WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
Home - Blogs - Users Blogs - Popular Blogs
Latest Blogs
 
by German Lopez 10.01.2013
Posted In: News, Health care at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
obamacarefail

First Day of Obamacare Snared by Website Errors

Marketplace website produces waiting periods, errors

Ohioans who tried to obtain health insurance through HealthCare.gov, the online portal for Obamacare’s marketplaces, on its opening day likely ran into a few problems, ranging from delays to problems logging in.

Before logging in, participants typically go through a waiting period that can last up to a few minutes. During this time, a large message pops up that says, “Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait. We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we're working to make your experience here better. Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”

Following the waiting period, logging in can become its own challenge. After entering a username and password, the screen often flashes a “Downstream Error,” occasionally joined with the incomprehensible code “E501.”

Even if someone manages to get through the issues and log in, another error message can pop up that makes browsing insurance plans impossible.

The problems aren’t necessarily unexpected — new software often launches with glitches that are later patched up — and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking participants to be patient.

“We’re building a complicated piece of technology, and hopefully you’ll give us the same slack you give Apple,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at a Sept. 30 briefing.

Federal officials also caution that Oct. 1 is just one day of the six-month enrollment period, which will last through March. And even if someone did manage to sign up on the first day, none of the insurance plans begin coverage until Jan. 1.

Once the marketplaces do work correctly, officials promise that they will allow Cincinnatians to browse, compare and select from 46 different private insurance plans that range from a “bronze” plan that costs and covers the least to a “platinum” plan that costs and covers the most.

The plans’ raw premiums are also 16 percent lower than the federal government previously projected, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office numbers. An Ohio 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will be able to buy a “silver,” or middle-of-the-pack, plan for as low as $145 a month after tax credits, while an Ohio family of four making $50,000 a year will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan. Without the tax credits, the individual will pay $212 a month and the family of four will pay $768 a month.

Participants must make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level a year, or $11,490 to $45,960 in annual income for an individual, to be eligible for tax credits. Higher income levels will get smaller subsidies; lower income levels will get larger subsidies.

Anyone interested in the marketplaces can browse options and sign up online at HealthCare.gov, by phone at 800-318-2596 or in person at various locations, including community health centers and the Freestore Foodbank.

Updated: Added more details about tax subsidies in Ohio’s marketplaces.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.10.2013
Posted In: News, Health, Health care at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cincinnati children's

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Loses Obamacare Money

Medical center blocked from helping uninsured navigate online marketplaces

Limitations imposed by Ohio lawmakers who oppose the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have forced Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to give up a $124,419 federal grant that would have gone toward helping uninsured Ohioans navigate new online marketplaces for health insurance.

Specifically, the state law, which Gov. John Kasich signed on April 30 and went into effect on July 30, excludes any organization that receives payments from a health care payer, such as an insurance company, from being designated as a “navigator.”

The designation is necessary for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to receive the federal grant, which is part of national outreach efforts to enroll as many Americans, especially young adults, into Obamacare’s online marketplaces when they open for enrollment on Oct. 1.

Without the designation, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was forced to give up the federal money, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital spokesperson Terry Loftus told CityBeat.

State legislators passed the restrictions to clarify regulations on navigators that avoid potential abuses and conflicts of interest.

But Obamacare’s supporters claim the state law is part of a nationwide effort from state and federal Republicans to make Obamacare more difficult to implement.

The federal government intends to sign up 7 million people into Obamacare’s online marketplaces, but 2.7 million have to be young adults to keep costs low. Otherwise, older, less healthy Americans will fill up the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs.

Supporters of Obamacare acknowledge that signing up so many young adults will be difficult, so they’ve taken to national and state-by-state education campaigns that tell young adults about the benefits and cost savings made available through the president’s signature health care law. These campaigns are being headed by various organizations that have been dubbed “navigators.”

But opponents, particularly Republicans, are preventing some of the efforts by investigating navigators and passing legislation in state governments that limits what navigators can do and who can be classified as a navigator.

Most recently, Republicans in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to groups participating in the navigator program with a series of accusations and questions.

“This is a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years,” Erin Shields Britt, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told The Hill.

For the uninsured, not knowing about the online marketplaces could mean losing out on opportunities to obtain health insurance at lower costs. Recent reports have found that Obamacare’s online marketplaces and tax subsidies will lower costs for Ohioans in the individual health care market.

An Aug. 29 study from the RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank, found health care premiums will rise to an average of $5,312 under Obamacare in 2016. Without the law, premiums would reach an average of $3,973 that year. But when Obamacare’s tax credits are plugged in, the average Ohioan will only pay a premium of $3,131 — $842 less than he or she would pay without the law.

