ARE YOU STARTING DEMOCRACY NOW GROUPS AND CREATING YOUR ON BLOGS/NEWSLETTERS TO DISTRIBUTE IN YOUR COMMUNITIES? THIS IS THE FIRST STEP IN GROWING THE GRASSROOTS POLITICAL CHANGES WE NEED. GET THE RIGHT MESSAGE OUT.......NOT THE CORPORATE ONE!!!!
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I AM SORRY BUT I HAVE NO TIME THURSDAY FOR MY BLOG AS I AM IN CONFERENCES ALL DAY.......I WILL BE BACK FRIDAY!!!!!!
ARE YOU STARTING DEMOCRACY NOW GROUPS AND CREATING YOUR ON BLOGS/NEWSLETTERS TO DISTRIBUTE IN YOUR COMMUNITIES? THIS IS THE FIRST STEP IN GROWING THE GRASSROOTS POLITICAL CHANGES WE NEED. GET THE RIGHT MESSAGE OUT.......NOT THE CORPORATE ONE!!!!
LOOK AT WHAT YOUR MEDIA OUTLET IS TELLING YOU AND REMEMBER WHERE YOUR INCUMBENT STOOD ON THIS SCHOOL BUILDING ISSUE BEING CONSIDERED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. ALL OF BALTIMORE'S POLS ARE BACKING THIS KNOWING WALL STREET IS BEING UNDERHANDED YET AGAIN!!!
The Baltimore City School system has been deliberately starved of money over these past few decades mainly because the system is almost entirely underserved families and students. So chronic neglect has created crumbling school buildings. As you read below Baltimore is not short of money.....it is short of justice and a victim of the Maryland money shuffle. Johns Hopkins is leading a privatization of public schools in Maryland but in particular Baltimore and it is here that K-12 is being hit with privatizing as a stepping stone to the rest of Maryland. Now, if your goal were to turn K-12 into individual businesses with charters attached to businesses how best to remove the inconvenient status of 'public' from these schools? How about handing the school buildings themselves to Wall Street by losing them to leveraged financial instruments? THAT'S RIGHT!!! WALL STREET NOT ONLY GETS THE SCHOOL BUILDINGS NICE AND NEW, THEY ARE WELL ON THE WAY TO MAKING THEM VOCATIONAL TRACKING AS WELL.
The Maryland Assembly is scheduled to vote on approving State funds for this plan and O'Malley is a driver of all of this even as he waits to see if it passes before he endorses it. He knows how fraught with malfeasance this school building scheme is and he doesn't want to be associated with it unless he has to. As you see below, all of these people rallying for this school building funding have no idea the dangers that lie ahead because local media outlets have not mentioned it once. All these families know is that the school buildings are crumbling and they want them fixed. SEE WHERE MEDIA IS USED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNABLE TO ADVOCATE FOR THE RIGHT POLICY??? In this case though, the malfeasance is so stark as to hold banks and pols accountable.
The Baltimore City Schools and the city has all the money it needs to rebuild all schools without becoming connected to a Wall Street financial instrument and $2.4 billion commitment to new debt!!!! As Reutter knows, being the monetary wonk he is, the US is as leveraged now at $600 trillion as it was before the crash of 2008 but this time the bets are many times more risky meaning we are going to crash again soon and it will be harder than the last one. Wall Street is deliberately targeting the municipal bond market this time around so we have a muni-bond market that is ready to implode. All across America the same pols that let the subprime mortgage fraud go wild are now tying state and local governments to credit muni-bonds placing the public right in the thick of the coming collapse. Who lost big with the last crash.....pensions, municipalities, and the 99%. Who do you think is propping the European sovereign debt market that is about to collapse as Greece and maybe Italy and Spain default? That's right......pensions, municipalities like Baltimore, and the European people all in the line for losses far larger than in 2008.
When the muni-market is maxed the interest rate is low; when it crashes and everyone dumps their investments the interest rate will rise to 2-3% or more. That is inflation by many hundreds of millions of dollars in interest alone. This time though, when the economy crashes all government coffers are maxed and there will be no help.....the city will default on all of these financial obligations. What happens when the city or state defaults on this $2.4 billion mix of financial schemes? We know the banks and big investors buying the municipal bonds have already bought the CDS that insures them against any losses with this coming bond market collapse. Wall Street is all prepared just as with the CDS for subprime loans and AIG. They have even chosen the next insurance company to take the fall as AIG did in 2008. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE THE SITUATION YOU WANT TO PLACE MOST OF YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM? OF COURSE NOT.
Remember, Wall Street still owes billions to the State of Maryland for the last massive fraud, much of which is due Baltimore. Remember as well that the State court awarded the Baltimore City Public Schools and Historically Black Colleges $700,000. That is money owed the city of Baltimore. Remember, Maryland's Attorney General collected $1 billion in mortgage fraud settlement as an interest payment towards billions more and placed $700 million right into the State coffers rather than sending it to the communities ravaged by subprime fraud.....which are the communities having the schools needing rebuilding.
DO YOU SEE WHY IT IS NOT ONLY A BAD IDEA BUT MALFEASANCE TO ENTER INTO THIS AGREEMENT FOR SCHOOL BUILDING AND WE WILL BE TAKING THIS TO COURT!!!!!!
Thousands rally for city school repairs, with mayor as headliner Advocates gathered in Annapolis last night to push for passage of a $32 million block grant bill to start repairing Baltimore's decrepit public schools. Fern Shen February 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Borrowing some mojo from the Superbowl-winning Ravens, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed a charged-up, cheering crowd in Annapolis last night rallying for funding for dilapidated city schools.
Looking out on the sea of city residents outside the Statehouse (a crowd organizers estimated at more than 3,000) the mayor picked up on the tune she heard some singing: the football team’s unofficial theme song this year, “Seven Nation Army.”
“The chant that got us to the Lombardi Trophy, that’s the same chant that’s going to get this bill passed!” she said, prompting a roar from the crowd.
The bill in question would create an annual $32 million block grant in the budget for city school building upgrades, locking in state funding Baltimore already receives so that it can be used to leverage bonds to pay for the massive amounts needed.
The block grant bill is the foundation of the advocates’ 10-year plan to renovate or replace the city’s aging school buildings, with their leaking pipes, malfunctioning boilers, grimy windows, lack of air conditioning, lack of modern science labs and computers and other flaws.
Total needs are estimated at a daunting $2.4 billion.
A crowd in Annapolis said to be over 3,000 demanded state funds to renovate out-of-date Baltimore public schools.(Photo by Fern Shen)
The block grant measure is intended to create a funding stream for the first five years of the plan. After months of pep rallies and strategy sessions in Baltimore, last night’s raucous rally marked the Annapolis phase of the advocates campaign.
Students, teachers, parents and more than a thousand members of faith groups poured out of over 60 school buses and into the state capital.
The Politics: Busch but no Miller
The lineup of elected officials standing before them on the dais last night said much about where the measure stands politically.
Members of the Baltimore City Council were there, as were members of the city’s delegation to Annapolis, who say the school funding bill is their top priority.
Also addressing the crowd were Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who noted that most city schools have not been renovated since the 1950s, when he attended one. “It’s too long to wait for new schools,” Busch said.
“Whether you’re educated in Bethesda or Chevy Chase or Baltimore City, our kids deserve a world class education,” Brown said.
Former Legg Mason CEO Mark Fetting added his support for a major physical overhaul of city schools. (Photo by Fern Shen)
A couple of Prince George’s County legislators were up there as well, but the most important one – Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller – was not.
Miller has been skeptical about the plan and lawmakers from other parts of the state have also expressed doubts about whether the city can properly manage the massive project.
As if to reassure them, organizers brought up speakers “from the foundation and corporate community,” including Mark R. Fetting, until recently CEO and chairman of Legg Mason Inc.
Overhauling Baltimore’s crumbling public school would benefit the city and the state, Fetting said, adding “we need to make sure it’s done with fiscal discipline . . . and we can do it.”
Channeling Her Inner Ed Reed
But Rawlings-Blake was clearly the chief applause-getter last night.
After initially hanging back on the school construction initiative (mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and fellow members of a broad-based alliance, the Baltimore Education Coalition), the mayor is now giving it her full-throated support.
Students from schools across the city came to the rally. (Photo by Fern Shen)
“When they said Baltimore needed to put more skin in the game, we did it,” she said last night, noting her success in winning passage of a city bottle-tax to generate dedicated school repair funds that will be used to match the state’s contribution.
“When the confetti falls on sine die on the last day of session,” the mayor vowed, “we will have a deal for Baltimore city schools.”
To lawmakers from outside Baltimore who would deny city children in Maryland’s poorest jurisdiction equal school facilities, she had this message: “look in the mirror.”
And as if that wasn’t enough, she closed by singing “Seven Nation Army” to the crowd, who needed only a half-a-bar to recognize it and join in.
For members of this crowd, which pretty much blanketed Lawyers Mall, there was no doubting, no hanging back.
“We need 21st Century schools,” said Betty Baze, of Cherry Hill, who volunteers her time to tutor pre-schoolers there. Baze praised the school staff and fellow tutors (from AmeriCorps and AARP) but said the conditions in the building are deplorable.
“When it’s so hot in the summer, when you have to bundle up inside the classroom in the winter, when you can’t drink from the water fountains, when the bathroom plumbing is constantly backed up, you can’t learn,” said Baze, who attended Arundel Elementary School as a child in the 1950s and finds it “much different, much deteriorated” today.
Betty Baze came to support Cherry Hill schools. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Along with the adult speakers, the organizers brought up schoolchildren who performed music-and-dance numbers (“Pass that bill!” sang the City Springs Stompers) and described how poor conditions in their schools might hold them back.
(To achieve his dream of getting admitted to MIT, a Roland Park Elementary student said, “I need great computers and great computer labs.”)
“The water is always backing up in the bathrooms, the windows are dark and dirty, the paint is chipping down from the ceiling,” said Jessica Good, who came to Annapolis in hopes of bringing about change to Gwynn’s Falls Elementary Middle School. “It’s a horrible environment.”
Good said her parents went to the school, her five-year-old daughter attends the school and she went there as well.
“It’s been those bad conditions building up over three generations,” she said. “It’s overdue for a change.”
THINK ABOUT THE ARTICLE BELOW ALONG WITH WHAT YOU KNOW IS HAPPENING IN EUROPE WITH THE DEBT CRISIS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE PROTESTING .......DEFAULTS HAVE WALL STREET WORRIED. ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE TAKEN THESE TWO YEARS TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE ALL THE FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS THEY NEED TO SHIELD THEMSELVES, PUBLIC BACKLASH WILL BE STRONG.
Muni buyers, beware
By Carolyn Bigda @Money September 28, 2012: 5:08 AM ET CNN Money
Muni bond default risk is rising -- three California cities filed for bankruptcy this summer.
(Money Magazine) Cracks are starting to appear in the municipal bond market. If you're investing for income, it's time to pay attention. Consider: Three California cities filed for bankruptcy this summer -- unusual in such a short period -- and ratings agencies warn that more trouble is coming. "We expect local governments to be struggling with this through 2013," says Robert Kurtter, managing director, public finance, at Moody's Investors Service.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500) recently disclosed it was terminating half its contracts that insure against muni bond defaults -- a sign, perhaps, that Warren Buffett is increasingly worried about the public sector's fiscal health.
Policymakers looking to shrink the federal deficit are discussing limits on the tax benefits of munis, normally exempt from federal and, in some cases, state income taxes.
Related: Best banks 2012
Yet the muni market skates along seemingly carefree, handily beating the returns of taxable bonds. Last year the Barclays Capital Municipal Bond index returned 10.7%, including capital gains and yield; it's up more than 5% this year.
With Treasury rates so low, investors have been scooping up munis en masse, especially lower-quality credits that offer fat yields.
"Most of the flows into the market this year have been chasing recent performance," says Matt Fabian, managing director of Municipal Market Advisors.
That strategy rarely turns out well. While you don't need to bail on munis, to avoid trouble follow this more prudent path instead.
Buy high, sell low
Quality, that is. Lower-quality, or junk, munis can be good deals when the price is right. Not now.
Demand has pushed average yields down to 5.9%, from 7% a year ago (as bond prices rise, yields fall), even as default risk grows. "The bull market in munis has lifted all boats, no matter if it's a dinghy or a cruiser," says Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision Capital.
Sell those dinghies now. The market for high-yielding junk is notoriously fickle. "If something goes wrong, the whole sector can go bad," says John Flahive, director of fixed income at BNY Mellon Wealth Management.
Here is part two of handing it all to Wall Street. Even as Baltimore City Council and the Mayor along with Maryland Assembly and the Governor tie Baltimore's schools to the oncoming economic crash they are throwing the public sector pensions including the teachers' pensions as well. When an over-leveraged city defaults these public sector pensions are lost in either bankruptcy or outright dismissal.
Band together and demand those losses from deliberate fraud.....these funds were thrown into risky stocks just before the collapse!!!
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!
Financial Capitalism and the US teachers’ pension fund fraud
By Danny Weil on February 11, 2013 8:51 am Daily Censured
An “internal study” of the California Teachers’ Retirement System (Cal STRS) indicates that the public school pension fund faces a $64 billion deficit, according to the Sacramento Bee, dated February 4, 2013 (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/02/california-teachers-pension-fund-faces-64-billion-deficit.html#storylink=cpy=).
The California State Teachers Retirement System produced the report in response to a legislative resolution. The release of the “internal study” followed on the heels of chiding by the Legislature’s budget analyst, Mac Taylor, who indirectly admonished neo-liberal Gov. Jerry Brown for ignoring “huge” unfunded liabilities associated with the teachers’ retirement system and state retiree health benefits” in his new ‘budget’.
Cal STRS receives money from the state, from local school districts and from teachers themselves, but the source of the funds income is also highly dependent on investment earnings. Like most pension funds throughout through-out the nation, Cal STRS was decimated during the recent Great Depression that continues unabated. And while the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) has the power take money directly from the state treasury as it sees fit, STRS cannot; they must receive specific appropriations from the Legislature in order to fund the state teachers’ pensions.
Fully funding the California teachers’ pension fund, we are told, would require $4.5 billion more a year — excluding projected investment earnings. The system in its report stated that the shortfall would be ‘eased’ by setting lower funding targets and/or stretching out contributions (ibid). This means less money for current and future retirees. The most important financial move, Cal STRS fund managers said, is to begin closing the deficit, rather than allowing it to widen further. Sound like calls for austerity? Sure does, sure is. But wait, there’s more, and it is truly nauseating, frightening and painfully keeping with the logic of capitalist economics.
Pension funds are now dressed up hedge funds with current and future disastrous consequences
According to a recent article found at Dollarcollapse.com, pension funds are now morphing into hedge funds, a virtual back alley crap game or what Dollarcollapse calls “rolling the dice in exotic investments”, for Wall Street and their minions (http://dollarcollapse.com/investing/pension-funds-become-hedge-funds-roll-the-dice-on-exotic-investments/).
In the report written by author, John Rubino on January 28th, 2013, he notes that there was a time when running a pension fund used to be one of the more facile jobs in finance. Money came in steadily and predictably from member contributions and the funds were then invested in AAA grade bonds and blue chip stocks. The target was to meet a modest, but assured, annual return of 8% interest (ibid). Not anymore. That was before the financialization of capitalism and the economic collapse.
Now, as the author correctly notes, the pension funds in effect have two criminally incompetent overlords trying to serve two contradictory economic demands. On the one hand, at the national and state level the US borrows too much and lets its banks go on an unregulated ‘wilding’ with dire consequences for working people. This causes and has caused severe debt crisis’ to which the overseers of capital respond by lowering interest rates to the point where investment grade bonds, once the heart and soul of pension funds, yield next to nothing.
At the state and local level, the corporate owned governors and mayors refuse to raise taxes on their real constituency, the corporations and the rich, which would have the beneficial effect of balancing the funds; they instead pressure funds to continue to make their ‘vig’ of 8%. This, even though not only is this stupidly optimistic, but it is wildly impossible. So, what are the pension fund managers doing now? They are doing what financial capital requires: they are acting like gambling casinos by increasingly turning the whole pension fund investment strategy into a dangerous explosive landmine, twisting them into hedge funds, all to the detriment of working people and to the advantage of Wall Street.
This is how financialization works. It is a particular phase of capitalism where everything is monetized and commodified. Take the Texas Teachers’ Retirement system as just one example.
Texas Teachers’ Retirement system
In his article, Rubino goes on to write about the Texas Teacher Retirement System. According to Rubino:
“On the 13th floor of a sleek downtown office building here, the trading desks are manned overnight. The chief investment officer favors cowboy boots made of elephant skin. And when a bet pays off, even the secretaries can be entitled to bonuses” (ibid).
We are not talking about a high flying private hedge fund but instead, these desks are manned for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, similar to Cal STRS. The public pension fund has 1.3 million members that include school teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers throughout the state. They all labor under the assumption they will have retirement benefits they worked their entire lives for.
Yet rather than reduce risk in the wake of declines in interest rates, the pension fund manikins are now getting hostily aggressive, loading up on private equity investments and other non-traditional investments that they say promise to return pension funds to the halcyon days of steady and safe returns.
The Texas Teacher Retirement System fund has $114 billion dollars and now boasts some of the riskiest bets in its history with $30 billion dollars committed to private equity, real estate and other ‘so-called ‘alternative investments’ since early 2008, as the economic crash washed ashore like a Tsunami. Amongst the ten largest U.S public pensions, this makes it the biggest such investor in Wall Street backed equity investments. The funds currently have an average alternatives allocation of a whopping 21%! Don’t let them fool you again.
According to tracker, Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service, the Texas Teacher Retirement System brought in an annual return of 3.1% between December 31, 2007 and December 31, 2012. This was more than the average media return of 2.6% for similar years (ibid).
The argument made by the pension investment officials for their investment in Wall Street is that investment in private equity is necessary to help offset declines in other investments it is embedded in. So, we are told that investment in Wall Street is necessary to assure adequate pay-outs to current and future retirees. Sound familiar? The Chief Investment Officer for the workers’ pension moneys, Britt Harris, says he can perform miracles in light of the deteriorating state of US financial capitalism and “smash” the reality that government pension funds area on the short end of most investments — another one of those economic genies of trading.
So, with this particular shortsightedness and love for free markets, in November 2011 the Texas fund made one of the largest single commitments in the private equity system’s history: they invested $3 billion dollars in KKR and another Wall Street parasite, the Apollo Global management group (APO). Three months later, unbeknownst to the vast majority of fund members, they bought $250 million dollars of the world’s largest hedge fund firm with member monies – Bridgewater Associates out of Connecticut. This marked the first time time in history that a U.S public pension fund has purchased such a large stake in private equities, betting member dollars as if they were players in a casino roulette game.
The result was a return for the fiscal year ending on August 31, 2011 that was 7.6%. Now pension ‘managers’ say they can help the fund reach its goal of 8% annually over the long haul and they are proceeding full speed ahead. In a ten year period ending in August of 31, 2012 the Texas Teacher Retirement System had an annual return of 7.4% (ibid).
Of course none of the investments had the approval of working people who fund the retirement system. This is partly due to the enormous task of investing but mainly due to lack of democratic decision making and oversight which is the nasty business that pension fund managers, in cahoots with Wall Street, loathe. Nothing could be worse than having the wolves of capital in their elephant skin boots subjected to transparency and member oversight.
And just where were the teacher unions and bus driver unions and cafeteria worker unions when all this was happening? They were nowhere in sight. Their ‘bosses’ either didn’t know, care or understand the haughty risk the pension weasels were making on behalf of their members. The fat cat union bosses have shown a penchant for Wall Street and neo-liberalism in general, favoring begging over bargaining and fancy luncheons with powerful paid for politicians and wealth managers over their fiduciary duty of member oversight. They prefer to be team members rather than looking out for their real members, working people who are drastically declining in numbers as privatization clouds the horizon and economic decimation provides the meat for the noxious roux.
