Tag: Humana

Aetna CEO slams U.S. senators for ‘unfounded’ accusations; UofL Foundation paying $12K a month for PR advice

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:46 a.m.

Mark Bertolini
Bertolini

HUMANA: Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says that “marketplace reality” is pushing the company to exit nearly 70% of the counties with public health exchanges next year, and dismissed criticism of the insurer by a group of U.S. senators as “unfounded accusations.” Bertolini was responding to a letter from Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. The lawmakers said Aetna’s decision to quit numerous health exchanges “appears to be an effort to pressure the Justice Department into approving” its proposed $37 billion purchase of Humana (Hartford Courant).

taco-bell-dress
Mears, dressing for success.

TACO BELL: Designer and artist Olivia Mears has used Taco Bell wrappers, painted card stock, tissue paper, and felt to make her own spin on Belle’s dress from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” She tells Thrillist: “I had already sewn the yellow ballgown without tacos several years earlier for children’s parties and it was during this time that someone snapped a photo of me while at Taco Bell and it ended up going viral. Fast-forward about three years and I landed a role in a Taco Bell commercial wearing another dress I made from wrappers, so I decided to bring the Belle dress out from storage and continue the legacy.” The dress, unfortunately for fans, isn’t available for sale. But Mears is selling signed photos of it on her AvantGeek Etsy page (Thrillist).

In other news: Facing growing scrutiny from donors and its own university, the University of Louisville Foundation is paying $11,500 a month in retainers for external public relations advice from two Louisville PR shops: RunSwitch Public Relations, led by political strategist Scott Jennings, and Tandem Public Relations, led by Sandra Frazier, according to WFPL; both contracts were extended as of Sept. 1. Frazier, a recently retired Brown-Forman director, was one of Gov. Matt Bevin‘s appointees to a newly reorganized UofL board of trustees (WFPL).

Dow plunges 394 points on renewed interest-rate fears, and Louisville company shares drop, too

Today’s tumble followed hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials and a slump in oil prices, dragging down the overall market, according to MarketWatch. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,085, down 2.3%, and the broader S&P 5oo index closed at 2,128, down a steeper 2.5%.

Among company shares tracked by Boulevard, all but one — Humana’s — fell sharply, with Amazon leading the way:

september-9-2016-stocks

Still, even after today’s plunge, stock markets overall are higher than a year ago. The Dow is 12% higher, and the S&P is up 11%, according to Google Finance.

Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

In business journalism, some of the most interesting news shows up in fine-print footnotes in documents companies file with government agencies. Hospital and nursing giant Kindred Healthcare is great example. Last spring in a statement to stockholders, it disclosed two special payments to top executives: $6 million to then-executive vice chairman Paul Diaz in connection with his leaving the CEO’s job, and $250,000 to Chief Financial Officer Steven Farberto help him escape a high-profile dispute with a Glenview neighbor. But to uncover that, you had to follow three different footnotes on a table showing how much they got paid overall.

Insider Louisville logoThis leads me to another footnote, of sorts — one that appeared on a story today at Insider Louisville, the online news site launched in 2010, and to a document I’ve run across at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Together, they open a window on who’s investing in Louisville’s news media at a time when the once-dominant Courier-Journal has been losing influence amid steep staff cutbacks, shifting the balance of power in Kentucky’s biggest city. They underscore the importance of news outlets everywhere telling readers who’s behind the scenes, and about any conflicts of interest owners may pose for their publication. (I’ve got disclosures of my own.)

This morning, at the bottom of a long story about the Humana Foundation, Insider Louisville editors added this disclosure: “One of the five directors of the Humana Foundation is David A. Jones Jr., an investor of Insider Louisville.”

David A. Jones Jr.
Jones

Jones is one of Louisville’s more influential residents. He’s on the board of directors of Humana itself, and his father, David A. Jones Sr., is a co-founder of the insurance giant. Jones Jr. is a partner at Chrysalis Ventures, the Louisville venture-capital firm he founded in 1993, and he’s chairman of the elected seven-person board overseeing the Jefferson County Public Schools. (Here’s Chrysalis’s portfolio of company investments; it doesn’t show Insider Louisville, which suggests this was a personal investment.)

