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Obama health law sign-ups lagging for 2019

With open enrollment ending next week, the government says sign-ups for coverage under former President Barack Obama's health care law are lagging when compared with last year.

Figures released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that about 3.2 million people have signed up so far for subsidized private insurance, compared with about 3.6 million at the same time last year. Open enrollment ends Dec. 15.

Health law supporters are concerned. The number of new customers is down nearly 18 percent.

Many Democrats blame the Trump administration for the slippage, but independent experts say there may be other reasons, too. In a strong economy people are more likely to find jobs with coverage.

Most of the estimated 10 million currently enrolled will have their coverage renewed automatically.

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News

  • After 79 years of marriage, an Illinois couple are still living a sweet life. >> Read more trending news  Curtis Peters and Virginia Gregory were married in Knoxville, Iowa, on May 18, 1940, according to Iowa marriage records on Ancestry.com. Curtis Peters is now 100, and Virginia Peters is 103, and they celebrated their anniversary last week.  Their hearts have melted ever since their marriage, and they share a Hershey’s chocolate bar daily, according to WQAD. “Chocolate keeps him going, and he keeps her going, they love each other very much,” the couple’s daughter, Susan Peters Cathoir, told the television station. The couple moved from Iowa to a nursing home in Illinois to be closer to Cathoir, the fourth of the Peters’ five children. Cathoir told “Today” there was always chocolate around the home when she was growing up. Cathoir said her parents even melted Hershey’s bars so the family could dip their ice cream into the chocolate. The couple even took the family on a bus trip from Iowa to Pennsylvania in the late 1950s to visit Hershey Park (now Hersheypark) to see how their favorite sweet was made, according to “Today.” The couple met while living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they attended the Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa). After their marriage, Curtis Peters was a self-employed painter in Waterloo, while Virginia Peters was a teacher, WQAD reported. “It’s a long, long time, but they are good times,” Virginia Peters told the television station. The Peters’ children bring chocolate whenever they visit. 'I keep a pack in the freezer and go and give them one every day.” Cathoir told “Today.” I always leave chocolate in their drawer so in case I can't make it or I'm late, one of the (nurses) can make sure they still get it.” Cathoir said the Hershey’s bar keeps her father alive, “and he keeps her alive.” 'He shares it with her all the time — he shares everything with her and she with him,” Cathoir told “Today.” “Yes, and they are still madly in love, isn’t that great?” their nurse, Julie Derick, told WQAD. “They hold hands all the time.” The couple celebrated their 79th anniversary last weekend with family and friends, the television station reported. Chocolate was definitely on the menu.
  • A Tennessee man is accused of threatening police officers and rolling up a marijuana blunt in front of them. >> Read more trending news  Lemink Mitchell was arrested Tuesday in Memphis, WHBQ-TV reported. Memphis police said they were called to the home because Mitchell was threatening to kill his mom after she kicked him out. She wanted officers to get him out of the home, police said. When officers arrived, they said he threatened to kill them, too. Police said while they were talking to him, he started to cuss at them. “He don’t give a (expletive) that officers are right here. He is going to do what he want to do,” he told the police. He then rolled up some marijuana into a blunt before trying to escape, police said. Court records said multiple people came out of their houses while he was running away. After a short chase, Mitchell was arrested. Mitchell is facing multiple charges, including disorderly conduct and evading arrest.
  • A Virginia woman who recently died had some extreme, and illegal, final wishes. She wanted her dog Emma euthanized so the dog and the woman could be together forever. Workers at Chesterfield Animal Shelter were caring for Emma for two weeks as they tried to dissuade the executor of the woman’s estate from going through with the woman’s plans. The workers tried to get the person to sign over the ownership of the dog to the shelter so workers could find the shih tzu mix a new home, WWBT reported.  The person held firm and picked up the dog and then took it to a vet’s office, had it put down and then taken to a pet cremation business. The remains were put in an urn and returned to a representative of the woman’s estate. >> Read more trending news  WWBT did not say how the remains were handled after the pet’s cremation. But there was an issue. While it is technically legal to put down a healthy pet in Virginia, there is an ethical question surrounding it, so it could be difficult to find a veterinarian to put down an animal, according to WWBT.  But it is illegal in the commonwealth to bury an animal’s remains, whether it is a dog or any other animal, in a casket in a cemetery. But the law applies only to a commercial cemetery. Private and family-owned cemeteries can be an exception to the law, WWBT reported. 
