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Consumer Confidential: Cheaper meds, Fox plays rough, Microsoft may get smart

October 1, 2010 |  9:50 am

Here's your flipping-out Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--As healthcare costs continue rising, insurer Humana and retail giant Wal-Mart are teaming up to offer a low-cost Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. The Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan will have a premium of $14.80 per month, which the companies say is the lowest for any standalone national plan. Members who fill their prescriptions at preferred pharmacies will have copayments of as little as $2. Hopefully other insurers and pharmacy chains will roll out competing plans to help Medicare recipients handle high drug costs.

--In the latest tussle between a telecom provider and a TV programmer, satellite operator Dish Network says Fox is blocking access to 19 sports channels and other channels as it demands a rate increase of more than 50%. Dish says the rate hike is "unprecedented." The company says it will continue to negotiate with Fox to help restore sports programming, and that the talks don't affect local Fox TV stations, Fox News or Fox Business News. Whew! I'd hate for people to have to give up both football and Glenn Beck.

--Our friends at Microsoft, no stranger to me-too product launches, are reportedly gearing up to unveil new smartphones that will run exclusively on AT&T's network. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with Microsoft's plans, says the company is under pressure to step up the fight with Apple and it's white-hot iPhone, and with Google and its Android mobile operating system. The Xbox game console notwithstanding, Microsoft has never done particularly well outside the software arena, so it's unclear whether the company can give Apple a run for the smartphone money. As for the AT&T connection, that tells me we're closer than people think to other carriers being able to offer the iPhone.

-- David Lazarus