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News Wrap: Obama Warns Insurers Against Profiteering Over Reform

June 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama told health insurance companies today not to use health care overhaul as an opportunity to raise rates. The health care law’s major benefit, expanding coverage to 32 million uninsured, doesn’t go into effect until 2014.

At the White House, Mr. Obama said the law wasn’t an excuse for insurers to try and increase profit.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Insurance companies should see this reform as an opportunity to improve care and increase competition. They shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don’t boost care and inflate their bottom line.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also announced a package of consumer benefits, including a ban on insurers denying coverage to children in poor health.

A new plan to combat the problem of homelessness was unveiled today by the Obama administration. It aims to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015 and eliminate homelessness among families and children by 2020. To accomplish that, the strategy would provide more affordable housing options and better access to sustainable employment. It would also ensure that assistance programs are integrated with health care and education.

A key member of President Obama’s team is stepping down. A White House spokesman confirmed Budget Director Peter Orszag will exit before the next budget is written. Orszag is the first high-profile member to leave the administration. During his tenure, Congress passed the most expensive economic stimulus program in U.S. history.

Senior members of the U.S. military defended efforts to prevent suicides among the armed forces. But, at a Senate hearing, they did acknowledge a shortage of health specialists to diagnose and treat mental illness.

The U.S. Army’s vice chief of staff, General Peter Chiarelli, warned the kinds of stress facing soldiers are growing.

GENERAL PETER CHIARELLI: U.S. Army vice chief of staff: It’s not only combat stress. It’s individual soldier stress and family stress.

And when we look at those across a continuum, what we’re seeing in the Army with the high-oc tempo we’re on today, that a soldier in the first six years he or she spends in the United States Army has the cumulative stressors of an average American throughout their entire life.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In the U.S. Army alone, 163 active-duty soldiers have committed suicide through May of this year — 245 Army soldiers committed suicide in all of last year.

In the Republic of Congo, at least 48 passengers died when their train plunged into a ravine. The derailment happened on the line between a coastal town and the capital of Brazzaville. More than 400 people were injured in the crash. A government spokesman cited excess speed as the main cause of the accident.

Britain’s treasury chief announced the sharpest budget cuts and tax increases in decades. Belt-tightening measures include a sales tax hike to 20 percent, a new levy on banks, and higher capital gains taxes on the wealthy.

The treasury chief, known as the chancellor of the exchequer, said the austerity measures are necessary to slash the country’s $1.3 trillion debt.

GEORGE OSBORNE, British chancellor of the exchequer: This budget is needed to deal with our country’s debts. This budget is needed to give confidence to our economy. This is the unavoidable budget.

GEORGE OSBORNE: And I am not going — I am not going to hide hard choices from the British people or bury them in the small print of the budget documents.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Osborne said Britain currently has the largest budget deficit of any European economy, except Ireland.

On Wall Street today, stocks were down on new concerns about the housing and banking sectors. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 149 points to close at 10293. The Nasdaq fell 27 points to close above 2261.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen