber will allow users to hail self-driving cars later this month, Bloomberg’s Businessweek reported this week.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the launch would be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at first the vehicles will be supervised by a driver, who will be able to take control of the car if necessary. Uber eventually hopes to replace all of its one million drivers with self-driving cars, according to the article.
In Pittsburgh customers will be randomly paired with driverless cars via the Uber app, and trips will be free rather than charged at the local rate of $1.30 per mile. Kalanick says that prices for driverless Uber cars will drop in the long run, so that even for long trips in rural areas they will be cheaper than driving in a private car.
Uber’s fleet of driverless cars in Pittsburgh, which are only semi-autonomous, will consist of modified Volvo XC90 sports-utility vehicles, using dozens of sensors, cameras, lasers, radar and GPS receivers. Uber and Volvo signed a deal this year to spend $300 million to develop fully autonomous cars that will be on the roads by 2021.
The race to bring driverless cars to the roads is heating up. Ford announced this week that it will have a fleet of autonomous cars on the road by 2021 also, and that its vehicles will be available for ride-sharing.
Chinese Movie Distributor’s Stock Surge
Want to know how big movie companies have become in China? The country’s biggest movie distributor’s performance on the Shanghai Stock Exchange tells part of the story, a data-driven article by Quartz published on Wednesday explains.
China Film Co., a distribution arm of the state-owned China Film Group, listed shares on the stock exchange on August 9 after raising $628 million in an IPO. The shares were initially priced at 8.92 yuan ahead of the offering, but jumped to 12.84 yuan after the first day’s trading. Each day since then, the stock has risen 10% – the maximum allowed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The stock has now surged 180% since its IPO.
China Film Co. has exclusive rights to foreign movies, and has a 58% share of the nation’s overall movie distribution market. One graphic shows the meteoric rise of the company’s stock listing over the past ten days, and another illustrates China’s growing movie market in comparison with that of the U.S.
Data from research firm EntGroup shows that the Chinese movie market is set to overtake its American counterpart next year, despite box office sales in China dropping 15%.
This Week’s Top Headlines
Cisco Plans to Cut 5,500 Workers – Don Clark, The Wall Street Journal
Univision expands digital reach with Gawker deal – Roger Yu, USA Today
French jobless rate falls below 10 percent for first time since 2012 – Michel Rose, Reuters
Why Big Solar and environmentalists are clashing over the California desert – Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
Brexit concerns behind Federal Reserve decision not to raise interest rates in July – Jana Kasperkevic, The Guardian
Wal-Mart Earnings Trump Target, E-Commerce Is King – Lee Munson, Forbes
China to restrict North Korea’s Air Koryo after emergency landing – Andreas Illmer, BBC
Uber files legal challenge to incoming rule changes in London – Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch
Target says low demand for Apple products hurts electronics sales – Nandita Bose, Siddharth Cavale, Reuters
Comments are closed.