Business Briefs: Agency reports that HMS overstates some costs

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Agency reports that HMS overstates some costs

Highmark Medicare Services overstated pension costs and claimed other unallowable costs, reported the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday. The overstated costs occurred from 2008 through 2011, with Highmark reporting $382,950 more than the $12.6 million allowed in one instance and $5.4 million more than the $210 million allowed in another. The unallowable pension costs from 2003 through 2009 amounted to $1.1 million more than the $11.9 million allowed.Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said Tuesday, “We are taking the OIG comments very seriously and we are working with them to bring about a resolution to the situation.” The Pittsburgh insurer sold the Medicare processing business in December 2011 to Diversified Service Options of Florida, a subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, to avoid a possible conflict of interest because of its then-proposed acquisition of the West Penn Allegheny Health System.

Highmark announces health law enrollment

Highmark Inc. announced that 181,144 individuals enrolled in the insurer's plans on and off the federal marketplace in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware during the six-month open enrollment period associated with the new health insurance exchange. In Pennsylvania, there are about 148,000 enrollees who have signed up for, or intend to purchase, individual health plans — 104,324 have plans via the federal exchange, and an additional 43,679 signed up for plans through Highmark directly. 

Westinghouse takes Duke to court over contract

Cranberry-based nuclear firm Westinghouse Electric Co. is suing Duke Energy Florida for allegedly breaking a contract to build two nuclear power facilities in Florida. According to documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Duke Energy on Jan. 28 terminated a deal struck in 2008 to build two plants in Levy County, Fla., using two nuclear reactors purchased from Westinghouse. Westinghouse claims that Duke Energy Florida, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corp., refuses to pay for costs associated with the contract, including engineering and design work amounting to more than $512 million. Sterling Ivey, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation.

EDMC cuts 200 jobs systemwide

Downtown-based Education Management Corp. cut 200 jobs Monday, 15 of which were in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh workers who lost their jobs were all faculty and staff members at the Art Institute campus here. A spokesman for the company, which operates for-profit colleges, said the jobs cut were at Art Institute campuses and within the corporate staff.

Glax­oSmithKline plant cited over in­gre­di­ents

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say they found contamination of drug ingredients manufactured at a GlaxoSmithKline plant in Ireland and said the company did not take sufficient action to resolve the problems. The news comes just days after the company said it was recalling all supplies of its over-the-counter weight loss drug alli in the United States and Puerto Rico, after concerns that bottles had been tampered with.

Goodwill reports decline in 2013 revenues

Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania said 2013 revenues dipped slightly to $49.41 million, down from $49.44 million in 2012. Revenues from the nonprofit's retail operations accounted for 60 percent of all revenues, or $29.5 million, up from $27.8 million the prior year. In its annual report, Goodwill also said it recycled 28.2 million pounds of donated goods last year including toner containers, aluminum, plastic, glass, newspapers, books, housewares, computers, computer components and televisions. Goodwill provides job training and other services to help individuals who face employment barriers.   

Auto sales accelerated in March

Automakers said Tuesday that sales rose 6 percent to 1.5 million vehicles in March, far outpacing analysts’ expectations. Chrysler’s sales rose 13 percent on demand for Ram pickups and the new Jeep Cherokee SUV. Subaru’s sales were up 21 percent; its new Forester SUV jumped 53 percent to nearly 14,000. Automakers reporting increases were Nissan, 8 percent; Toyota, 5 percent; General Motors, 4 percent; and Ford, 3 percent. Volkswagen’s sales fell 3 percent, while Hyundai and Honda both saw 2 percent declines.

Rite Aid acquires Health Dialog Services

Cumberland County-based Rite Aid said Tuesday that it bought Health Dialog Services in a deal intended to help the company expand its health coaching program for people with chronic ailments. The companies didn’t disclose terms of the deal. Health Dialog Services is based in Boston, and it was owned by Bupa, a health care services group headquartered in London.

Manufacturing expanded more quickly in March

U.S. manufacturing grew at a slightly faster pace in March compared with February as factory output recovered from severe winter weather. The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index increased to 53.7 from 53.2 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Construction spending up tiny 0.1 percent

Construction spending increased a scant 0.1 percent in February as a rebound in construction of hotels and other nonresidential buildings offset a decline in housing. The increase left construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $945.7 billion, 8.7 percent above the level of a year ago.

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