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Republicans satisfied with US healthcare costs even as prices surge



  • A growing number Republicans are satisfied with the cost of healthcare in the United States, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday.
  • The increase comes as another major index from the Labor Department showed average insurance prices spiking 20% over the last year.
  • The poll noted overall satisfaction with US healthcare costs is the highest since 2009 as just over one in four Americans are content with the healthcare pricing environment — though much of that boost was driven by the uptick in Republican approval.
  • It suggests that heightened partisanship is swaying Republicans on healthcare just as it has been on the economy, another issue where they are much more likely than Democrats to approve of President Trump’s handling of it.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An growing number of Republicans are satisfied with the cost of healthcare in the United States, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. The increase comes as another major index from the Labor Department showed average insurance prices spiking 20% over the last year.

The poll noted overall satisfaction with US healthcare costs is the highest since 2009 as just over one in four Americans are content with the healthcare pricing environment — though much of that boost was driven by the uptick in Republican approval.

The Labor Department’s consumer price index, which tracks the average change over time in prices paid for goods and services, said the cost of overall medical care rose 5.1% since Nov. 2018. That measure also incorporates doctors’ visits and hospital services.

The cost of health insurance had the biggest jump over the past year at 20.2%, representing one part of the broader healthcare industry. Other elements such as the price of doctors’ visits and hospital services saw more modest increases at 1.4% and 3.3%, respectively.

It suggests that heightened partisanship is swaying Republicans on healthcare just as it has been on the economy, another issue where they are much likelier than Democrats to view the situation more favorably, the Pew Research Center said.

By comparison, only 9% of Democrats were satisfied with healthcare costs in the US, according to the Gallup poll.

Still, another recently-released Gallup poll showed both Democrats and Republicans broadly satisfied with what they pay for their own healthcare, though there was a notable dip in Democratic satisfaction and an increase among Republicans. 

The cost of healthcare, though, continues to rise in the United States.

That’s led to Democratic primary candidates to propose a variety of methods to reform American healthcare. They range from incrementally shoring up the Affordable Care Act and introducing an optional government insurance plan to enrolling every American into a government-run insurance system.

Trump has repeatedly promised to introduce another plan to replace Obamacare, but he hasn’t done so yet.

House Republicans rolled out their own alternative in October, but it looks a lot like the unpopular “skinny repeal” version that was narrowly defeated by a single Senate vote in 2017. That one has almost no chance of becoming law before the 2020 election as it would have to pass the Democratic-led lower chamber.

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Patrick Mahomes is best QB in NFL after leading Chiefs to Super Bowl



  • Patrick Mahomes put together another masterful performance to send the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
  • In two postseason games this year, Mahomes, just a second-year starter, has over 700 total yards, 9 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
  • After the game, everyone in the NFL showered Mahomes with praise, calling him the best quarterback in the league.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Super Bowl has not been decided, but the NFL world believes there is a new king of the league: Patrick Mahomes.

The third-year quarterback put together another masterful performance on Sunday to help the Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans, 35-24, and advance to the Super Bowl.

Mahomes completed 23 of 35 passes for 294 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions while posting a 120 passer rating. He added another 53 yards and a touchdown on the ground on eight carries, once again leading the Chiefs in rushing.

The Chiefs are loaded with weapons — the Titans and Houston Texans both struggled to contain the likes of Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Damien Williams. But Mahomes is the engine of the offense, and in both games, when the Chiefs fell behind, he flipped the switch and led such explosive scoring drives that the opponent never recovered.

“Best quarterback in the National Football League right here, baby, and he shows it every time!” said Kelce, interrupting Mahomes’ postgame interview with Tracy Wolfson.

Moments later, CBS’ Boomer Esiason echoed Kelce’s point during the postgame show.

“No. 15 has changed the dynamic of this franchise,” Esiason said. “I don’t care what anybody says: he’s the best quarterback in the NFL, hands down.”

In the divisional round, the Chiefs fell behind 24-0 to the Texans before storming back, scoring 28 points in the second quarter. Mahomes finished that game with 321 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 picks.

On Sunday, after falling behind, 10-0, to the Titans, Mahomes and Company came to life.

In the second quarter, Mahomes squeezed a ball through a narrow window to Hill from almost 30 yards out, showing precision that few others can match.

To finish the second half, Mahomes also broke off a 27-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle, and powering into the end zone.

To set up the run, Mahomes even threw a subtle head-fake to move the defense.

Later, in the fourth quarter, Mahomes sealed the win with a 60-yard deep throw to Sammy Watkins, another example of his mastery outside of the pocket and unlimited arm.

In four playoff games, Mahomes now has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s a built-in advantage for the Chiefs, and he has only played two full seasons.

After the game, the sports world showered Mahomes with praise.

Mahomes had somewhat of a down year in 2019, compared to 2018 when he threw over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and won MVP. Some natural regression and injuries left Mahomes almost out of the MVP conversation completely.

