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Talk of the bay: Insurer says it is lining up money partners

By Times staff
Published March 13, 2007


The clock is ticking for Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, but the Medicare insurer said it has several options. Universal has until March 23 to meet a state requirement that it add as much as to $200-million to its financial reserves before it can resume sales of its Medicare private fee for service plans. The company, owned by Dr. Akshay Desai, said it has received proposals from four investment firms. Universal has also retained Gorman Health Group of Washington, D.C., to review all of its operations, including customer service. Florida regulators, eager to see Universal's cash go toward paying claims, has insisted that Gorman's contract be on a weekly, rather than long-term, basis. Universal was forced to halt sales of its Any, Any, Any Medicare plan in mid February as a result of a shortfall inits reserves.

Verizon triples up on services for $99

They sparred with rivals on territory and services. Now, Verizon is extending that battle to price tags. The company announced Monday that it's offering the FiOS triple-play package of landline telephone, Internet and cable at $99 a month. That's the same price that Bright House offers its customers on the high-speed Internet, digital phone and cable combo. "Ten years ago you wouldn't have seen anything like this," spokesman Bob Elek said. "It's going to be wild and woolly going forward. ... We offer phenomenal deals on regular basis," said Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin. "What separates us from the competition is quality and service."

HSN to switch off British channels

HSN is pulling the plug on its latest attempt at cracking the TV shopping market in the United Kingdom. Two-year-old iBuy, which sells luxury items in a TV auction setting, will go dark in late May, and its 85 jobs in London and Belfast will evaporate. The St. Petersburg-based network, a unit of Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, has found an unidentified buyer for the two channel positions on Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB digital satellite service. With 48 TV shopping channels vying for customers in the United Kingdom, iBuy's two channels each reach into 7.8-million households, but the network declined to talk about sales. "TV shopping sales on satellite have been stagnant here partly because there are so many channels," said Budd Margolis, a London consultant who follows the industry in Britain. "But QVC has continued to do well."

[Last modified March 12, 2007, 23:01:50]

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