Avik Roy, a conservative health care economist and prominent critic of Obamacare, found even better results for Ohio. His model found premiums will drop by 30 percent in Ohio, although they’ll rise by 24 percent on average for 13 states, including Ohio, and the District of Columbia as a whole. Unlike RAND, Roy’s calculations don’t take subsidies into account, so the final cost for the average Ohioan is likely much lower.

The numbers only apply to Ohioans in the individual health insurance market. Under Obamacare, individuals will be able to enroll for health insurance through an online marketplace. The majority of Americans who get health insurance through their employers or public programs fall under different rules and regulations.

It’s unclear how much Republican opposition will ultimately play into the numbers. But for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, it means $124,419 less to help its neediest, less knowledgeable patients.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.09.2012
 
 
kasich_2

Republican Anti-Abortion Agenda Renewed

Governor, legislature criticized by pro-choice group

Here they go again. Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda in Ohio. Two of the governor’s October appointments have been criticized by a pro-choice group, and the state legislature is now considering a new version of the heartbeat bill.

Yesterday, Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Ohio legislature, in cooperation with anti-abortion groups, is giving another look at the heartbeat bill. When the heartbeat bill was first suggested, many on the left labeled it the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. If it became law, the bill would have banned abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically visible in ultrasounds by the sixth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Legislators and anti-abortion groups aren’t offering specifics on the new bill. Ohio Right to Life opposed the heartbeat bill when it was first suggested because the group believed it was too likely to fail in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld abortion rights in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The new version of the heartbeat bill will likely be retooled to sustain any court challenges.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says Republicans haven’t taken the right lessons from the Nov. 6 election: “It’s clear that they didn’t get the memo. Pro-choice Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to re-elect President Obama and reject this war on women. Here we are, we haven’t even made it to the weekend, and our senate president is resuming attacks on women’s reproductive health care.” She added, “I think they didn’t care what Ohio women thought before the election, and it’s clear they don’t care now either.”

In response to questions about whether the governor will support a new heartbeat bill, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Republican Gov. John Kasich, said in an email, “We are watching the Senate’s activity closely.”

A few appointments from Kasich have also come under scrutiny. On Oct. 12, Kasich appointed Marshall Pitchford, a board member at Ohio Right to Life, to a committee in charge of filling a vacancy in the Ohio Supreme Court. On Oct. 29, Kasich appointed Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, to serve a five-year term on the State Medical Board of Ohio, which is in charge of the state’s medical regulations.

In a statement, Copeland criticized the appointment to the Supreme Court committee: “Because legislation promoted by Ohio Right to Life is likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court, it is inappropriate for Pitchford to be placed in a position where he can cherry-pick a justice to serve on that court.”

She also criticized the appointment of Gonidakis to the State Medical Board. Copeland says she’s “concerned” that he’s on the board to regulate and restrict access to abortions. “No group in the state of Ohio has done more to interfere with the private medical decisions of Ohio women,” she says. “For their leader to now be on the State Medical Board is completely inappropriate and disturbing.”

She added that the two appointments show Kasich is “playing a more active role in the war on women than Ohioans realize.”

According to Gonidakis’ biography on the Ohio Right to Life website, Gonidakis went to school for law at the University of Akron. No professional medical experience is noted.

Nichols said in an email the appointments should come as no surprise: “The governor believes strongly in the sanctity of human life, so it's a surprise that someone would be surprised that he practices what he preaches.”

 
 
by German Lopez 10.21.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Health care at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Board Expands Medicaid Without Legislature’s Approval

Republican governor bypasses GOP-controlled legislature for cornerstone of Obamacare

A seven-member legislative board on Monday accepted federal funding to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income Ohioans for the next two years.

Republican Gov. John Kasich originally attempted to get the Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly, but he ultimately bypassed the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling with members of his own political party to embrace the expansion.

Kasich instead opted to go through the Controlling Board, an obscure panel that typically handles less contentious budget issues that keep with legislative intent.

Most Republican state representatives, including local Reps. Lou Terhar, Louis Blessing and Peter Stautberg, signed a letter in protest of the tactic. The letter invokes legal arguments against the governor’s decision and could be the basis for a lawsuit in the future.

“Our protest is not about the merits or lack of merit in expanding Medicaid,” the letter states. “Our protest goes to the fundamental form of government upon which our country was founded — a Republic of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion. They argue it would be better to pursue Medicaid reforms instead of expanding the program.

On the other side, Democrats, in a rare alliance with a Republican governor, applauded Kasich for embracing a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Under Obamacare, the federal government asked states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government pays for the full expansion through fiscal year 2016, and then gradually phases down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s costs.

