Posts tagged ‘Corruptions’

Health Care Premiums Rise Modestly, Report Says – NYTimes.com


Health Care Premiums Rise Modestly, Report Says – NYTimes.com.

A family with employer-provided health insurance now pays just under $16,000 in annual premiums, an increase of about 4 percent over a year ago, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Individual policies purchased through an employer rose even less, increasing just 3 percent from last year to an average of $5,615, the study said.

“It is a year of very moderate increases in premiums and health care costs,” said Drew Altman, the chief executive and president of Kaiser, which tracks health care spending. The foundation surveys more than 2,000 small and large employers each year.

The increase, to $15,745 from $15,073, contrasts with the 9 percent increase Kaiser reported from 2010 to 2011, which gave rise to concerns that health care spending might begin rising rapidly again.

Kaiser said the lower premiums were a sign that the rise in health care costs continued to be modest. But the study’s authors were cautious about the explanation, wondering whether the smaller increases in recent years signaled the start of a long-term trend or were simply the result of a slow economy.

“We don’t know if health care premiums and costs will shoot back up and by how much when the economy improves,” Mr. Altman said. Insurers generally base the premiums they charge on what they expect the health care costs of their members will be.

Analysts generally agree that the deep recession and the sputtering recovery have helped keep health care spending — and insurance premiums — lower than the double-digit increases experienced in 2004 and before. In 2002, for example, Kaiser reported a 13 percent jump.

Part of the reason, they say, is that many consumers have decided not to go to the doctor or have elective surgery during the downturn because of higher out-of-pocket costs.

About half of workers covered by employers now have a deductible of at least $1,000 for individual policies. In 2007, only 21 percent of workers had deductibles that high, according to Kaiser. The study is being published online by the journal Health Affairs.

The report also looked at differences between how much employees are paying for premiums in companies where at least 35 percent of workers earn $24,000 or less a year, compared with how much employees are paying where at least 35 percent of workers earn $55,000 a year.

Employers typically ask workers to pay some share of the overall premium cost out of their paychecks.

Kaiser found that workers at places with more low-wage employees paid on average $1,000 more in premiums than those working at places employing more higher-earning workers. The low-wage employees paid, on average, nearly $5,000 for their share of premiums, while higher-earning individuals paid about $4,000, on average.

Paul Ginsburg, the president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group, cautioned against reading too much into survey results for any one year, especially since last year’s findings by Kaiser may have been high.

But, over all, he said, health care spending seemed to be relatively stable. “Recession and the slow recovery are probably the principal factor,” he said.

Some insurance executives are also cautious about predicting that health care spending will not rise rapidly, once the economy recovers. Many have been surprised at how much people have reduced their doctor visits. “I didn’t think I would see utilization this low, either,” said Janice Knight, an executive for Health Care Service Corporation, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans in states like Illinois and Texas.

Others speculate that there could be something more going on as both patients and doctors adapt to changes stemming from the federal health care law and a determination by private insurers to keep spending down.

When asked to share more of the cost of a branded prescription drug, for example, consumers were more willing to use generic medications, and the Affordable Care Act has numerous provisions that help rein in costs, said David Cutler, a health economist at Harvard University. “The slow economy is only part of it,” he said.

“Every data point makes me more likely to believe that this a fundamental change rather than just a temporary change,” said Mr. Cutler.
A version of this article appeared in print on September 12, 2012, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Health Care Premiums Rise Slightly.

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Obama Appoints Record Number Of Women Judges To Federal Bench


Obama Appoints Record Number Of Women Judges To Federal Bench.

WASHINGTON — With the confirmation of Stephanie Rose as a U.S. district court judge on Monday, President Barack Obama has put 72 women on the federal bench — the most ever appointed by a president in one term. It also ties the number former President George W. Bush had confirmed in his entire eight-year presidency, according to numbers provided by the White House.

In an 89-1 vote, the U.S. Senate voted to approve Rose as a judge in the Southern District of Iowa. She is the first woman to ever serve on this court, and it’s the sixth time that Obama has put a woman on the bench for the first time in various courtrooms.

Former President Bill Clinton had the most number of female judges confirmed during his entire presidency — 111 — but just 61 of them were appointed in his first term.

Beyond women on the bench, Obama has had a remarkably strong record on diversifying the federal judiciary. The AP reported last year that Obama is “the first president who hasn’t selected a majority of white males for lifetime judgeships.”

