VIDEO: Today's Headline News from Associated Press

OBAMA TALKS UP HEALTH CARE REBATES, LOWER PREMIUMS

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Disputing Republican criticism of his health care plan, President Barack Obama said Thursday the law is working and cutting costs for consumers with insurance company rebates and the promise of lower premiums.

 

At a White House event, Obama drew attention to $500 million in rebates going to nearly 9 million people under a provision of the law he said is holding insurance companies more accountable to their customers.

 

Insurers must spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on medical care or quality improvement, or refund the difference. That's the $500 million consumers are getting in rebates averaging about $100. For Americans who get insurance through their work, the rebates go to their employers to be refunded or used to lower premiums.

 

"If they're not spending your premium dollars on health care, they have to give you some money back," said the president, appearing with a group of health care consumers in the East Room. Obama also noted that some states, ahead of the law's requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance, are anticipating lower premiums because of health insurance marketplaces that are being set up under the law so consumers can comparison shop for the coverage.

 

Among those states are California, Oregon, Washington and New York.

 

Obama made his pitch a day after the Republican-controlled House voted for the 38th time to eliminate, cut funding or scale back the 3-year-old law since the GOP took control of the House in January 2011.

 

GOLDEN YEARS LONGER, HEALTHIER IN HAWAII

 

ATLANTA (AP) -- If you're 65 and living in Hawaii, here's some good news: Odds are you'll live another 21 years. And for all but five of those years, you'll likely be in pretty good health.

 

Hawaii tops the charts in the government's first state-by-state look at how long Americans age 65 can expect to live, on average, and how many of those remaining years will be healthy ones.

 

Retirement-age Mississippians fared worst, with only about 17 1/2 more years remaining and nearly seven of them in poorer health.

 

U.S. life expectancy has been growing steadily for decades, and is now nearly 79 for newborns. The figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate life expectancy for people 65 years old, and what portion will be free of the illnesses and disabilities suffered late in life.

 

"What ultimately matters is not just the length of life but the quality of life," said Matt Stiefel, who oversees population health research for Kaiser Permanente.

 

Overall, Americans who make it to 65 have about 19 years of life ahead of them, including nearly 14 in relatively good health, the CDC estimated.

 

VERIZON TO INTRODUCE INSTALLMENT PLANS FOR PHONES

 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Verizon Wireless, the country's largest cellphone carrier, on Thursday said it's joining AT&T and T-Mobile in providing an installment plan for its phones, aiming to satisfy customers who want to upgrade their devices faster or avoid paying the upfront cost of their phones.

 

The plan, dubbed Edge, will be introduced Aug. 25, and allows the buyer to spread the full retail price of the phone, without subsidies, over 24 months. A buyer who has paid off 50 percent of the cost of the phone can upgrade to a new phone after six months.

 

"We have a lot of customers in the technology edge that want to upgrade sooner than they would under our historical, legacy, subsidy model, if you will. And we have other customers who don't want to pay upfront for the large cost of the phone," Verizon Communications Inc.'s chief financial officer, Fran Shammo, told analysts on a conference call Thursday.

 

Now that nearly every adult American has a cellphone, easy growth in the wireless industry has ended, and carriers are looking to other avenues for growth. One way to do that is to boost phone sales, but most phones are sold at a big loss, so any gains in phone sales under the traditional model are counterproductive. The phone companies subsidize the cost of, for example, an iPhone, by hundreds of dollars to get retail price down to $200.

 

With Edge, Verizon isn't paying a subsidy, and the buyer shoulders the entire cost the phone. That means frequent upgrades help Verizon rather than hurt it. For customers, Edge makes financial sense only if they are unwilling to deal with the hassle of selling their old phones when they want to upgrade to a new device; for those buyers, the trade-in option is convenient.

 

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