Tom Cottingham
Cottingham

To be sure, close readers of Insider Louisville have known Jones was an investor for several years. In August 2014, owner Tom Cottingham told readers he’d brought in three new minority investors he knew from a prior venture: Jones; Doug Cobb, the former Greater Louisville Inc. CEO, and Jon Pyles, now the site’s vice president of marketing. The story — which carried only a “staff” byline — didn’t say how much they’d invested, nor the exact size of their stake. Cottingham said he remained the majority holder.

Douglas Cobb
Cobb

Now, though, an SEC document filed in April offers more clues about the publication’s investors, whom we learned this summer include a prominent heiress to the glittering Brown-Forman whiskey fortune. I can’t find any mention of the regulatory filing on Insider Louisville’s website, nor in any other media outlet in Louisville. My readers may well correct me after I publish this post; in any case, this is certainly the first time I’m writing about it.

The April 12 document shows that Insider Louisville LLC raised $975,000 from 12 investors in a $1.5 million stock offering that drew the first investment March 31. It didn’t identify the investors by name, however, and it didn’t say how big their stakes were. The first $450,000 was to pay down an undisclosed amount of debt, according to the document; anything left over would go to any of its directors: Jones, Cottingham, and a third named Jamie Wilson. (Who’s Wilson? I haven’t figured that out; maybe one of my readers knows.)

Minimum investment: $25K

Continue reading “Follow the money: A trail of footnotes and government documents leads to Insider Louisville’s front door”

Pizza Hut adding 300-plus restaurants in Central Europe; Yum stock hits 52-week high; and White House in big new Obamacare push as Humana and Aetna flee exchanges

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 6:11 p.m.

Pizza Hut restaurant building
Pizza Hut has more than 14,000 locations worldwide.

PIZZA HUT said it signed a master franchise agreement with AmRest Holdings that gives the Polish company the right to own, develop and sub-franchise more than 300 restaurants in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Slovenia over the next five years; AmRest already operates 80 Huts (press release).

Wall Street rallied around the news: YUM shares closed this afternoon at $90.76, after trading earlier at a 52-week high of $90.88.

Greg CreedThe expansion comes as Yum CEO Greg Creed is on the offensive against rival Domino’s on the domestic front, especially in technology such as ordering apps that attracts younger consumers. Pizza Hut, headquartered in Plano outside Dallas, is the world’s biggest pizza chain, more than 14,00 restaurants in more than 100 countries. No. 2 Domino’s has more than 12,500 locations in over 80 markets around the world.

AmRest was launched in 1993 with its first Pizza Hut in Poland’s Wrocław and says it’s now the biggest independent chain restaurant operator in Central and Eastern Europe. It operates more than 1,000 eateries in 13 countries through a portfolio of brands that also includes KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, La Tagliatella, Blue Frog and Kabb.

HUMANA: Facing withdrawals from insurance exchanges by Humana, Aetna and others amid surging premiums, the Obama Administration is preparing a major push to enroll new participants in public online marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act. The administration is considering an ad campaign with testimonials from newly insured consumers, as well as direct appeals to young people hit by tax penalties for failing to enroll (New York Times).

Humana and Aetna logos 250On Monday, Aetna blamed anticipated losses for the Hartford insurer’s decision to exit nearly 70% of the exchange markets it’s been serving; that pullout will come next year. The followed a similar announcement earlier this month from Humana, which said Continue reading “Pizza Hut adding 300-plus restaurants in Central Europe; Yum stock hits 52-week high; and White House in big new Obamacare push as Humana and Aetna flee exchanges”

Urgent: Aetna threatened to quit exchanges if DOJ challenged $37 billion merger with Humana, according to CEO Bertolini letter

That’s according to a new Huffington Post story, which today cited a letter Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini sent to the Obama Administration on July 5 — 16 days before the Justice Department sued to block the merger on antitrust grounds.

