WASHINGTON -- Medicare announced a price cut.
Diabetes testing supplies now average about $16 a month for beneficiaries. That's going down to around $4.50. Savings are also coming for many patients who rent home oxygen gear, hospital beds, wheelchairs and other equipment.
Medicare deputy administrator Jonathan Blum said Wednesday it's due to competitive bidding making inroads against wasteful spending.
Starting July 1, diabetes patients will get blood sugar testing supplies through a new national mail order program. Competitive bidding for home medical equipment, now being piloted in nine cities, will expand to 100 metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Some seniors may have to switch suppliers, but taxpayers will save nearly $26 billion over 10 years.
Outside experts say Medicare should make even greater use of competitive bidding.
Priest, teacher convicted: A jury on Wednesday convicted a priest and teacher in a pivotal church-abuse case that rocked the Philadelphia archdiocese and sent a church official to prison for child endangerment. The verdict upholds the stunning account by a 24-year-old policeman's son that he was sexually abused as a boy by two priests and his sixth-grade teacher. One priest pleaded guilty before trial while Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former teacher Bernard Shero were convicted at trial. The accuser's 2009 complaint describing the abuse led to the landmark conviction last year of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in Philadelphia. Lynn is serving three to six years in prison for his role transferring an admitted pedophile priest to the accuser's northeast Philadelphia parish. A string of priest victims testified in Lynn's case, but none said they had been passed around like the policeman's son.
Launches communication satellite: NASA launched a new communication satellite Wednesday to stay in touch with its space station astronauts and relay more Hubble telescope images. An unmanned Atlas V rocket blasted into the starry night sky carrying the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. This is the 11th TDRS satellite to be launched by NASA. The space agency uses the orbiting network to communicate with astronauts living on the International Space Station.
Cowan is new U.S. senator: As Massachusetts' newest U.S. senator, William "Mo" Cowan, settles into his temporary job in the post previously held by Democrat John Kerry, attention is turning to a special election this summer when voters will pick Kerry's successor. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Cowan, his former chief of staff, on Wednesday to serve until June in the post left vacant by Kerry's confirmation as the nation's next secretary of state. Given Congress' "fiscal cliff" agreement Jan. 1 and automatic spending cuts expected in March, Cowan said he backed a balanced approach to the nation's money problems that include some cuts and new revenues.
Corvette engines moving to Ky.: The Kentucky plant that builds Corvettes will start producing high-performance engines for the iconic sports car. General Motors officials announced Wednesday the engine work will add 20 jobs at the Corvette plant. The automaker will invest $3.5 million to shift the production from Michigan to Bowling Green. It's on top of a $131 million investment announced in 2011 to retrofit the plant for production of the next generation Corvette. The new investment will allow Corvette buyers to have a hand in building their own engines at the Bowling Green plant, under the supervision of GM technicians. Standard engines for Corvettes are made at a plant in New York state.
Picks lead bidders for Twinkies: Hostess has picked a lead bidder for its famous Twinkies. The bankrupt company said late Wednesday that it has selected a joint offer from two investment firms -- C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC -- as the lead bid for its Twinkies and other snack cakes. Hostess, saids the two are offering to pay $410 million for the snack-cake business and five bakeries.
Will add wing to headquarters: General Motors will add a wing to its engine and transmission development headquarters in Pontiac, Mich., with hopes of getting new technology into cars and trucks much faster. The Detroit automaker on Wednesday announced that it would spend $200 million to add 138,000 square feet of new labs in Pontiac, allowing it to consolidate work from four other facilities. The move won't create any new jobs, but it will bring 400 more positions to the Pontiac headquarters, raising its total employment to 3,900 from 3,500. The positions will be moved from GM facilities in Castleton, Ind., Wixom, Mich., Torrance, Calif., and Warren, Mich. The 400 jobs also include the previously announced move of GM's fuel cell development center from Honeoye Falls, N.Y., to Pontiac.
Americans still crazy for Labs: The American Kennel Club says the Labrador retriever is the nation's most popular dog for the 22nd straight year -- for attributes that range from family-friendly pet to search-and-rescue nose. The German shepherd still commands the No. 2 spot, according to the AKC top 10 list released Wednesday. And the golden retriever has nudged out the beagle for the No. 3 rung. AKC spokesman Lisa Peterson said larger breeds dominate the "pint-sized, portable pooch."
Germans emptying fewer beer steins: Germans are emptying fewer beer steins these days. Consumption of the national beverage fell by 1.8 percent last year to the lowest level since West and East Germany reunified in 1990. The German government statistics agency reported Wednesday that Germans drank 96.5 million hectoliters of beer last year. That's 2.55 billion gallons. The German brewers' association DBB says an unusually cool summer made fewer people quench their thirst with a cold one.