Maryland Assembly voted to expand gambling, give casinos a tax cut, and created a separate commission to work for these casinos against public interest. I spoke with someone who goes to these casinos in Maryland and he says they are filled with seniors. They prey on seniors and they abuse their labor. Does that sound Democratic? No. We watched a labor film at the regional labor rally that showed 5 years of strikes against casinos like MGM in Vegas just to get workplace abuse and poverty wages addressed. Maryland will not protect strikers. Again, it is Hispanic workers hit the hardest with abuse. Your incumbent says 'Good Paying Jobs and Revenue For Schools'. Baltimore says poverty jobs and revenue for property taxes, not schools. That is of course where any revenue that is collected, if any will end. Remember, these casinos get business tax credits that negate a great amount of the revenue they end up paying. WE WERE 'PLAYED' AS THE COMMERCIAL SAYS!
I sat at the Public Service Commission public meeting on BGE outages. The first thing they noted was low attendance in Baltimore. A speaker reminded them that there was only notice the day before so no one knew of the meeting....which is the point. There was a listing one day in the Baltimore Sun. The points made at the meeting are that BGE service has been declining for decades, one person called service in Maryland Third World....he was right on. Maintenance, communications, customer service are all the standard arguments as BGE and Exelon eliminate all that for profit. I reminded the Board that its decisions always go with the corporation and will probably raise rates for the public to pay for past operation costs and future infrastructure . I said that a billion dollar company asking for this was telling the Board that BGE needs to be Public. It is important to remember with this Public Service Commission, as with this new Gambling Commission, and Baltimore's Public Works Commission.......are all staffed by appointees your Governor and Mayor select and your elected officials vote them into office. YOUR INCUMBENT IS NOT FORCED TO DO THIS.....THEY LOSE MORE THAN THEY GAIN FOR YOUR COMMUNITY OVER AND AGAIN, AND THEY VOTE THESE COMMISSION HEADS AND ASSEMBLY LEADERS WHO WORK AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF PEOPLE INTO LEADERSHIP POSITIONS.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT!!!!
Mike Busch and Mike Miller are continually voted by your incumbent to lead the Maryland Assembly. They are the ones fighting for corporate interests along with O'Malley. WE MUST CHANGE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP. WE MUST RUN CANDIDATES IN THE COMING ELECTIONS!
THERE YOU GO ....BELOW YOU SEE AN ARTICLE SHOWING THE HEALTH SYSTEM BOHEMOTH WITH HUGE PROFITS. PROFITS MADE BY REDUCING WHO USES THE EMERGENCY ROOM, HOW MUCH STAFF ARE PAID, AND HOW MANY STAFF ARE USED.
JOHNS HOPKINS IS PUSHING THIS IN MARYLAND AND YOUR INCUMBENT IS MAKING IT POSSIBLE. DO YOU HEAR MARYLAND'S HEALTH CARE FOR ALL? YOU WON'T........THAT'S NOT THEIR TASK! THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO WILL ACCESS HEALTH CARE WILL BE THOSE WITH PAID INSURANCE. YOU KNOW CORPORATIONS ARE PUSHING YOU OUT WITH CO-PAYS AND DEDUCTIBLES, SO WHO ARE THESE INSURED? THE UPPER-MIDDLE, AFFLUENT CLASS.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT!!!
Giant Hospital Chain Creates a Windfall for Private Equity
By JULIE CRESWELL and REED ABELSON Published: August 14, 2012
During the Great Recession, when many hospitals across the country were nearly brought to their knees by growing numbers of uninsured patients, one hospital system not only survived — it thrived.
Readers’ Comments "When a company is allowed to ask - Is it financially viable for us to treat this illness? - there is a huge conflict of interest. "Outraged in D-town, Denver
In fact, profits at the health care industry giant HCA, which controls 163 hospitals from New Hampshire to California, have soared, far outpacing those of most of its competitors.
The big winners have been three private equity firms — including Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate — that bought HCA in late 2006.
HCA’s robust profit growth has raised the value of the firms’ holdings to nearly three and a half times their initial investment in the $33 billion deal. The financial performance has been so impressive that HCA has become a model for the industry. Its success inspired 35 buyouts of hospitals or chains of facilities in the last two and a half years by private equity firms eager to repeat that windfall.
HCA’s emergence as a powerful leader in the hospital industry is all the more remarkable because only a decade ago the company was badly shaken by a wide-ranging Medicare fraud investigation that it eventually settled for more than $1.7 billion.
Among the secrets to HCA’s success: It figured out how to get more revenue from private insurance companies, patients and Medicare by billing much more aggressively for its services than ever before; it found ways to reduce emergency room overcrowding and expenses; and it experimented with ways to reduce the cost of medical staff, a move that sometimes led to conflicts with doctors and nurses over concerns about patient care.
In late 2008, for instance, HCA changed the billing codes it assigned to sick and injured patients who came into the emergency rooms. Almost overnight, the numbers of patients who HCA said needed more care, which would be paid for at significantly higher levels by Medicare, surged.
HCA, which had lagged the industry for those high-paying categories, jumped ahead of its competitors and was reimbursed accordingly. The change, which HCA’s executives said better reflected the service being provided, increased operating earnings by nearly $100 million in the first quarter of 2009.
