Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In the News—April 2013

In a CVS Caremark-type move, the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) has announced that effective July 1, 2013, it will no longer hire tobacco users. UPHS says it wants to promote a more healthy workplace and reduce healthcare costs. The company's website states, “In addition, during our UPHS annual Open Enrollment, employees will be required to complete an attestation regarding their spouse and/or dependents' use of tobacco products if they are participating in the UPHS health care benefit plan.” Who is “they” I wonder? The employee? The employee’s dependent? If the employee doesn’t smoke but someone else in the household does, will that be a problem? The website also states “Plan participants who are not actively enrolled in a smoking cessation program or using NRT can expect to pay a higher premium for their health care benefit.”

Craft store Hobby Lobby is preparing to argue its case against an Obamacare mandate in front of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal sometime this spring. Store owners have declared that paying for employees’ use of Plan B and Ella One contraceptives would be a violation of their religious beliefs.

Speaking of President Obama, he has promised to return five percent of his salary, retroactive to March 1 and effective through the end of the fiscal year, to the Treasury as a gesture of solidarity to federal workers whose wages are scheduled to be affected by the sequester. That five percent amounts to roughly $20,000.

A couple in the UK, Mick and Mairead Philpott, have been convicted of manslaughter for deliberately setting a fire that killed six of the couple’s children, aged five to thirteen. The couple and a family friend had planned to set the fire, rescue the children, and then blame Mick Philpott’s ex-girlfriend, thereby gaining custody of four other children whom Philpott had fathered. However, the blaze got out of control, and the children tragically perished.

Actor Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native, and his business partners have invested in a chain of New Orlean grocery stores, Sterling Farms, to combat the phenomenon known as “food deserts.” A “food desert” is an area in which residents have to travel more than a mile to purchase fresh food. Such areas are particularly troublesome for poor residents who are less likely to have access to a mode of private transportation. Pierce, who has a history of activism, said that food education is part of his mission in developing these full-service grocery stores.

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