Obama has had 29 minority women confirmed to the federal bench, compared to 22 during Bush’s presidency. He has also had 31 African-American federal judges confirmed, compared to 26 for Bush. Three openly gay judges have been confirmed as federal judges under Obama; there were zero confirmed during Bush’s term.

“At this time, it’s beyond dispute that having a diverse set of judges improves the quality of justice for everybody,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “And that is certainly true for having women on the bench as well as men. A woman’s perspective can enrich the way women understand the practicalities of the application of legal issues to real life.”

Greenberger pointed to the effect that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had in the 2003 case of Arizona student Savana Redding, whose mother sued the school after after a nurse and an administrative aide strip-searched her to see if she had unauthorized prescription-strength ibuprofen on her.

During oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer — who was also nominated by former President Bill Clinton — said he didn’t understand why Redding believed her rights had been violated, since children also change together in locker rooms.

Ginsburg, the only woman on the court at the time, responded by letting her male colleagues know how traumatic it could be for a young woman to undergo such an experience.

“Maybe a 13-year-old boy in a locker room doesn’t have that same feeling about his body,” said Ginsburg. “But a girl who’s just at the age where she is developing, whether she has developed a lot … or … has not developed at all (might be) embarrassed about that.”

As Charlie Savage of The New York Times noted last month, Obama has lagged in his judicial nominations and is “set to end his first term with dozens fewer lower-court appointments than both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush achieved in their first four years.”

While Greg Craig, Obama’s first White House counsel, said the lower number comes in part from a deliberate strategy by the Obama administration to nominate fewer — and more moderate — judges, the president’s nominees have also been blocked by Senate Republicans who have objected to even uncontroversial individuals.

“There’s been a very distressing slowdown in the consideration of nominations to courts, so meeting this record and making this record is all the more commendable. It also points out how important it is for the Senate to fill the vacancies,” said Greenberger. “There are a number of uncontroversial nominations that include women that need to be considered by the Senate.”

According to statistics put out by the NWLC last month, 31 percent of the active judges on the 13 federal courts of appeal are women. Approximately 30 percent of active U.S. district court judges are women.

Free Wood Post


Free Wood Post.<

Observers have been previously unable to understand the phenomenon keeping Republicans from being able to say the word “Democratic” when describing the opposition party.

Their insistence on saying things like “the Democrat Party” and “Democrat Senator” were initially thought to be snide little barbs meant to demean the Democratic Party in some sort of not-really-funny way.

Alas, science has come to the defense of grammar-challenged conservatives everywhere. Dr. Rodney P. Malprick of the National Institutes of Health has reportedly identified the gene responsible for the ability to master the entire word “Democratic” and use it in a sentence.

“At first, we thought the inability of some people to say the complete word was a result of the amphibian brain not being able to successfully put four syllables together,” Dr. Malprick said.

“Now that we realize it comes from a genetic deficiency, we understand that these people deserve our sympathy. Through no fault of their own, many conservatives make themselves sound like petty and petulant third graders. We must conduct research that can help them overcome this painful condition,” he added.

It’s hoped that further research can indeed lead to a future wherein Republicans happily call the opposition by the proper name and Democratic Senators are identified as such. Dr. Malprick is planning to develop a powder that can be dissolved in warm milk that will reverse the imbalance and restore phonetic correctness.

(1) New High-Speed Rail Plan Runs Over Prop. 1A Mandates | Digg Politics


April 2, 2012

By Katy Grimes

As California politicians show more desperation to build any part of the California High-Speed Rail system in order to get their hands on $3.5 billion in federal stimulus money, the plan is looking more like a whack-a-mole game. But every hole that is plugged, every detail that is softened or tweaked, and every cost estimate that is changed causes a bigger problem. The cover-up is worse than the original crime.

It is important to remember that high-speed rail is not really about achieving sexy world-class transportation for the purpose of serious people moving. It’s just a pipeline project for grabbing big money. Because of the illegitimacy of the project’s intent, the mole could be permanently whacked, and leave California taxpayers holding the bill.

The most recent miracle cure was yesterday’s announcement of the newest revised business plan, in which the cost  of the project will be reduced to $68 billion from $98.6 billion by expanding the 130-mile line from Fresno to Bakersfield, to Merced to San Fernando Valley, for a 300-mile segment.

