UnitedHealthcare protests $40.5B Humana contract; Roadhouse dives 12% on Q2 report; Trump eats KFC with metal utensils — Internet howls; and Taco Bell workers in Calif. gone after cop-taunting report

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 5:09 p.m.

HUMANA: UnitedHealthcare has filed a formal protest against a Defense Department decision to award the next round of Tricare contracts to Humana and another competitor. The Pentagon selected Humana Government Business to manage the brand new East region, a consolidation of the North and South regions, in a contract worth as much as $40.5 billion. Health Net Federal Services got the West region contract. Humana manages the current South region and Health Net the North (Military Times).

Humana and Aetna logos 250Also, Humana and Aetna announced this morning a deal to sell some of their Medicare Advantage assets to Molina Healthcare for $117 million in cash, in the health insurers’ latest effort to win Justice Department approval for their proposed $37 billion merger. The transactions are subject to the successful completion of the merger, plus approvals from regulators. Under the deal, Molina would get about 290,000 Medicare Advantage members in 21 states, the two companies said, “preserving robust competition for seniors choosing to receive Medicare coverage through Medicare Advantage plans and addressing a key concern of the U.S. Department of Justice in its challenge to the Aetna-Humana transaction” (press release). Today’s announcement followed a July 21 DOJ lawsuit against the two companies to block their tie-up over fears it would be anticompetitive and raise consumer prices.

Aetna, meanwhile, reported better-than-expected second-quarter results this morning, in a report where it also became the last of the five major national health insurers to project a loss on Affordable Care Act plans for 2016. The Hartford-based insurer said it would re-evaluate its participation in the business and cancel a planned expansion. It also said it was setting up a $65 million reserve to account for expected losses on individual plans over the rest of this year (Wall Street Journal).

Kent Taylor

TEXAS ROADHOUSE shares fell sharply, closing at $41.80, down 12.4%, or $5.90, after the Louisville-based steakhouse chain reported disappointing second-quarter results yesterday after stock markets had already closed (Google Finance). Founder and CEO Kent Taylor discussed the results with Wall Street analysts in a transcript (Seeking Alpha). The chain has nearly 500 company-owned and franchised restaurants in 49 states plus five foreign countries with 48,000 employees. About 500 of those workers are in Louisville; more about Texas Roadhouse.

FORD said total truck sales, including pickups and vans, grew 5% in July versus a year ago with 87,104 sold. Overall company U.S. sales were down 3%, with 216,479 total vehicles sold (press release). Shares closed at $11.94, down 4.3%, or 53 cents (Google Finance). Ford’s Kentucky Truck Factory employs about 5,100 workers, producing F-250 and F-550 Super Duty pickups, plus Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators.

KFC: The World Wide Web is chowing down on a photo of GOP White House nominee Donald Trump eating a KFC meal last night aboard his gold-plated private jet, using real cutlery (as opposed to the plastic utensils most everyone else uses or, let’s be clear, hands). Trump tweeted a photo of the moment near 10:30 p.m.; see Tweet, above. “It’s tiny finger lickin’ good,” wrote the New York Daily News, which then went on to quote one Twitter user saying: “Eating KFC with a fork and knife is like eating a candy bar with chopsticks.”

Britain’s Telegraph was even more over-the-top pretend aghast: “What kind of madman — what kind of abominable lizard in an orange human skin suit, a Sunny Delight scare story incarnate — would eat a biscuit with a knife and fork? The same madman who was last night pictured eating a bucket of KFC with a knife and fork, that’s who.” And then there was the whole KFC vs. Popeyes vs. Bojangles’ contretemps (Daily NewsTelegraph and Daily Caller). Here’s yet more news coverage — plus, all the Twitter reaction.

TACO BELL: In California, several employees in northwest Bakersfield no longer work at a Taco Bell there after reports they had taunted a local police officer last week, according to the manager of the outlet. A customer had told a local TV station he could hear the employees making “oink oink” sounds and laughing while the officer was ordering. The manager said the employees no longer work there; he could not say how many employees were involved (Kern Golden Empire).

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