To some, HCA successfully pushed the envelope in its interpretation of existing Medicare rules. “If HCA can do it, why can’t we?” asked a hospital consulting firm, the Advisory Board Company, in a presentation to its clients.
In one instance, HCA executives said a private insurer, which it declined to name, questioned the new billing system, forcing it to return some of the money it had collected.
The hospital giant also adopted a policy meant to address an issue that bedevils hospitals nationwide — reducing costs and overcrowding in its emergency rooms. For years, the hospital emergency room has been used by the uninsured as a de facto doctor’s office — a place for even the most minor of ailments. But emergency care is expensive and has become increasingly burdensome to hospitals in the last decade because of the rising number of uninsured patients.
HCA decided not to treat patients who came in with nonurgent conditions, like a cold or the flu or even a sprained wrist, unless those patients paid in advance. In a recent statement, HCA said that of the six million patients treated in its emergency rooms last year, 80,000, or about 1.3 percent, “ chose to seek alternative care options.”
“Many E.R.’s in America, particularly in densely populated urban areas where most HCA-affiliated facilities are located, have adopted a variety of systems to determine whether a patient in fact needs emergency care,” the statement said. “About half our hospitals have done so. Typically, our affiliated hospitals have two caregivers — usually a triage nurse and a physician — make that determination. It should be noted that other non-HCA affiliated hospitals are using similar processes to address E.R. issues.”
As HCA’s profits and influence grew, strains arose with doctors and nurses over whether the chain’s pursuit of profit may have, at times, come at the expense of patient care.
HCA had put in place a flexible staffing system that allowed it to estimate the number of patients it would have each day in its hospitals and alter the number of nurses it needed accordingly.
Several nurses interviewed said they were concerned that the system sometimes had led to inadequate staffing in important areas like critical care. In one measure of adequate staffing — the prevalence of bedsores in patients bedridden for long periods of time — HCA clearly struggled. Some of its hospitals fended off lawsuits over the problem in recent years, and were admonished by regulators over staffing issues more than once.
Many doctors interviewed at various HCA facilities said they had felt increased pressure to focus on profits under the private equity ownership. “Their profits are going through the roof, but, unfortunately, it’s occurring at the expense of patients,” said Dr. Abraham Awwad, a kidney specialist in St. Petersburg, Fla., whose complaints over the safety of the dialysis programs at two HCA-owned hospitals prompted state investigations.
MARYLAND IS FRONT AND CENTER IN THIS PUSH TO PRIVATIZE WITH CHARTERS AND JOHNS HOPKINS HAS BUILT A STRONG PRIVATE NON-PROFIT COALITION TO DO IT IN BALTIMORE. AFTER UNDERSERVED SCHOOLS ARE GUTTED AND MADE INTO WORKPLACE HUMAN RESOURCES TRAINING CENTERS FOR CORPORATIONS WITH YOUR TAX DOLLAR, THEY WILL COME FOR THE MIDDLE-CLASS SCHOOLS.
YOUR INCUMBENT IS PUSHING THIS....VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT!!!
Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market
Reuters | Posted: 08/02/2012 10:16 am Updated: 08/02/2012 12:18 pm
By Stephanie Simon
NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they're as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They'll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.
"You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up," said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. "It could get really, really big."
Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.
The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.
Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into -- fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.
Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They're pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.
The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on "private equity investing in for-profit education companies," drew a full house of about 100.
In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.
The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.
"It's time," Moe said. "Everybody's excited about it."
Not quite everyone.
The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.
Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.
Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as "failing" schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.
President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.
"This is a new frontier," Ravitch said. "The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education."
Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because "the bottom line is that they're seeking profit first."
Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.
"They're taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we're constantly concerned about raising quality, and they're applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?" Ravitch said.
Investors retort that public school districts are compelled to use that metric anyway because of reduced funding from states and the soaring cost of teacher pensions and health benefits. Public schools struggling to balance budgets have fired teachers, slashed course offerings and imposed a long list of fees, charging students to ride the bus, to sing in the chorus, even to take honors English.
The time is ripe, they say, for schools to try something new -- like turning to the private sector for help.
"Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient," private equity investor Larry Shagrin said in the keynote address to the New York conference.
He credited the reform movement with forcing public schools to catch up. "There's more receptivity to change than ever before," said Shagrin, a partner with Brockway Moran & Partners Inc, in Boca Raton, Florida. "That creates opportunity."
Speakers at the conference identified several promising arenas for privatization.
Education entrepreneur John Katzman urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day, driving down labor costs.
"How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?" asked Katzman, who founded the Princeton Review test-prep company and now focuses on online learning.
Such businesses already have been drawing significant interest. Venture capital firms have bet more than $9 million on Schoology, an online learning platform that promises to take over the dreary jobs of writing and grading quizzes, giving students feedback about their progress and generating report cards.
DreamBox Learning has received $18 million from investors to refine and promote software that drills students in math. The software is billed as "adaptive," meaning it analyzes responses to problems and then poses follow-up questions precisely pitched to a student's abilities.