  • Georgia Tech announced Wednesday it is offering credit monitoring and identity theft protection to the students, employees and anyone else whose information may have been accessed during a recent data breach. The school posted information on its homepage of its website detailing how people can request the protections. Georgia Tech disclosed in April that someone illegally entered its system, having access to a database that may have included the names, addresses, date of birth and Social Security numbers of nearly 1.3 million people. Georgia Tech has not determined who was committed the breach. “We regret that this incident occurred and apologized for any inconvenience,” Jim Fortner, Georgia Tech’s interim executive vice president for administration and finance, said in a statement. The breach is reminiscent, but far larger, than one last July when students were furious after the university mistakenly emailed the personal information of nearly 8,000 College of Computing students to other students.
  • Officials with Eastern Virginia Medical School have completed a three-month investigation into how a racist photo appeared in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook and plan to release their findings at a Wednesday morning news conference. >> Read more trending news Officials launched an investigation into the photo, which showed a man posing in blackface next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan robe, after it surfaced Feb. 1. School administrators said they’d investigate the image’s origins and the broader campus culture in the 1980s as part of the probe. Officials including EVMS President Richard V. Homan and attorneys with the McGuireWoods law firm, which conducted the investigation, will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m., according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. >> Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam conducts business as usual, no plans to step aside Northam initially admitted to being one of the two people in the photo after it surfaced, but he later walked the statement back and said he was unaware of the photo before his staff showed it to him in February. He did, however, admit to wearing blackface to imitate Michael Jackson during a dance competition in the 1980s. “There were actions and behaviors in my past that were hurtful,” he said during a February news conference, according to WDBJ. “But like Virginia, I have also made significant progress in how I approach these issues.” >> Va. Gov. Ralph Northam says he plans to finish term with devotion to racial equity Eastern Virginia Medical School banned yearbooks in 2014, according to The Washington Post. The controversy surrounding Northam’s yearbook photo is one of several high-profile scandals that gripped the highest levels of Virginia state government earlier this year. Less than a week after the photo in Northam’s yearbook surfaced, state Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface to a party in the 1980s. Days after that, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused by two women of sexual assault, allegations he denied.
  • A class-action lawsuit accuses a South Carolina public water company of overcharging its customers, claiming a customer service representative in one case blamed a cat flushing a toilet for an excessive bill, The State reported. >> Read more trending news  The suit, filed May 15 in the Court of Common Pleas, Ninth Judicial District in Charleston County, also claims the Mount Pleasant Waterworks blamed customers’ leaky pipes and irrigation systems for the increase in bills. The four plaintiffs in the case, who are from Mount Pleasant, claimed their water bills could jump by hundreds of dollars without warning, according to the lawsuit. They are seeking refunds of all excess charges. The plaintiffs are also asking to have the case classified as a class action suit for all Mount Pleasant water customers, the State reported. “In one particularly egregious instance, it is reported that MPW’s customer service representative told a customer that the customer’s cat was flushing the toilet and that the cat was causing the customer’s excessive water bills,” the lawsuit claims. The suit references four cases in which the utility blamed leaks that did not exist, charged excessive late fees and promised refunds that were never applied to the customers’ accounts, the State reported. Trisha Treece, one of the plaintiffs, said she was out of town in 2019 during the January and February billing cycles and had turned off her toilet and irrigation systems, according to the lawsuit. Her bills for those two months were $305.18 and $315.87, the suit claims. After the water company refused to send a technician to inspect the meter, Treece said she hired a Rainbird technician who determined there were no leaks and that the irrigation system was working properly, the lawsuit claims. Officials from the Mount Pleasant Waterworks said Monday the lawsuit’s claims were “baseless,” the State reported. “Lawsuits of this nature impact rate-payers more than one would think,” utility officials said in a statement. “Because a few customers have filed a lawsuit, with no basis, other customers will pay more in their water bills to cover legal and administrative costs. Staff directs countless hours and resources away from our primary mission of providing our customers with essential water and wastewater service.”