In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.

The expansion is necessary to fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without the expansion, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

The federally funded expansion is set to begin in 2014. It will cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.09.2012
 
 
niehaus copy

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio may get anti-abortion law, city budget proposal soon, state ponders health exchange

If Tuesday's election was supposed to be a strong message from social progressives, women and younger voters, Ohio Republicans are not getting it. Instead, they are continuing their pursuit of the heartbeat bill. That’s what Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday.  At the time the heartbeat bill was originally suggested, it was called the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Yet Republicans, in cooperation with anti-abortion organizations, are pushing a version of the bill once again. Ohio Republicans have also shown interest in continuing their crusade against Planned Parenthood, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Cincinnati’s budget proposal is coming later this month. Specifically, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says it will arrive Nov. 26. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and his budget team are currently working on a budget to close a $40 million general fund deficit. One idea that was suggested recently in a memo was privatizing parking services, but it faces skepticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget will first go through Dohoney, then the mayor and then City Council. However, this calendar year’s budget will only cover six months, and then the city will transition into filing budgets based on fiscal years on July 1.

To match some of Obamacare’s requirements, Ohio officials are considering a hybrid approach to health care exchanges. The exchanges are federally regulated insurance markets. As part of Obamacare, states have the option of creating their own exchange programs, which have to be approved by the federal government; setting up a hybrid approach, which is what Ohio is looking into doing; or putting the responsibility on the federal government.

During the lame duck session, the Ohio legislature will take up legislation to regulate puppy mills and election reform. Regulations on puppy mills were previously covered by CityBeat when a group tried to get dog auctions banned in the state. Election reform could mean a lot of things. The current Republican-controlled legislature previously tried to restrict and limit in-person early voting before repealing its own rules. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has also suggested “more strict” voter ID laws.

In other election news, an upset federal judge demanded Husted’s attorneys explain a last-minute directive that changed rules on provisional ballots. U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley told the lawyers, “You have a lot of explaining to do.” The directive, which Husted sent out Nov. 2, shifted the burden of providing identification for provisional ballots from poll workers to voters. Voter advocates argued the directive was against Ohio law and would lead to more provisional ballots, which are ballots filed when a voter’s eligibility to vote is uncertain, being wrongly rejected. Husted and Republicans were heavily criticized for alleged attempts at voter suppression in the run-up to the election.

City Council approved a $750,000 tax break for the E.W. Scripps Company. As part of the deal, Scripps will hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.

The Wall Street Journal covered Cincinnati’s “pie war” between Frisch’s and Busken Bakery.

CincyTech, a nonprofit venture organization, has invested $14.3 million since it began five years ago. Its investments, which focus on information technology and life sciences, have helped create more than 360 jobs, according to company officials.

As part of a national movement, Cincinnati-based Kroger will be making an effort to hire more military veterans. 

Republican Gov. John Kasich is focused on his re-election bid for 2014. When asked about whether he will run for president in 2016, Kasich said he has not made any announcements. The news came shortly after the Ohio Democratic Party began printing signs that say “Kasich... you’re next” on one side and “2014 can’t come soon enough” on the other.

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel won’t be leaving state politics any time soon. He says he’ll be running for re-election in 2014. Mandel is the Republican who led a failed bid for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. His campaign was notorious for its dishonesty.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, may take up running the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2014. That would put him in charge of managing the Republican Party’s senate campaigns for the year. Republicans are expected to make gains in the U.S. Senate in 2014 because 20 Democratic seats will be up for grabs, in comparison to 13 Republican seats, and 12 of the Democratic seats are in swing or red states.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives won the popular vote, but they ultimately lost the House. The culprit for the discrepancy seems to be politicized redistricting. In Ohio, the Republican-led committee redrew congressional district boundaries to give Republicans an advantage. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Warren County, which slanted the district in favor of Republicans and diluted the say of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urbanites. On this year’s ballot, Issue 2 attempted to tackle the redistricting issue, but Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted it down.

Some scientists are really excited by the discovery of “Super Earth.”

What doomed the Mayans? Climate change.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.12.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health, Health care at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio House Republicans to Defund Planned Parenthood

Pro-choice groups rebuke Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan

Pro-choice groups are criticizing Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan for pulling money from Planned Parenthood and shifting federal dollars to “anti-choice” crisis pregnancy centers.

The Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would redirect federal funding for family planning services in a way that would strip funding for Planned Parenthood and family planning providers.

