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With health insurer filings in, premium details expected soon

Entrepreneurs and those who don’t get health insurance through an employer soon should get final word on their premium costs for next year, after a year of high rates and uncertainty from Optima Health Plan.

On Wednesday, final rates were due from health insurance companies. According to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance, every area of the state should be covered. Anthem HealthKeepers and Optima Health both have filed to cover parts of Central Virginia, ending a year of monopoly in the region.

When Anthem filed a last-minute entrance, though, Optima tried to reduce its own rates.

“Please understand that while we would like to be able to accept these revisions, the last date for rate revisions was Aug. 10, 2018, at 5 p.m.,” an insurance examiner from the bureau wrote the next day. The examiner told the company to shift back to its previously submitted rates, which would ask an individual from Charlottesville or the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna or Greene to pay $1,117 per month for an average silver plan.

On Tuesday, Optima said it would comply under protest.

“Optima has been and continues to be in open dialogue with bureau staff and rate filing reviewers both before and after the August 10 rate revision deadline working toward a further rate reduction in the individual market for 2019 to benefit Virginia consumers,” an actuary for Optima said in a memo.

Anthem says it expects to cover 94,000 Virginians next year. Optima projects it will cover 59,525 members.

According to a document from the bureau updated on Wednesday, rate increases for all individual insurance plans across the state rose between 2.5 percent to 45 percent from most companies. Optima’s average premium decreased slightly in price, but its local Obamacare rates will remain among the most expensive in the state.

“There’s a sense that Anthem came in and has saved the day,” said Ian Dixon, a leader of the grassroots group Charlottesville for Reasonable Health Insurance, which formed a year ago to fight rising premiums. “But the bureau could have still toed the line and told Optima that they wouldn’t approve the rates if they didn’t address these outstanding questions about their 2019 rates. I wish they had.”

Richmond-based Anthem announced in August 2017 its decision to exit the whole state, citing “the shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance, including cost-sharing reduction subsidies and the restoration of taxes on fully insured coverage.”

One month later, after Optima and Aetna also had shuffled their coverage areas, Anthem restored coverage to 70,000 Virginians, ending up covering only about half the state.

That left Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna and Greene counties with Optima as the only option.

Though Piedmont Health Care has filed for Central Virginia markets, it will remain only in Nelson County. In July, commissioners said the company had tried to make agreements with more local hospitals but had abandoned those plans.

An estimated 70 percent of local residents who receive health care on the exchange have premiums subsidized by the federal government, from about $15,000 to $46,000 for an individual, or $32,000 to $95,000 for a family of four.


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From pro wrestling to disabling wreck to ACAC: Former WWF member from Charlottesville dies at 67

RICHMOND — Steve Musulin once overpowered Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in a test of strength. On a night in 1982, he and another man teamed up with Andre the Giant for a show in Connecticut and won a six-man tag match.

And for a month in 1977, wrestling under the name Stonewall Jackson, he was the National Wrestling Alliance’s Canadian heavyweight champion.

Musulin, a Charlottesville native, spent a few mildly successful years in the World Wrestling Federation as Steve Travis, where he was named rookie of the year in 1979 but mostly worked as an underdog who often heard fans chanting his opponent’s name during the bouts of synchronized violence. Wrestling took Musulin across the world: he fought in Canada, Japan and Madison Square Garden.

After a drug-fueled car crash ended his career in 1984, he came back to Virginia and spent 29 years helping others build strength as a trainer or greeting club members at the front desk of ACAC Fitness and Wellness centers in Charlottesville and Richmond.

After struggling with health complications from multiple strokes, Musulin died on Aug. 10 in Henrico County. He was 67.

The 1984 crash in Georgia crippled Musulin and killed the driver of the car he struck. Musulin would spend about 10 months locked up for vehicular homicide.

Those who knew Musulin said he continued to be a fighter as he built a life for himself and his family while dealing with the trauma and physical injuries that left him partially disabled.

He worked at ACAC centers for nearly three decades. He also took up welding and became an amateur artist under a new persona, the Junkyard Junkie, recycling scrap metal to make abstract yet playful sculptures of animals, warriors and everyday people.

Musulin’s wife, MaryAnn Spicer-Musulin, said a friend introduced her to him shortly after the 1984 car wreck while he was recovering from his injuries in Charlottesville before serving his prison sentence.

“He was the most handsome, charming man. There was no ‘woe is me’ to him,” she said. “I guess you could say it was love at first sight.”

She said they moved to Henrico about eight years ago when his health began to deteriorate.

“It was a privilege to take care of him,” she said.