The average teacher, bus driver and cafeteria worker simply wants to do their job and to make a living, feed their children and provide for retirement, a chore that is not possible under the current regime of capital. Mis-education and a lack of critical thinking skills have left workers prey for the wolves of high-finance while the pension managers ski in Aspen, buy fancy boots and otherwise screw over workers by investing in a system of mendacity and despair that has proven time and time again to be a time bomb. All this while Wall Street gets fatter, bonuses are given out with impunity and privatization squeezes the life out of civil society.
Leveraging workers’ pension through debt
This grand charade is all about leveraging debt, which is the specialty of Wall Street and their cronies. “Leverage’ relies on borrowing more and more sums of cash and then using derivatives (phony insurance) to make large investments in Wall Street. In this way the funds don’t have to put up as much cash – money they don’t have anyway. It is like borrowing on credit cards to buy stocks and bonds but it is much worse, for it is not an individual problem, it is a socio-economic one that promises to drive the funds right down the same path as the banking crisis and housing “bubble” that brought down whole countries and economies, like Greece. All of this is great for Wall Street and death for workers.
But never mind: for the money changers, such as the world’s largest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates and a numerically growing number of hedge fund bosses state, this type of leveraging is not like that which crashed banks, devasted lives, washed worker bodies onto the shoreline of despair and economic ruin and left them in peonage; it, they say, is “different. Not to worry this time, these deacons of depravity and greed say they are firmly and safely in control of the financialization scheme which of course is tantamount to saying that an alcoholic is in control of his or her own addiction or the military industrial complex has a firm hand on the tiller of cost control.
They have even bent the language to their own self-serving advantage, a sophist’s tool, and they now call this ‘financial strategy’ “risk parity” (ibid). There are many such criminal firms such as AQR Capital Management and the Clifton Group out of Minneapolis who are greedily sucking their fingers in anticipation of their own bonuses, capital gains and primitive accumulation strategies which promise to make them even more super-rich than they currently are and allow managers and executives to reap heady bonuses.
When questioned, the minions of Wall Street who serve as the real shadow managers of the funds say that they are using a modest amount of leveraging and assure workers and you, the reader, that this is what makes their strategy brilliant and different from those employed by investment banks. Do not be beguiled, this is the same strategy that created the largest transfer of wealth into the pockets of the one percent in the history of the world.
Of course it is not only a self-serving lie and unthinkable ruse, but it is unsustainable. The chickens will come home to roost just as they did in the bankster fraud and housing debacle. Cannibal financial groups like Bridgewater and their founder Ray Dalio, like the matchstick men they are, have pitched the idea to other pension fund ‘trustees’ and have even made a documentary style online video about the Ponzi scheme.
They all employ the same rapacious rap. According to an interview with Bridgewater con-man, Ray Dalio:
“Ironically, by increasing your risk in the bonds you are going to lower your risk in the overall portfolio” (ibid).
This is the voice of American greed and it resounds well within the halls of depravity that is Wall Street which profits off of economic demolition and looks to take stumbling pensions down the road of economic purgatory.
The California State Teacher Retirement System
And of course this leads us back to Cal STRS. With a shortfall such as that borne by the California pension fund, one can imagine this Nigerian web scam to be swallowed by the pension bosses here in California and elsewhere, who manage workers’ money for a profit, but do so with disdain for the workers’ themselves and a penchant for tying themselves to the crap game of casino capitalism. These con artists avoid having to answer questions about such “innovations” such as day trading during the high tech stock bubble and house flipping during the housing boom, practices that are hardly innovative but more about yawing financial appetites and greed. Remember these hideous practices were also sold under the auspices of ingenuity at the time they were fathomed but soon became to be known as criminal practices and investment ruses that were devastating for working people.
My wife is currently receiving disability retirement benefits from the California State Teacher Retirement System. In this year, her check payment for February was lower than that paid in January. She has written Cal STRS to find out why and is awaiting a reply Cal STRS says they will have put in her “in-box” online at their website in 20 days. But as the clock runs out on her health and her funds quickly deliquesce, one can only view the financialization con with disgust and wonder how many other retired teachers who have devoted their lives to children will be affected.
This is all part of the privatization plot favored by Jerry Brown, enemy of the working class and cozy operator for the ruling class. To avoid having to raise taxes on corporations and the rich who invest in him, Brown and the pension fund managers have created low hanging fruit for Bridgewater and other such criminal enterprises. Remember, we are talking about billions of dollars here, even trillions of dollars in public pension funds.
So now you know the sordid tale of pension funds and pension leveraging, a seat at the black jack table for workers and a prime example of rapture capital accumulation for the rich. If the practices are allowed to continue should you be a public school teacher, much like a worker who pays into Social Security, you will eventually find there is no security, that the system is rigged and the hefty bubble subject to burst.
Meanwhile, Wall Street fat cats get fatter, receive hefty bonuses for wrangling the funds into Wall Street, and get larger all while more elephants are slayed and workers’ lives for the bootlicking fund managers drown in unpayable debt as worker retirement becomes merely a sultry dream to be replaced by homelessness, financial ruin, suicide, sorrow and decimation.
If you thought such heady political gimmicks like proposition 30 would help stave off economic devastation for underfunded schools or even staunch the bleeding inherent in the mendacious system of financial capitalism, you were wrong. The only thing that can bring about security and equality for those who work and the public educational sector is class consciousness, education, organization and mobilization. Anything less is a fool’s game. It is time working people in conjunction with the students and communities they serve go on the offensive and not be forced to crouch into the corner of defensiveness. But this will largely have something to do with how we see the world and how our perceptions are managed by a ruling class that understands very well this moment in history; a ruling class that like other monarchies of old, is more class conscious than its labor counterparts.
Meanwhile, my wife waits for an answer in her on-line ‘inbox’ from the unaccountable Cal STRS fund managers who don’t give a damn about how much she contributed to society, her growing physical disability or her future. We will let you know if and when we get their reply. In the meantime, organize, educate and mobilize: this is the only hope we have.
Historic Stock Market Risk Continues to Warrant Extreme Caution February 9th, 2013
by Erik McCurdy, Prometheus Market Insight
Our computer models analyze a large basket of fundamental, technical, internal and sentiment data in order to calculate our Secular Trend Score (STS) and our Cyclical Trend Score (CTS). The historical data used by our models extend back to the market crash in 1929 and have enabled our STS to correctly identify every secular inflection point and our CTS to correctly identify more than 90% of all cyclical inflection points during the last 84 years. Additionally, when analyzed together, these data identify extremes in the risk/reward profile of the stock market.
As of last week, stock market risk has increased to the highest 1 percentile of all historical observations, joining a select group of time periods. The following chart displays the seven time periods that have exhibited a risk/reward profile as bad as present conditions.
Click to enlarge
Note that following each of the previous six instances, the stock market experienced a severe decline of at least 30%. Fund manager John Hussman has performed similar analysis and the syndrome identified by his data and research aligns closely with the time periods identified by our computer models.
Present market conditions now match 6 other instances in history: August 1929 (followed by the 85% market decline of the Great Depression), November 1972 (followed by a market plunge in excess of 50%), August 1987 (followed by a market crash in excess of 30%), March 2000 (followed by a market plunge in excess of 50%), May 2007 (followed by a market plunge in excess of 50%), and January 2011 (followed by a market decline limited to just under 20% as a result of central bank intervention). These conditions represent a syndrome of overvalued, overbought, overbullish, rising yield conditions that has emerged near the most significant market peaks – and preceded the most severe market declines – in history:
Click to enlarge
I can’t stress enough the importance of seeing the larger picture here – it would have been easy to miss the forest and get lost in the weeds and trees of daily and weekly market advances at each point identified in the chart above. Pursuing short-term returns in those environments would have been a mistake, because the initial losses typically came in the form of vertical “air pockets.”
I’m keenly aware that the reflexive answer to these concerns is to disregard the messenger. After all, here’s a guy who had compiled a great record by early-2009 (anticipating a market loss which incidentally erased every bit of return achieved by the S&P 500 in excess of Treasury bills, all the way back to June 1995), and yet, seemingly unable to invest his way out of a paper bag during the recent bull market advance. Fair enough – I don’t deny for a second that my insistence on making our discipline robust to extreme economic and financial uncertainties also shot us in the foot in the recent bull market upswing – but that unfortunately doesn’t alter the objective evidence, or the severity of present conditions.
We have discussed this historic extreme in stock market risk many times during the past year, with our objective being to emphasize the gravity of the current situation. The environment of euphoria that accompanies the speculative, final phase of cyclical bull markets causes many investors to increase their exposure to stocks at the worst possible time. It happened in 2000 and 2007 and it is happening again right now. We emphasize often the importance of maintaining a big picture perspective, because it enables you to analyze short-term market behavior in its proper context. It is certainly possible that stocks will experience additional strength during the next several weeks, but the latest cyclical top is overdue and it could form at any time, so we remain fully defensive from an investment perspective.
I WANTED TO DO EDUCATION BUT THERE ARE TOO MANY GENERAL ASSEMBLY ISSUES THAT MUST BE DISCUSSED. MY INTENTION IS NOT TO CHANGE WHAT IS HAPPENING AS MUCH AS MAKE SURE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE NEED TO VOTE INCUMBENTS OUT OF OFFICE AND THE NEED FOR REFERENDA TO CHANGE OUR CITY CHARTER!!!
WE HAVE MANAGED TO SOFTEN THE GUN CONTROL BILL SO AS TO MAKE IT LESS CRIMINALIZING, WE HEAR MEDIA SPEAK OF THE DEBT LEVEL AS REGARDS THE SCHOOL BUILDING SCHEME AND THE MAYOR'S DELIBERATE ATTEMPTS TO STARVE THE CITY COFFERS WITH DEVELOPMENT DEALS.
BALTIMORE GOVERNMENT IS A FAUSTIAN MINEFIELD!!!
I appreciate WYPR's subtle reference to copious municipal debt as a reason not to do the Baltimore school building financing although if you would actually explain the state of the economy people would be shouting out against this plan.
Europe is in such dire financial straits because it was the victim of two financial frauds: the subprime mortgage fraud and a sovereign debt fraud perpetrated by Wall Street and Germany's Deutsche Bank. Americans know we experienced the same subprime loan fraud and now our current politicians like Rawlings-Blake, Ulman, and O'Malley want us to understand the sovereign debt fraud.....but later, after it happens. So, the banks went to European nations and made deals with the finance ministers and pols to sign on to what would be ever increasing debt. They created complex financial instruments to hide the nation's current debt so as to allow it to take ever more debt. This was then moved to the 1% of the countries through development companies just as they are doing here in America. Building explosions on projects nobody needed or wanted transferred the debt to the public sector and the money into the pockets of the rich. SOUND FAMILIAR? These finance ministers and pols knew they were imploding these nations with debt so this is all fraud and aiding and abetting. The reasons were twofold.....moving massive amounts of money to the 1% and creating so much public debt as to force the deconstruction and privatization of all public assets. That is what they are trying to do now in Europe as well as the US. Well, now it is America's turn at sovereign debt fraud as our finance ministers....the General Assembly/Governor and the Baltimore City Council/Mayor do their best to place debt upon debt and mortgage the future for decades with these business tax break agreements.....and a $2.4 billion school building scheme. Remember, government at all level has been saturated with debt as suspension of Rule of Law fails to bring back trillions of dollars in fraud. The Federal Reserve and Wall Street are setting the stage for implosion as the Fed buys billions of dollars in bonds to inflate the bond market and Wall Street loads the market with all kinds of European sovereign debt bonds knowing a collapse is about to happen. Indeed, traders are calling the bond market the same 'House of Cards' the subprime loan market was in 2006.
So, why are your politicians loading us with ever more municipal debt knowing this is happening? It isn't a secret and it has been happening these few years.......IT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE WORKING TO PRIVATIZE ALL THAT IS PUBLIC THROUGH GOVERNMENT DEBT.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!
THESE THIRD WAY POLITICIANS ARE SO CORRUPT THAT THEY LOOK LIKE A CONTEMPORARY VERSION OF 'FAUST'......AS GEITHNER FAMOUSLY SAID TO THE GRADUATING HOPKINS STUDENTS.....'THEY WILL SAY YOU ARE BAD......JUST IGNORE THEM'!
Below you see the same mayor, Rawlings-Blake speaking of financial doom, although hyperbole it does indicate she knows this is not the time for a $2.4 billion school building scheme......
WE WILL TAKE THIS MALFEASANCE TO COURT. AIDING AND ABETTING CRIME TAKES AWAY ALL STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS ON THESE FRAUDS!
Baltimore Bankruptcy? City Forecasts Financial Ruin By BEN NUCKOLS 02/06/13 12:02 AM ET EST Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- The Baltimore city government is on a path to financial ruin and must enact major reforms to stave off bankruptcy, according to a 10-year forecast the city commissioned from an outside firm.
The forecast, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release to the public and the City Council on Wednesday, shows that the city will accumulate $745 million in budget deficits over the next decade because of a widening gap between projected revenues and expenditures.
If the city's infrastructure needs and its liability for retiree health care benefits are included, the total shortfall reaches $2 billion over 10 years, the report found. Baltimore's annual operating budget is $2.2 billion.
The report was prepared by Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management Inc., a consulting firm that has prepared similar forecasts for Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the District of Columbia. Baltimore's decision to commission the forecast differs from those cities because each of them had already ceded financial oversight to the state, or in the district's case, the federal government.
The forecast will provide the basis for financial reforms that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to propose next week. The city has dealt with budget deficits for the past several years, closing a $121 million gap in 2010. But those deficits have been addressed with one-time fixes that haven't addressed the long-term structural imbalance.
"When you have budget after budget and you know that there are systemic problems, I felt an obligation to do more than what we have done in the past," Rawlings-Blake told the AP. The forecast, she said, shows that the city needs to address its financial woes "before it's too late, and somebody is coming in and making these choices for us."
That's what happened to the District of Columbia, 38 miles to the south, in 1995 after the city reported a budget deficit of $700 million. Congress created a financial control board that instituted tight spending controls and ultimately took over all hiring and firing in nine city agencies. The spending cuts, combined with a robust regional and national economy, drove the nation's capital back into the black.
Not all municipalities have been so fortunate. In late 2011, Jefferson County, Ala., filed the nation's largest-ever local government bankruptcy, citing $4.15 billion in debt, and last year, Stockton, Calif., became the largest American city to declare bankruptcy.
In Baltimore, the erosion of the tax base is easy to see. The city's population has dropped from a peak of 950,000 in 1950 to 619,000 today, and while the decline has slowed, there have been few signs of the trend reversing. The median income is $40,000, and 22 percent of the city's residents live in poverty, according to Census data. The city also has 16,000 vacant properties.
Baltimore already has the highest property taxes in Maryland – twice as high as in neighboring Baltimore County. The city's local income taxes are the highest allowed under state law. While the city enacted some new taxes to deal with the 2010 deficit – including taxes on bottled beverages and higher hotel and parking levies – city officials say they can't tax their way out of the problem without driving away residents and businesses.
"We've got to go from a vicious cycle to a virtuous cycle. That starts with a good, stable fiscal foundation for the city government," said Andrew Kleine, the city's budget director. "When you've lost so much population and the tax base has shrunk, it's very difficult to deal with."
If the city chose to use its reserve fund to cover the deficits, the fund would be empty in three years, the report found.
"Quite simply, a status quo approach is not financially sustainable," the report says.
In 2010, the mayor's office released a "doomsday" budget that would have meant firing police officers and closing seven fire stations, among other cuts, and some criticized the move as a tactic intended to soften up the City Council to approve tax increases.
But officials say the new forecast doesn't envision a worst-case scenario. It assumes modest economic growth nationwide over the next decade, said Michael Nadol, a management director at PFM and a lead author of the report.
Rawlings-Blake said the report was intended to be an honest assessment.
"It's not like we've had rosy budgets over the past five years, and now we're screaming that the sky is falling," she said.
Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, became mayor in 2010 after Sheila Dixon resigned as part of a plea deal for stealing gift cards donated to the city for needy residents. She was elected in 2011 and has nearly four years remaining in her term.
Health care benefits for retired city workers will be a major drag on city finances in the future, according to the forecasts. The city still faces increasing pension costs despite a recent restructuring of the pension plans for police officers and firefighters.
Like many cities, Baltimore doesn't factor the escalating future costs of retiree health care into its annual budgets, and if that doesn't change, the city will be on the hook for another $300 million in 10 years, the report found.
While city officials declined to specify how they would address the shortfall, they said some restructuring of the retiree health plan would be necessary.
The forecast cost the city $460,000. PJM won the contract through a competitive bidding process and subcontracted some of the work, including actuarial analysis.
Shayne Kavanagh, a researcher at the Government Finance Officers Association, said the group recommends that city governments engage in long-term financial planning, but few have taken that step.
"Most government budget practices are one-time, year-by-year affairs," Kavanagh said. "What Baltimore's doing is trying to integrate a longer-term perspective."
Listening to Nina Totenberg suggesting the justices may approve this process is a wakeup call to all Americans. My favorite line was Gansler saying that the police do not use collected DNA in inappropriate ways.....trust them. Here is why not to trust.......
I spoke personally on a few occasions with Gansler during the $25 billion mortgage fraud settlement process about why I and the entire world knew that to be an interest payment on trillions of dollars in fraud. Two questions make it clear why we should not trust. I stated that all 50 States Attorney General went to Greenspan in 2005 to shout out about massive fraud in the mortgage industry; this all being common knowledge for a few years before that. I asked Gansler how all states attorneys had not accumulated enough evidence over several years to have a solidly built case against all this fraud. Gansler simply states 'What!!! I did not know that' referring to the public declaration. I then proceeded to state just a few of the more obvious totals on fraudulent loans that made his $25 billion look like fraud in and of itself. AIG was not only the fall company for the CDS fraud but the dumping ground for a few hundred billion in subprime loans. Freddie and Fannie together had another $400 billion in subprime loans all expected to fall into foreclosure.....they were bad/fraudlulent loans. So all financial professionals placed $600-800 billion in fraudulent loans in just these taxpayer owned institutions. So that would have been the bare minimum in settlement as we know the total is several times that. Gansler says 'How did you get that figure? Where did you hear that'!
So, do we really think our justice department is to be trusted to do the right thing with DNA? As Nina said, 'We will be able to identify people as criminal before they commit crimes'. Yet, psychologists all categorize Wall Street as driven by sociopaths and we know many are felons guilty of what could be categorized as premeditated murder since throwing all of these people into ever deepening poverty through criminal activity is knowing people will die from those actions. SO WHO ARE THESE CRIMINALS NINA THINKS WILL BE IDENTIFIED? NOBODY TRUSTS THE CURRENT POLITICAL SYSTEM!
Supreme Court Considers If Warrantless DNA Swab Violates Constitution by Nina Totenberg
February 26, 2013 3:23 AM Listen to the Story Morning Edition NPR
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a case about the collection of DNA evidence, and whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits police from obtaining DNA samples before conviction without a warrant.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a case that could throw a monkey wrench into the widespread use of DNA testing — a case that pits modern technology against notions of personal privacy.
Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA collection from people at the time of their arrest. The question is whether it is unconstitutional to do that without a warrant, for the sole purpose of checking the DNA against a national DNA crime scene database.
It is well-established that police can conduct such tests once an individual is convicted. This case asks whether the same is true for people arrested but not yet tried or convicted.
The case before the court stems from the Maryland arrest of Alonzo King in 2009 on assault charges. Police, following state law, swabbed King's cheek to get a DNA sample, and then submitted the sample to the federal DNA database to see if there were any matches.
The database eventually came up with a hit, matching King's DNA to DNA found from a rape kit six years earlier. A masked man had broken into the home of a 53-year-old woman and raped her while holding a gun to her head. King was subsequently tried for the rape and sentenced to life in prison.
But the conviction was thrown out by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The state court noted that King was presumed innocent at the time of the initial arrest and that his DNA was not taken to prove that charge. Therefore, the state court concluded, the DNA collection was nothing more than a state fishing expedition for anything prosecutors could catch.
Maryland appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where oral arguments take place on Tuesday.
Representing Alonzo King, Kannon Shanmugam will tell the court that swabbing people who have not been convicted of a crime, in hopes of finding a match to a different crime, amounts to a dragnet search of the kind the Founding Fathers sought to prevent by enacting the Fourth Amendment.
