AP-Photo-pg-1-Insurances-Hosps-Fightphoto courtesy of The Associated Press
Health insurance companies are squeezing medical care providers to drive down costs in advance of the insurance marketplaces becoming operational Oct. 1.
   Health insurance companies are putting the squeeze on hospitals and other healthcare providers in preparation for the rollout of the health insurance marketplaces, scheduled for Oct. 1, according to Jeff Taylor, vice president of The Bovinette Agency in Belleville. The firm specializes in employee benefits and group health insurance.
   “I think what a lot of these carriers are wanting to do is be able to get their pricing as low as possible when these exchanges open,” Taylor said. “It will be similar to when you search for an airline fare. You’re going to go on and you’ll see these different rates from these different companies with fairly similar plans. No one wants to be the high-cost provider, so the ball is swinging over to the side of the court that’s going to push them to really do their best to drive down costs.”
   Another byproduct of the marketplace competition, according to Taylor, is that insurers are limiting the number of providers that are “in network.” That may mean, he says, that the insurers will continue to have a fairly broad network structure but offer deeper discounts with a handful of select providers. Blue Cross, he says, is doing that and Coventry in St. Louis has also designated a select network which excludes certain providers.

Chemetco-Kerry-photo-pg-1photo by Kerry L. Smith
In about 12 months, motorists passing along both Illinois Rte. 3 and New Poag Road will begin to notice the Chemetco slag piles shrinking as Hartford-based Paradigm refines the metals from them.
   Pending approval of an official court order by the U.S. District Court, an Illinois-based company will move full-steam ahead in refining and recycling metals contained in the slag piles surrounding the former Chemetco plant in Hartford, Ill.
   Paradigm Minerals & Environmental Services - a privately held, secondary recycling company incorporated in Illinois in 2009 - has been working in close partnership with the US EPA over the past three years. Paradigm CEO Elliott Stegin’s affiliation with the site extends further back; his sister company, Industrial Asset Disposition, performed the massive demolition work in 2011, razing a lion’s share of the former plant buildings at the site.
   Chemetco, once one of the largest U.S. copper refinery operations with reported annual revenues of $500 million in 1999, opened in 1970 but was shuttered in 2001. Its former owner and CEO, Denis L. Feron, and others, were found guilty of violating the Clean Water Act. A measurable layer of toxic pollution covered the bottom of Long Lake (a Mississippi River tributary) by the time a secret drainage pipe was discovered 10 years later. The pipe had been installed in 1986 by Chemetco to drain several types of toxic metal pollutants.

   A California-based based consumer lender that has sometimes tangled with state regulators around the country says it will expand its small-business loan program to Illinois and four other states.
   CashCall Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., launched its Entrepreneur Loan program in California last year and recently announced plans to extend the program to Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
   The program offers unsecured business loans of up to $30,000 repayable via monthly fixed payments over terms of up to 10 years. Interest rates range from 44 percent to more than 158 percent, according to the company’s website.
   Loans can be arranged online or by phone and money is wired to a borrower’s bank account as quickly as the same day. No business plan, financial statements or tax returns need be submitted.
   “Small businesses cannot get the capital they need to grow their businesses because the loan process is broken,” Min Choi, CashCall’s managing director, said. “Banks are unwilling to lend to small businesses, and if they do, the process is long and requires a great deal of documentation.”
   The Entrepreneur Loan allows businesses in nearly any industry to obtain capital with a repayment structure that is as flexible as a credit card, CashCall says. There are no prepayment penalties and timely payments help build or repair credit.
   Choi says the program is designed to help small businesses that are underserved by traditional banks and those that experience unforeseen emergencies or opportunities.
   CashCall saw unmet needs for small business capital in Illinois and the other four states, and more states will be added soon as the company seeks to take the business loan program nationwide, Choi says.