But there is quiet talk about electrifying only some of the track, and using pre-existing Amtrack rails. “Instead of building costly new raised viaducts and underground tunnels, the high-speed trains would run where possible on existing lines, such as Caltrain’s Peninsula infrastructure,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. But existing track cannot accommodate the 200 mph. The new business plan makes this just a train, not high-speed rail as was required by Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot initiative authorizing the train.

Houston, we have a mandate

With politicians and High-Speed Rail Authority officials working all last year to smooth over the complex and conflicting details of the bulging $98 billion High-Speed Rail plan, oddly enough, they’ve created an even larger problem than the growing dissent by the voters. They are now violating important mandates in the 2008 law.

Proposition 1A, $9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail, included numerous mandates, none of which can be legally bypassed on the way to building the massive train system.

Top on the list is that the rail system must be high-speed. “Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour,” the law states. However, much of the first segment between Fresno and Bakersfield is not high-speed; nor will high-speed be attainable in dense cities.

Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard recently said at a legislative hearing that the Rail Authority “never intended, our business plan does not contemplate, that we would operate a high-speed rail system only in the Central Valley.”

Mandates

But his statement runs counter to Proposition 1A:

* Prop. 1A stipulates 11 requirements that must be met before funds can be released for the construction of a “corridor” or “usable segment.”  Specifically, some of these requirements include actual high-speed train service, ridership, revenue projections and planned passenger service.

* “The high-speed train system shall be planned and constructed in a manner that minimizes urban sprawl and impacts on the natural environment,” the law states. But the impact of the rail system may actually create suburban communities around train stations within reasonable distances from urban areas and higher employment areas.

The train system will also dissect both urban and rural communities which will be problematic, as well as a serious violation of the “natural environment.” The trains will travel through densely populated cities, but also through sensitive agricultural and natural areas in the state.

* The success of any legitimate transportation system must be based on connectivity. “For each corridor described in subdivision (b), passengers shall have the capability of traveling from any station on that corridor to any other station on that corridor without being required to change trains,” the law states. “Stations shall be located in areas with good access to local mass transit or other modes of transportation.”  This means that unless there are extensive connecting rail systems already in place in the high-speed rail destinations, cab companies, limo services and car rental companies should be lining up to rent space in the train stations. Commuters will not have the necessary train and bus systems to transfer to with the existing plan.

* The California High-Speed Rail Authority must have all of the the funding ahead of time, before any construction starts on a new segment.

* The high-speed train system must operate on its own entirely, and in the black. That means operating profitably, and includes caveats of no government subsidy. The plan relies heavily on a projection of 100 million users by 2030, a notion that was created with manipulated data, and is absurd.

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, has railed consistently against the implementation of the plan. Even though voters were deceived by the ballot summary and language, Harkey has said that the entire project is lacking in private, public and debt funding to complete even the most minor operating segment.

In addition, Harkey has said the mandatory Environmental Impact Report for the system is not complete. Yet the law calls for certified EIR’s for each segment of the system. California already is running endemic budget deficits. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing for additional and higher taxes. State officials have been ignoring the state’s infrastructure needs and massive maintenance and repair.

Fortunately, voters are now suspicious about the rail system they approved in 2008.

With all of this information available, who or what keeps pushing for the already bankrupt rail system to begin construction?

Follow the money 

One need not look any further than the utility bills that come in the mail. Pacific Gas &Electric and Southern California Edison will be providing the electricity for high-speed rail, with estimates of additional demands for electricity already coming in at 1 percent to 5 percent of the state’s total energy usage, according to a Capitol staffer who asked to remain anonymous. “Even Cal ISO doesn’t have any estimates for the cost,” the staffer said. “High-speed rail has got to consume a great deal of power. Where will the power come from?”

Surprisingly, the California Independent System Operator  has no estimates for energy usage about high-speed rail on its website, as would be expected given the size and scope of the project.

But according to a July 2011 energy usage analysis prepared for the California High-Speed Rail Program Management Team, total electricity usage for the proposed rail system would be “8.32 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day,” and more than 3 billion kWh per year.

The average three-person household in California is about 6,000 kWh per year, or a little more than 2,000 KWh per person.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, electricity customers in the state paid an average rate of about 15.2 cents per kWh.