“ "They're presumed innocent when they're handcuffed; they're presumed innocent when they're strip-searched; and they're presumed innocent when they're sitting in jail awaiting trial. Those are far greater invasions of privacy than touching a Q-tip to the inside of your cheek for a second."
- Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler
"The default rule under the Fourth Amendment is that when a search takes place, it has to be supported either by a warrant issued by a magistrate or by some level of individualized suspicion," Shanmugam said. And neither is required under Maryland law, or any of the other laws mandating DNA collection.
In fact, some DNA laws are more far-reaching. Maryland collects DNA only from those arrested for a serious crime. But as lawyer Shanmugam points out, federal law is not limited to those accused of felonies.
"As matters currently stand, if you are arrested for any federal offense, including speeding on the GW Parkway, the federal government will, as a matter of course, collect your DNA and prepare a profile and enter it into the federal database," he said.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler counters that regardless, the intrusion from DNA collection is "de minimis" — that is, it's negligible — compared with other privacy intrusions when an individual is arrested.
"They're presumed innocent when they're handcuffed; they're presumed innocent when they're strip-searched; and they're presumed innocent when they're sitting in jail awaiting trial," he observes. "Those are far greater invasions of privacy than touching a Q-tip to the inside of your cheek for a second."
Prosecutors and advocates for victims' rights contend there is no difference between DNA testing and fingerprinting, calling it "the fingerprint of the 21st century."
Indeed, the comparison with fingerprinting is a big hurdle to overcome for those challenging Maryland's law. Defense lawyer Shanmugam will tell the justices that fingerprinting is different because it does not involve "any intrusion into the body." Moreover, he will argue that fingerprinting is used primarily to determine the name and identity of the individual in custody, while DNA is generally collected and used to investigate past, unsolved crimes.
He also notes that a complete DNA analysis can reveal a "treasure-trove" of information about an individual's medical and personal history. Allowing the state to have access to the information, without a warrant or some individualized suspicion, he says, is like loading an information gun to invade people's privacy.
State Attorney General Gansler rejects that argument, declaring: "There's never been an allegation that I'm aware of in the history of the United States ... that any police department has ever gone beyond using DNA" as it was used in this case — to see if there is a match to an unsolved crime.
Gansler points out that Maryland's law limits DNA analysis to the small portion of information that experts use to match evidence from a crime scene. But defense lawyer Shanmugam calls that argument a " 'trust us' theory."
Ultimately, law enforcement authorities view DNA as the gold standard in crime detection. The push to add DNA profiles and crime scene DNA to the federal database is fueled by the idea that lives can be saved if serial rapists and murderers can be detected early in their careers and taken off the streets after one or two crimes, instead of a dozen or more.
The odds are that the Supreme Court will agree. The court issued a relatively rare order that permits Maryland to continue DNA collection while the justices consider the case.
Did you notice that unlike several years ago when there was huge public outrage over these same level of rate hikes in first O'Malley administration when media covered this important issue and informed the public in advance so they could organize a response....we heard nothing about this rate increase that was just about the same? That's because a handful of years ago we had public media that worked in the public interest and would therefor want to educate people as to why all this is bad for you and me. Now we have a corporate media taking the place of public media so their approach is to make sure corporate profits are maximized by this rate increase.
It is important to know that the public is owed billions from BGE in the form of payment from as early as the privatization of Maryland's public utility to the court settlement for rate manipulation by Constellation both cases yielding billions for the public. Only in each case rather than sending it back to the rate payers, it was attached to one area of the BGE business to another....Calvert Cliff shutdown or upgrading coal fire power plants that Exelon is allowed to sell for profit. Government watchdogs request information as to where this public asset of billions stand with the BGE/Exelon merger because this debt would have carried over to Exelon but no response. Even People's Counsel refuses to come forward with a documented account of billions of public money attached to BGE.
This is important because it represents yet another example of the 'fungibility' of Maryland public money and the complete lack of accountability with which it moves....like the Transportation Trust. Why is the Maryland Public Service Commission allowing a rate increase for BGE in the first place? This is a billion dollar corporation wanting rate payers to pay for past operations and future infrastructure development.....and Maryland Third Way corporate politicians do not want shareholder wealth compromised. The public accountability will occur if it takes a trip to court, but we need to remember that these Maryland Third Way corporate democrats will not stop making you and I pay for ever increasing corporate profits so we simply need to RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE CANDIDATES NEXT ELECTIONS!!!!
BGE customers to see rate increase $3.33 extra a month for average residential electric customer, $2.70 extra for natural gas
By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun 8:18 p.m. EST, February 22, 2013
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers will be paying higher rates this year, with the average bills rising by several dollars a month, to cover the cost of upgrading the utility's infrastructure.
Maryland's Public Service Commission, which regulates the company, said Friday it approved an increase to distribution rates that will cost the average residential electricity customer an additional $3.33 a month and the average residential gas customer an extra $2.70 a month. The utility had sought larger rate increases.
The commission shaved 35 percent off the utility's request, which also included higher commercial rates. BGE will receive about $113 million annually from the rate increase, money that is largely for gas mains, poles and other infrastructure and projects related to safety and reliability — such as tree trimming around electrical wires.
The new charges go into effect Saturday.
"It's one of those things, I guess, you've just got to live with," said Paul Verchinski, a Columbia resident who testified before the commission with concerns about the rate request on behalf of the Howard County Citizens Association. "I'm glad it's not as much as what they asked for."
BGE rate increases have been the subject of much debate and customer ire in recent years.
The Maryland Office of People's Counsel, which represents residential utility consumers, and regulatory staff had recommended lower rates than those approved by the commission. The staffers thought BGE needed about $9 million less than the commissioners ultimately approved. The people's counsel argued that BGE could manage with half as much of an increase.
BGE, which disagrees, warned Friday that it will likely need to file more frequent rate increases to keep up with its costs.
"While we believe the rate adjustments are a step in the right direction, they fall short of providing BGE with adequate funding for the significant investments we've made and must continue to make," said Robert L. Gould, a spokesman for the utility.
The commission, which has signaled it prefers rate increases be used to reimburse expenses rather than pay for future ones, refused to allow almost $20 million for proposed safety and reliability work.
But part of commission's decision to approve a lower increase came down to simple profits.
Commissioners set BGE's rate of return lower than the company had wanted — and lower than the amount approved in the utility's last rate case in 2010.
"The return BGE's investors will be allowed to earn in this case is appropriate, particularly under the present economic climate," commissioners wrote in their order.
Paula M. Carmody, head of the Office of People's Counsel, was glad to see those reductions. But the distribution rates are rising more than they did the last time.
"Even though the commission has reduced significantly the amount of money they can charge customers, it still results in a significant increase," she said.
Employers were disappointed, too.
"It really is a tough time for rate increases," said Todd R. Chason, an attorney who represents the Maryland Energy Group, which advocates for hospitals and other large energy users.
BGE said customers' bills will typically be lower than in 2009, even with the new increase, because the cost of energy has dropped. Commodity prices account for about 70 percent of the tab.
The company also said the average residential electricity customer should actually see an increase of less than $3.33 a month in distribution charges because average power use has dropped "considerably" below the level the commission used in its calculation.
Customers who use electricity and gas will be hit by increases to both distribution rates, but less than the two averages put together, BGE said. That's because the typical residential consumer in that group uses less electricity than electric-only customers.
Actually we will blame all Third Way corporate democrats but Obama is the one who has the most power to turn this around. Remember the Financial Reform bill your Third Way corporate democrat touted a few years ago as sticking it to Wall Street? Well, almost none of it was inacted and that includes the rule meant to protect you and I from rampent market manipulation/speculation in the commodities market...which gives us inflated gas prices. The market essentially uses the public as an ATM and your politicians think that is OK. After billions are made in weeks of inflated prices Obama has 3 times threatened to enact this rule and then never does. That is because Third Way corporate democrats work for wealth and corporate profit not the welfare of the people.
The solution is to bring the democratic party back to its base....labor and justice. We are the ones charged with protecting the people and we let the party fall into the hands of corporate pols. All we need to do is run and vote for labor and justice next elections....at all levels.
WHEN ARE AMERICANS GOING TO RALLY AND PROTEST THESE INJUSTICES!!!!! DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE BROKE!!!
Gas prices post big jump since last month Monthly increase is biggest since June 2009
By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun 7:32 p.m. EST, February 25, 2013
As gas prices soared toward $4 per gallon, Fred Price has sought out the best deals at the pump.
Even so, the self-employed handyman who drives to jobs throughout Baltimore is feeling the pinch of a more than 40-cent-per-gallon jump in the last month.
"I have to cut back on my traveling, and I'm using less help," Price said Monday as he pumped another $30 worth — about half a tank— into his Ford F-150 pickup. "I'm trying to keep up with it, but it's making it really hard to buy gas."
A gallon of regular gas cost 44 cents more on Monday than a month ago — an average of $3.78 up from $3.34 nationwide, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That's the largest monthly increase since June 2009. Gas prices had risen 36 days straight through Friday, before relenting slightly over the weekend, AAA said. (A year ago, regular gas cost on average $3.69 a gallon.)
Prices in Maryland have mirrored national trends, with regular gas averaging $3.79 per gallon Monday, up from $3.38 a month ago. Prices have crossed the $4-a-gallon barrier at numerous stations around the state, especially in suburbs near Washington, where drivers on Monday found regular gas averaging $4.02 per gallon.
Analysts expect prices to continue rising, though more slowly, with averages peaking at a lower level than last April's high of $3.94 per gallon.
Rising gas prices affect consumers' budgets differently depending on their income levels, said Steven Isberg, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business.
"If you're a family on a fixed budget, you've got to get back and forth to work and … you're stuck paying the high price, so something else comes out of your budget," he said.
This is the second year in a row with atypically high winter gas prices, said Ragina C. Averella, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. But prices have shot up faster this year, she said. Prices usually increase in the spring as refineries switch to producing summer-blend gas, a more environmentally friendly fuel.
This year, prices have risen earlier than usual as crude oil prices have increased and as U.S. refineries have gone offline earlier to switch to making the summer-blend or have faced other disruptions, AAA said. Crude oil had been approaching $97 per barrel until last week, when prices began to ease, closing at $93.11 per barrel Monday.
While U.S. gas prices dipped a fraction of a cent over the weekend, "the downturn appears negligible, an interlude rather than a trend change," Averella said.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, which tracks gasoline prices, said higher prices are partly a result of investors' pouring money into crude oil, expecting high gasoline demand.
"Speculators are looking to make a buck, and everyone is throwing money into oil, and that causes prices of oil to go up, and gas prices follow," said DeHaan, who said $23 billion has been invested in crude oil in about two months, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Demand for gas also is up slightly from a year ago, which could reflect improvements in the economy, he said.
"As long as speculative money pours in, prices will continue to go up," though "it's likely we're close to a peak, if we haven't peaked already," DeHaan said.
Consumers are hoping for a break soon. Lisa Lewis, who lives near Morgan State University and spends much of her day dropping off and picking up her three teenagers from different schools, pumped gas Monday at the Sunoco A-Plus Mini Mart on York Road. It was one of the lower-priced stations in the city, selling regular gas for $3.67 per gallon Monday.
Lewis said she spends about $125 a week to fuel her minivan.
"It's ridiculous," she said. "You have to cut back on other stuff, like going to the food store."
Israel Negash, president and owner of the Sunoco, said he is able to keep prices lower than the average by relying on sales of soda and snacks in the mini-mart. The lower prices help lure customers, keeping the pumps busy, he said.
"We try to do what we can to keep the lowest prices," he said.
Isberg, the economics professor, said that consumers tend to cut back on discretionary spending to accommodate higher gas prices, such as going to movies or sporting events and taking vacations — especially driving trips — which can hurt tourism.
"What we've experienced in the last three or four years is [gas] prices have been jumping up and down," he said. "We're seeing a lot more volatility. That could be because people's behavior changes when prices go up. When gas prices increase and people cut back on travel, that affects demand for gasoline."
In an economy he described as in "realignment," not recovery, and with the federal government sequestration cutbacks looming, "it's not a really good time for gas prices to go up, in terms of where the economy's heading."
DO YOU SEE WHERE THE MEDIA ONLY REPORTS ON THE POLITICAL CENTER? ACTUALLY GRILLO, THE PROTEST VOTE THAT THIS ARTICLE PLACES AT DISTANT THIRD HAS THE ABILITY TO BRING OUT FAR MORE VOTES IF THERE IS A SECOND RUNOFF ELECTION....AND WALL STREET FELL AT THE PROSPECT BECAUSE THIS WOULD MEAN NOT ONLY GREECE BUT NOW ITALY PULLING AWAY FROM AUSTERITY (THE BANKS CODE FOR TAKING PUBLIC MONEY TO REPLACE THE MONEY WE STOLE).
THIS IS HAPPENING ALL OVER EUROPE AS THE PEOPLE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THE CRIMINAL ACTS AT THE TOP. THIS WILL PROBABLY CAUSE ANOTHER ECONOMIC COLLAPSE OR RECESSION BUT WILL BE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE MUST START ENGAGING AS WELL AS THESE POLS ARE DOING THE SAME AUSTERITY THING RIGHT NOW!!!
Center-left coalition tops Berlusconi in Italian elections Coalitions within 1 percent of each in votes for lower house UPDATED 12:47 AM EST Feb 26, 2013
Alessandro Garofalo / Reuters
ROME, Italy (CNN) —The center-left coalition headed by Pier Luigi Bersani appears to have won a narrow victory in elections for Italy's lower house of parliament, according to final figures released by the Interior Ministry.
Bersani's coalition won 29.54% of the vote cast for the lower house, less than half a percentage point more than the center-right coalition headed by controversial three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which garnered 29.18% of the vote.
Final results for the Senate showed the center-left winning with 31.63% of the vote, compared with the center-right's 30.72%.
"It's by no means done, but it is exceptional. This is the first time ever that Italy has had a hung parliament," said James Walston, a professor at The American University of Rome, before the final results.
"The center-left was not able to put forward a clear picture; they lack leadership. And Berlusconi, who was trailing way behind before Christmas, ended up putting together, reconstituting, a new center-right coalition," he said.
Voter turnout was lower than anticipated on Sunday, the first day of balloting, down from 62.55% in 2008 to 55.17% this year, the state-run ANSA news agency reported.
Weather, in part, appeared to cause the lower voter turnout, the news agency said. It was snowing in portions of northern Italy and raining in the southern part of the country.
The candidates and their alliances
Sampling polls were banned within two weeks of the elections, but the most recent ones had Bersani holding on to a slender lead over Berlusconi. Former comedian Beppe Grillo was a distant third.
All the candidates, with the exception of Grillo, cast their ballots Sunday, ANSA reported.
This Third Way corporate policy of raising minimum wage and indexing it to COLA all the while decrying the situation of the working poor is typical Baltimore and Maryland Bait and Switch that has the very people who are victim to being the working poor advocating for policy that will keep them as working poor. Baltimore has no justice leaders!!!!!
We all know that the Living Wage is now at $14 and that is the low estimate. This bill not only puts off raising the rate to 2015 when the Living Wage will be higher, but it ties it to a COLA that ensures that wages will stay forever in poverty and in fact continually deepen poverty. Do you know what a 1-2% annual increase looks like? That's right....10-20 cents on a $10 wage. So, this minimum wage bill works against the working poor and not for them.
Now, we do not think we will be able to jump from $7.25 to $14 an hour, but if your justice organization and incumbent are not shouting that this is a stepping stone, and locking to the COLA as the only increased leaves no stepping stone......they are not working for you and me. For those middle-class people who don't care how poor workers are allowed to be, remember that these wages frame your own wage bracket and you know that doesn't look good either!!
Advocates: retail giants can handle hike increasing $7.25/hour minimum wage Fern Shen February 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm Baltimore Brew
Walmart employee Mike Mensah, part of a demonstration by supporters of a bill to increase Maryland’s minimum wage.
Walmart workers and their supporters gathered outside the Catonsville Walmart today to say that raising Maryland’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage would help families struggling to pay their bills without hurting the large, profitable companies that employ the majority of Maryland’s low-wage workers.
“Mom and pop businesses are always held up as the victims of minimum-wage laws, but actually our study found that 71% of the companies that employ low-wage workers in Maryland are big, employing 50 people or more,” said Jack Temple, a researcher who worked on the study released today by the National Employment Law Project.
The report, released today, also concludes that these companies are doing well. The authors reviewed the nation’s 50 largest low-wage employers and found that 63% of them are earning higher profits than before the recession.
Walmart, for instance, had post-recession profit growth of 23 percent and in 2011 paid its CEO $18,131,738, according to the report.
“The evidence is clear these businesses could afford the impact” of an increased Maryland minimum wage, Temple said.
“No one is saying that Wal-Mart should not be making money,” Rev. David Carl Olson of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore said, addressing the crowd. “But the most powerful corporations in the world are making their extraordinary profits on the backs of working people and it isn’t fair.”
A 31-year-old Walmart employee from Laurel, Michael Mensah, told the crowd he makes $10 an hour, can’t afford a car and lives at home with his mother.
Lagging Behind Other States
The demonstrators – about 25 of them assembled out near Baltimore National Pike after Baltimore County police blocked the entrance – were organized by Raise Maryland, a coalition of community, labor, immigrant, civil rights and faith groups working for passage of a statewide minimum wage increase.
The coalition is seeking support for bills introduced last month by Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery) and Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s) to raise the state minimum wage to $10 by 2015 and then index it to rise with the cost of living. The legislation also incorporates a 20% increase for tipped workers (from 50% to 70% of the current minimum wage).
Lobbyists for retailers are lining up to oppose the legislation. And the Maryland Chamber of Commerce has warned members about the pending bills and said they would saddle employers with “additional costs” that “would have a negative impact on the state’s business climate and economic competitiveness.”
Walmart: Workers Are Proud of Their Jobs
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman declined to comment on the minimum wage legislation but said people have “misconceptions” about jobs at the company’s stores.
“Our associates are hard working women and men who chose to work for us. They are proud of their jobs,” Fogleman said. He said the average employee is full-time and makes $12.57-per-hour.
Advocates note that Arizona, Florida, Alaska, Maine, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico all require employers to pay a minimum wage above $7.25 per hour, the current federal standard.
They also cite a report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) describing who would benefit from the minimum wage measure – about 536,000 Maryland workers, 87% of whom are over the age of 20 and 44% of whom are white.
If enacted, the measure would put an additional $778 million into these Maryland workers’ paychecks during the two-year phase-in period, the EPI report says.
Obama: Raise National Minimum Wage
Efforts to help low-wage workers are heating up locally and nationally in recent months. The hospitality workers’ union Unite Here helped workers at the Hyatt Baltimore to win an unfair labor practices complaint against the hotel chain last month.
The union is also working to help concession workers at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. They recently staged a rally at the airport, with workers speaking out about alleged lack of respect, poverty wages and inadequate access to affordable health care.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address, also took up the cause. He called for a rise in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9, with subsequent increases in line with inflation.
STATISTICS AS SPIN!!!!!!! MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS KILLING US WITH MISINFORMATION.
I wanted to revisit for the day the outright misrepresentation we are being exposed to every day as journalism no longer feels any need to verify or even weed out information sent to it. PLEASE SHOUT OUT TO THESE MEDIA OUTLETS AND POLICY GROUPS THAT KNOWINGLY GIVE FALSE INFORMATION!