The charter school chain Rocketship, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, turns kids over to DreamBox for two hours a day. The chain boasts that it pays its teachers more because it needs fewer of them, thanks to such programs. Last year, Rocketship commissioned a study that showed students who used DreamBox heavily for 16 weeks scored on average 2.3 points higher on a standardized math test than their peers.
SPECIAL ED AS A GROWTH MARKET
Another niche spotlighted at the private equity conference: special education.
Mark Claypool, president of Educational Services of America, told the crowd his company has enjoyed three straight years of 15 percent to 20 percent growth as more and more school districts have hired him to run their special-needs programs.
Autism in particular, he said, is a growth market, with school districts seeking better, cheaper ways to serve the growing number of students struggling with that disorder.
ESA, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, now serves 12,000 students with learning disabilities or behavioral problems in 250 school districts nationwide.
"The knee-jerk reaction [to private providers like ESA] is, 'You're just in this to make money. The profit motive is going to trump quality,' " Claypool said. "That's crazy, because frankly, there are really a whole lot easier ways to make a living." Claypool, a former social worker, said he got into the field out of frustration over what he saw as limited options for children with learning disabilities.
Claypool and others point out that private firms have always made money off public education; they have constructed the schools, provided the buses and processed the burgers served at lunch. Big publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling public school districts textbooks and standardized tests.
Critics see the newest rush to private vendors as more worrisome because school districts are outsourcing not just supplies but the very core of education: the daily interaction between student and teacher, the presentation of new material, the quick checks to see which kids have risen to the challenge and which are hopelessly confused.
At the more than 5,500 charter schools nationwide, private management companies -- some of them for-profit -- are in full control of running public schools with public dollars.
"I look around the world and I don't see any country doing this but us," Ravitch said. "Why is that?"
THE DEVELOPMENT AND TAX CREDITS CONTINUE IN BALTIMORE AND MARYLAND AS SCHOOLS CLOSE, RECREATION CENTERS CLOSE, FIRE HOUSES CLOSE, AND JOBS ARE LOST IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR. WE HAVE A BUDGET DEFICIT YOU KNOW. SO THE COMMUNITIES THAT AGREE TO THE TIF LEVERAGING ARE THE COMMUNITIES AROUND THE HARBOR WHO BASICALLY ARE MAKING IT OK FOR THE ENTIRE CITY TO FORGO FUTURE TAX REVENUE. IT WAS FENCED INTO THEIR COMMUNITIES ANYWAY THEY SAY.....THE CITY WOULD NEVER SEE IT. ALL OF THESE BUSINESSES IN HARBOR POINT ARE NATIONAL CORPORATIONS MAKING HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS AND BILLION EACH YEAR AND THEY WILL NOT PAY PROPERTY TAXES FOR DECADES, IF THEN. PROPERTY TAXES PAY FOR SCHOOLS RIGHT? NO, THESE CORPORATIONS WILL SELECT WHICH SCHOOLS THEY WILL 'DONATE' TO. THEY WILL CONTROL YOUR SCHOOL'S FUTURE, NOT YOU........SAYS YOUR INCUMBENT.
City plans new bridge to handle traffic boost in Harbor Point
Baltimore Business Journal by James Briggs, Reporter Date: Thursday, August 9, 2012, 9:18am EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, August 9, 2012, 9:47am EDT
The Baltimore City Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to build a bridge that would extend Central Avenue to Harbor Point.
The city and Harbor East Development Group LLC want a new bridge to accommodate the increased traffic that is expected to come with the proposed 2.9 million square feet of new development, including a headquarters for Exelon Corp., at Harbor Point.
Harbor Point is a 27-acre waterfront site between Harbor East and Fells Point. The only way to reach the site from downtown is on South Caroline Street.
Living Classrooms, a nonprofit organization that uses waterfront sites and campuses around the harbor for educational purposes, had expressed concerns about losing access to some areas because of a new bridge.
But City Councilman James Kraft, whose district includes Harbor Point, said an agreement has been reached “that would not affect their ability to use the water down there.”
Officials at Living Classrooms could not be reached for comment.
Harbor East Development President Michael S. Beatty has said he wants a bridge in place by the time the Exelon (NYSE: EXC) headquarters is scheduled to open in 2014.
The DOT, which would handle bridge construction, has scheduled a community open house for 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at 1417 Thames St. to discuss the plan with area residents.
A new bridge would ease traffic beyond Harbor Point, Kraft said.
“If it’s done right, it will open up that [Interstate] 83 corridor and President Street corridor,” he said. “You have the traffic being able to come in Harbor Point and Harbor East down President Street and that can exit onto Central Avenue.”
The city is mulling multiple traffic patterns that could be created from the bridge, which would span from Lancaster Street to Harbor Point.
Construction likely will be paid for through a yet-to-be-passed tax-increment financing, or TIF, deal between the city and Harbor East Development. A TIF borrows against future property taxes to pay for infrastructure like roads and utilities.
“I got letters from community associations supporting the TIF, which is very unique,” Kraft said.
That’s at least in part due to the proposed bridge, which Kraft said “could be a great advantage to ... everyone who works in the greater Fells Point area.”