During hearings at the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee today, multiple women’s health advocates, ranging from health experts to members of Planned Parenthood, said these services mostly benefit low-income women, particularly in rural areas. On the other side, representatives from anti-abortion groups spoke in support of the Ohio House Republicans’ measures, citing health care options, family values, abstinence and chastity.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says the defunding measure has become a recurring trend for Ohio Republicans, who have taken up the Planned Parenthood measure multiple times in the past couple years. But she says the threat could have more weight this time around.

“This feels different,” Copeland says. “They’ve always kind of tried to hide it before. This time they were a lot more upfront about it. It seems like they may be willing to put political capital into this fight this time.”

A separate section of the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan redirects federal funding to a program that will fund crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which provide abstinence-only family planning services.

Some researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.

A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.

Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.

A study released in January by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found CPCs routinely mislead patients. The study, which looked at CPCs around Ohio in an “undercover investigation,” said 47 percent of CPCs give misleading information about mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provide false information about the connection between breast cancer, infertility and abortion.

Some supporters say the Ohio House Republicans’ budget measures aren’t specifically about Planned Parenthood, abortion or birth control. Instead, they argue they’re trying to establish more health care options for women.

But the providers that would be able to get more funding already apply for it; they just lose out to Planned Parenthood’s services, which are deemed superior by state officials who distribute the funds during the competitive distribution process.

Copeland says “no thinking person” should fall for the reasoning given by Republicans and supporters who say abortion is not one of their concerns.

“They’re trying to impose their morals on you,” Copeland says. “These are not health care experts. These are not people who are trying to find real solutions for the problems that real people face. These are people who want to impose their personal views, their personal morality on you.”

Some anti-abortion supporters, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, say abortion and broader cultural issues are absolutely part of the reason they support the Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan.

“Our mission is to support the right to life from conception to natural death,” Leipold says. “Abortion happens to be a big problem right now because in the past 40 years it’s become part of the culture.”

She adds, “Now kids are learning that responsible sex means that you can have sex but just use birth control. That’s not supposed to be the attitude. The attitude is supposed to be that sex is for a committed relationship between a man and a woman in a marital relationship.”

During testimony today, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, asked state legislators to support the organization’s numerous medical services, including women’s health, family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment.

Kight also said state and federal funds do not go to abortions. Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are instead funded by private donations.

At the hearings, Republican State Rep. Ron Maag asked Kight why Planned Parenthood doesn’t shut down its three abortion clinics in Ohio if those clinics are potentially threatening the “good work” Planned Parenthood does elsewhere. Kight said Planned Parenthood believes its abortion services are “good work.”

 
 
by German Lopez 06.14.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health care at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
medicaid

Poll: Majority of Ohioans Support Medicaid Expansion

But state budget plans forgo Medicaid expansion

A new poll from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found a clear majority of Ohioans supports the Medicaid expansion.

The poll asked a random sample of 866 Ohioans, "Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to more low-income uninsured adults?" About 63 percent of respondents said they favor an expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.

The poll found a partisan divide on the issue: About 82 percent of Democrats support the expansion, while 55 percent of Republicans oppose it.

The question was part of the Ohio Health Issues Poll conducted between May 19 and June 2. The University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research has conducted the poll for the Health Foundation each year since 2005.

"The Health Foundation supports the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio because we believe that it will have a positive impact on the health of uninsured Ohioans who will be newly covered by Medicaid," said Health Foundation CEO Jim Schwab in a statement. "We also believe that expansion of Medicaid will have a positive impact on Ohio’s economy. This positive impact was validated in an economic impact study that the Foundation helped underwrite earlier this year. The OHIP findings show that the majority of Ohioans also support the expansion."

Under the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of about $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four.

For the first three years, the federal government would pay for the entire expansion. Following that, the federal government would phase down its support for the expansion to 90 percent of the costs, where it would indefinitely remain.

Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.

Although Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, his Republican colleagues, who control the Ohio House and Senate, have so far passed on the expansion in budget plans and legislation.

In an April interview with CityBeat, Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, said the proposed federal commitment to the Medicaid expansion is unprecedented, which, according to Dittoe, makes Republican legislators skeptical that the federal government can live up to such obligations in the long term.

Bipartisan legislation introduced this week in the Ohio House and Senate would reform the Medicaid program — supposedly in a way that lowers costs without cutting services. But the legislation wouldn't take up the Medicaid expansion.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.08.2013
Posted In: Health, Health care, News at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
health transparency

Medicare Data Reveals Huge Price Variation at Local Hospitals

Charges and payments can differ by thousands of dollars

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled price data today for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals, revealing large price variations between hospitals around the nation, including in Cincinnati.

For treating chest pain, charges from three Cincinnati hospitals varied by thousands of dollars: Bethesda North charged on average $17,696, Christ Hospital charged $12,000 and University Hospital charged $10,130.