Below you see a variety of topics each with its own mission....to make incumbents look good when they are absolutely horrible. Attorney General Gansler is running for governor and needs to tout as an accomplishment something that was not only a failure.....but a lie. Funds have not been distributed.....they were simply placed in the state coffers. I remind you of PIRG -MD and its unbelievable attempt to color Baltimore as a city of transparency by outright grading on a curve.....I've never seen anything presented with such a skew towards hiding political failings. They admitted they did indeed skew the data. The education success game is high as O'Malley intends to use his education successes in his campaigning.....only none of it is true......it is all skewed data. Below he is touting an improvement in Maryland's scores that take a very small percentage of all students taking the AP tests....20% for most counties, then he is saying of those 20% there were 17% that made a passing score. DO YOU KNOW HOW SMALL A GROUP OF STUDENTS THAT IS? IT IS ALL BUNK. What we know is that this education reform is wasting far too much money on administrative changes that have no value. Lastly I show our State Treasurer Kopp who must have the most skeletons in her closet of anyone I know given she has had that position for years. What she does below is try to defend herself from a columnist's bad revue of her performance but making what I know is an outright lie. She defends pension funding as adequate by referring to the unusually high rate of return we've had these past few years as proof returns will meet expectations. She doesn't inform people that the bond market is superheated and ready to implode so all of the gains will be lost......just as with the subprime loan market. THESE POLS ARE SHAMELESS AS THEY LEAVE THESE PENSIONS IN INVESTMENTS EVERYONE KNOWS ARE GOING TO BUST AND BURN.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!!!!
I WILL SPEAK ON EDUCATION THE REST OF THE WEEK.
This headline is not only misleading and false.....it is a political advertisement for Gansler and his running for Governor....courtesy the Baltimore Sun. We all know that the homeowners who were victims of fraud received a $1,900 sum totaling some millions of dollars. We know that Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition outed the banks and Attorney General Gansler for having made very few mortgage modifications as of late last year. Well over $700 million simply went into the State general fund.
Government watchdogs all report that the banks have done little to no mortgage adjustments to satisfy the settlement terms. What we are seeing is Obama's taxpayer funded housing program of $70 billion designed to do the exact same thing as this bank settlement being the funds used for mortgage refinancing.....not the banks money.
Here in Maryland what we do see are these banks giving home-buying incentives to new homeowners as those in Baltimore's Enterprise Zones. Since Gansler allowed the banks to pay fraud penalties as community donations these last few years....writing fraud off as charity .....it is not hard to imagine that these home-buying incentives are being slated towards fraud payments.
All of this is important in defining Rule of Law. People have equal protection and Gansler is the man charged with that duty. Yet, time and again the people being defrauded never get justice!
Marylanders have received $1.1 billion from Mortgage Settlement so far
Deatrice S. Besong is pictured at her home in Upper Marlboro. Bank of America, her servicer, has agreed to reduce her mortgage principal. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / December 6, 2012)
By Steve Kilar The Baltimore Sun 9:58 a.m. EST, February 21, 2013
Maryland homeowners have received over $1.1 billion in assistance from the National Mortgage Settlement, according to a report released Thursday by the settlement’s court-appointed monitor.
Just over 14,000 homeowners in the state, between March 1, 2012 and the end of the year, received help from the settlement with five major mortgage servicers that were accused of abusive foreclosure practices. The average amount of relief, including mortgage modifications and short sale assistance, was $79,082, the monitor’s report said.
Other forms of assistance that the banks can count toward the settlement are principal reductions, deficiency waivers and refinancing.
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial entered into the settlement last year with 49 states’ attorneys general and the federal government to resolve the accusations of consumer abuse, which included “robo-signing,” the practice of creating foreclosure documents in an assembly-line fashion without verifying their accuracy.
“Not only have thousands of families who remain in their homes benefited, entire neighborhoods, cities and counties have also benefited as the reduction in foreclosures has helped stabilize home prices — a necessity for economic recovery in Maryland,” said Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in a statement Thursday.
About $957 million was projected to reach Maryland residents through the settlement, Gansler’s office said. The report released Thursday does not include funds allocated in the first two months of 2013 nor does it incorporate payments that are expected to be made this summer to some borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure, according to Gansler’s office.
Nationally, $46 billion in relief has been allocated by the banks to more than 550,000 borrowers, according to Thursday’s report, the monitor’s third update on the settlement’s progress.
The monitor’s newest report is available here.
THIS IS THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE THAT NO DOUBT PROMPTED THE ARTICLE ABOVE!!!!
Editorial What Mortgage Relief? Published: February 24, 2013
A third progress report was issued last Thursday by the monitor of the settlement, which, among its terms, required the banks to grant $25 billion worth of mortgage relief, much of it by reducing the principal balances on troubled loans. The report showed that through the end of 2012, 71,000 borrowers had their primary mortgages modified, versus 170,000 who received help on their second mortgages, including home equity loans.
Both types of assistance can help struggling borrowers — to a point. But as Jessica Silver-Greenberg reported in The Times, housing advocates say that in many cases, banks are not helping with troubled primary mortgages, which often leaves the homeowners facing foreclosure. Instead, the banks are forgiving the second mortgages, which allows them to say that they have met their obligations under the settlement.
In other words, banks are structuring the debt relief in ways designed to tidy up their balance sheets, rather than to keep as many people from losing their homes as possible. Banks often do not own the primary mortgages; they only service them for investors who own them. But they do often hold second liens on their books. In general, the holder of a second lien gets nothing when a home is worth less than the mortgage balance or is sold in foreclosure. But by forgiving the second liens, the bank at least gets credit for “helping” the borrower.
In the report, the settlement monitor, Joseph Smith, said the banks still had much work to do on the borrowers’ behalf. We’ll believe it when we see it.
PIRG-MD VERIFIED THAT THEY DID GRADE THIS ON A CURVE MAKING IT APPEAR IT WAS BETTER THAN IT IS!!! These states failed yet because they all did poorly, the B+ meant that Maryland failed less than a few others.
THIS STUDY WAS RELEASED SIMPLY AS A HEADLINE THAT WILL BE USED FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH REALITY. LOOK AT THE CITIES HAVING THE HIGH GRADES......ALL OF THEM ARE KNOWN TO BE SOME OF THE MOST CORRUPT. PIRG DID THE SAME A FEW YEARS AGO WITH DATA THAT CONFLICTED WITH THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY STATE STUDY OF CORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY. I ASKED PIRG HOW IT COULD GET RANKINGS SO MUCH DIFFERENT THEN THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY------
THEY SAID 'WE USE A CURVE TO RANK THESE DATA' WE DO NOT SET A BENCHMARK TO BE MET.
In scientific research terms......THEY ARE LYING!!!
Baltimore gets B+ in spending transparency Grade given by Maryland PIRG Published 11:50 AM EST Jan 25, 2013
BALTIMORE —Baltimore City gets a B+ when it comes to spending transparency, according to the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.
The organization graded the nation's largest cities on how effectively they allow the public to track budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and other requests.
Get a copy of the report here
Baltimore was praised in the report for its searchable and downloadable checkbook, its level city spending information and its service request center that allows residents to notify city officials of issues that need to be fixed.
Baltimore scored better than many other cities with significantly larger budgets and populations.
New York City, Chicago and San Francisco received A's.
Those of us wanting REAL advances in education have a problem with the current course of reforms and this is one. The public is receiving all kinds of success hype that is just that.....hype. I do not want to detract from the hard work of students and teachers, but it is this reliance on test scores that has many educators pulling hair. What this article states is that of those students taking the test.....11% underserved scored well.....29% overall. First, the increase is so small as to be a statistical anomaly. Second, what they aren't telling you is the number taking the test. 'OF THOSE TAKING THE TEST'. What percentage of the total population of Maryland students took the test? Politicians are deliberately seeking a headline and what most feel is unjustified shouts of success. It's like George Bush shouting the War With Iraq is Over after 3 days.
The reason this misrepresentation of statistics is important is that for those seeing these reforms as wrongheaded, these headlines are harmful. Many educators see the problems with achievement as basic revenue and resources sent to K-12. These education reforms send copious amounts of money to things that do nothing to improve funding and resources in classrooms and THAT IS THE PROBLEM.
Record number of black students in Md. passed AP tests State still leads country in percentage of students passing tests in 2012
By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun 9:10 p.m. EST, February 20, 2013
More African-American students in Maryland's Class of 2012 successfully passed a rigorous Advanced Placement exam than ever before, as the state continued to lead the nation in the percentage of students deemed college- and career-ready, according to data released Wednesday by the national College Board.
The 11.4 percent of black students who earned a score of 3 or better on an exam still comprises a small fraction of the 29.6 percent of all Maryland seniors who passed a test. But it is among the highest percentages in the nation, reflecting the increased access and success for black students on the exams.
Maryland maintained its longstanding rank as No. 1 in the nation in the proportion of students passing the exams in 2012. The state significantly outpaced the nation, where 19.5 percent of students scored a 3 or higher, and also noted the largest percentage increase of students passing the tests in the past decade.
The data were released in the College Board's "Annual AP Report to the Nation." The report provides a state-by-state report on the number of students who take Advanced Placement courses, which are offered in dozens of subject areas, and pass the assessments. Students earn a score of 1 to 5, with 3 considered passing.
Some colleges accept passing grades as credit, and students who pass the tests are said to have higher college grade point averages, do better in intermediate level classes and have higher college completion rates.
Over the past decade, the number of Maryland students who take the exams has more than doubled, which state schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery praised as "parents and students really stepping out there, ready to take these risks.
"We believe that every child should have access to the most rigorous curriculum possible," Lowery said. "Not everyone is going to do well on the assessments, but at least they are being introduced to college and career-ready" work.
She attributed the increased pass rates to high-quality training for teachers and hard work by students.
The state was among a few in the country in which both the number of students taking the tests, particularly among minorities and other underserved populations, and pass rates increased. "The good news is, we have not suffered at all because we have opened access," Lowery said.
College Board officials said the gap in the number of underserved populations who have access to the rigor of Advanced Placement courses remains a national struggle, though in Maryland the variations are less prevalent.
Officials said that while one in four Advanced Placement students in the nation are underserved minorities, the proportion of those students who have the potential to excel in the classes still lags in some subjects. For example, two out of 10 Native American students with the potential to excel in AP math classes enroll in them, and three out of 10 African-American and Hispanic students do.
Maryland also had the highest percentage of students in the nation taking math and science assessments, state officials said.
Lowery said she would like to see the gap between minority students and their peers shrink significantly, particularly with the passage of the Maryland Dream Act, which will allow more minority students to attend college by extending a tuition break to some illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in Maryland.
"We would hope to ... continue to grow at all levels, and among all ethnicities," she said.
State officials noted that Hispanic students also saw progress on the exams last year. They accounted for 8.8 percent of Maryland's 2012 graduating class and 8.3 percent of the seniors who scored 3 or higher on the exam.
All 24 Maryland school systems have at least 20 percent of seniors taking the tests, according to state officials, who highlighted some districts — Anne Arundel, Calvert, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties — for having at least 30 percent of their graduating classes pass an exam.
By the numbers
Number of Maryland seniors who took AP exam in 2012: 26,640
Percentage of Maryland's seniors who passed AP exam in 2012: 29.6
Percentage of seniors who passed AP exam nationally: 19.5
Percentage of African-American seniors in Maryland who passed AP exam in 2012: 11.4
Percentage of Hispanic seniors in Maryland who passed AP exam: 8.3
We want to say this to Ms Kopp....not as a conservative pundit but as a progressive/labor pundit....we know that state and city pensions were thrown into the stock market just before the crash in 2008 after being moved from a then safe bond market. This was deliberate as pensions, both private and public, were used to prop the falling market to give connected investors a profit right to the end while pensions were left to take the brunt of the crash. Kopp will remember this.
Flash forward to present and again it is public/private pensions in what is now the collapsing market....municipal bonds ready to implode from all of the movement by pols of government debt to credit bond markets and due to the heavy investment of pensions in the European sovereign debt market....all of which is about to crumble. So don't think these high returns will last and Kopp knows this.
It is Kopp who plays the propagandist in stating the high returns prove sound figures for future gains. As she knows these figures are so inflated because of this bond bubble and will crash with the market. What people with pensions need to know is that you have a class action lawsuit over the malfeasance in 2008 and what will be this soon to occur collapse!!
State pension returns are on target 9:00 a.m. EST, February 19, 2013 Baltimore Sun
In her recent column, Marta Mossburg opines that the state pension system's assumed rate of return of 7.75 percent is unrealistic, pointing to last year's earnings of 0.36 percent as proof ("On state pensions, 'Everyone else is doing it' is no excuse," Feb. 13). Interestingly, she failed to mention the system's 20 percent earnings in fiscal year 2011 and 14 percent in fiscal 2010. That data didn't fit her narrative.
Ms. Mossburg and other critics of the pension system seem to have difficulty acknowledging the reality that the assumed rate of return is based on a long-term horizon. Since the system is charged with pre-funding benefits during the working life of public employees, the board appropriately looks at the rate of return as an average over that period, which is typically 25 years or more.
When determining the rate of return, the board and its investment advisors do not expect the system to match it year after year. In some years, the earnings far exceed the assumed rate, and in other years we fall short, as evidenced by the figures I mentioned above. However, when averaged over the working life of the typical employee, the board has done well in setting the rate. The latest data (as of January 31, 2013) shows that the system has earned 7.97 percent on average over the last 25 years and 7.69 percent over the last 10 years, one of the worst periods in history. The board will review this data later this year during its annual actuarial review.
As I stated in my column to state retirees — which Ms. Mossburg cites, but unfortunately mischaracterizes — we take the long view. Benefits are paid out by the system over the long-term, requiring a long-term investment horizon and funding strategy. Read it here and see how it squares with Ms. Mossburg's portrayal.
Nancy K. Kopp, Annapolis
The writer is Maryland State Treasurer and chairs the board of trustees of the State Retirement and Pension System.
Please remember we have ongoing issues over BGE rates, Saving the Post Office, and Saying No to a Wall Street school building plan ........continue to call incumbents about these. We have victories from our activism and that with only a core group of activists. We can reverse this corporate capture with the growing public outrage.......SHOUT LOUDLY, ENERGIZE, AND ACTIVATE!!
Maryland Public Service Commission for the BGE issue!
WEEKENDS I DO NOT BLOG.....THESE ARE SOME POLITICAL ACTIONS:
Right to Housing Alliance Resident Meeting
Submitted by Jessica on Mon, 02/11/2013 - 11:59am When: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 6:30pmWhere: Park Heights Community Health Alliance, 4151 Park Heights Ave
At these weekly meetings, residents are able to work together for real solutions to the problems of housing in Baltimore, and speak to an attorney if they need to.
If you or someone you know is facing eviction, join us at a weekly meeting. If you are interested in volunteering (can you help residents with rides to the meetings?) there are loads of opportunities to help out.
Meetings occur every Monday at 6:30pm at the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, 4151 Park Heights Ave.
Contact us at 443.863.9607 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WWP Forum- How Can We Stop Police Terror!
Submitted by StevenCeci1 on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 6:59pm When: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 7:00pm to 9:00pmWhere: Baltimore Solidarity Center, 2011 N. Charles Street 1st Fl
Hear Larry Hales – Contributing editor of Workers World newspaper and national
organizer for Peoples Power Assembly speak on: How Can We Stop Police Terror!
Participating: Anthony Anderson Sr. and Maurice Johnson families
This forum is part of our Black History Month series.
For more information: 443-221-3775
I DO NOT SUPPORT MUCH OF WHAT PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND PROMOTES AS THEY ALWAYS TAKE THE ISSUE SHORT OF NECESSARY GOALS........THEY ARE THIRD WAY. BUT JOINING IN ON THE ISSUE ALWAYS HELPS.......TELL PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND WE NEED THEM ADVOCATING FOR A NEW POLITICAL SET OF INCUMBENTS........NOT SHOUTING OUT FOR THE SAME INCUMBENTS EVERY ELECTION!!!!
FROM THE PENTAGON BUDGET
-- Annapolis must weigh in!
Sign the Petition to Congress then
RSVP to join us at these 2 actions:
Join LBS for our second annual Black History Month Debate:
Chris Dorner: Revolutionary or Murderer?
We'll be dispelling the myths behind the case and educating people on what the motivations and intentions of Chris Dorner.
When: 2/27/2012 at 7PM
Where: Morgan State University, Communications Building, RM 101
The event is FREE and there will be FREE food.
Click here to stay updated with event info:
Tuesday February 26th, 2013 6:30 - 8 pm
General Meeting of Get Money Out - Maryland (GMOM):
Baltimore City Council to Consider Resolution on Hyatt Regency Baltimore!
The Baltimore City Council is considering a resolution urging the Hyatt to uphold its agreement with the City to directly hire all workers at the hotel and to enter into a Labor Peace agreement, similar to the one signed by the Hilton Baltimore, to protect the City’s interests as the owner of the hotel.
The Hyatt is owned by the City of Baltimore and is supposed to regularly pay money to the City. When the hotel was built, the City included in its management agreement that Hyatt must directly hire all employees. Hyatt is violating that lease and breaking its promise to Baltimore by insisting that more and more of our brothers and sisters work for subcontractors for lower wages and with no access to Hyatt benefits. When Hyatt spends money fighting union organizing, that is money which should instead be going to the City.
Come Make Your Voice Heard!
Wednesday, March 6th
Baltimore City Hall, City Council Chambers, 4th Floor
100 N. Holliday
(Picture ID is required for admission to City Hall.)
PS - Check out this recent article from In These Times, "Fired Hyatt Workers Win There Jobs Back"
UNITE HERE Local 7, 1800 N. Charles Street, Suite 906, Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Healthcare is a Human Right - Maryland Healthy Lives. Healthy Community. Join Healthcare Now-Maryland and members of our campaign on March 4th 7-9 pm at the Diocesan Center in Baltimore (N. Charles & University Parkway) for a presentation by Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association and former Health Commissioner of Philadelphia, on the pressing need to improve our healthcare system beyond the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, Dr. Tsou will be sharing the crucial moral and economic reasons why we must work towards universal healthcare in Maryland and throughout our country.
This event will provide an opportunity to educate ourselves further in preparation for the Community Dialogues we are beginning to organize across the state. Beginning in April, counties around Maryland will be organizing large public forums where Marylanders from diverse communities will share their health care stories, realize they are not alone, and join the growing grassroots movement to ensure this healthcare crisis does not continue!
We hope y'all can join leaders from throughout the state on March 4th to learn details of why we must fight for our human right to health care, and why we cannot afford to settle for current "reform" that exacerbates inequality and emphasizes profit over people.
When: Monday, March 4th . 7-9 pm Doors Open & Snacks Start at 6:30
Where: 4 E. University Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Intersection of Charles St. & University Parkway)
The 5th annual Zeitgeist Day
Submitted by DonnaSimone on Fri, 02/01/2013 - 6:46pm When: Saturday, March 9, 2013 - 12:00pm to 5:00pmWhere: Space 2640
2640 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
The 5th annual Zeitgeist Day is being represented in Baltimore by the TZM - Maryland Chapter and is focusing this year on coalition building with other like minded activists groups from around the region. This will be a great opportunity to meet other activists and extend your network beyond just a single affiliation. Presentations will be given from:
Baltimore Green Currency
Adam Kokesh (Adam Vs. the Man)
Transition Town - Media, PA
Station North Tool Library
and more to be announced!
Come rub elbows with some of the best and brightest in the local counter-cultural movements and learn about some new and exciting projects. This is a FREE EVENT that will include light refreshments. Donations are welcome and appreciated but your attendance is worth your weight in gold.
the event page https://www.facebook.com/events/475287342539219/
YOU'LL NOTICE THAT MARYLAND'S RUPPERSBERGER IS BEHIND THIS. MARYLAND IS GROUND ZERO FOR ALL THAT IS SECRET POLICING AND INVASION OF PRIVACY!!! THIS IS ONLY ONE OF MANY MARYLAND CENTERED PRIVACY ISSUES
PLEASE CALL ALL OF YOUR INCUMBENTS TO SAY WE DO NOT WANT MARYLAND TO BE GROUND ZERO FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES VIOLATIONS!!!!
In less than 24 hours more than 60,000 of us have told Congress to respect our privacy rights and kill CISPA 2.0.
Congressmembers are pushing this bill hard. We need to push back -- and fast.
Will you use these links or forward the email below to ask your friends to join the fight?
If you're already on Facebook, click here to share with your friends. If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet
CISPA is back.
