Thrive 2055, the regional planning initiative for the 16-county tri-state region, will host four input incubators this week to gather ideas from area residents for its 40-year plan.
"Getting ideas and input from everyday citizens is a vital part of our overall process," said Thrive 2055 Coordinating Committee Chairman Brian Anderson.
The meeting will be from 5-8 p.m. on Monday in Rainsville, Ala., at the Tom Bevill Center; Tuesday in Athens, Tenn., at the Southeast Tennessee Conference Center; Wednesday in Chattanooga's Downtown Library, 4th Floor; and Thursday in Ringgold, Ga. at the Colonnade.
The input incubators will be open house-style events with a range of activities planned to help attendees learn about what is happening across the region and to share ideas about the future. Find out more at www.thrive2055.com.
Businesses aren't usually eager to tell their customers that rates are going up. But BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's biggest health insurer, is being outfront in warning its customers about big rate hikes coming next year, which the insurer says are due to Obamacare.
BlueCross last week announced a new educational campaign to inform Tennesseans about the cost of health care and the coming impact of reform, which will expand coverage and benefits for millions of Americans but also increase the cost of insurance premiums beginning Jan. 1. BlueCross estimates individual insurance coverage will rise next year by more than 30 percent while rates for small business will rise by more than 10 percent.
A new website -- www.KnowTheCostTN.com -- will outline the different factors that have typically driven up the cost of health care, while also explaining the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.
"The health care reform law will add new benefits and expand coverage for millions more Americans, which is a very good thing," said Roy Vaughn, vice president of corporate communications for BlueCross. "Covering more people and more medical services, however, will increase the cost of coverage."
Vaughn said rates will increase to pay for expanded benefits required under ObamaCare, lower deductibles for many individuals and the guarantee of coverage for all individuals, regardless of any pre-existing health conditions. BlueCross also will have to pay a new health insurance tax expected to cost the Chattanooga company another $200 million in taxes.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has rejected another provision of the federal health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama, saying Alabama insurance regulators won't enforce parts of the law aimed at protecting consumers.
Bentley wrote a letter to federal officials saying Washington, rather than state regulators in Montgomery, should be responsible for ensuring that insurance policies sold in Alabama comply with the federal law's requirements such as covering people with pre-existing health conditions. Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said the governor doesn't believe state insurance officials have the authority to enforce the federal provisions. She said the cost of enforcement also is unclear.
"It's extremely difficult for Alabama to commit to enforcing something for which the federal government keeps changing the rules and regulations," Ardis said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Alabama is one of six states that have said they won't help enforce provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The others are Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.
Bentley, a physician, has rejected other parts of the health law, such as setting up a state-run health insurance exchange or expanding Alabama's Medicaid program to cover more low-income residents.
The consumer protections in the 2010 federal law prohibit insurance companies from imposing annual limits on benefits, crack down on unreasonable rate increases and allow young adults to keep receiving coverage under their parents' insurance up to age 26.
ServPro, a provider of fire and water damage restoration services with offices in Chattanooga, is expanding its corporate headquarters in Gallatin, Tenn. The company says it will invest another $6.7 million and add 90 more jobs at its Gallatin headquarters, which also includes a national call center, a warehouse, a manufacturing facility and a franchisee training center. ServPro is ranked No. 7 on Entrepreneur's 2013 Franchise 500 list of America's top franchise opportunities and No. 5 on Forbes' Top 20 Franchises for the Buck.
"ServPro has been a valued corporate citizen of Gallatin for 25 years, and the company illustrates how existing industries provide a solid foundation for all job creation in the state," said Bill Hagerty, a Gallatin native and commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.