Named an All-American offensive lineman for Guilford College in 1976, Musulin moved from college football to professional wrestling. Guilford College inducted him in its Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.

Steve Johnson, a wrestling writer and former news reporter who met Musulin in the early 1990s at ACAC, said Musulin blacked out behind the wheel before the crash that changed his life.

In a 2006 interview with The Hook, a former alt-weekly magazine in Charlottesville, Musulin said he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.

“He was part of the world of wrestling in the early 1980s that was riddled with steroids and drugs,” Johnson said.

In a 2007 story Johnson wrote about Musulin for SLAM! Wrestling, Musulin said he felt pressured to be in peak physical shape and travel long distances to shows.

“You’d be surprised at how quickly and easy it is to fall in that pattern if you’re running with a crowd that’s doing the same thing. It’s hard to be objective about it,” Musulin told Johnson.

“It wasn’t always easy for him, but he survived and prospered after going through something cataclysmic,” Johnson said.

Musulin’s son, Steve Joshua Musulin, said the tragedy shaped his father.

“He made an error in judgment and that’s probably one of the reasons he never asked for help,” despite the lifelong physical challenges he faced because of the injuries he suffered, his son said.

He added: “Dad thought it wasn’t fair to that man’s family.”

“He paid a high consequence for that accident. He said he thought about that man every day of his life,” MaryAnn said.

Musulin caught a break when a friend in Charlottesville who was managing a new health club asked Phil Wendel, the club’s owner, to consider hiring Musulin. Wendel said he had no qualms about hiring him.

Musulin worked as a personal trainer and at the front desk of different ACAC clubs during his career with the company.

“He obviously had a lot happen to him, but he was a fun-loving, big personality. He was perfect for our front desk,” said Joyce Steed, an ACAC manager who worked with Musulin for nearly 20 years. “He was a special guy.”

Musulin’s family said he did not turn away from the world of professional wrestling after the tragedy.

His family members said he would periodically bring them to wrestling shows and reunite with his old wrestling buddies, including Andre the Giant and Ric Flair.

Peggy Lathan, who met Musulin early in his career, remembers seeing him in the late 1970s at wrestling shows in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She said she saw him wrestle more than a few times and got to know him on a personal level.

Lathan said she remembers being pleased to see Musulin when he traveled to a wrestling show near her home several months after the car wreck.

“Steve was a lot of fun. He always had a smile on his face and was very nice to the fans,” she said. “I really hated to hear he passed away. I had lost touch with him.”

MaryAnn said she is learning how to live without him.

“It’s scary because he was everything to me. He was my protector. He gave me strength and courage when I needed it,” she said.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church Memorial Park Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.


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Fourth MS-13 member pleads guilty in Woolen Mills killing

The fourth and final MS-13 gang member charged with hacking to death an Albemarle County man last summer has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, abduction, lynching and being a member of a criminal street gang.

Jose Luis Escobar-Umana, 23, on Thursday made his plea in Albemarle County Circuit Court. He joins Walter Antonio Argueta Amaya, 21, in pleading guilty to the same four counts in the killing of Marvin Joel Rivera Guevara, 24.

Juan Carlos Argueta, 19, and Juan Carlos Zelaya, 19, both pleaded guilty to gang participation and lynching in Guevera’s killing in exchange for dropping first-degree murder and abduction charges.

Guevara’s disfigured corpse was found in Moores Creek in a part of the Woolen Mills neighborhood that is in Albemarle County on July 4, 2017, and his burned car was found the same day elsewhere in the county.

Guevara was identified by DNA, according to the Virginia Office of the Medical Examiner. His death was ruled a homicide and his autopsy noted more than 140 laceration wounds to his head, neck, body and limbs.

According to information read into the court record during the gang members’ guilty pleas, Guevara drove to Woolen Mills on July 3, 2017, with Argueta under the guise of meeting women. Argueta and Guevara worked together at a Charlottesville restaurant.

When they arrived at Woolen Mills, Guevara and Argueta were met by the others, and Escobar-Umana forced Guevara at gunpoint to walk toward the creek. He was then struck by a machete, and that blow was followed by dozens of others, as well as knife wounds. All four participated in the attack, testimony showed. At one point, a blow separated the machete blade from its handle, testimony showed.

The gang members drove Guevara’s vehicle to Ingleridge Farm Road in Albemarle County, where they set it on fire, testimony showed.

Testimony at the hearing indicated Guevara was targeted because he reportedly displayed a rival gang sign and reported to his employer the threats that followed.

Sentencing is scheduled for Zelaya on Nov. 6, Argueta on Dec. 4, Amaya on Dec. 5 and Escobar-Umana on Dec. 14.