Remember when we defeated the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) last year? Well, it's back with a vengeance. The leading Republican and Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence subcommittee re-introduced the cybersnooping bill this week. We beat it once. We can beat it again. Click here to tell your lawmakers to support privacy and oppose CISPA. To refresh your memory, Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz called CISPA 1.0 a Patriot Act for the Internet. But now they've rebooted the effort, and Rolling Stone says that with CISPA 2.0, "Congress is trying to kill Internet privacy again." The bill gives companies like Verizon and AT&T protection from customers' lawsuits when they give the Feds information about your Internet use. Amazingly, Congress and big businesses are claiming they need to violate our privacy to protect us from Iranian and Chinese hackers, but they refuse to put any basic privacy protections in writing. CISPA would undermine our basic rights and jeopardize our privacy online. Click here to tell your lawmakers to oppose to it. CISPA sponsor Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger even said at a hearing this week that he didn't see any reason why businesses needed to hide your personal data from the government. Already over 200,000 Demand Progress members have contacted Congress to oppose this bill, but we need your help again. Help us defend Internet privacy from the latest assault by Congress and big business. Click here to tell your lawmakers to oppose CISPA 2.0 Please urge your friends to take action by forwarding this email or using these links:
If you're already on Facebook, click here to share with your friends. If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet Thanks,
STOP CREATING HEALTH POLICY WITHOUT HAVING BUILT AN EFFECTIVE OVERSIGHT SYSTEM AGAINST FRAUD!!!!!! THERE WILL BE MASSIVE FRAUD OF ENTITLEMENTS FROM THIS HEALTH REFORM!!!
I wanted to end for now the talk on health care and how the private non-profit complex is capturing these policy issues to their financial gain. As I showed there was a network created for Maryland Health Care for All in existence since 1999. Maryland ended with not only a private health system but one that makes health institutions more profitable than anywhere in the nation......at our loss. Below you see we are organizing again for this same issue......WE WILL NEED TO WORK HARD AT KEEPING THESE NON-PROFITS FROM AGAIN USURPING THE ISSUE BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO TRY!
One of the ways they intend to take the issue this time is by framing Universal Care with the Medicare or Medicaid for All label. Now, anyone who has either understands how these programs have already been gutted, especially Medicaid, so as to have seniors unable to pay co-pays so WE DO NOT WANT A MEDICARE FOR ALL THAT EXTENDS WHAT WE HAVE NOW. THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO DO;CAPTURE THE ISSUE BY STICKING US WITH AN ALREADY INADEQUATE PLAN. Please fight hard for a universal care that matches the quality of care we are used to receiving. Remember, the problem was waste and fraud......not access.
What the Affordable Care Act outlines in a tiered level of insurance that they cleverly named Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze level of coverage and goes from 90% insurance coverage, 80%, 70%, 60%.
Healthcare is a Human Right - Maryland Healthy Lives. Healthy Community. Join Healthcare Now-Maryland and members of our campaign on March 4th 7-9 pm at the Diocesan Center in Baltimore (N. Charles & University Parkway) for a presentation by Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association and former Health Commissioner of Philadelphia, on the pressing need to improve our healthcare system beyond the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, Dr. Tsou will be sharing the crucial moral and economic reasons why we must work towards universal healthcare in Maryland and throughout our country.
This event will provide an opportunity to educate ourselves further in preparation for the Community Dialogues we are beginning to organize across the state. Beginning in April, counties around Maryland will be organizing large public forums where Marylanders from diverse communities will share their health care stories, realize they are not alone, and join the growing grassroots movement to ensure this healthcare crisis does not continue!
We hope y'all can join leaders from throughout the state on March 4th to learn details of why we must fight for our human right to health care, and why we cannot afford to settle for current "reform" that exacerbates inequality and emphasizes profit over people.
When: Monday, March 4th . 7-9 pm Doors Open & Snacks Start at 6:30
Where: 4 E. University Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21218 (Intersection of Charles St. & University Parkway)
THIS ARTICLE DOES A GOOD JOB OUTLINING THE CONCERNS AND LAYS QUESTIONS AS TO THE REAL INTENT OF THIS ONLINE PUSH. IT DOESN'T MENTION ONE MAJOR CONCERN AND THAT IS THE SALE OF MEDICAL DATA FOR PROFIT......
YOU SEE THERE IS NO THOUGHT BY PEOPLE IN THE TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY THAT THIS PROCESS WILL SAVE MONEY....FRAUD AND ABUSE GUARANTEED TO GO UP!
THERE IS NO HEALTH FRAUD SAYS DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR MARYLAND HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE!!!!
Electronic medical records probed for over-billing Critics question credibility of federal panel charged with investigating
By Fred Schulteemail 6:00 am, February 14, 2013 Updated: 10:59 am, February 14, 2013
Dr. Farzad Mostashari is the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. hhs.gov
Thousands of doctors and other medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating elderly patients on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees and signaling a possible rise in medical billing abuse, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity has found. The Obama administration is forging ahead with a multi-billion dollar plan to shift from paper to electronic medical records, despite continuing concerns the program may be prompting some doctors and hospitals to improperly bill higher fees to Medicare. An investigation into those billing questions — which convened a hearing Wednesday — has yet to produce much in the way of results, and critics are questioning the seriousness of the efforts.
Some digital records software marketed to medical professionals may be encouraging use of elevated billing codes that pay fatter fees, according to the nation’s top health information technology official. That could undermine cost savings the government expects to achieve by adopting the digital systems.
“There is a lot we don’t know about that,” Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said Wednesday at a hearing of policy experts studying the billing issue. “We don’t know if the shift (in higher billing) reflects appropriate coding or inappropriate coding.” He added: “We don’t know if this leads to an increase in costs … or has other impacts.”
In October, Mostashari directed the panel of experts to investigate whether the digital systems allow doctors to cut and paste records from prior encounters with a patient, a practice known as “cloning.” Many experts say this process can raise the size of a patient’s bill, even though it reflects little in the way of added or necessary medical service.
Mostashari’s called for the review in the wake of the Center for Public Integrity’s “Cracking the Codes” series, which found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees. The investigation suggested that Medicare billing errors and abuses are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch to electronic health records.
Mostashari said at the start of Wednesday’s daylong hearing that it is “pretty clear” that if digital health records are “documenting care that didn’t occur, that’s not just fraud, it’s really dangerous medicine.”
But the policy panel spent less than an hour listening to four witnesses discuss the billing issue, suggesting that officials aren’t likely to quickly resolve concerns about potential fraud and abuse even as they commit up to $30 billion in government funding to encourage doctors and hospitals to purchase electronic records.
Ivy Baer, representing the Association of American Medical Colleges, recommended in her testimony that use of the “copy/paste” functions be limited and that doctors only document services “pertinent” to treating the patient’s current medical problem.
Michelle Dougherty, director of research and development from the American Health Information Management Association, said in prepared testimony that digital records can produce “volumes of redundant data” that are “very difficult to use and understand.” She said policy makers need to be aware of “red flags” that could produce inaccurate records — for instance, software that allows doctors with a single mouse click to check a box indicating that all body systems were examined and found to be normal, even though that not all were actually examined. Since doctors are compensated for the total amount of service they provide, these systems can improperly generate higher fees.
Dougherty also said that “cloned” documentation produced by cutting and pasting information from previous patient visits “continues to be a significant problem” that creates “unnecessary redundancy and at times inaccurate information.”
There was little talk of how wiring up medicine might raise doctor billings when President George W. Bush in 2004 set the goal of creating a digital medical record for every American within ten years. In early 2009, the Obama administration added billions of dollars in stimulus funds in the hopes that electronic health records would both enhance the quality of medical care and hold costs in check.
At the hearing’s conclusion panel chair Paul Tang, of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California, said that the group had little information about whether digital records improperly contributed to rising health care costs.
“We don’t have any data, positive or negative, that would be useful,” he said.
In all, the Obama administration expects to spend more than $30 billion helping doctors and hospitals purchase the gear and use it to improve health care. More than half the nation’s hospitals have received some payments, and so far more than $10 billion has been spent. Just over half the doctors now billing Medicare are using digital records.
But critics of the initiative have claimed for years that the office of national coordinator (ONC) has been more aggressive as a cheerleader for the technology industry than regulator and steward of billions of dollars in taxpayer money.
Donald W. Simborg, a California physician who participated in two government groups that studied the billing fraud issue, said on Wednesday that Mostashari’s review relies too heavily on panel members with close ties to the burgeoning health information technology industry. He questioned its effectiveness in determining if the digital equipment contributes to Medicare billing fraud.
Simborg likened the situation to “asking the NRA to investigate gun violence.” Simborg noted that the policy committee consists of strong supporters of electronic health records “who could hardly provide an unbiased and objective view on this.”
Ross Koppel, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that officials face a difficult balance in making sure that the software programs accurately reflect the services a doctor rendered and are not just maximizing payments.
In a brief interview on Wednesday, Mostashari bristled at the suggestion that his office is doing little to ensure that digital medical records don’t take taxpayers for a ride. “This is just the beginning of the conversation,” he said. An ONC official said that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to investigate the “upcoding” issue in regard to digital records, but could provide no details. The ONC panel is set to resume its deliberations today.
Criticism of the initiative also has come from Republicans in Congress concerned about its costs and from within the federal government.
In a Sept. 24 letter, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder warned five hospital and medical groups of their intent to ramp up investigative oversight, including possible criminal prosecutions, of doctors and hospitals that use electronic health records to improperly bill for more complex and costly services than they actually deliver — a practice known as “upcoding.”
In an Oct. 4 letter, four Republican House members urged HHS Secretary Sebilius to suspend government payments to hospitals and doctors, arguing the program may be wasting tax dollars and doing little to improve the quality of medical care. They argued that tax dollars spent so far have failed to ensure that the digital systems can share medical information, a key goal. Linking health systems by computer — called interoperability — is expected to help doctors avoid costly duplication of tests and medical errors. The House members have yet to get a response, according to a spokesperson.
The HHS Office of Inspector General also is investigating what it called “fraud vulnerabilities” related to use of electronic health records. The report is “currently in process” and is expected to be released sometime this year, according to agency spokesman Donald White.
While many experts believe that digital records will eventually prove their worth and help doctors keep people healthier, the government program has spawned an aggressive sales push by technology companies, which typically stress that their products can significantly boost the bottom line for doctors and hospitals. One company predicts an increase of one Medicare coding level for each patient visit to the doctor, potentially adding $225,000 in new revenue in a year, for instance.
Federal officials lack any system to monitor the accuracy of hundreds of billing and medical software packages in use across the country. That shortcoming caught the eye of the American Medical Association, which helped develop the billing codes and favors stricter government standards. In May, the doctors’ group urged officials to require testing that assures digital devices bill accurately and “do not facilitate upcoding.”
The information technology industry generally agrees that computerized medical records can lead to higher costs. But it argues that the software makes it easier for doctors and hospitals to more efficiently document all of the work they do — which they often failed to do on by hand on paper.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS HAD ALL KINDS OF HEALTH PLANS.....FROM CORPORATE BENEFITS PACKAGE, TO INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR SELF-INSURE, TO BEING UNINSURED AND SEEKING HEALTH CARE.....I HAVE A WIDE EXPERIENCE. I CAN SAY THIS ABOUT THE PLANS OFFERED BELOW......HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT....IT ISN'T CAR INSURANCE.
WHAT THEY HAVE HERE IS A PLAN THAT CLEARLY LAYS OUT THE EVER LOWER LEVEL OF ACCESS ACCORDING TO INCOME. CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT LEVEL OF CARE YOU WILL GET WITH A 60% COVERAGE MOST PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO TAKE AS IT WILL BE ALL THEY CAN AFFORD? ONE MAJOR INCIDENT AND YOU WILL BE BANKRUPT.
REMEMBER, YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO BUY ONE OF THESE AND UNLESS YOU EARN AS A FAMILY $100,000 YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCESS MAJOR CARE.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!
News Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2013
Contact: HHS Press Office
Health care law allows consumers to easily find and compare options starting in 2014 New rule will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 62 million Americans
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced a final rule that will make purchasing health coverage easier for consumers. The policies outlined today will give consumers a consistent way to compare and enroll in health coverage in the individual and small group markets, while giving states and insurers more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act.
“The Affordable Care Act helps people get the health insurance they need,” said Secretary Sebelius. “People all across the country will soon find it easier to compare and enroll in health plans with better coverage, greater quality and new benefits.”
Today’s rule outlines health insurance issuer standards for a core package of benefits, called essential health benefits, that health insurance issuers must cover both inside and outside the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through its standards for essential health benefits, the final rule released today also expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, for millions of Americans.
A new report by HHS, also released today, details how these provisions will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for 62 million more Americans.
In the past, nearly 20 percent of individuals purchasing insurance didn’t have access to mental health services, and nearly one third had no coverage for substance use disorder services. The rule seeks to fix that gap in coverage by expanding coverage of these benefits in three distinct ways:
The rule additionally outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group markets, which helps to distinguish health plans offering different levels of coverage. Beginning in 2014, plans that cover essential health benefits must cover a certain percentage of costs, known as actuarial value or “metal levels.” These levels are 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan, and 90 percent for a platinum plan. Metal levels will allow consumers to compare insurance plans with similar levels of coverage and cost-sharing based on premiums, provider networks, and other factors. In addition, the health care law limits the annual amount of cost sharing that individuals will pay across all health plans – preventing insured Americans from facing catastrophic costs associated with an illness or injury.
Policies in today’s rule also provide more information on accreditation standards for qualified health plans (QHPs) that will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges), one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices.
Together, these provisions will help consumers compare and select health plans in the individual and small group markets based on what is important to them and their families. People can make these choices knowing these health plans will cover a core set of critical benefits and can more easily compare the level of coverage based on a uniform standard. Further, these provisions help expand choices and competition on the Marketplaces.
For more information on today’s rule, visit: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/ehb-2-20-2013.html
To view the rule, visit: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx
For more information on how today’s rule helps those in need of mental health and substance use disorder services, visit: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/mental/rb_mental.cfm
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
You can follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov and sign up for HHS Email Updates.
Last revised: February 20, 2013
People are able now to see we these Third Way corporate pols had in mind when they started this Affordable Care Act. Maryland is democratic so this isn't driven by Republicans as the hype always tells you.....it is driven by Third Way who are working hard to eliminate all that is public and maximize corporate profits and wealth inequality.....THIRD WAY CORPORATE POLS RUNNING AS DEMOCRATS FOLKS!!!!! STOP VOTING FOR THEM!!!
We saw yesterday that the laws put into place in Maryland in 2010 by O'Malley were designed to protect health fraud just as the laws that were in place protected Wall Street from the financial fraud. These laws give the public NO avenue for justice.....only the State can move forward and as we see with the current state of Maryland ranked at the bottom nationally for fraud and corruption, our public justice organizations will not move on corporate fraud. WE MUST REBUILD AND REINSTATE RULE OF LAW IN MARYLAND AND AMERICA.
The next concern will be who can access care. We already know by the defunding of Medicaid that the poor will not. We see already with the Medicare co-pays and deductibles that many of the old will not.....and those numbers are growing. These 1% are going even further in making sure those with pre-existing conditions do not as well. Remember, these are all the categories of cost for health care.....health corporations will lose money on these folks so they are not going to allow them access to care. They will do this with Medical Bankruptcy and Defining Health Categories. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that with 20% of health care not paid with Medicare and Medigap insurance rising out of reach of most one major health incident, say a heart attack with bypass surgery will bankrupt a families health budget leaving them with no ability to access further care. There will be no going to the hospital and having the hospital absorb the costs in this health care reform.....that is the purpose, to end all this free care. You don't have to be at the lower end of the wage scale to see how this will affect you. Middle-class families already struggle with this. The second avenue for denying access is Defining Health Categories. I'll give one example that we hear all the time ......OBESITY!!!!! Now, there is no doubt a weight problem in America but consider how broad this category is now being defined. I went to my doctor this year and had her tell me I was obese. I am 5' 10" and 160pounds. I am not an obese person, I am being categorized as one. This means my costs for health insurance will rise. They are defining this category so low as to make most Americans fall into what will be the most heavily regulated health designation....obesity.
We are seeing now corporations designing health packages for their employees that require specific goals be met in order for the corporation to pay health benefits and the consequences of not meeting them are larger deductibles.....ergo, you will not be able to afford health insurance. My weight gain of 15 pounds came with my aging baby boomer status but we know there are people with genetic predispositions, we know that the entire food system is stocked with all of what has now been determined to biochemically create weight retention. So, setting a low bar for this category and knowing people will not overcome the hurdles makes for policy that is driven with the goal of lowering access to care. SIMPLY USING THIS ONE PARAMETER OF OBESITY WILL ELIMINATE THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS FROM HEALTH CARE ACCESS. So, my family history of heart disease and cancer will be trumped by my categorization as 'obese'.
REMEMBER THE MANTRA BY THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATS THAT THIS REFORM WAS ALL ABOUT SHORING UP ENTITLEMENTS AND COVERING PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS? THEY ARE THE ONES WHO WROTE THE LAWS ALLOWING FOR THESE TIERED DEDUCTIBLES PREDICATED ON ARTIFICIAL CATEGORIES! These are despicable people folks!!! We paid for all of the medical research that created these advances that now these health institutions intend making the next money-making markets for themselves!!!
JUST VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!
Medical bankruptcy has always been a bad deal for the taxpayer because billions of dollars in Federal money is lost from what we now know were largely unnecessary medical costs. Add to that the high level of health fraud and you see a massive fleecing of Federal coffers by doctors and health institutions. Why are they changing this now? WE ARE NOW HANDING ALL OF OUR TAX REVENUE DIRECTLY TO CORPORATIONS AND INTO THEIR POCKETS......IT IS NOW THEIR MONEY AND THEY WON'T HAVE ALL OF THIS FLEECING OF THEIR FEDERAL REVENUE!!!
This is exactly what is happening. They see our tax money as their profits and they won't see it wasted. So, where many families just lived with this stigma of medical bankruptcy.....it was even often ignored by financial agents giving more credit.
Imagine what all this looks like as these laws disappear.....medical bankruptcy cannot be discharged and you are saddled with lifetime debt. First you would struggle to pay and then you would sink into what the poor deal with in payday lending and the shadow banking industry, then you will be jailed for failure to pay. ALL OF THIS MEANS SIMPLY THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ACCESSING HEALTH CARE!!!
Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies
HEALTH INSURANCE June 05, 2009|By Theresa Tamkins CNN Health
This year, an estimated 1.5 million Americans will declare bankruptcy. Many people may chalk up that misfortune to overspending or a lavish lifestyle, but a new study suggests that more than 60 percent of people who go bankrupt are actually capsized by medical bills.
Bankruptcies due to medical bills increased by nearly 50 percent in a six-year period, from 46 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007, and most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners, according to a report that will be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
"Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country," says lead author Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Mass. "If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that's the major finding in our study."
Woolhandler and her colleagues surveyed a random sample of 2,314 people who filed for bankruptcy in early 2007, looked at their court records, and then interviewed more than 1,000 of them. Health.com: Expert advice on getting health insurance and affordable care for chronic pain
They concluded that 62.1 percent of the bankruptcies were medically related because the individuals either had more than $5,000 (or 10 percent of their pretax income) in medical bills, mortgaged their home to pay for medical bills, or lost significant income due to an illness. On average, medically bankrupt families had $17,943 in out-of-pocket expenses, including $26,971 for those who lacked insurance and $17,749 who had insurance at some point.
Overall, three-quarters of the people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance, they say.
"That was actually the predominant problem in patients in our study -- 78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services," says Woolhandler. "Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance." Health.com: Where the money goes -- A breast cancer donation guide
I WANT PEOPLE TO STOP AND THINK WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. DO YOU SEE ANY SIGNS THAT OBAMA HAS PROTECTED THE AVERAGE PERSON'S ABILITY TO DISCHARGE DEBT? LOOK AT THE FORECLOSURE DEALS THAT GIVE THE VICTIM'S $1,900 WITH OBAMA CALLING THEM 'IRRESPONSIBLE'. LOOK AT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OUTSOURCING TO BANKS THE STUDENT LOAN COLLECTION PROCESS THAT HAS EVERYONE STRUGGLING WITH LOAN PAYMENT BEING TARGETED BY AGGRESSIVE COLLECTION AGENCIES.