But on the biggest stage, Mahomes has been nearly perfect, both managing the game and making the spectacular plays that make the Chiefs so explosive.

The Chiefs will face either the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Regardless of the opponent, the Chiefs have to feel they’ll have a chance with Mahomes on their side.

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Facebook retreats on WhatsApp ads, raising monetisation questions



  • Facebook is rowing back on plans to put ads in WhatsApp and has disbanded a team that was working on the effort.
  • The surprise move suggests it will not be as simple for Facebook to monetize the app, which it acquired for $22 billion, as analysts hoped.
  • Instagram was a template for a successful Facebook acquisition, with the company filling it with ads and turning it into a massive cash cow.
  • But WhatsApp will need to find a new model, and the team is working on features that will let businesses interact with users.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Facebook is backing off on plans to stick ads inside WhatsApp — raising questions about its vision for monetizing the messaging app.

The Menlo Park, California-based social networking giant acquired WhatsApp for a cool $22 billion in 2014, and the expectation has long been that it would — eventually — load it up with ads to monetize its millions-strong userbase.

But industry watchers that were hoping that day would soon materialise are out of luck: On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook has paused its plans to add ads to WhatsApp. It has disbanded the team working on a team exploring the app’s potential for ads, it reported, and “the team’s work was then deleted from WhatsApp’s code.”

Facebook insists that it is still committed to adding ads to WhatsApp over the long term, and the full circumstances of the team’s shuttering aren’t yet known. But the news makes clear that WhatsApp’s path to profitability won’t be as simple as some had hoped.

Instagram stands as the prime example of Facebook’s success with acquisition, acquired for a not-insubstantial $1 billion in 2012, it is now worth more than a hundred times that: An estimate in 2018 pegged it as worth $100 billion, and its value seems certain to have increased since then.

Instagram’s advertising business is thriving, helping power Facebook’s continued growth in profits, revenues, and users, and has been hailed as “arguably the best acquisition in the history of tech.” Its ad business is functionally similar to the core Facebook app’s — ad buyers pay to target users with ads that appear in their feeds, and later, in the ephemeral Stories feature too — and was viewed as a business template for how Facebook could spin up wildly profitable advertising units in other services it builds or acquires.

WhatsApp’s future will now evolve differently. A company spokesperson told Business Insider that it is now focusing on building other features that allow businesses to interact with ordinary users, like catalogs that can show what a business has for sale. They said it does still plan to eventually add ads to Status, WhatsApp’s version of stories posts that delete after 24 hours, but didn’t offer any kind of timeframe for doing so.

The messaging app may still make money off this business-feature approach, either by charging for access to certain features or via developing its ecommerce tools that might allow it to take a cut of purchases and payments made through the platform. (Ecommerce and payments may ultimately bring in billions of dollars a year in new revenue for Facebook.)

Bank of America analysts previously predicted in December 2019 that advertising — along with payments and transactions — on WhatsApp and Messenger could add $12 billion in annual revenue over the next three to five years, working to offset the cost of maintaining the messaging apps for Facebook and start generating profits. Facebook’s decision raises question marks over such estimates.

WhatsApp remains an incredibly strong product, with more than 1.5 billion monthly active users (as of 2018). But Facebook’s strategic shift indicates that turning it from a popular app into another cash cow won’t be as simple as turning an ad spigot to replicate Instagram’s success.

Do you work at Facebook? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at (+1) 650-636-6268 using a non-work device, email at, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

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SpaceX’s next rocket launch is doomed, and that’s great for astronauts



  • SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday morning — and cause the rocket to fail 84 seconds into flight and explode shortly thereafter.
  • The goal of the mission is to show that a new spaceship called Crew Dragon can safely escape from a rocket that’s not working correctly.
  • The in-flight abort test is a penultimate step toward SpaceX launching its first human passengers into space: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
  • If the flight is successful, SpaceX should launch Behnken and Hurley this year.
  • Click here to read more BI Prime stories.

SpaceX is about to do the unthinkable.

On Sunday morning, the company plans to launch a doomed Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a brand-new spaceship for NASA, called Crew Dragon, perched on top.

The 230-foot-tall vehicle is expected to heave itself off the ground between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET, but then suddenly shut down its engines about 84 seconds into flight. At that point, the Falcon 9 will be traveling nearly twice the speed of sound some 13 miles above Earth’s surface. 

What comes next for the rocket will be catastrophic. Within seconds of cutting its engines, aerodynamic forces will throttle the uncontrolled, tube-shaped body and rip it to pieces. Inside, huge tanks full of liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene propellant will rip open — so a large explosion and fireball is almost a given.

But if all goes according to plan, the Crew Dragon will escape to safety moments after the failure begins. 