But the initial charge seems to have little relation to what Medicare ultimately paid out. In the three cases for chest pain, Medicare on average paid $3,242 to Bethesda North, $3,657 to Christ Hospital and $5,463 to University Hospital.

In other words, University Hospital charged about 57 percent of what Bethesda North charged, but University Hospital was ultimately paid 68 percent more.

The price variation wasn’t exclusive to chest pain, either. For major joint replacement or reattachment of a lower extremity without major complications, Bethesda North charged $61,947 and was paid $12,712 on average, Jewish Hospital charged $38,465 and was paid $14,069 on average and University Hospital charged $46,463 and was paid $20,116 on average.

In fact, all of the 100 metrics tracked by CMS had at least some degree of variation in charges and payments. Whether it was chest pain, joint replacement, diabetes or cardiovascular complications, prices always varied between hospitals — sometimes greatly, other times by a little.

The data from fiscal year 2011 shows how much hospitals initially charged Medicare for the 100 most frequently billed discharges and how much Medicare ultimately paid out. The difference between charges and payments is usually large because Medicare negotiates prices down.

CMS says the price discrepancy is happening at hospitals all around the nation: “As part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, data are being released that show significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services.”

Still, some health care advocacy groups say Ohio is doing worse than other states. A study from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a “D” for health care price transparency, based on the states’ laws and regulations. That was actually better than 29 other states, which flat-out flunked with an “F.” Only New Hampshire and Massachusetts received an “A,” the highest grade possible.

Even then, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute cautioned in the study that their grades were given on a curve, which means all states would likely fare worse if the organizations measured them based on ideals instead of comparatively.

Many health care experts and advocacy groups claim the price variation is caused by a lack of transparency in the health care system, which gives hospitals free reign to charge without typical market checks (“Healthy Discussion,” issue of April 10).

 
 
by German Lopez 07.22.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Health at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Poll: More Than 1.25 Million Ohioans are Uninsured

Ohioans increasingly reliant on public health insurance

A poll analysis released today suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 65 are uninsured, representing about 17 percent of the state’s working-age population.

The poll also found that working-age Ohioans are obtaining health insurance less through employers and more through public insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and veteran benefits.

About two in 10 working-age Ohioans use public programs in 2013, up from 12 percent in 2006. At the same time, 52 percent now get insurance through an employer, down from 64 percent in 2006.

The numbers are relatively unchanged from 2012, according to the analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Nearly one in 10 of those who did have insurance also reported losing it in the past 12 months.

“Certain groups are more likely to experience insurance instability,” said Jennifer Chubinski, director of community research at the Health Foundation, in a statement. “Almost half of adults living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, African-Americans and adults with less than a high school education were uninsured currently or at some point in the past year.”

The analysis also concluded that Ohioans with health insurance are generally healthier than those without it.

The results came from the 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll, which between May 19 and June 2 interviewed 868 Ohio adults by phone. The poll had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. It was conducted by the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research for the Health Foundation.

The poll’s findings could spur efforts to widen Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, which has become a contentious political issue fueled by mostly Republican opposition and Democratic support.

Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are asked to expand the public insurance program to include everyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household. If a state agrees, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase its support down to 90 percent, where it would indefinitely remain.

The offer presents a great deal for the state, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. The think tank’s analysis found the expansion would insure roughly half a million Ohioans and generate about $1.8 billion in revenue for the state in the next decade.

But the Republican-controlled General Assembly rejected the expansion in the state budget, despite Republican Gov. John Kasich’s pleas to embrace the Obamacare initiative.

Legislators say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be able to uphold its commitment to Medicaid in the future. That, they argue, would leave Ohioans stranded if the state is forced to pare back benefits.

The federal government and states have jointly funded Medicaid programs around the nation since 1965. About 57 percent of the cost is carried by the federal government.

Still, the legislature will in the fall consider a standalone bill that would take up the expansion. But that bill will likely face continued opposition from tea party groups that are historically opposed to increased government spending at any level.

Whatever the case, legislative approval may be politically prudent: Earlier-reported results from the Ohio Health Issues Poll found 63 percent of Ohioans favor the Medicaid expansion.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.27.2013
Posted In: Health, Health care, News, Women's Health, LGBT Issues, Sex at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hiv-test

Planned Parenthood Offering Free HIV Testing Today

National HIV Testing Day to raise awareness, promote health

To honor National HIV Testing Day — a day meant to raise awareness about the virus — Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio region is offering free HIV testing at three locations in the Cincinnati area.

