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WellPoint stock bucks market plunge

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The stock market took a nosedive this morning, but news that the Obama administration might be willing to drop the idea of a government-run health insurance plan gave a big boost to Indianapolis-based insurer WellPoint Inc.

WellPoint’s stock rose more than 5 percent in morning trading, hitting $55.09 per share before settling back a bit later in the day.

Elsewhere this morning, stocks plunged and Treasury prices soared as investors around the world feared that consumers are too anxious to lift the economy into recovery. The losses on stock exchanges extended the heavy selling that began Friday with a disappointing reading on consumer confidence. And bond investors, once again searching for a safe investment, bought heavily into Treasuries.

The Dow Jones industrial index fell more than 180 points, or about 2 percent, this morning. Overseas, the Shanghai stock market dropped almost 6 percent and the major indexes in Europe were all down more than 1.5 percent.

WellPoint was able to buck the overall market trend because President Barack Obama indicated he is willing to embrace insurance cooperatives over a government-run plan as the White House faces mounting opposition to its broad overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Bowing to Republican pressure and offering political cover to fiscally conservative Democrats, Obama's administration signaled yesterday that it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance. The shift leaves open a chance for compromise with Republicans that probably is already enraging Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority.

Officials from both political parties are looking for concessions while Congress is on an August recess. Facing tough audiences, lawmakers and the White House are looking for a way to cover the nation's uninsured while maintaining political standing.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that a government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory.

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), consumer-owned not-for-profit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.

With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.

"I think there will be a competitor to private insurers," Sebelius said. "That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing."
Obama's spokesman refused to say a public option was a make-or-break choice.

"What I am saying is the bottom line for this for the president is, what we have to have is choice and competition in the insurance market," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday.

A day before, Obama appeared to hedge his bets.

"All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," Obama said at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

Lawmakers have discussed the co-op model for months, although the Democratic leadership and the White House have said they prefer a government-run option.

Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called the argument for a government-run public plan little more than a "wasted effort." He added there are enough votes in the Senate for a cooperative plan.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Obama's team is making a political calculation and embracing the co-op alternative as "a step away from the government takeover of the health care system" that the GOP has pummeled.

"I don't know if it will do everything people want, but we ought to look at it. I think it's a far cry from the original proposals," he said.

Meanwhile today, stocks were down across all industries as investors worried that consumers' reluctance to spend will hurt corporate earnings. Many companies reported second-quarter results that were boosted by cost-cutting, not higher sales, and the fear is that without a pickup in sales, earnings will fall.

Traders got more bad news about the consumer today when home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. said poor weather and cautious consumer spending caused sales to fall 19 percent in the second quarter. Lowe's missed analysts' forecasts.
 

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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