The week that was: 01/05/14

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Removal costs snowball

While Thursday's 5-inch snowfall caused its share of headaches locally, consider what New England was dealing with. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation dispatched 400 salt trucks to keep roads clear after that state got hit, with 2 feet of snow falling in the northeast corner of Massachusetts. State officials estimated the cleanup would cost $8 million to $10 million. At least nine deaths in the East were attributed to the storm, dubbed Winter Storm Hercules.

The mile-high state

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado as of Wednesday, the first state to do so -- never mind that federal laws still say it's a crime. The change is expected to bring in more than $600 million in revenue this year while saving millions more because they will no longer be prosecuting and jailing potheads.

Taking a toll

As of today, Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls go up 12 percent for those paying cash and 2 percent for those with an E-ZPass. This is the fourth year in a row there's been a bigger hike for cash-wielding drivers, who now pay nearly 40 percent more than those with an E-ZPass transponder that registers the fare electronically and deducts the amount from their account.

More coverage, more care

One aim of Obamacare was to reduce the number of expensive trips to the emergency rooms by providing coverage for the uninsured, who then would seek treatment for minor ailments at a doctor's office rather than a hospital. A study published Thursday in the journal Science, however, found that low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid in Oregon in 2008 used the ER more -- a whopping 40 percent more. "The law isn't designed to save money," noted one health economist. "It's designed to improve health, and that's going to cost money."

Meanwhile, in what was described as a "data transfer issue" between the state and the feds, up to 25,000 Pennsylvania residents who tried to enroll in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program through the website from Oct. 1 to Dec. 24 learned they may not be covered because of incomplete records from the federal government. State officials offered assurance that coverage will be retroactive to Jan. 1 once the problem is fixed.

Luck runs out

Gov. Tom Corbett let a bid expire from Camelot Global Services, which wanted to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery. While the Republican governor believed the outside management would boost funding for senior programs, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, said the agreement would be illegal.

Steve Twedt: or 412-263-1963.

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