Insurance sticker shock coming because of overhaul

Some Americans could see their insurance bills double next year as the health-care-overhaul law expands coverage to millions of people.

The nation's big health insurers say they expect premiums - or the cost for insurance coverage - to rise from 20 percent to 100 percent for millions of people due to changes that will occur when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll out in January 2014.

To be sure, there will be no across-the-board rate hikes for everyone, and there's no reliable national data on how many people could see increases. But the biggest price hikes are expected to hit a group that represents a relatively small slice of the insured population. That includes some of the roughly 14 million people who buy their own insurance as opposed to being covered under employer-sponsored plans, and to a lesser extent, some employees of smaller companies.

Chase expands for thieves of big names' credit reports

WASHINGTON - The pursuit of hackers who audaciously stole and published credit reports for Michelle Obama, the attorney general, the FBI director and other U.S. politicians and celebrities crisscrossed continents and included a San Francisco-based Internet company, Cloudflare.

The sensational crime caught the attention of Congress and President Obama. Obama said he could not confirm that the first lady's credit report was published earlier this week on a Russian website, along with what appeared to be the credit reports of nearly two dozen others, including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and celebrities Britney Spears, Jay Z, Beyonce and Tiger Woods.

If accurate, as widely suspected, the leaked records put each victim at significant risk of identity theft. Included in the reports are Social Security numbers, dates of birth and a list of previous home addresses. The records also include such personal information as the first lady's monthly payments on a student loan 10 years ago and that she once held a Banana Republic credit card.

A spokesman for Equifax said an initial investigation showed the hackers accessed the U.S. credit bureau's system by correctly entering personal details about their victims to impersonate them and generate the credit reports.

Cloudflare operates the directory computers, known as name servers, used behind the scenes to send visitors to the Russian website where the stolen credit reports were being published, according to Internet registration records. A company spokeswoman, Carol Carrubba, said Cloudflare, which she described as a performance and security company, doesn't comment on its customers. But Carrubba said, "Even if we delete a customer's account, the content remains in place, though the site may load more slowly."

Consumer spending rises; companies boost restocking

WASHINGTON - The Commerce Department reported:

• Thanks to solid job creation, Americans spent more at retailers in February despite smaller paychecks. The surprisingly strong increase helped allay fears that higher Social Security taxes and gasoline prices might chill spending early this year.

• U.S. companies increased their restocking in January from December, a signal that they expect consumers to spend more this year.

CEOs optimistic on sales but wary about hiring

Chief executives at the largest U.S. companies are much more optimistic about their sales prospects than they were three months ago, though many remain cautious about hiring.

The Business Roundtable said Wednesday that 72 percent of its members expect sales to increase in the next six months. That's up from 58 percent at the end of last year. And 38 percent plan to invest more in plants and equipment, up from 30 percent. The better outlook hasn't made the group more optimistic about hiring. Twenty-nine percent of CEOs plan to increase hiring over the next six months, the same percentage as the last two surveys.


Governments must continue to pay for legal ads, for now

PHOENIX - The Arizona law requiring cities and counties to pay to publish their legal notices in newspapers will stand, at least for the time being. Legislation to partially scrap that mandate failed Wednesday on a 26-31 vote in the House.

That's not the last word, however. On a voice vote, lawmakers agreed to revisit HB 2533 on Monday. That gives Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, a few days to round up the necessary 31 votes for approval.

The perennial fight pits local elected officials who complain about the expense against newspaper publishers and owners who say someone outside government needs to monitor compliance with requirements to provide notice to the public of items such as rezonings.

But several publishers said during hearings there's also a financial component: Without the legal ads, they would have to lay off workers.

The Associated Press; Capitol News Service