Such a scenario is one of an astronaut’s worst nightmares, but NASA is excited to get on with the flight. That’s because the spectacle is part of a highly orchestrated, human-free, and strenuous test of the Crew Dragon’s launch escape or abort system. 

If the empty spaceship flies away to safety and splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, as planned, SpaceX will be a penultimate step closer to launching astronauts — its first-ever human passengers — who are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system on the spacecraft that we’ll be flying for our crews works,” Kathy Lueders, the manager of the agency’s program, said during a televised press briefing on Friday. “This is a very important test.”

‘Way past ready for this to happen’

nasa astronauts commercial crew program august 2018 AP_18215575643268

Nine astronauts will fly the first four crewed missions inside SpaceX and Boeing’s new spaceships for NASA, called Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner, respectively.


More than the safety of SpaceX’s launch system for astronauts is riding on the in-flight abort test. In fact, NASA’s ability to launch astronauts from American soil at all partly depends on it.

In July 2011, NASA retired its space shuttle fleet without a new American ship to get astronauts to and from orbit from the International Space Station — a $150 billion, football field-size laboratory that orbits Earth. Since that time, the agency has had no practical choice but to buy tickets aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for astronauts, to the tune of about $80 million per seat today.

The first crewed flights of NASA’s commercial program were supposed to start taking off around 2015. But neither SpaceX nor Boeing, which is also part of the agency’s program, have not yet completed rigorous mandatory testing required to launch astronauts.

“Most of us are just way past ready for this to happen. It has taken a lot longer than anybody thought,” Wayne Hale, an aerospace engineering consultant and retired NASA space shuttle program manager, told Business Insider. “This year we really need to do it. It really needs to be done.”

Saturday’s test is the next-to-last step toward that goal, which is why it’s so crucial that everything go right.

“The number-one most important thing is we launch them safely,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management, said during NASA’s briefing at Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Hale said that “everybody hopes at this stage that success is the outcome.” But he added that in-flight abort tests are not only rare — only a handful of them have been done since the Apollo moon program in the 1960s — but also “a very difficult situation” where “many things can go wrong.”

SpaceX has had trouble with its parachutes, for example, though Hale noted that tweaking and testing has apparently resolved those difficulties. Meanwhile, Boeing also saw a parachute deployment hiccup with its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft due to an incorrect rigging. A clock error on the Starliner also caused Boeing’s first uncrewed launch of the vehicle toward the space station to veer wildly off-course.

A rocket mission designed to fail — then to fall

spacex crew dragon spaceship space capsule four parachutes drop test nasa DROP_TEST_image_01

SpaceX performs a parachute test for its Crew Dragon spaceship, which is designed to ferry NASA astronauts to and from space.


Benji said the Crew Dragon is pre-programmed to detach itself from the Falcon 9 rocket “at the right point in time” if anything goes wrong.

“We’re looking for anything that’s off-nominal,” he told Business Insider.

In the case of Sunday’s test, the rocket will shut down while the vehicle is moving through extreme, though not maximum, forces in the atmosphere — what Lueders described as “a stressing test” for the entire system, and one that SpaceX ultimately chose over less trying and expensive ones.

“Getting this test behind us is a huge milestone,” she said. (The launch was originally scheduled for Saturday, but NASA and SpaceX delayed it due to worsening weather conditions.)

Shortly after detaching from the rocket on Saturday, Reed said Crew Dragon should fire its SuperDraco escape engines for about 10 seconds. That should be enough to put many miles between the doomed rocket and the spaceship.

“We expect there to be some sort of ignition, and probably a fireball of some kind. Whether I would call it an explosion that you would see from the ground? I don’t know,” Reed said of the rocket. “We’ll have to see what actually happens.”

As the rocket breaks up, Crew Dragon will coast to an altitude of about 25 miles, shed its aerodynamic “trunk” (which serves as dead weight), and begin to fall toward Earth, according to a SpaceX animation on YouTube (below). The plummeting capsule will then use clusters of small rocket engines, called reaction-control thrusters, to right itself at high speed. The goal is to keep the gumdrop-shaped base facing down — and its parachute pods pointed up.

About 4 minutes and 30 seconds after launch, two small drogue shoots will pop out of the capsule’s top to stabilize its fall. Four enormous main parachutes will deploy about a minute later and dramatically slow down the vehicle. A little while later — about nine minutes total into the mission — the Crew Dragon is supposed to splash down about 20 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, where SpaceX recovery crews on boats should be ready and waiting to recover it.

SpaceX and NASA will then review all of the data they collect from the safety test and see if it matches their predictive computer models. That process could take months, and smaller tests may be required afterward.

Assuming the abort test is a success, SpaceX will be poised to fly its first-ever humans — NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — on a demonstration mission called Demo-2. (In March 2019, the company launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the space station and back on a mission called Demo-1.)

“The main objective of this test is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything’s going wrong,” Reed said.

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on January 17, 2019.

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