Shortfall in Pre-Existing Condition Fund Worrisome

WASHINGTON (AP) — State officials say thousands of people with medical problems are in danger of losing coverage as the Obama administration winds down one of the earliest programs in the federal health care overhaul.  

At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that has turned into a lifeline for the so-called “uninsurables” — people with serious medical conditions who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The health care law capped spending on the program, and now money is running out. In a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, state officials said they were “blindsided” and “disappointed” by a federal proposal they say would shift the risk for cost overruns to states in the waning days of the program. There was no immediate response from HHS. Continue Reading

Country Singers Publicly Back Same-Sex Marriage Bill

CHICAGO (AP) — Four country music stars are announcing their support for legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.  

“Big” Kenny Alphin of the musical duo Big & Rich, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmy Lou Harris and Rodney Crowell signed an open letter released Thursday. They say “gay or straight, when two people are lucky enough to find each other and want to commit their lives to one another, it is nothing less than a blessing to us all.” The letter comes as a bill to allow gay marriage is pending in the Illinois House. The Senate approved the measure in February, and Gov. Pat Quinn supports it. Continue Reading

Birth Certificate Must Contain Both Spouses’ Names: Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says the state health department must list the names of both spouses in a same-sex relationship on a child’s birth certificate.  

The court ruled Friday that the department must include the name of the non-birthing spouse in a lesbian marriage as a legal parent to any child born during the union. Justices say that a state law that allowed only the “name of the husband” to appear on the birth certificate violates the equal protection clause in the Iowa Constitution. The ruling is a victory for Heather and Melissa Gartner of Des Moines, who sued after the department listed only Heather as a parent of their daughter in 2009. The couple married after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2009. Continue Reading

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More Rain = Higher Rivers, More Flooding

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Another round of heavy rain is saturating the Midwest, creating new flood concerns.  

Rain — and even rare May snow in some places — pelted the Heartland Thursday and into Friday, and precipitation is expected to continue through the weekend. National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs says the St. Louis area will likely get 3-4 1/2 inches of rain through Sunday. Continue Reading

US factory orders down 4 percent in March

Orders to U.S. factories fell in March by the largest amount in seven months but a key category that signals business investment plans managed a small increase. The Commerce Department says factory orders dropped 4 percent following 1.9 percent rise in February, reflecting a big plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. Orders in a category considered a proxy for business investment plans rose 0.9 percent, a modest gain but an improvement from a preliminary report last week that had shown a decline. Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious, dampening demand for manufactured goods. But even with the March decline, total orders stood at $467.3 billion, 43 percent above the recession low hit in March 2009. Continue Reading

New York man charged with starting fire that killed dad, 3 kids

Authorities have charged an upstate New York man with starting the house fire that killed a father and three of his young children and left a fourth child in critical condition. Schenectady police Lt. Mark McCracken said Friday 27-year-old Robert Butler of Saratoga Springs was arraigned in Schenectady City Court on a first-degree arson charge and was jailed without bail. McCracken said Butler was known to the family. He’s charged with setting fire to the Schenectady residence early Thursday morning. The family lived in the second-floor apartment. Continue Reading

Arrest made in NY fire that killed dad, 3 kids

Authorities have charged an upstate New York man with starting the house fire that killed a father and three of his young children and left a fourth child in critical condition. Schenectady police Lt. Mark McCracken said Friday 27-year-old Robert Butler of Saratoga Springs was arraigned in Schenectady City Court on a first-degree arson charge and was jailed without bail. McCracken said Butler was known to the family. He’s charged with setting fire to the Schenectady residence early Thursday morning. The family lived in the second-floor apartment. Continue Reading

Washington school closes because of nice weather

In sun-deprived Washington state, the promise of nice spring weather has prompted a small private school to give students a day off to enjoy the sunshine. Friday will be a “sun day” of sorts for 205 students at Bellingham Christian School in Bellingham, Wash. Principal Bob Sampson announced the day off on the school’s site. Sampson says he wanted to give students a chance to enjoy the weather and re-energize. He says he surveyed parents and floated the idea with the school board before canceling school. Continue Reading

Defense set for closing arguments in Arias trial

Jodi Arias’ defense attorneys were set to present closing arguments Friday in the murder case that has become a tabloid and cable TV sensation with its graphic tales of sex and lies and has attracted spectators from around the country who line up as early as 2 a.m. for a chance to score a few open seats in the courtroom. Arias, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of her one-time boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities say she planned the attack on Travis Alexander after he wanted to end their relationship and prepared for a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias initially denied any involvement then later blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed him in self-defense when he attacked her after a day of sex. Continue Reading