Free HIV testing is available today at from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center (3200 Vine St.) and from 1-5 p.m. at the Lower Price Hill Health Center (2136 E. Eighth St.). The test is done quickly using a method called rapid HIV testing, which produces results immediately.

About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV at any given time, and about one in five of those don't even realize they're infected. 

That means those one in five could, at any time, be unknowingly transmitting the disease to their partners, or that they're missing out on taking important preventative measures that could keep the infection from developing into AIDS. The HIV virus is most commonly spread through unprotected sexual contact or sharing needles, or can be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. For more basic information about HIV, click here.

In 2012, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio provided 1,225 HIV tests amongst its eight facilities, among a number of other preventive services. Currently, Planned Parenthood branches across Ohio are being threatened by Ohio conservatives' efforts to defund the organization, which provides myriad health services in addition to abortion, including cancer and STD screenings, birth control, pregnancy testing and health care for both men and women. State and federal funds used by Planned Parenthood aren't used to fund abortions, which are instead funded by private donations.

If successful, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature could pass a budget this weekend that would put Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funds. A separate set of federal funds would also go to crisis pregnancy centers, which have a history of using scare tactics and false information about abortion.

Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, which will go into effect in 2014, insurance providers will be required to cover HIV testing and birth control.

 
 

 

 

Latest Blogs
 
by German Lopez 02.13.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Health, Barack Obama at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacarefail

Obamacare Enrollment Improves

Demographics, overall numbers move in right direction

The federal government reported slightly better numbers in January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online marketplaces, but Ohio and the nation still fall far short of key demographic goals.

For the first time since HealthCare.gov’s glitch-ridden rollout, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) numbers show the amount of new enrollees actually beat projections. About 1,146,100 signed up for Obamacare in January, slightly higher than the 1,059,900 previously projected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

More importantly, a small boost in young adults means 25 percent of 3.3 million enrollees across the nation and 21 percent of 60,000 Ohio enrollees were aged 18 to 34. That’s up 1 percentage point for the nation and 2 percentage points for Ohio.

The White House previously said 39 percent of enrollees need to be young adults, who tend to be healthier, to avoid driving up health care costs by filling the insurance pool with older, sicker people who typically use more resources.

HHS’ numbers only reflect people who signed up for a health plan, not people who paid for their first premium, which is widely considered the final crucial step to getting covered.

Nearly nine in 10 single, uninsured young adults could qualify for financial assistance through the health care law or free Medicaid, which expanded eligibility in Ohio through Obamacare, according to HHS. 

 
 
by German Lopez 10.31.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Courts at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Supreme Court Expedites Medicaid Expansion Case

Groups contest Gov. John Kasich’s decision to bypass legislature

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday expedited the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s challenge against the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, despite resistance from the Ohio legislature.

The case will decide whether Kasich was constitutionally allowed to bypass the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The 1851 Center says the Controlling Board isn’t allowed to go against the will of the legislature. The Kasich administration argues the Controlling Board can unilaterally accept federal funds.

With the case now expedited, both sides will submit their arguments on the merits of the case to the state’s highest court by Dec. 1.

Kasich tried for most of 2013 to get the expansion approved by the Ohio House and Senate, but he couldn’t convince Republican legislators, who control both chambers, to approve the plan.

But instead of accepting defeat, Kasich asked the Controlling Board to take up federal funds for the expansion. The board approved the funds on Oct. 21.

The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 22 on behalf of Republican State Reps. Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Andy Thompson, Ron Maag, John Becker and Ron Hood, Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati.

Kasich, in a rare alliance with Democrats, says the Medicaid expansion is necessary to insure more low-income Ohioans and obtain federal Obamacare dollars that would go to other states if Ohio declined the expansion.

But Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion.

Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid eligibility to reach anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through fiscal year 2016 then gradually phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion. In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.

The expansion would fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without it, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level won’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If the expansion is approved beyond that, HPIO says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

If the Ohio Supreme Court upholds the Controlling Board’s decision, the Medicaid expansion will go into effect in 2014 and cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.28.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Privacy, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill could reduce voting, panel wants facial recognition limits, governors debate Obamacare

A Republican-proposed bill in the Ohio legislature is drawing criticism from voting rights advocates because they say it would unnecessarily limit absentee voting. The bill would permit the secretary of state to send out absentee-ballot applications on even years, when gubernatorial and presidential elections are held, only if the legislature funds the mailings, and it would prevent county election boards from mailing out additional ballot applications beyond what the state sends out. Previously, some counties mailed unsolicited ballot applications to all voters to potentially reduce lines on Election Day. Voting rights advocates say the bill will dampen and reduce voter participation, but State Sen. Bill Coley, the bill’s sponsor, argues it’s necessary to bring uniformity to county-by-county absentee voting.