I AM ALREADY HEARING THAT DISCHARGING MEDICAL DEBT THROUGH BANKRUPTCY IS ABOUT TO END!!!!!!
THIS WAS A THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATIC LIE!!!!
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!
Obama and Bankruptcy Reform
by Thomas McAvity on July 12, 2008 Northwest Debt Relief Law Firm
In Powder Springs, Ga., today, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will propose “changing bankruptcy laws to ‘fast-track’ the process for military families, help seniors keep their homes, and protect people recovering from natural disasters,” the Associated Press writes. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton has sent reporters this summary of what his boss will be suggesting: • Reform bankruptcy laws to protect families facing a medical crisis. Half of all personal bankruptcies today are caused in part by medical expenses. That will change when Obama is president. If you can demonstrate that you went bankrupt because of medical expenses, you’ll be able to relieve that debt and get back on your feet. • Support older Americans facing financial hardship. Obama will help our seniors who fall into bankruptcy keep more of the value of their homes by increasing the homestead exemption to the median value of a home in their state. • Help victims of natural disasters recover financially. Obama will help families who are recovering from a natural disaster by streamlining the bankruptcy process for them and enacting a temporary moratorium so that these families don’t have to worry about collectors at a time when they’re just trying to rebuild their lives. • Protect military service members and their families. If you’re protecting America, America should be protecting you from unfair bankruptcy laws. That’s why Obama will create a “fast-track” bankruptcy process for military families, simplifying the steps and offering greater safeguards. • Enact a comprehensive consumer protection agenda. In November, Obama proposed a plan to help families who are mired in debt, including greater transparency in credit card lending and a Credit Card Bill of Rights that will protect consumers at a time when more and more are depending on credit cards to cope with rising prices.
Being Obese Can Weigh On Employees' Insurance February 20, 2013 4:00 AM Listen to the Story Morning Edition
Renee Montagne talks to Morgan Downey, editor of the Downey Obesity Report about employers using carrots — and sticks — to improve the health of their employees.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
As Yuki just reported, employers are looking very closely at using carrots and sticks to get workers to change their unhealthy ways. Let's learn more now about that provision in the health care law which allows employers to put in place wellness programs aimed at improving health and managing health care costs. Morgan Downey is an advocate for people with obesity. He's also the editor of the Downey Obesity Report.
Thanks for joining us.
MORGAN DOWNEY: Not at all. It's my pleasure.
MONTAGNE: What exactly is a wellness program?
DOWNEY: Well, wellness programs come in two varieties: voluntary, participatory programs, where the employer may provide classes on smoking cessation or diet or lifestyle, maybe a membership in a gym - totally voluntary. And the rewards there are usually, you know, a baseball cap or tickets to a movie or a baseball game or something like that.
The other type of program is a mandatory program where employees take a biometric, it's called - like blood pressure for hypertension, like body mass index for obesity - and set a target for what change they want to see. And if the employee meets the target, the employee would receive a benefit, an incentive. But if he or she doesn't, then they could be charged, in effect, up to 30 percent of their health insurance premium.
MONTAGNE: So - but what's the downside to that? That would seem to be quite a powerful incentive.
DOWNEY: Well, my concern is if you look at the literature - and there's now a lot of studies that have been done - the results are very, very modest. Some have improvements, like in diet or physical activity, but no improvement - significant improvement - in weight.
MONTAGNE: Well, then, wait. Your concern is that these programs that you know of and might be used do not work, and therefore are unfair.
DOWNEY: That's right. It's also not that they don't work, but, remember, the whole point of the Affordable Care Act - or Obamacare - was not to penalize people for preexisting conditions. And under this formulation, individuals could end up paying an additional $1,500. If it's a family coverage, it could be an additional $5,000. So it's a very significant penalty, and the whole purpose of the law was not to go in this direction.
MONTAGNE: But you're saying that employers could, in effect, mandate these programs that don't work, or have never been proved to work, and then that would end up having the employees carry a heavier burden of the cost of their own insurance or being penalized in some way. Is that something that you think could really happen widely, or...
DOWNEY: Sure. We know that employers are adding these wellness programs at a very high rate. I think something on the order of 80 percent of large employers have them. And the ones that have, in effect, a penalty provision is growing very rapidly.
MONTAGNE: But, you know, it does seem reasonable - and, obviously, it was reasonable enough to get into the Affordable Care Act - to ask employees in some way and motivate them to be healthier. Could you give us an example - one example of a big wellness program that an employer might use?
DOWNEY: Here's the problem: Some employers have been using programs which are designed to encourage physical activity or to improve the nutritional quality of the employees' food. Fine. They're great. Provide them support and encouragement when motivation starts to wane. And I think those can make differences, but we know that that doesn't always mean there's going to be a difference in body weight.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
DOWNEY: My pleasure.
MONTAGNE: Morgan Downey is the editor of the blog the Downey Obesity Report.
I WANT EVERYONE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING. HOW WOULD YOU GET THE MOST PEOPLE OUT OF HEALTH CARE REPRESENTED BY THE MOST HIGH-RISK GROUPS? HOW COULD YOU BUILD THE NEXT GENERATION OF MEDICAL PROFITS? OBESITY
AGAIN, I SEE OBESITY AS A PROBLEM. I JUST SEE AS WELL AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY OF HEALTH FRAUD GROWING FAST. AS YOU SEE BELOW I AM NOT OBESE ACCORDING TO THE BMI OR ANYONE ELSE SO WHY WOULD A DOCTOR WHO I WILL NOT RETURN TO SAY THIS?
WHAT WE SEE ALREADY ARE DOCTORS AND HEALTH INSTITUTIONS HANDLING ENTITLEMENT PATIENTS....MEDICARE AND MEDICAID USING NUTRITION AS THE NEXT BILLING FRAUD. SO, A DOCTOR TELLS A PATIENT THEY HAVE HIGH CHOLESTEROL/FAT LEVELS FOR EXAMPLE.
THAT DOCTOR WILL THEN INSIST THAT PATIENT COME BACK EVERY 3 MONTHS FOR BLOOD LEVELS JUST TO TELL THE PATIENT THESE LEVELS ARE STILL HIGH. THE EXPECTATION IS THAT YOU WILL BE FORCED TO CHANGE THESE RESULTS. IF YOU DO NOT RETURN EVERY 3 MONTHS THE DOCTOR REFUSES TO KEEP YOU AS A PATIENT. SO, YOU SEE THE INCENTIVE FOR DOCTORS TO HAVE YOU DECLARED 'OBESE' AND WHETHER THEY ARE SIMPLY BILLING THAT WAY OR ACTUALLY CHANGING THE PATIENT'S CHARTS AS REGARDS HEIGHT AND WEIGHT.......THIS IS HAPPENING AND IT IS MASSIVE.
Center for Disease Control
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Weight: 165 pounds
Your BMI is 23.7, indicating your weight is in the Normal category for adults of your height.
For your height, a normal weight range would be from 129 to 174 pounds. Maintaining a healthy weight may reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with overweight and obesity.
For information about the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity in maintaining a healthy weight, visit Preventing Weight Gain.
Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus
by Keith Devlin July 04, 2009 8:00 AM Listen to the Story Weekend Edition Saturday
4The BMI Formula BMI = weight in pounds/(height in inches x height in inches) x 703
The 703 is to convert the index from the original metric version of the formula.
CDC Recommendations: Below 18.5 = Underweight
18.5 to 24.9 = Ideal
25.0 to 29.9 = Overweight
30.0 and above = Obese
Americans keep putting on the pounds — at least according to a report released this week from the Trust for America's Health. The study found that nearly two-thirds of states now have adult obesity rates above 25 percent.
But you may want to take those findings — and your next meal — with a grain of salt, because they're based on a calculation called the body mass index, or BMI.
As the Weekend Edition math guy, I spoke to Scott Simon and told him the body mass index fails on 10 grounds:
1. The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.
The BMI was introduced in the early 19th century by a Belgian named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. He was a mathematician, not a physician. He produced the formula to give a quick and easy way to measure the degree of obesity of the general population to assist the government in allocating resources. In other words, it is a 200-year-old hack.
2. It is scientifically nonsensical.
There is no physiological reason to square a person's height (Quetelet had to square the height to get a formula that matched the overall data. If you can't fix the data, rig the formula!). Moreover, it ignores waist size, which is a clear indicator of obesity level.
3. It is physiologically wrong.
It makes no allowance for the relative proportions of bone, muscle and fat in the body. But bone is denser than muscle and twice as dense as fat, so a person with strong bones, good muscle tone and low fat will have a high BMI. Thus, athletes and fit, health-conscious movie stars who work out a lot tend to find themselves classified as overweight or even obese.
4. It gets the logic wrong.
The CDC says on its Web site that "the BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for people." This is a fundamental error of logic. For example, if I tell you my birthday present is a bicycle, you can conclude that my present has wheels. That's correct logic. But it does not work the other way round. If I tell you my birthday present has wheels, you cannot conclude I got a bicycle. I could have received a car. Because of how Quetelet came up with it, if a person is fat or obese, he or she will have a high BMI. But as with my birthday present, it doesn't work the other way round. A high BMI does not mean an individual is even overweight, let alone obese. It could mean the person is fit and healthy, with very little fat.
5. It's bad statistics.
Because the majority of people today (and in Quetelet's time) lead fairly sedentary lives and are not particularly active, the formula tacitly assumes low muscle mass and high relative fat content. It applies moderately well when applied to such people because it was formulated by focusing on them. But it gives exactly the wrong answer for a large and significant section of the population, namely the lean, fit and healthy. Quetelet is also the person who came up with the idea of "the average man." That's a useful concept, but if you try to apply it to any one person, you come up with the absurdity of a person with 2.4 children. Averages measure entire populations and often don't apply to individuals.
6. It is lying by scientific authority.
Because the BMI is a single number between 1 and 100 (like a percentage) that comes from a mathematical formula, it carries an air of scientific authority. But it is mathematical snake oil.
7. It suggests there are distinct categories of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese, with sharp boundaries that hinge on a decimal place.
That's total nonsense.
8. It makes the more cynical members of society suspect that the medical insurance industry lobbies for the continued use of the BMI to keep their profits high.
Insurance companies sometimes charge higher premiums for people with a high BMI. Among such people are all those fit individuals with good bone and muscle and little fat, who will live long, healthy lives during which they will have to pay those greater premiums.
9. Continued reliance on the BMI means doctors don't feel the need to use one of the more scientifically sound methods that are available to measure obesity levels.
Those alternatives cost a little bit more, but they give far more reliable results.
10. It embarrasses the U.S.
It is embarrassing for one of the most scientifically, technologically and medicinally advanced nations in the world to base advice on how to prevent one of the leading causes of poor health and premature death (obesity) on a 200-year-old numerical hack developed by a mathematician who was not even an expert in what little was known about the human body back then.
YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS WILL BE LEADING TO ABUSE AND THINK OF THE FACT WE ALREADY HAVE $200-400 BILLION BEING TAKEN IN FRAUD FROM ENTITLEMENTS NOW.......HOW DO YOU PROVE A DOCTOR IS SOAKING THE TRUST FOR OBESITY TREATMENT? THERE IS THAT TRICKY WORD......'INTENT'.
Medicare Will Cover Obesity Screening and Treatment By Meredith MelnickDec. 02, 2011
Time Health and Family
Medicare, which covers some 42 million American seniors, will pay for obesity screening and behavioral therapy as part of its portfolio of preventive services.
About 72 million American adults, including about a third of Medicare recipients, are obese, and the related health-care costs total some $325 billion a year. The federal decision will now allow Medicare beneficiaries to see their doctors for regular weight-loss counseling — a low-cost, low-tech solution — and may spur private insurers to do the same.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision summary, obese Medicare beneficiaries — with a body mass index of 30 or higher — seeking weight-loss counseling may see their primary care physician for one face-to-face visit every week for the first month. Then, Medicare will pay for one face-to-face visit every other week for the next five months. If the patient loses at least 3 kg (6.6 lbs.) over the first six months, Medicare will pay for an additional six months of once-a-month face-to-face visits with the doctor.
MORE: Number of Normal-Weight Americans Edges Out the Overweight
Despite the overwhelming rates of obesity in this country, few people have been diagnosed with a weight problem by their primary care physicians. In a 2007 Mayo Clinic study of nearly 10,000 primary care patients, about one quarter were obese; of those, only about 1 in 5 had a diagnosis or treatment plan for obesity. For older patients, the rate was even lower.
As the Los Angeles Times reported:
While research finds that physician counseling can be a powerful prod to weight loss for those who need it, many physicians have been reluctant to offer it. While some of that reluctance has stemmed from an absence of insurance reimbursement for such services, many also cite patient pushback and a lack of effective tools as reasons for shrinking from the task of identifying obesity, counseling patients about its health hazards and getting them started on a weight-loss program.
Medicare coverage isn’t going to change the fact that we still don’t have foolproof tools to help people lose weight, or that patients will push back — no one likes to hear that they’re obese, after all — but if the federal decision helps lead to more obese people losing even small or moderate amounts of weight, it could be life-changing.
“As small of a weight loss as 5% to 7% can lead to a huge health improvement,” Christy Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance, told USA Today, noting also that obesity programs should emphasize an overall healthy lifestyle as well as weight loss. “It’s not necessarily weight loss so much as it is increased fitness level and increased health.”
The coverage is effective immediately, so Medicare recipients may be screened as soon as their next appointment.
WHEN THE CITIZENS SAY WE WANT UNIVERSAL CARE FOR ALL AND LEAVE OUR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID ALONE AND POLITICIANS LOOK TO A PRIVATE NON-PROFIT FOR THE LEGISLATION AND POLICY....THIS IS WHAT YOU ALWAYS HEAR CALLED ' ALEC' ------ American Legislative Exchange Council. This is what we have in Maryland
I am using this one example not because Beilenson is the bad guy in health care issues. My point is that as people start forming all kinds of protests and demanding the health care they had and now don't .......we are starting a Universal Care for Maryland for example....you see one institution, in this case Hopkins which is very proud that Maryland health institutions are the most profitable in the nation with these private health system reforms.....already has a powerful hold not only on the organizational non-profits but on the politicians' ear. THIS NON-PROFIT RULES AND THESE NON-PROFIT STRUCTURES REMOVE ALL ABILITY OF COMMUNITIES TO FIGHT FOR AN ISSUE OR ENGAGE THEIR POLS.
As we saw with the advocates for the Homeless that saw their organization fail to address their goals, we see it with community development issues, education issues, etc....the entire public policy sphere. So, raise your hand if you think a Health Care for All coalition would have wanted a public/universal program in Maryland? Do you think a watered-down Medicaid that now looks like a public health monitoring system meets that? OF COURSE NOT AND YET THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE AND HOPKINS HAD THESE POLICIES WELL-FORMULATED FOR A DECADE OR MORE.....WHAT WE GOT WAS HOPKINS' GOAL.
It really does matter that we not have these parallel quasi-governmental organizations filling our community needs. It is not democracy. It always moves policy away from people-friendly to corporate-friendly legislation. This is why we now have such wealth inequity and corporate rule......WE ALL FAILED TO NOTICE THESE FEW DECADES AS THIS STRUCTURE WAS TAKING SHAPE AND IT WAS THE FINANCIAL CRASH AND THE IMPOVERISHMENT OF NOT ONLY PEOPLE BUT GOVERNMENT COFFERS THAT ALLOWED THESE 1% TO COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS.
We can easily reverse this if we work around what this private non-profit puts into place. We run and vote for labor and justice to replace incumbent pols that are working with this crew and remove the legislation that allows all these non-profits such access to money and power.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!
You can bet that what came out of these public meetings was not what the members of this coalition wanted. We wouldn't be forming a new Health Care for All right now if it was! THE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL BELOW IS JUST AN ALEC-STYLE BUSINESS POLICY-MAKING GROUP.
History The Founder of the Initiative is Peter Beilenson, MD, MPH, and the President is Vincent DeMarco, MA, JD. The Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund (“MCHI”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit advocacy organization that was created in 1999 with a mission to educate all Marylanders about sound ways to achieve quality, affordable health care for all.
In order to create a comprehensive, economically sound health care for all plan, MCHI organized the state’s largest coalition and solicited input from coalition members and thousands of Maryland citizens in town hall meetings. National experts at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland Law School then worked to incorporate this community input into MCHI’s Health Care for All! Plan. In 2002, MCHI released its first plan and conducted a statewide campaign to educate people about how the plan would guarantee health care security for all Marylanders. A revised version of the plan was released in 2008 by the same set of experts that created the original following another round of public stakeholder meetings. The updated plan includes similar components as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) and is being used to guide analysis and planning for state and local implementation of the federal health reform law.
Over 1,200 faith, labor, business, health, and community organizations have joined the Health Care for All! Coalition to support enactment of MCHI’s plan. This is the largest coalition ever created in Maryland and certainly one of the largest health care consumer coalitions in the country.
The Coalition successfully advocated for a number of laws that will increase access to care and prescription drugs. In addition, MCHI continues to work with key state leaders to educate members of our broad coalition about how they can access health care programs now in existence. In the years ahead, MCHI will continue to educate and activate its powerful coalition to increase health care access in Maryland.
IF YOU TALK WITH ANY SOCIAL WORKER IN MARYLAND....ESPECIALLY BALTIMORE.... WHO CARRIES A MEDICAL CASE LOAD OF POOR WITH HEALTH/ MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THEY WILL TELL YOU THEY HAVE CASELOADS IN THE HUNDREDS NOT THE 60-80 THAT IS RECOMMENDED. THAT IS BECAUSE MARYLAND DELIBERATELY UNDERFUNDS FOR SOCIAL WORK.
IT DOESN'T TAKE A ROCKET SCIENTIST TO FIGURE THAT THE STATE IS RECORDING THESE HUNDREDS OF CASES AND PROVIDING SERVICES THAT ARE AT BEST TOUCHING BASE WITH THESE PATIENTS, NOT PROVIDING CARE. FOR MENTAL HEALTH IT IS OFTEN SIMPLY HANDING THESE PATIENTS THEIR MEDS.
Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Health Care Debate
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Johns Hopkins Gazette, an official publication of the Johns Hopkins University. It may be found at the web address. http://gazette.jhu.edu/2009/11/02/jhm-and-the-health-care-debate/. For more information on the Healthcare Innovation Zones described above, please visit
How would you refocus the debate?
Miller: The president says the current system is broken. Well, the current system is broken because of the way the dollars are allocated for the delivery of health care. Namely, it is still a fee-for-service business. You are not going to really fix the system until you take a look at a different way to pay for the health care that you deliver.
Peterson: There is no incentive for a doctor to necessarily spend a lot of time and attention keeping patients well because that doctor is getting paid in the fee-for-service model. We believe there is something to be said for looking at a model that would give incentives for the providers of health care to keep people well as long as possible and be thoughtful for what they do when they introduce the patient into the health care delivery system.
Do such models exist?
Peterson: We have experience with two major programs where we have responsibility for whole populations. For example, we co-sponsor a Medicaid managed care organization called Priority Partners. Within that context, we receive from the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene a monthly payment for each member that is enrolled. There are upwards of 150,000 individuals in the program. Along with that payment is the expectation that we will take care of all their health care needs. That has caused us to think about what we should be doing on behalf of those patients, and what we think is in our own best financial interests as well. It has caused us to pay more attention to prevention and to think about where are the most appropriate places to care for the patient when they need access to service.
Like what Dr. Miller is saying, you should have more incentive alignment between payer and provider. This population model causes us to think about how to do it more cost-effectively, but also how to do what is right medically and what is in the best interest of the patient.
[Editor’s note: The other major program that Johns Hopkins manages is the Maryland division of the Department of Defense’s Uniformed Services Family Health Plan, a health care program serving active-duty dependents, retirees, their families, survivors and certain former spouses worldwide.]
Is reform happening too fast or too slow?
Miller: Number one, you are dealing with one-sixth of the U.S. economy. We don’t think you can turn this thing upside down overnight. When we got into this managed care business, we had to learn. It’s an incremental learning curve. We think that anything that has to happen should be [in] incremental changes, not great big gulps, so to speak.
