Euthanizing pets increasing as vet costs rise

Photo: Montgomery County Animal Shelter

By Annika McGinnis and Alicia McElhaney, USA TODAY (June 7, 2014)

Dogs may be “man’s best friend,” but in a still-struggling economy with rising veterinary costs, more Americans are choosing to put their ailing pets to sleep rather than pay for expensive treatments, experts say.

At Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in Dayton, Ohio, the rate of people seeking to euthanize their pets because they can’t afford treatment is rising between 10% and 12% a year, says Director Mark Kumpf. And at The Pet Fund, which raises money for people who can’t afford pet care, calls requesting financial support have doubled, says Executive Director Karen Leslie.


SHOP for health care is help for small business

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Dec. 11, 2013)

Just five people work at Michael Cadigan’s law firm, but thanks to his state’s new marketplace for small business health insurance, he’s saving $1,000 a month paying for 100% of their medical coverage.

In the past, “numerous” insurers canceled his employees’ insurance because they didn’t want to deal with a small group, including one person with a rare genetic disorder, said Cadigan, of Albuquerque

Now, he says he can offer the same benefits to the Cadigan Law Firm’s workers as a large business — and for less than he was paying. It took him just 15 minutes to sign up.

Cadigan’s experience illustrates some benefits of the new Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, created by the Affordable Care Act. Businesses with 50 or fewer workers don’t have to offer employees health insurance plans, but SHOP tries to make it easier and more affordable for them to do so.


Exchanges open Tuesday: Here’s what to do

By Jayne O’Donnell and Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Sept. 30, 2013)

Don’t wait. But don’t hurry, either.

That’s the best approach to the new health insurance exchanges that are scheduled to open for business Tuesday. Buying insurance is supposed to be easier than ever once several provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect this fall. That doesn’t mean the process is easy or should be done speedily, however, experts say. That’s especially true if insurance shopping is new to you.


Target preps for Black Friday with multimedia deals

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Nov. 27, 2013)

Less than a week before Black Friday, it was already Christmas morning at a Target store in Washington, D.C.

At 9 a.m. Friday, Target employees at the retailer’s Columbia Heights location gathered in their daily morning “huddle.” Holiday music played, and their boss exuded Christmas spirit: Sporting a Santa hat, merchandising senior executive team leader Matt Roy gave out tastes of Target-brand Christmas products, including pumpkin cheesecake cookies and chocolate mint milk.

“I marked the official start of the fourth quarter this morning by doing the eggnog in my car,” Roy joked.


Survey: Americans do not like to discuss finances

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Nov. 17, 2013)

American families may not be saving enough for retirement but even worse, they’re not talking about it with each other, show the findings of a new study out Monday.

“Family & Retirement: The Elephant in the Room,” a representative survey of 5,400 adult Americans conducted by Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Age Wave in August shows 70% over the age of 25 have not had a discussion with their parents about retirement.


Is health law really to blame for plan changes?

By Jayne O’Donnell and Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Oct. 3, 2013)

A handful of big-name firms and many small ones are making major changes to their health care plans this fall, and while some big companies are blaming the Affordable Care Act, insurance and economic experts call those claims an exaggeration.

Making health insurance changes, including big premium and deductible hikes when the rate of increase in health care costs has slowed, creates a “messaging issue,” says University of Michigan business economics professor Thomas Buchmueller.


Walmart to launch Black Friday sales earlier

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Nov. 12, 2013)

As the holiday shopping season kicks off, Walmart is the latest major retailer to announce an even earlier launch to annual Black Friday weekend sales — beginning at dinnertime Thanksgiving evening.

Following a slew of similar announcements from stores including Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, Walmart said Tuesday that it will hold two major sales events at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, two hours earlier than last year. With this year’s six-day shorter holiday shopping season and low rates of consumer confidence following the government shutdown, Walmart is upping its efforts to draw in more customers: offering what experts said were impressive deals and guaranteeing more products to customers in line during the Thursday sales.


Even doctors in dark about new health plans

By Jayne O’Donnell and Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Nov. 10, 2013)

More than a month after and 15 state-based exchanges opened for business, consumers and even physicians are finding it’s isn’t easy or even possible sometimes to find out which doctors and hospitals are in the plans’ provider networks.

“Some states, they have it, and for some, it isn’t available. It ‘s a big unknown for the patient,” says Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association, whose members manage doctors’ practices. “It’s very much up in the air.”


Big insurers avoid many state health exchanges

By Jayne O’Donnell and Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Oct. 21, 2013)

So few insurers offer plans on some of the new government health insurance exchanges that consumers in those states may pay too much or face large rate increases later, insurance experts say.

An average of eight insurers compete for business in 36 states that had exchanges run or supported by the federal government last month, the Department of Health and Human Services says. (Idaho has since started its own exchange.) But just because an insurer sells in a state, it doesn’t mean it sells in every area of a state so many residents have far fewer options.




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