A nine-member panel of criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access and improving oversight of Ohio’s controversial facial recognition program, following a two-month review of the system and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight. The facial recognition program, which is part of a state database of criminal justice records known as the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear debated Obamacare on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Beshear pointed to his state’s successful rollout of Kynect, a Kentucky-operated online marketplace for state-based health insurance plans. The Kentucky marketplace has already enrolled 26,000 Kentuckians, although 21,000 are Medicaid enrollees. Meanwhile, Kasich criticized the rocky launch of the federal portal HealthCare.gov, which only applies to states, like Ohio, that declined to run their own online marketplaces. The federal portal has been practically unworkable for a huge majority of Americans since it launched on Oct. 1. Kasich also claimed Obamacare will increase health insurance costs in Ohio — a claim that goes against findings in a national premium model developed by Avik Roy, a conservative health care expert who is typically critical of Obamacare. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s Ohio rollout in further detail here.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source after he posted racist insults aimed at her on social media. WCPO quoted Kiefer in a story as a John Cranley supporter, but the Cranley campaign quickly distanced itself from Kiefer upon learning of his history of bigoted posts on his Facebook wall, which was public at the time but is now private. Kiefer told CityBeat the posts were supposed to be jokes.

The ongoing mayoral race looks like the most expensive since Cincinnati began directly electing its mayors in 2001.

City Council could move forward with a plan next month to reduce the noise freight trains make overnight.

Emma and William were the most popular names in Cincinnati in 2012.

Ohio gas prices dipped this week after two straight weeks of increases.

The furthest confirmed galaxy shows off light from just 700 million years after the Big Bang.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 10.23.2013
Posted In: News, Jail, Health care, Energy at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion challenged, jails go uninspected, local senator's energy bill criticized

Republican legislators filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion after Republican Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative panel, instead of the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate to get approval for the expansion. The lawsuit, filed to the Ohio Supreme Court, claims, “Each representative is disenfranchised in his legislative capacity through the Controlling Board’s exercise of legislative authority.” Kasich put his request to the Controlling Board to bypass the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling legislators in his own party to approve the expansion. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015; if legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Meanwhile, some state senators plan to use the savings from the Medicaid expansion to cut taxes. For Ohioans making up to $50,000 a year, the 4-percent income tax cut would mean annual savings of less than $50.

State officials haven’t inspected southwest Ohio jails for five years, which means the jails could be breaking minimum standards set by the state without anyone knowing. The inspections were supposed to occur each year, but a lack of resources, which left only one inspector in the department, forced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to stop the practice and instead ask jails to inspect themselves — with limited checks on jails fabricating claims. The inspections are starting back up now that ODRC has a second jail inspector on its staff, but the inspections are announced beforehand, meaning jails can plan for them, and the punishment for failing to meet standards is historically unenforced.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce two amendments to walk back controversial provisions of an even more controversial bill that weakens Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. Critics say the bill would water down and effectively eliminate Ohio’s cost-saving energy standards, but Seitz, who has ties to a national conservative group that opposes energy standards, argues the rules impose too many costs on utility companies. A previous study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

City Solicitor John Curp and Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said in an Oct. 22 email exchange that it was ethically OK for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to retain her job as a realtor and vote in support of the streetcar project, even though the project could indirectly benefit Qualls by increasing property values — and therefore her compensation as a realtor — along the route. The exchange was provided to CityBeat and various media outlets after mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized Qualls, who is also running for mayor, for the alleged ethical violation at an Oct. 22 press conference. But Curp and Nick, who cited two previous opinions from the Ohio Ethics Commission, agreed that Qualls’ financial connection to property values was too indirect and speculative because she only picks up a flat fee for the “arms-length transactions between private parties.” Curp also noted that Qualls had asked about the potential ethical conflict two times before.

A state prison in Toledo is no longer accepting new inmates after reports of increasing violence. The goal is to cut down on the amount of prisoners sharing a cell, ODRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told The Associated Press. Smith said the change was already in the works before a recent bout of killings. The facility holds roughly 1,300 prisoners, which is close to capacity.

Former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is heading a state committee created by Gov. Kasich that’s trying to figure out how to curb college costs while improving quality.

Gallup says a majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. CityBeat previously covered legalization and how it could affect Ohio in further detail here.

