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Nation in brief

Thousands of federal checks uncashable

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

WASHINGTON -- About 50,000 Social Security checks missing the names of beneficiaries were mailed this week to recipients mostly along the East Coast, in the Midwest and in Texas, and banks are being urged to refuse them.

The Treasury Department will mail replacement checks Saturday. People who were counting on money from their checks right away have little recourse but to wait.

The problem was caused by a software change, said Alvina McHale, spokeswoman for Treasury's Financial Management Services.

Beneficiaries are being urged to return the checks to their local Social Security Administration office, or to call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 for assistance.

Flu closes schools in Kentucky, Tennessee

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A flu outbreak has forced schools in Kentucky and Tennessee to shut down in recent weeks. Thousands of children have fallen ill.

Health officials attribute the outbreak in part to a new type of influenza virus spreading around the country.

Also . . .

MEDICARE SPENDING: Medicare is unnecessarily spending more than $1-billion a year in reimbursements to health care providers because of a fee schedule that pays some types of providers more than others for performing the same procedure, according to a report issued Thursday by Janet Rehnquist, the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department.

HEALTH CARE COSTS: Health spending is expected to jump to $3.1-trillion by 2012, according to a report by economists at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Health spending was at $1.4-trillion in 2001 and is projected to be at $1.5-trillion in 2002. The government's 10-year projections appear in the journal Health Affairs.

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