At 15.2 cents per kWh, the total utility bill for high-speed rail would be nearly $1.26 million per day, and more than $460 million per year. And that’s probably a very conservative estimate.

Show me the money

Along with every imaginable labor union in the state, a report from “Follow the Money” shows that PG&E spent $20,000 in support of Prop. 1A in 2008.

Both PG&E and SCE also have given large campaign contributions to Gov. Jerry Brown, who actively campaigned on the high-speed rail issue when he ran for governor in 2010. Brown received $31,580 from PG&E during his gubernatorial campaign, and $25,000 from SCE.

While those investments seem relatively small for a $460 million per year payout, how many clients of PG&E and SCE currently use up to 5 percent of the state’s total electricity?

And who could forget the other big PG&E connection? Brown recently appointed High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard, a former senior vice president of public policy and governmental relations at PG&E.

Where will the power come from?

With California’s climate-change mantra of “no dirty coal,” “no natural gas,” no hydroelectricity” and “no nuclear power,” many wonder if the high-speed trains will be powered by windmills, solar panels and algae.

Remember that California passed the climate change law, AB 32, in 2006, and the Renewable Portfolio Standards mandate in 2011. Both greatly restrict energy usage, and force energy producers to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable resources.

There isn’t enough wind, sun or algae in the Western Hemisphere to power a 200mph train up and down the state.

With the state taking the Klamath hydroelectric dam offline, cutting coal reliance, refusing to reinvest in nuclear power and essentially creating an energy shortage, when California has another inevitable blackout, what will be powered — our homes, or the high-speed train? Hospitals, or the high-speed train? Schools, or the high-speed train? Businesses, or the high-speed train?

The Legislature is creating a massive energy problem in California, and refusing to do anything about it. But maybe, just maybe, the law will rescue the voters this time.

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Comments(5)
  1. Beelzebub says:

    Be very careful out there, folks. Whether it’s high-speed rail, climate control or incarceration – the fascists are looking for more creative ways to put their hands into your wallets and separate you from what little wealth you may have accumulated in your lifetime.

    If you have a job, are productive or have a little nest egg that you labored for, in some counties you have become a biased target in favor of incarceration.

    You might want to think twice before you venture into Riverside County. However in the long run it probably doesn’t really matter, does it? Coming soon to a theater near you. ;)

    “Riverside County has a new motto: “If you do the crime, you’ll do the time, and now, you’ll also pay the dime.”

    “Supervisor Stone said Riverside will only collect the jail fee from inmates who are financially able to pay it, so indigent inmates will not be sent a bill.”

    http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/jail-cost-riverside-san-diego-134290613.html

    This is how they fill their budget holes created by years and years of fiscal mismanagement. Tyranny of the productive. Welcome to China.

    Keep voting, suckers! :D

  2. Beelzebub says:

    The answer is to be either filthy rich or poor as a church mouse.

    Anything inbetween and you’re screwed. :)

  3. nowsane says:

    When I owned a boat, the common phrase was that “a boat is a hole in the water surrounded by wood into which one pours the contents of your wallet” This article demonstrates why Proposition 1A is similarly a hole into which the entire state will empty it’s collective wallets for a lifetime! My thanks to Cal Watchdog for staying attuned to this crock of a project.

  4. nowsane says:

    Pete Peterson, writing in City Journal California, On Further Review, 13 Jan 2012, http://www.city-journal.org/2012/cjc0113pp.html , said “Experts are taking a second look at California’s rail and climate-change programs. Will Jerry Brown? “ very articulately and succinctly argues why both the High-Speed Rail Project, Prop 1A, and AB 32 should be ditched as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Moonbeam is further pushing the Climate Change BS, as well as pushing the “Train to Nowhere” and the voters have no refugee in CA Sen. Pres. Pro Tem Daniel S. Steinberg, or CA Assemblymember Speaker John Pérez to stop these ridiculous programs. Both are boondoggles of the highest order!

  5. CalWatchdog says:

    Nowsane – with Gov. Brown’s staunch support of high-speed rail, AB 32, and cap and trade carbon trading, solar, wind, electric cars, we are now calling him ‘Gov. Sunbeam.’

    – Katy

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(1) New High-Speed Rail Plan Runs Over Prop. 1A Mandates | Digg Politics.