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Health Bill Would Cost $829b, Help Cover 94 Pct

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Democrats are heaving a sigh of relief after a positive cost report on health care overhaul gave them a chance to rally around a Senate plan that significantly expands coverage while trimming the federal deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the latest version of the Senate Finance Committee proposal would expand coverage to 94 percent of all eligible Americans at a 10-year cost of $829 billion.

The budget umpires added that the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $81 billion over a decade and could lead to continued reductions in federal red ink in the years beyond.

But the middle-of-the-road plan still leaves about 25 million people uninsured when fully phased in, in 2019. Of those, nearly 17 million would be U.S. citizens or legal residents. Nearly 50 million U.S. residents now lack coverage.

The White House hailed the report as proof of what President Barack Obama has insisted all along. “The analysis confirms that we can provide stability and security for Americans with insurance and affordable options for uninsured Americans without adding a dime to the deficit — and saving money over the long term,” said spokesman Reid Cherlin.

Conservative Democrats were upbeat. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, a spokesman for the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said he was encouraged that the Finance bill would cut the deficit and indicated that he’d like to see the House bill move in the same direction.

Republicans — with the exception of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — panned the Finance effort.

“A celebration of the deficit effects masks who pays the bills,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee. “This package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and fees. Most Americans with health insurance will see their premiums increase.”

Snowe, a member of the Finance Committee, told reporters she needs time to review the latest estimates. That the overall cost of the plan is lower than an earlier version is positive, she said.

The report clears the way for Finance to vote as early as next week on the legislation. Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., the principal architect of the measure, took to the Senate floor to announce the estimates within moments of receiving them.

“This legislation, I believe, is a smart investment on our federal balance sheet. It’s an even smarter investment for American families, businesses and our economy,” he said.

Finance is the fifth and last of the congressional panels to debate health care. The Baucus plan has a decided centrist flavor, shunning any provision for the government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. That provision, strongly favored by many Democrats and just as strongly opposed by Republicans, is still alive in proposed House versions of the legislation.

The Finance bill does not require businesses to offer coverage to their workers, either, although large firms that do not would be required to offset the cost of any government subsidies going to those employees.

While generally positive about the legislation’s effects, the budget office report contained important caveats.

One noted that the estimate does not include the costs of proposed payment increases for doctors serving Medicare patients, roughly $200 billion through 2019. Additionally, a so-called fail-safe mechanism to hold spending in line could result in cuts as large as 15 percent in federal subsidies designed to help the poor afford insurance, CBO said.

Beginning in 2013, Americans would be required to get health insurance, through an employer or a government program or by buying it themselves. Failure to obey the requirement would result in penalties of up to $750 per family.

The plan would set up a new insurance marketplace for consumers to compare and shop for a plan. Federal subsidies would be provided to millions of individuals and families to help defray the cost of coverage that would otherwise be out of their reach. The alternative to government-sold health care, a proposal for nonprofit co-ops that would compete with private companies, was judged largely ineffective by budget officials. Such arrangements “seem unlikely to establish a significant medical presence in many areas of the country,” they wrote.

The legislation also would ban current insurance industry practices that deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and restrict companies’ ability to charge vastly higher premiums on the basis of age, gender or other factors.

The measure would be paid for through a variety of tax increases and spending cuts, including savings of hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors.

Democratic leaders are hoping to hold votes on health care on the floor of the House and Senate within a few weeks.

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Multiple Fibre Cuts Bar MTN’s 87m Customers From Calls, Data

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MTN Nigeria has blamed the recent network issue experienced by its customers nationwide on multiple fibre cuts.
Recall that MTN customers were unable to make calls or use their data last Wednesday.
According to the company, the problem started at about 1.39 PM on Wednesday.
In its reaction via X, MTN Nigeria blamed the network issue on multiple fibre cuts, even as it assured that its engineers are working assiduously to restore normal services.
The statement reads: “Dear Customer, you have been experiencing challenges connecting to the network due to a major service outage caused by multiple fibre cuts, affecting voice and data services.
“Our engineers are working hard to resolve this with services gradually being restored in some areas.