Peterson: We lost money for the first several years when we took on these managed care responsibilities. And as we learned to manage them, over time we did much better.
Something else to consider: In the past year, Maryland has changed the eligibility requirements for medical assistance, and so, many more people came into the system. We have taken about 30,000 more people. What happens when they first enroll is that they start to consume services. These folks seek out care because they never had access to a primary care doctor before. In a microcosm, it sort of gives you a taste of what could happen if the federal government extends in a big way coverage to large numbers of people.
The point is, we think that based on what we’ve seen, and what the state of Massachusetts has seen, it would be very wise for the federal government to introduce this in some reasonable increments. It is imperative that you balance the ability to ratchet up the capacity of the supply side with the demand you are creating.
This seems to all go back to the point that you want to share what has worked, and what hasn’t.
Miller: If we can identify the 5 [percent] to 10 percent of people who are really sick, because a lot of people are really healthy, and put measures in place to help those who are sick, that is where you can get some real value. We now have the largest primary health care network in Maryland. We have built that over time. If you go back to President Obama’s premise that we need to flatten the cost curve, we think we have experience here—that others can perhaps learn from what we have learned the hard way.
We also think that what we do in the Baltimore region is going to be different from what we do in Seattle or Chicago or San Diego. So there have to be areas of the country where there are experiments of how best to manage populations. For example, we deal with a lot of inner city poor people. In Iowa, you are dealing with more rural populations. Maybe you invest in telemedicine out there because you are dealing with such long distances.
Now, here we have Health Care for All with Beilenson at the lead back in 1999 and if you look at spending in Maryland of $6 billion, WHERE ARE THE RESULTS? You can ask any underserved resident and they will tell you that Hopkins does not care for them and in fact they will say that all their health care comes from 'research studies' that target the poor.
It is a conflict of interest at the least and I feel there is fraud in how issues are captured. How is this important to the middle-class? You do not keep going to the same player in any business when the policies fail to meet objectives and when the goal is profit. You can bet that the next project Beilenson develops.....in this case the Health Co-Op Insurance for those just above the poverty line will not be about quality care, it will protect health industry from lost profits from this cohort.
Life expectancy low, but growing in city
Women in many parts of country are dying youngerJune 15, 2011|By Noam N. Levey, Tribune Newspapers
Women in large swaths of America are dying younger than they were a generation ago, reversing nearly a century of progress in public health and underscoring the rising toll of smoking and record obesity.
Nationwide, life expectancy for American men and women has risen over the past two decades, and some U.S. communities still boast life expectancies as long as any in the world, according to newly released data. But over the past decade, the nation has experienced a widening gap between the most and least healthy places to live. In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.
Baltimore remains among the areas with the lowest life expectancies, though improvements accelerated at twice the national average during the most recent decade studied.
Overall, America is falling further behind other industrialized nations, many of which have also made greater strides cutting child mortality and reducing preventable deaths.
In 737 U.S. counties, life expectancies for women actually declined between 1997 and 2007. For life expectancy to decline in a developed nation is rare. Setbacks on this scale have not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, according to demographers.
"There are just lots of places where things are getting worse," said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which conducted the research. "We're not keeping up."
The widening gulf between the healthiest and least healthy populations is partly due to wealth. But part of the gap appears to be attributable to cultural norms and differences in public health efforts, the researchers found.
Communities with large immigrant populations — Southern California, for example — fared considerably better than average despite relatively high poverty rates. The worst-performing counties were clustered primarily in Appalachia, the deep South and the lower Midwest. In those places, women died as much as a year younger in 2007 than women did a decade earlier. Life expectancy for women slipped 21/2 years in Madison County, Miss., which recorded the biggest regression.
A key finding of the data is that "inequality appears to be growing in the U.S.," said Eileen Crimmins, a gerontologist at the University of Southern California who also co-chaired the 2011 National Academies panel on life expectancies. "We are different than other countries." Researchers found substantially fewer geographic disparities in Great Britain, Canada and Japan, for example.
In general, men and women die youngest in poor, mostly rural parts of the South and in struggling urban centers like Philadelphia and St. Louis. In Baltimore, men on average live only 66.7 years.
By contrast, Americans in affluent counties near Washington, the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere have among the longest life expectancies in the world, outpacing even international leaders such as Japan and Switzerland.
The state and Baltimore's health officials have long recognized that those in the wealthier suburbs live longer and so do those in wealthier city neighborhoods.
For example, average life expectancy in Hollins Market is 20 years shorter than in wealthier Roland Park.
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, city health commissioner, said it amounts to a lot of "preventable death."
The city has adopted programs over the years to address the disparities, and Barbot recently unveiled a new program called Healthy Baltimore 2015 that seeks to involve most neighborhood, hospitals, businesses and faith organizations in the city. It sets specific goals for reducing the prevalence of Baltimore's most pervasive killers, such as HIV infection, heart disease and smoking.
"The fact that Baltimore City and cities like it continue to have shorter life expectancies than other areas draws attention to the fact that what we do in addressing the public health challenges has to go beyond the traditional health models," Barbot said. "We need to address the social determinants of health and adopt a health-in-all-policies approach."
That approach has already helped the statistics, said Frances B. Phillips, a deputy secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The University of Washington report showed a jump in life expectancy of 4.1 years for men in Baltimore and 2.2 years for women in the decade ending in 2007 — about twice the national average. I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT IT WAS FRANCES PHILLIPS WHO LOOKED AT ME AND TOLD ME THERE WAS NO HEALTH FRAUD IN THE SYSTEM.......I WOULD DOUBT HER STATISTICS!!!
Since then, Phillips said, the state's own data show that life expectancy for men and women in the state increased to 72.9 years in 2008-2009 from 72.4 years in 2006-2008.
She said the city and state have to continue focusing on access to health care, but also social and environmental factors, particularly in less affluent neighborhoods.
For now, she said, "Your ZIP code represents so many influences and opportunities you have to stay healthy or not."
Below you see health fraud legislation that was announced with great fanfare. Only it doesn't do anything. Not allowing compensatory damages? Not guaranteeing a lawyer's fee be paid in the settlement?
THESE ARE THE SAME LAWS ON RECORD THAT GIVE US THESE PARKING TICKET FINES WALL STREET RECEIVED FOR MASSIVE CRIME.
So in 2010 the Maryland Assembly acts as though it is getting tough on fraud especially now that the number of people falling into Medicaid is about to skyrocket....and it does nothing. I also want to say that the idea that there is only 5-10% of fraud in Medicaid is RIDICULOUS!!!!! All watchdogs and government accountability place entitlement fraud at 1/3 to 1/2 of all spending. Even doctors tell you that.
Maryland Senate passes watered-down state False Health Claims Act
Posted on March 24, 2010 by Richard Renner
The Maryland Senate yesterday passed a state version of the False Claims Act (FCA) by a vote of 37 in favor and 8 against. Before passing this bill, however, the Senate watered it down with an amendment. The Maryland False Health Claims Act of 2010, SB 279, as amended, no longer allows the state (or a whistleblower acting on behalf of the state) to obtain compensatory damages. The amendment also requires a court to dismiss the action if the State of Maryland declines to intervene. The Senate's amendment also waters down the provision for attorney fees. It now provides that attorney's fees and costs "may" be allowed by the court, and that the court must consider the amount of penalties and damages recovered. This last provision is contrary to prevailing law that calls on courts to award attorney fees based on market rates, without regard to any proportionality to the amount of recovery. The Senate's bill also allows courts to reduce the amount of the whistleblower's recovery if the court finds that the whistleblower participated in the violation. A more enlightened view would have barred recovery only if the person caused the violation through actions other than following orders of a superior. Also, I mentioned before that Maryland could gain even more if this bill covered all frauds, and not just those arising in medical care programs. Perhaps the Maryland House will consider these shortcomings when its Judiciary and Appropriations committee conducts the bill at its first hearing on April 1. The Senate bill does include an anti-retaliation provision, Section 2-607, that would allow employees to sue if they suffer retaliation for participating in a lawsuit, objecting to a violation, or refusing to participate in a violation. According to a Baltimore Sun article, the state administration estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of the state's $6 billion in annual medical spending is lost in fraudulent claims. The article quotes a spokesperson for the hospital association as saying that the amendment would cost the state the extra 10% it would receive from federal false claims lawsuits in the state. This refers to the Grassley Amendment to the federal FCA which increases a state's share if the state's law meets certain minimum requirements. Apparently, making hospital administrators happy is more important to Maryland's Senators than protecting taxpayer dollars.
HERE YOU HAVE THE HYPE AROUND LAWS THAT MAKE IT SOUND AS THOUGH THESE POLS ARE GETTING TOUGH ON FRAUD. AS YOU SEE EACH TIME THE THOUGHT GOES OUT TOWARDS PROTECTING THE BUSINESS FROM THE PEOPLE AND AS YOU SEE BELOW YOU END WITH A BILL THAT ALLOWS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
WALL STREET IS ALLOWED OFF THE HOOK EACH TIME BECAUSE OF THE SINGLE WORD.......'INTENT'. IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW AIRTIGHT THE CASE IS, THE BURDEN OF PROVING 'INTENT' MEANS THE CASES NEVER COME AND THAT IS WHY THE MARYLAND HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION DIDN'T FIGHT THIS BILL.
OMALLEY AND BROWN PRETEND TO GET TOUGH ON CRIME AND THE FRAUD JUST KEEPS ON COMING BECAUSE THERE WILL BE NO LAWYER THAT TAKES A CASE UNDER THESE TERMS.
Bill could save state millions in Medicaid fraud
March 23, 2010|By Annie Linskey | email@example.com
The Maryland General Assembly is poised to get tough on fraud that officials say is sapping hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's health care program for the poor, a crackdown that comes as Maryland braces for an increase in Medicaid patients through the just-passed national health insurance overhaul.
State health and budget officials estimate that between 5 percent and 10 percent of Maryland's $6 billion in Medicaid spending is fraudulent, with companies seeking payment for wheelchairs never delivered and doctors filing claims for patients who never received treatment.
A measure working its way through the legislature would allow anyone with knowledge of false Medicaid claims to file a lawsuit and share a percentage of damages - a concept intended to encourage whistle-blowers. The initiative would allow the state to capture up to three times the amount of the deceptive billing as a civil penalty, and would allow Maryland to join larger multistate federal fraud cases.
"We don't bring nearly the volume [of fraud cases] that are out there because we don't have the right tools," said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who has been pushing the measure on behalf of the O'Malley administration. "We have a little hammer and we have a field of nails out there. If we had a little bit bigger hammer we could get more accomplished with each stroke."
Brown and others say the initiative - similar to a federal program and provisions on the books in 23 other states and the District of Columbia - could yield $20 million yearly.
The need for greater fraud protection comes as the number of patients on Medicaid - a joint federal-state program that provides health care to the poor - is reaching new heights and is expected to grow.
Gov. Martin O'Malley supported broader eligibility requirements for the program, and that change, coupled with a down economy, pushed more people into the low-income health insurance program, adding roughly 160,000 people to the rolls since 2007.
The number of recipients is now 730,000. And another 300,000 could join the program after the health insurance reform plan approved by Congress becomes law. Maryland spends $6 billion yearly on Medicaid payments.
"If we are going to expand Medicaid, it is that much more important that we have the right tools in place," Brown said.
The anti-fraud measure, a top priority of O'Malley's, awaits final approval in the Senate, where it was defeated last year by a single vote. And the House Judiciary Committee has not yet voted on it. But, unlike in earlier attempts, this year's measure has the support of the Maryland Hospital Association, which had successfully fought previous versions out of concern that the bill would unleash an onslaught of meritless lawsuits.
"People see a big building with four walls and see deep pockets there," said Jim Reiter, a spokesman for the hospital association. But in a concession to the hospitals, which account for roughly one-third of state Medicaid claims, administration officials agreed this year to a provision requiring the state to sign off on false claims cases before they go forward.
The legislation requires the state to join fraud lawsuits; if not, judges would dismiss them. "The state does not enter into frivolous lawsuits," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat and chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The compromise jeopardizes one of the potential revenue-generating aspects of the state bill, and will likely make Maryland ineligible for an enhanced proportion of damages from federal cases enjoyed by 14 states with the toughest whistle-blower provisions.
"That is the trade-off we made," said state health secretary John M. Colmers. "It was a way of trying to listen to the concerns of the hospitals."
Without the compromise, Maryland could have received 60 percent of any damages from a federal fraud case instead of the current 50-50 split.
Hospitals were also nervous that the legislation would make them liable for honest billing mistakes, and insisted on a provision requiring the plaintiffs prove intent. "Hopefully, it will prevent fraud instead of making us a target to go after," Reiter said.
The bill faces stiff opposition from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which believes it could drive up the cost of health care. Additionally, doctors worry that the measure doesn't include enough protection from unintentional billing errors.
"Billing in a doctor's office is very complex and the doctors are not typically involved," said Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi, the state's medical society.
He opposes allowing individuals to sue to recover false billings, saying "we should not create an atmosphere where people are bounty hunting for doctors."
But advocates of the plan say the nation's health care system relies on trust, so it is critical that those with information about false claims come forward.
I wanted to look at individual private non-profits that are set up simply to act as a shell organization for what will be yet another way to funnel taxpayer money into the hands of the same doctors/health institutions that have made 1/2 of all entitlement payments involve fraud. When it comes to health care and entitlements involving the poor and elderly there is always Johns Hopkins involved in its duties in creating private non-profits all tasked with these specific duties. Chase Brexton is a private non-profit that grew to expand statewide simply from the funds given it through Johns Hopkins in serving the poor. Now, we see the next phase of private non-profit development as part of these 'health systems' ........the private non-profit as health insurer. Remember, these health systems being formed by the Affordable Care Act consolidate all the health industries into one large system of care.....so the hospital, the medical school, the clinics, the medical devices, and now the insurer will all coalesce into one big health system.....in this case, Johns Hopkins.
Chase Brexton took exception with me calling them a Hopkins affiliate even as they received all their money from Hopkins advocacy and had Hopkins people on the Board, Hopkins' students and health grads working the clinic turned health institution. You see how that works now with Beilenson, a Hopkins employee now taking the reins of this new health adventure and now the copious amounts of taxpayer money that will come into it building and operation.
WHY IS ALL OF THIS IMPORTANT? HOPKINS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL PARALLEL THAT TAKES ALL PUBLIC POLICY AND MAKES IT THEIR OWN. WE WANT PUBLIC OPTION.....WE DON'T GET IT. WE WANT HEALTH CARE THAT IS NOT CORPORATE AND WE GET SENIOR CARE OWNED BY HEDGE FUNDS. WE WANT HEALTH FRAUD BACK AND WE GET NOT EVEN AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT FRAUD EXISTS.....BECAUSE THE PUBLIC DOESN'T CONTROL HEALTH CARE EVEN AS WE THROW TRILLIONS OF TAXPAYER MONEY INTO IT.
First I would like to say to Dr. Beilenson that the number one problem in cost in health care is health fraud..it costs entitlements $200-400 billion each year..billions in MD each year alone. I have never once heard Beilenson or Health Care for All under his directorship ever shout that loudly which shows he is not working to make health insurance affordable. The largest sector for this fraud is in the Medicaid drug/mental health area that thrives here in Baltimore.
What Beilenson appears to be trying to do is cash in on this 'gap' in coverage just as Medigap was created to cover seniors who wanted to close the Medicare gap created by the shortfall of coverage. Those Medigap companies have made billions in profits covering for coverage that should have just happened..as with this Medicaid coverage being created by the insurance mandate. As with Medigap with seniors there was no savings brought in this coverage, in fact it is attributed with inflating the costs. We also want to look at the system Belenson's employer Johns Hopkins is trying to build for the Medicaid patients...it is all preventive care that looks a lot like third world clinic care. With no health fraud laws in Maryland and no oversight against fraud, this Medicaid industry will be rife with entitlement fraud.
So, I suggest that Beilenson start his campaign to lower costs by shouting out against the fraud!
Peter Beilenson's next great adventure in health care One of Maryland's visionary leaders starts Evergreen insurance cooperative
Peter Beilenson (Jeff Brush/Baltimore Sun File Photo / February 16, 2013)
Dan Rodricks 2:44 p.m. EST, February 16, 2013
Peter Beilenson — doctor and public health visionary, Baltimore health commissioner, Howard County health officer, quick-study scholar and decoder of federal regulations — remains one of our most interesting men.
A person whose leadership has certainly improved the lives of thousands of Marylanders over the last 20 years, from Baltimore heroin addicts to young families in Columbia, Beilenson is now trying to establish a nonprofit health insurance cooperative — that is, Obamacare as progressives envisioned it from the start.
Beilenson left his post in Howard County last fall, having helped establish Healthy Howard, a pre-Obamacare initiative that provided medical care at modest premiums to individuals and working-class families who fell into a gap: They earned too much to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to be able to afford private insurance. With the support of his boss, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Beilenson cobbled together an array of primary-care and specialist services, some of them pro bono, and offered them for modest monthly fees.
During Beilenson's tenure, about 2,000 individuals and families enrolled in Healthy Howard and several thousand more took advantage of the county's effort to introduce people to health benefits — such as subsidies for prescriptions — that they didn't know they could get.
There's a lot of that in health care, Beilenson discovered, and even more with the passage of the voluminous Affordable Care Act and its affirmation by the Supreme Court.
"Section 1322," Beilenson says, when I ask about his next great undertaking: the establishment of Evergreen Health Cooperative. Section 1322 of the ACA, he discovered, provides millions of dollars in financing for the startup of nonprofit cooperatives to compete with for-profit insurance companies. Each state is eligible for up to two such entities. Maryland has one, and it's Evergreen.
The cooperative received a $65 million federal loan in late September, and Beilenson left his post in Howard County to oversee the research, development, regulatory compliance and fundraising that will be needed to get Evergreen up and running by Jan. 1.
The mission of Beilenson's brainchild is along the lines of Healthy Howard: provide health care to thousands of Marylanders in the gap between Medicaid and private insurance, though anyone can apply for membership in the cooperative.
Evergreen's centerpiece is service: primary-care "medical homes" at four locations in Maryland shopping centers or malls (probably in White Marsh, Baltimore, Howard County and Prince George's County); staffs of salaried doctors, nurses, health coaches and social workers; smart use of telemedicine and Skype to consult with specialists, avoid unnecessary procedures and visits to emergency rooms; and emphasis on prevention by getting members to develop healthier lifestyles.
"A lot of this has been done before," Beilenson says. "We're trying to put it all together; that's the difference."
The goal is to bundle the best practices and save money.
"Obamacare does a lot to expand health care coverage," Beilenson says, "but it doesn't do enough to reduce costs."
Of course, profit remains in health care delivery. President Obama pretty much declared a single-payer system modeled after Medicare dead on arrival when he handed off his health care reforms to Congress. But despite all the trade offs and compromises that were made in 2010, Section 1322 of Obamacare remains. In the case of Beilenson's Evergreen, that means millions of dollars of credit to establish his plan's solvency and cover its startup costs.
But he and his board will still have to raise money. None of the Obamacare loan can be used for the marketing of Evergreen to Marylanders. Up against the established insurance providers, that will be take gobs of dough.
So Beilenson is running.
Evergreen has already been presenting ideas to focus groups, he says, sampling opinions of men and women, from 24 to 64 years of age, from the city and from the suburbs. So far, so good, he says. People like the convenience of an insurance plan that has its own teams of health care professionals, and focus group participants have been surprisingly receptive to the use of their smartphones to consult with doctors and nurse practitioners.
Something else: Beilenson, who has Parkinson's disease, doesn't want his new customers — excuse me, fellow members of his cooperative — to encounter what he does when he calls his present insurance company. He's adamant that they not spend a lot of time pushing buttons on a telephone to find help when they need it. Evergreen promises a live human being (in Maryland and not Malaysia) who will answer within 30 seconds when someone calls for help. Imagine that.
"That was the single piece that got the biggest response from the focus group," Beilenson says. "When we described that, people said, 'Yes, absolutely!'"