Mark Bertolini
Bertolini

The Post obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request. Aetna’s letter was in response to a Justice Department question about how any decision on the proposed merger would affect Aetna’s willingness to offer insurance through health-care exchanges under Obamacare.

The letter appears to contract a Bertolini statement late Monday, where he blamed anticipated losses on the Hartford insurer’s decision to exit nearly 70% of the exchange markets it’s been serving; that pullout will come next year.

When reporters asked Aetna whether it was also reacting to DOJ’s attempt to stop its merger with Humana, “company officials brushed off the questions,” the Post says, citing accounts in the Hartford CourantPolitico and USA Today.

A spokesperson for Aetna said the decision to roll back the coverage was not because of the DOJ’s lawsuit, but rather realizing the full details of the losses, according to a separate story by Business Insider based on the Post account.

Paired with some looming rate increases for next year’s health plans, the Post story today says, “the abrupt departure of Aetna has triggered new worries that Obamacare ― a subsidized public-private system of health insurance plans competing for beneficiaries ― is in serious trouble and may even be unsustainable.”

Letter: Aetna supports ACA, but…

Continue reading “Urgent: Aetna threatened to quit exchanges if DOJ challenged $37 billion merger with Humana, according to CEO Bertolini letter”

Music to our ears: Pizza Hut U.K. offering five boxes doubling as playable DJ decks; today-only giveaway is latest to capture more young techie consumers

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 2:37 p.m.

PIZZA HUT: Using Bluetooth to connect a computer or smartphone, the playable cardboard decks mix digital music using a special conductive ink design from printed electronics specialist Novalia, according to Digital Spy. (Watch DJ Vectra demo it in the video, above.) Starting today, the pizza maker is offering them in a promotion rolling out via the @PizzaHutUK Twitter feed, where it will announce which of only five restaurants will have one box each. The decks feature two turntables, a cross-fader, pitch volumes, cue buttons and the ability to rewind music, all like traditional mixers. What’s a deck?

Watch DJ Vectra demo it in the video, above; he’s playing “P Money 10/10,” according to music and media identification app Shazam.

This isn’t the first Yum unit to create electronic packaging to grab the attention of technology-loving young consumers. In June, KFC India gave away Watt a Box, a 5-in-1 meal box with a lithium-ion battery cellphone charger. The chicken chain has also fitted photo printers inside buckets and Bluetooth keyboards onto paper tray covers.

Today’s promo will surely boost U.K.’s Twitter traffic. Right now, its feed has 53,700 followers. The U.S. site has far, far more: 1.46 million; how other companies’ Twitter count compares. Pizza Hut teased customers about the cardboard gadget via Twitter yesterday:

HAIER, which bought GE Appliances in June, is pumping about $10 million into 9KaCha, a Chinese wine information app and e-commerce platform whose database and label recognition software will power its new smart wine cooler. It’s unclear whether the cooler will be offered in the U.S. (China Money Network and Decanter China).

HUMANA: Insurance companies “keep pretending” that participating in the Affordable Care Act exchanges is killing their business model, says Haider Javed Warraich, a cardiovascular disease fellow at Duke University’s Medical Center, in a Guardian newspaper column today. Humana merger partner Aetna was the latest, announcing late Monday it will withdraw from 70% of the Obamacare exchange markets where it operates by next year, including 10 Kentucky counties. Humana disclosed a similar pullback earlier this month. But, Warraich writes, “this corporate hardship story couldn’t be further from the truth. Aetna’s overall profits surged last year, and its share prices have risen consistently since the ACA passed in 2010” (Guardian).

Humana and Aetna logos 250Aetna’s Kentucky exit leaves consumers in Boone, Campbell, Owen and Kenton counties with only two exchange plans. Other counties affected are Continue reading “Music to our ears: Pizza Hut U.K. offering five boxes doubling as playable DJ decks; today-only giveaway is latest to capture more young techie consumers”