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HHS GRANTS EXTRA TIME TO ENROLL FOR HEALTH CARE

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 07:04 Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON (AP) -- People who've started applying for health insurance but aren't able to finish before the March 31 enrollment deadline will get extra time, the Obama administration has announced.

"We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone," Health and Human Services spokesman Aaron Albright said Tuesday.

The White House is scrambling to meet a goal of 6 million signed up through new online markets that offer subsidized private health insurance to people without access to coverage on the job. The HealthCare.gov website got more that 1 million visitors Monday, and the administration also wants to prevent a repeat of website problems that soured consumers last fall.

Officials said the grace period will be available to people on the honor system, meaning applicants will have to attest that special circumstances or complex cases prevented them from finishing by March 31.

It's unclear how long the extension will last. Some have urged the administration to allow until April 15, the tax filing deadline. People who are due refunds may be willing to put some of that money toward health care premiums.

The latest tweak to the health care rollout is certain to infuriate Republican critics of President Barack Obama's signature law. It follows delays of the law's requirements that medium-sized to large employers provide coverage or face fines. The GOP is making repeal of the health care law its rallying cry in the fall congressional elections.

The White House had signaled last week that a grace period of some sort was in the works. Spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that people in line by the deadline would be able to complete their applications. Administration officials argue that's not extending the deadline. They compare it to the Election Day practice of allowing people to vote if they are in line when the polls close.

The decision to grant extra time was first reported late Tuesday by The Washington Post.

The administration's decision affects the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead on sign-ups. The 14 states running their own websites are likely to follow, since some had been pressing for an extension on account of their own technical problems.

Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at the Jackson Hewitt tax preparation firm, welcomed the move.

"The disbursement of tax refunds appears to be making a substantial difference in the willingness and ability of uninsured Americans to sign up for ... coverage," Haile said.

Jackson Hewitt projects the administration can meet the goal of 6 million only if it allows people to keep signing up through April 15.

Enrollment has already crossed the 5 million mark.

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Backes has hat trick as Blues top Leafs 5-3

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 22:18 Published in Sports
 
TORONTO (AP) -- David Backes completed a hat trick with an empty-net goal to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 5-3 victory Tuesday night that sent the Toronto Maple Leafs to their sixth straight loss.
 
T.J. Oshie and former Leafs forward Alex Steen also scored for St. Louis, which passed Boston for the most points in the NHL with 105.
 
Ryan Miller made 21 saves to improve to 32-15-3 in his career against Toronto. The Blues have won 10 of 13 games since acquiring Miller and forward Steve Ott from Buffalo before the trade deadline.
 
Joffrey Lupul, Carl Gunnarsson and James van Riemsdyk scored for Toronto, which dropped out of a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 14, coupled with Washington's shootout loss to Los Angeles.
 
The loss ruined the return of Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier, who made 44 saves in his first game since reinjuring his groin on March 13
 
Bernier helped withstand an early barrage before the Maple Leafs scored first in a game for the first time since March 10 at Anaheim - seven games and six losses ago.
 
With Brenden Morrow in the box for high-sticking, the Leafs' second power-play unit cashed in. After getting robbed by Miller at the side of the net, Nazem Kadri batted the puck out of the air and right to Lupul at the side of the net at 11:30 of the first period.
 
The Leafs' lead didn't last long, as Oshie tipped a shot from Roman Polak down and dived to knock the puck in at 15:55.
 
Had the Leafs been able to keep the score tied at 1 by the first intermission, they might've been able to make it a game. Instead, van Riemsdyk took an ill-advised interference penalty in the final minute to set up a memorable miscue by Phaneuf.
 
With a chance to send the puck down the ice on the penalty kill, Phaneuf wound up twice and held onto it just long enough for Oshie to poke it away. Seconds after the turnover, Backes beat Bernier clean with 32.3 seconds left.
 
The Blues' 23 first-period shots were the most the Leafs have given up this season.
 
Considering that, their second period was a strong improvement. Unlike the first, when they were hemmed in their own zone and needed Bernier to make big save after big save, the Leafs opened things up on the Blues and traded some chances.
 
They couldn't cash in, but the Blues did, as Backes scored his second of the night at 7:32 after a brilliant pass from Alex Pietrangelo.
 
At 17:35, St. Louis added the dagger when Steen beat Phaneuf in a net-front battle and then flipped a back-hand shot past Bernier for his 31st goal.
 
Down 4-1, Pietrangelo turned the puck over to Gunnarsson, who blasted a shot by Miller to cut the deficit to two.
 
Van Riemsdyk added a goal at 15:54 to make it 4-3, Backes' empty-netter sealed it for St. Louis.
 
NOTES: With Bernier back, the Leafs sent G Drew MacIntyre back to the AHL's Toronto Marlies. ... Defenseman Paul Ranger was scratched for the third straight game with a neck injury.

Missouri cashes in on historic redevelopment dollars

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 10:57 Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich says the state's tax credit program for the redevelopment of historic buildings is the largest in the nation. And he says it's also inefficient.
 
An audit released Tuesday said Missouri has redeemed $1.1 billion of historic preservation tax credits during the past decade, making it the largest program among the 30 states with something similar.
 
Schweich says the program has a laudable goal of encouraging the renewal of run-down buildings. But he says it's inefficient, because somewhere between 49 cents and 85 cents of each dollar of tax credits goes toward rehabilitation costs. He says the rest goes toward taxes, investors and brokers.
 
Schweich released a similar audit two weeks ago criticizing Missouri's low-income housing tax credit as inefficient and among the costliest nationally.
 

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