Evergreen is no doubt a risky venture, with a big loan to repay. Beilenson and his collaborators have to get people to buy into a new plan. But he has confidence he'll find takers, including those who see in Evergreen's promise Obamacare as it should have been done in the first place.
For those thinking that your Third Way corporate democrat was not aware of this 'murky' wording in the Affordable Care Act you need to consider that the goal here is creating global health systems and corporate profits, not patient access to care. So, making a supermajority of people unable to afford health insurance will push these families into a Medicaid-level of care. Remember, Medicaid has been drastically cut since being sent to the states by Obama and is now being made a public health service....not so much actual hospital care, mostly preventative care. When these Third Way corporate pols were toting patient coverage including children to 27 on parent's plan and pre-existing condition coverage, they were talking of those who could afford private insurance. As you can see those families are becoming few and far between.
RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE CANDIDATES IN NEXT ELECTIONS SO WE CAN REVERSE ALL OF THESE POLICIES!!!!
Editorial A Cruel Blow to American Families
Published: February 2, 2013 New York Times
The Internal Revenue Service has issued a hugely disappointing ruling on how to calculate the affordability of health insurance offered by employers. Its needlessly strict interpretation of the Affordable Care Act could leave millions of Americans with modest incomes unable to afford family coverage under their employers’ health insurance but ineligible for subsidies to buy coverage elsewhere.
The problem arises from murky language in the law. It says a worker cannot get taxpayer-subsidized coverage on the new health insurance exchanges, starting in 2014, unless the cost of employer-based health coverage for that worker exceeds 9.5 percent of the worker’s household income.
Both the I.R.S. and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation have interpreted the law to consider only the cost of covering the individual employee in calculating the 9.5 percent, not the much higher cost for a family plan.
Although some analysts had offered persuasive legal and social arguments for adopting a more expansive and generous interpretation of what the law requires, the strict interpretation prevailed in a final rule issued by the I.R.S. last week.
There is no doubt that this pinched approach will put a significant number of workers and their dependents in a bind. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that in 2012, employees’ annual share of insurance premiums averaged $951 for individual coverage and $4,316 for family coverage. Under the I.R.S. rule, such costs would be considered affordable for an employee with a household income of $35,000 a year — making the employee’s spouse and children ineligible for a public subsidy on a health exchange, even though that family would have to spend 12 percent of its income for the employer’s family plan.
Estimates made in 2011 by respected research organizations suggested that some 2 million to 3.9 million non-working spouses and dependents would be harmed by the strict ruling. Looking only at children who were uninsured but supposed to gain coverage under health care reform, the Government Accountability Office estimated last June that 460,000 might remain uninsured because of the affordability definition, and that 1.9 million might stay uninsured if an existing children’s health insurance program is phased out as currently planned. This outcome is exactly the opposite of what health care reform is supposed to achieve.
It is hard to see what might be done to reverse this deplorable result. The ideal solution would be for Congress to clarify that the 9.5 percent calculation is based on a family plan, and that dependents can get subsidies on the exchanges if there is no affordable coverage at work. But House Republicans, who are bent on obstructing the health reform law, would never agree to helpful changes, especially one that would increase federal spending.
This problem increases the need to retain the children’s health insurance program, which is financed only through 2015. And it will be crucial to assess the impact that this misguided provision has on coverage, access to care, and the financial burdens on families of modest means.
WE SAW HEALTH COSTS SOAR AFTER THE ADDITION OF MEDIGAP. SOME PEOPLE WILL SAY THAT THIS WAS BECAUSE PATIENTS STARTED TO ABUSE THE SYSTEM AND CAUSED THE SOARING COSTS FROM THIS ABUSE.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IS THAT DOCTORS AND THE HEALTH INDUSTRY TOOK THIS PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM TO THE CLEANERS AS THEY MADE BILLIONS/TRILLIONS ON HEALTH CARE COSTS BY ORDERING EVER MANY TESTS ALL PAID FOR BY THIS PRIVATE INSURANCE. IT FUELED THE COSTS AND THE PATIENTS PAID FOR IT THROUGH THESE MEDIGAP INSURANCE PREMIUMS.
WAS THIS A GOOD IDEA? OF COURSE IT WAS.....PEOPLE NEEDED HELP WITH THAT 20% GAP IN PAYMENT. IF WE HAD HAD OVERSIGHT IN MEDICARE THERE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE EXPLOSION IN CARE AND COST. THAT IS THE POINT WITH THESE HEALTH INSURANCE CO-OPS.....IF YOU DO NOT PUT UP PROTECTIONS AGAINST FRAUD AND OVERSIGHT IN USE WE ALL KNOW THERE WILL BE ABUSE......AND THERE WILL BE!!!!!
Medigap Reforms: Potential Effects of Benefit Restrictions on Medicare Spending and Beneficiary Costs
As part of several debt-reduction and Medicare-reform proposals, some policymakers propose to prohibit Medicare supplemental insurance policies (known as Medigap) from covering all of enrollee's out-of-pocket Medicare costs, which some believe leads to higher use of services and higher Medicare spending. Such changes would expose Medigap enrollees – currently about one in six Medicare beneficiaries – to a larger share of Medicare's cost-sharing requirements.
This analysis commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation examines three potential Medigap reforms, including one that is similar to a recommendation of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission).
The analysis estimates that the three options could save between $1.5 billion and $4.6 billion in Medicare spending in a single year. Under each of the options, enrollees would see an increase in average out-of-pocket spending for Medicare-covered services, as their Medigap policies become less generous. As a result of higher cost-sharing requirements, beneficiaries with Medigap could be expected to use fewer Medicare-covered services, leading to a decrease in average Medigap premiums.
The analysis finds that most Medicare beneficiaries with Medigap policies would be expected to pay less for their health care overall. However, Medigap reforms that prohibit first dollar coverage and charge additional coinsurance for hospital, home health and other services would have a disproportionately negative impact on Medigap enrollees who are in relatively poor health, those who require inpatient hospital care, and those with modest incomes – as these groups are more likely to face higher overall health care costs as a result of the changes.
The analysis does not attempt to estimate how much of this reduction in the use of Medicare services would be attributable to enrollees foregoing needed care or how it would affect enrollees' health and future medical needs – which potentially could have both health and spending implications over the long term.
The study was authored by Mark Merlis. It is part of a series of Kaiser Family Foundation studies examining the effects of proposed Medicare changes on the program's beneficiaries, the federal budget and other stakeholders, as part of the Kaiser Project on Medicare's Future.
Information provided by the Program on Medicare Policy
Publication Number: 8208
Publish Date: 2011-07-20
HERE IS MY QUESTION....BEILENSON IS JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. JOHNS HOPKINS IS THE LEADING LOBBYIST AGAINST PUBLIC/UNIVERSAL CARE SO WHY WOULD YOU GIVE MONEY FOR THIS COMPETITIVE APPROACH TO HEALTH CARE AS NON-PROFIT TO THE PEOPLE FIGHTING IT?
REMEMBER MY COMMENTS THAT IN MARYLAND IF THE 1% WANT TO FIGHT AN ISSUE THEY SIMPLY CREATE A NON-PROFIT THAT BECOMES THE ISSUE AND THEN CONTROLS THE POLICY? THERE YOU HAVE IT....
SO, YOU HAVE A PRIVATE NON-PROFIT THAT IS JOHNS HOPKINS THAT SUCKED TRILLIONS OF TAXPAYER MONEY INTO THE HEALTH CARE DIVISION OF ITS UNIVERSITY TO GIVE US THE GLOBAL PRESENCE WE HAVE TODAY. THE NEXT STEP WOULD BE TO CREATE A PRIVATE NON-PROFIT THAT WILL SUCK BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER MONEY INTO THE HEALTH INSURANCE DIVISION TO GIVE US THE COMPLETE HEALTH SYSTEM PACKAGE.......ALL THAT IS HOPKINS.
Fiscal Deal Kills New Funding for Health Co-ops
By Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health NewsPublished: January 03, 2013
Going, going, gone.
The fiscal cliff deal, approved by Congress on New Year's Day, eliminates most of the more than $1.4 billion in remaining funding from the federal health law for new nonprofit, customer-owned health plans designed to compete against the major for-profit insurers.
That means the Obama administration won't be able to approve loans to any additional co-ops. In the past 2 years, the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded nearly $2 billion in loans to 24 proposed state co-ops. Those loans won't be affected by the cut.
"We were blindsided by the elimination of funds," said John Morrison, president of the National Alliance of State Health Cooperatives. "The health insurance industry is getting its way here by torpedoing co-ops in the 26 remaining states. This is not about budgets; it is about those health insurance giants killing competition at the expense of millions of Americans who will pay higher premiums because of it."
But some House Republicans have said the co-ops were a way for the administration to reward its political friends. Sponsors of the co-op plans already under way include the Freelancers Union in New York, a farmers' union in Colorado and the Connecticut State Medical Society.
Critics also have been skeptical the co-ops could compete with more established insurers, such as Aetna and UnitedHealthcare.
"Starting a new health plan is a risky proposition," said Peter Kongstvedt, a McLean, Va.- based health care consultant. He said consumers already have sufficient choice of plans in most markets and won't miss having the additional co-ops.
Proponents of the co-ops say such plans could offer lower premiums because they don't have to generate profits for shareholders. Under the law, co-op plans must apply any surpluses to lowering rates or improving benefits or quality for their members. The co-ops are scheduled to open by next year.
In testimony before Congress last year, Morrison called skepticism about co-ops' ability to compete "naive," noting, "The large carriers are saddled with stockholder demands for profit, large overheads, antiquated legacy processing systems, and other inefficiencies."
Initially, the health law allocated $6 billion to help co-ops start up and meet state insurance solvency requirements. In 2011, Congress reduced that funding to $3.4 billion as part of broader budget cuts.
More than two dozen applicants were applying for co-op funding when the money was eliminated, Morrison said. HHS officials did not return calls for comment.
The deal approved Tuesday leaves 10 percent of the remaining co-op funds to cover the administrative costs connected with the 24 plans already launched.
Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc.
Service Area: Maryland
Award Amount: $65,450,900
Award Date: September 28, 2012
Evergreen Health Cooperative, Inc. (Evergreen) plans to provide high quality, affordable care to Maryland residents while pioneering innovative forms of healthcare delivery. Evergreen intends to provide health insurance coverage statewide and in the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
We saw with the PIRG-MD report that gave cover to the transparency issues in Baltimore City government Third Way corporate politicians are not only allowing private non-profit organizations take control of public policy, they legislate so as to make them predominate in the civics of the city policy dialog. So, when pols create these quasi-governmental organizations they are telling you and I that we will not have a say in government. Then, they create the public interest organizations who say they are doing a good job.
NONE OF IT HAS ANY BASIS IN TRUTH REGARDING GOOD POLICY AND MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS!!!!! IT IS ALL PURELY PROPAGANDA!!!!
Today I want to look at how this approach ------the New Economy------has actually taken all aspects of of public discussion from the people AND I WANT TO STRESS THAT IT IS THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATS THAT ARE DOING IT.
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!
Look at the health care debate to see how the globalization group has already made health care a global business and how this is having no influence in bringing health care costs down.....just as with all global products, the costs become fixed at the highest market value.
Look at education reform as these Third Way corporate pols move forward with marketing education businesses and designing education technology to cheapen education costs. What kinds of dialog have the communities had in this major transition? NONE.....THESE POLICIES ARE THE MAKING OF ELITE UNIVERSITIES AND CORPORATE THINK TANKS.
The American people need to shout out against this loss of power that is democracy......WE NEED TO LISTEN TO THOSE CANDIDATES WHO WILL SHOUT OUT AGAINST THIS NON-PROFIT INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!
RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE NEXT ELECTIONS!!!!
The Affordable Care Act is all about making global health corporations that will be driven by profit and as unaccountable as Wall Street. This article makes it sound like Hopkins is helping a nation in need. Hopkins leads the nation in moving third world immigrants into the US to work in health care at below minimum wage and extremely exploited conditions. They train these workers overseas....as with the Philippines and then send these new professions who should be working in their own countries to America where they are connected to national health chains. Does this exploitation help you and I? No, it maximizes profit in the health industry and brings down US wages.
WE LOVE IMMIGRANTS.......HATE EXPLOITATION!!!
Hopkins Enters Into Agreement With Peruvian Hospitals
By Andrea K. Walker 1:28 p.m. EST, February 13, 2013
John Hopkins Medicine International entered into a collaboration with a network of Peruvian hospitals in an effort to improve medical services in the area.
The deal with Pacífico S.A. Entidad Prestadora de Salud also includes making improvements at an oncology clinic, clinical and pathology laboratories and outpatient centers that have recently been acquired by Pacífico Salud.
One of the main goals of the partnership will be accreditation of the hospitals. The organizations will also work on strengthening patient safety, operation and the infrastructure for delivering care.
“This important endeavor is designed to raise the quality of health care services across a vast and committed corps of caregivers,” Steven J. Thompson, chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine International, said in a statement.
What Third Way corporate democrats are trying to do is create a quasi-governmental to parallel and usurp our existing government. These are the Private Non-Profits that make up what we now call the non-profit industrial complex. They are NGOs just as in third world countries only they are now here in America taking us to this third world status. In Baltimore every public policy issue has a private non-profit advocating for the issue and it is staffed with establishment leadership that then steers the issue how it wants to go.
These 'Gifting' non-profits are made to allow the rich and corporations to 'donate' their money in lieu of paying taxes to whatever cause they want and then these same rich and corporations write the policy on that issue. So, the government is starved of funds and cannot move any policy forward as these quasi-governmental groups are funded in full and create all of the public policy.......you and I are completely sidelined.....but we still get to pay all the tax to 'partner' in whatever public policy these guys choose. I AM TOLD OVER AND AGAIN FROM THESE 1%.....WE KNOW BEST!
The growing reliance on private money to fund public education
Posted on August 15, 2011 New York Times
Back in early August a group of private donors, led by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, donated $1.5 million in private funding that will allow students across the state to take the New York State Education Department Regents Exams in January 2012.
This idea of private philanthropists stepping in to help SED meet its responsibility to students has raised eyebrows across the state. On the one hand, there are some who argue that private monies already fund most education in New York — in the form of school taxes. On the other, there is a growing concern that private donors are using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their public policy agendas.
“Regents Pay a Political Price for Their Free Advisers, Dissenters Warn,” an article in today’s New York Times, outlines concerns about New York’s privately funded Regents Fellows program and the role these “free” advisers will play in determining education policy.
Do you think the Fellows program is “a way to add resources and expertise at a time of severe budget cutting” as Chancellor Tisch says? Or should New Yorkers be concerned that the majority of the funding for the program seems to come from folks that are viewed by many in the education reform movement to be advancing an agenda of high-stakes testing and charter schools?
It looks like De Jong and OrgCode may be one of those private non-profits that exist to capture a progressive issue and move it in the direction the establishment wants it to go and not the rank and file. This is what Maryland Non-profit et all is about. So the establishment create an organization, let's take Johns Hopkins and its creation Health Care for All. Since Hopkins does not want public options or universal care......it is pure profit maximization for the health industry....it creates Health Care for All and puts its own people in leadership positions and then they make sure that the issue is handled the way Hopkins wants it. In the case of Health Care for All......private health systems that decide what care will be available to the people in order to maintain business profits. The result is Health Enterprise Zones that will establish a public health checkup system for almost all of Maryland residents as most will not be able to afford private health insurance. How better to make health care profitable than to make access impossible for most.
It appears that is the case here with the OrgCode and De Jong. He was brought in to lead this homeless effort and took it where the establishment wanted it......we know they are working hard to move the working-class and poor out of the city center......breaking all equal protection laws to do it....so there wouldn't be any housing in the plan.
Tensions High at Meeting for Homeless Plan February 15, 2013 WYPR
Five years ago, then Mayor Sheila Dixon announced a ten year plan to end homelessness in Baltimore. At the halfway point, folks working on “The Journey Home” as it’s now called - brought in a consulting firm to give that plan a face lift. But the revised plan, revealed last night, met with strong opposition. WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden was there and brings us this report.
Mary Rose Madden: Iain De Jong, CEO of OrgCode, the consultants that drafted the plan, said his firm had gone through months of community meetings, waded through mountains of data and this was the final plan.
Iain De Jong: The plan is really well laid out in terms of directions to go. We’re not anticipating as a result of our conversation today seismic shifts.
Madden: But the group of about 100 city employees, non-profit workers and homeless people had other ideas. Antonia Fasanelli, executive director of The Homeless Persons Representation Project, complained that OrgCode didn’t get the city’s commitment to tackle the problem of affordable housing – a key to housing the city’s homeless.
Antonia Fasanelli: I’m very disappointed with this draft that was produced. We are not going to end homelessness unless there are commitments to affordable housing.
Madden: Furthermore, she said, The Housing Authority of Baltimore City made those commitments in the original plan in 2008. They’re missing from this one, she said.
Fasanelli: I think the Housing Department is willing to give those commitments.
Madden: Anthony Scott, the housing authority’s deputy director, pointed out that the public had only three and half days to look through it before last night’s meeting AND that though the community was involved before the report was written, it had no opportunity to provide feedback before it was finalized.
Scott: The community as a whole needs the opportunity to digest that, critique it. We don’t always agree, but we do all work to come to a conclusion that we think is best given the resources that we have. And I don’t think that that plan reflects the resources that are available, the ability that we have, and a collective voice for how that plan should work for the city of Baltimore. Over the past five years, homelessness in Baltimore has increased by 57 percent, which has made the need for a workable plan even more critical. De Jong, who said he was expecting only minor tweaks to the plan, went through the updated benchmarks, goals and priorities.
De Jong: …the next thing relative to our agenda – I will walk you through the benchmarks…
Madden: He stressed things like the need for The Journey Home to have an Executive Director who’s close to the mayor.
De Jong: The best way to institute leadership in the mayor’s office is to have the Executive Director report to the Mayor’s office. What does the Mayor want to see? Results.
Madden: De Jong said the community must reduce first time homelessness by 30% and increase access to stable and affordable housing. But a man who goes by Turk, one of the many homeless people there, said he’d heard this all before.
Turk: See everybody with the suit and tie can say whatever they want. Have y’all been homeless? I heard this same thing 30 years ago when I was a little boy and my mom was trying to get HUD in Philadelphia. That’s the same thing – that’s a 30 year old plan just updated with some new bigger words. That’s all it is, that’s the same thing.
Madden: De Jong, who even tried cracking a few jokes about Valtentine’s Day…
De Jong: It’s with love.
Madden: ...said his company was hired to take the report thus far. And that any further work would be decided by the group that hired him: The Journey Home’s leadership advisory group. Amy Kleine represented that group last night. She gave her consent.
Amy Kleine: There will be a longer comment period and an opportunity for people to take some more time to read over the document and provide input that will be used to provide the final plan.
Madden: There’s no set date for the next review period and no one knows exactly how much input will be taken. But last night, Baltimore’s community fighting homelessness asked for more and they were heard. I’m Mary Rose Madden reporting in Baltimore for 88-1, WYPR.
Special Thanks to Our
Circle of Advocates
(Non-Board Donors of $5,000 & Up) Art Miller & Associates
DLA Piper LLP Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, LLP Law Offices of Peter Angelos Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl Leo V. Berger Fund and Kassap Investments Ober/Kaler, Attorneys at Law Charles Reeves, Trustee
Sanford V. Teplitzky
Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc.
201 N. Charles Street, Suite 1104 Baltimore Maryland 21201
You can see this Homeless issue just as with all of Baltimore's non-profits. These are Giving Circle non-profits which are corporations and the rich choosing where to donate and then making sure the issue is resolved in the way they want all while getting a tax write-off. The general population working with them are probably real activists on the issue, but because they are brought under the umbrella of this organization, their voices are silenced.
THESE PRIVATE NON-PROFITS (NGOs) ARE JUST THE SAME AS WHAT HAPPEN OVERSEAS IN THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES AND THEY USURP ALL OF PUBLIC POLICY AND DEMOCRACY......AND POLICY FOLLOWS THEIR LEAD.
Cindy Walsh is a lifelong political activist and academic living in Baltimore, Maryland.