New health care sign-up goals setWASHINGTON – Facing new challenges to a legacy law, the Obama administration on Wednesday set modest expectations for the president’s final health care sign-up season. The biggest worry: rising premiums and dwindling choices.
Some 13.8 million people are expected to sign up for 2017 coverage, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. That would be an increase of a bit less than 9 percent from the 12.7 million who picked plans during open enrollment for this year.
This year is shaping up to be the most difficult sign-up season since HealthCare.gov launched in 2013 and the computer system froze up. But technology isn’t the issue this time. Premiums are going up by double digits in many communities, and some major insurers have left the program, leaving consumers with fewer choices next year.
U.S. vows to respond to N. Korea attackWASHINGTON – The United States warned Wednesday that any attack on American allies or use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “overwhelming” U.S. response as it sought to reassure close ally South Korea that the U.S. has its back.
The statement by Defense Secretary Ash Carter came as top U.S. and South Korean diplomats and military officials met, weeks after North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test explosion to date and days after its failed test launch of a ballistic missile – one of more than 20 such tests this year.
The flurry of activity has deepened concern over the North’s progress toward having a nuclear warhead it can mount on a long-range missile.
Nations renew talks on Ukraine peaceBERLIN – The leaders of Russia, Ukraine and France gathered in Berlin on Wednesday for four-way talks hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that aimed to revive the stalled peace process in eastern Ukraine. The summit was also expected to touch on Syria and Russia’s role in the conflict there.
Prospects of significant progress on either front looked poor. “We certainly can’t expect miracles” on Ukraine or Syria, Merkel said ahead of the meeting but added that she wants to exhaust every possibility of progress.
Merkel and Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Francois Hollande of France and Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine have met sporadically to discuss eastern Ukraine. Wednesday’s meeting was the first time the four have met in more than a year.