Governor endorses Medicaid expansion

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday became the latest Republican governor to announce support of the health-care law’s Medicaid expansion — and the third since Republicans gained more power at the state and federal levels in the November midterm elections.

Like most other Republican governors who want to take the Affordable Care Act’s generous federal funding, Haslam is offering a plan that deviates from the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the law. Haslam, who made the announcement almost a month after his reelection, said the Obama administration has verbally approved the approach.

“We think we have a plan in Tennessee that fits our citizens and also is an answer to budget challenges we’d face in the future,” Haslam said.

The Tennessee plan, which Haslam said will be debated by a special session of the state legislature, is a two-year waiver program with two tracks. It will offer vouchers to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — or about $16,100 for an individual — to help purchase employer coverage they would otherwise struggle to afford. Other newly eligible individuals can sign up in health plans modeled after health reimbursement accounts, with people earning above the poverty level required to pay premiums and copays. Haslam’s administration did not immediately offer details about how those payments are structured.

Haslam joins Govs. Matt Mead of Wyoming and Gary R. Herbert of Utah in offering a Medicaid expansion plan in the month since midterms. Nine Republican governors have expanded Medicaid, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is negotiating with the government on leveraging an existing state program to expand coverage.

— Jason Millman

Macadamia sales soar after plane flap

Nut rage imploded the career of a Korean Air Lines executive and embarrassed her family and country. Now South Korean retailers are experiencing the unexpected upside: a boom in sales of macadamias.

The flavorful macadamia nut was unfamiliar to many South Koreans until Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, ordered a flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight in New York City after she was served them in a bag, instead of on a plate. Cho resigned last week amid a storm of criticism about the tantrum that forced the flight to return to the gate.

Auction, South Korea’s second-largest e-commerce Web site, said Monday that sales of macadamias surged nearly 12-fold during the previous five days without any promotions. It said macadamias previously made up 5 percent of its nut sales but were now accounting for almost half.

South Korea’s largest online shopping retailer, Gmarket, said macadamia nut sales jumped 20 times during the six days to Sunday compared with the previous week.

— Associated Press

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