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Alake Confident Nigeria’ll Overcome Economic Hardship

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The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake has said that Nigeria would soon overcome its current economic hardship.
Alake gave the assurance in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Segun Tomori on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said  the hardship was because Nigeria was going through a gestation period of economic restructuring and reforms.
He said that President Bola Tinubu was determined to revamp  Nigeria’s  economy and put on a pedestal for sustainable growth through his Renewed Hope agenda.
According to him, the President has a track record of changing the economic tides of a region, just as he did when he was the governor of Lagos State.
“Going down memory lane to the experience in Lagos state, the then governor  Tinubu in 1999,  met a state that was almost insolvent, with a monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N600 million.
“ And a wage bill of over N1.1 billion monthly, with little or no resources to cater to infrastructure and other sectors of the economy.
“President Tinubu took similar measures in Lagos as he is taking in Nigeria, to turn the tide and financially re-engineer the state.  Today, the state is the fifth largest economy in Africa, bigger than most African countries.
“What we are going through is the gestation period of reforms and policies for economic restructuring and like the President will say, it is like throes of pregnancy, that a pregnant woman goes through.
“After delivery, she heaves a sigh of relief,” he said.
The minister urged  Nigerians to be patient with the government  as the current economic  situation  would soon stabilise with positive  results from on going reforms.
“For the first time, Nigeria has a  president well-versed in public finance. I am  confident in this administration’s capacity to diversify the economy, plug leakages, and redirect the economy to a path of sustainable growth.
“ The future of this country is extremely very bright. What we need to do is to exude confidence in our ability and capacity to weather the storm of restructuring, economic and societal restructuring.
“As we restructure our economy, putting in physical infrastructure, we must also restructure our minds and mental capacity to be at par with physical development.
“ So that we can efficiently and judiciously enjoy the benefits of physical development.
“With the cooperation of Nigerians, the tide will turn very soon, and we all will be proud, he

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Only Professional Builders’ll Handle Global Centre’s Modern Cities  – President

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The President/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Global Centre for Empowerment and Care for Life Challenges (GCECLC), Amb. Vincent Ejikeme Agbo has said that only professionals would be used for the massive global center real estate housing and industrial development in the country.
The CEO who said this in a chat with the media shortly after their press conference in Port Harcourt recently, reiterated that the group will not compromise standard  both in the use of  standard building materials or professionals in the building sector.
Amb. Agbo noted that the use of quacks builders and building materials are the major causes of building collapse in the country, adding, “the 5,000 housing units that would be built in the 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory in the first phase of the GCECLC building project would be the same quality with that of the developed countries”.
He said the building materials would be supplied directly by the main companies, adding, “GCECLC, a non governmental organizations (NGO) has already gotten the license from Dangote group of companies to supply cement at a giveaway price for the building project, seeing the importance of the project to the masses.
“We want to bridge the gap in the Nigerian building sector and this would enable everyone in the country to own a quality building in an environment where the system is working”.
In his contribution, the Vice President of the NGO, Amb. Shittu Isiaka Salami said the group is working with all the building construction agencies to ensure  that quality jobs are delivered because, “we have zero tolerance for building collapse”.
Amb Isiaka called on qualified building engineers and contractors to come and do business with the NGO in the project that is aimed at fulfilling United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 9 & 11.
The Public Relation Personel/ the marketing contact person for the building project, Amb. Larry Goodwill Ajiola advised interested building engineers and contractors to register for the project, adding that non professional contractors would not be given a chance to build.
Amb  Ajiola said contractors should give priority attention to the project when money is given to them as, “no excuse would be tolerated in the first and second phases of the building project aimed  at decongesting the urban settlement.
Amb. Ajiola who is also the CEO of I Cnntact- Connect Limited, Port Harcourt, said the project is a welcomed development, especially to the less privileged ones that never thought they could own a house of their own.
He noted that the long span of payment between 10- 30 years makes it affordable to all serious minded citizens, adding, “GCECLC has risen to give hope to the hopeless in the country, especially now that Nigerians are passing through hardship.
“It is a welcomed development to Rivers state and the other 36 States. It is contributing to the welfare of the masses. Everyone will benefit since you will pay small small. I have confidence that the project is already a success”.
One of the invitees, Mrs Ifeoma Usoro commended the NGO for  moving into this financial intensive area for their love to help the poor masses and requested for the building engineers to be given more time to conclude registration modalities.

Lilian Peters

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