Women’s breasts apparently age more quickly than the rest of their bodies, according to a new study.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 10.22.2013
Posted In: News, Courts, Health care, LGBT at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion approved, local LGBT rights champion dies, judge's victory costs county

A seven-member legislative board yesterday accepted federal funding made available through Obamacare to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income Ohioans for the next two years. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board, an obscure panel that typically handles less contentious budget issues, to get the federally funded Medicaid expansion after months of failing to convince his fellow Republicans to back the policy in the Ohio House and Senate. Most Republican state representatives, including local Reps. Lou Terhar, Louis Blessing and Peter Stautberg, signed a letter in protest of the tactic, and some groups are already discussing lawsuits. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

John Arthur, the Cincinnati man who helped lead a legal battle for same-sex marriage in Ohio, died today at the age of 48. Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011, and the fatal neurodegenerative disease pushed Arthur and his partner Jim Obergefell to hasten their battle for LGBT equality and recognition in the eyes of the law. After the couple married in Maryland, they sued the state to recognize their marriage on Arthur’s death certificate — a request granted in July by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black, less than one month after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which previously barred same-sex marriages at the federal level.

The 18-month legal battle over the 2010 juvenile court election between Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter and the Hamilton County Board of Elections will cost the county more than $920,000. Hunter, a Democrat, ultimately won the lawsuit and recount. Her 2010 opponent, Republican John Williams, eventually got another seat in the juvenile court through an appointment and subsequent election.

Teen drivers remain one of Ohio’s most at-risk groups for traffic accidents, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). Between 2010 and 2012, teen drivers were at fault for nearly 101,000 accidents resulting in more than 44,000 injuries and 299 deaths. In total, teens were responsible for roughly 10 percent of fatal crashes. To address the issue, OSHP is advising teen drivers and their parents on safety basics, such as following the speed limit and wearing a seatbelt, and promising to encourage better behavior through enforcement.

Speaking to investors on Friday, Caesar’s Entertainment, the operator of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, disclosed the details of a federal money-laundering investigation and said it previously withdrew a request for a gaming license in Massachusetts after investigators there questioned past business practices. Ohio officials reportedly told WCPO they’re reviewing the investigations.

In September, Cincinnati year-over-year home sales increased for the 27th consecutive month.

Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery removed a SpongeBob SquarePants headstone for an Iraq War veteran because officials deemed it inappropriate.

The Cincinnati Reds will replace former manager Dusty Baker with pitching coach Bryan Price, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.

A new study found no known species matches the expected profile of a shared ancestor for humans and Neanderthals.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News

• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 10.21.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Health care at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Board Expands Medicaid Without Legislature’s Approval

Republican governor bypasses GOP-controlled legislature for cornerstone of Obamacare

A seven-member legislative board on Monday accepted federal funding to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income Ohioans for the next two years.

Republican Gov. John Kasich originally attempted to get the Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly, but he ultimately bypassed the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling with members of his own political party to embrace the expansion.

Kasich instead opted to go through the Controlling Board, an obscure panel that typically handles less contentious budget issues that keep with legislative intent.

Most Republican state representatives, including local Reps. Lou Terhar, Louis Blessing and Peter Stautberg, signed a letter in protest of the tactic. The letter invokes legal arguments against the governor’s decision and could be the basis for a lawsuit in the future.

“Our protest is not about the merits or lack of merit in expanding Medicaid,” the letter states. “Our protest goes to the fundamental form of government upon which our country was founded — a Republic of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion. They argue it would be better to pursue Medicaid reforms instead of expanding the program.

On the other side, Democrats, in a rare alliance with a Republican governor, applauded Kasich for embracing a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Under Obamacare, the federal government asked states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government pays for the full expansion through fiscal year 2016, and then gradually phases down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s costs.

In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013.

The expansion is necessary to fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without the expansion, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

The federally funded expansion is set to begin in 2014. It will cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.21.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Commissioners, Health care at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_parkingmeters

Morning News and Stuff

Port advances parking plan, board could expand Medicaid, county to gauge tourist revenues

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Saturday approved bond sales and contract agreements for the controversial parking plan. The approval is the final major step necessary for the Port Authority and its private partners to take over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages after the city leased the assets to the nonprofit development agency earlier in the year. The deal is supposed to raise $85 million in upfront funds and at least $3 million in annual payments for the city, which the city administration previously planned to use for development projects and operating budget gaps. But opponents of the deal say the city is giving up far too much control over its parking assets, which they argue could cause parking rates to skyrocket as private operators attempt to maximize profits.

Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, is expected to decide today whether it will use federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more low-income Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich opted to bypass the legislature and put the decision to the Controlling Board after months of failing to convince his fellow Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate to take up the expansion. But critics of the expansion have threatened to sue the Kasich administration if it bypasses the legislature. Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for the full expansion for the two years being considered; if Ohio ends up accepting the expansion beyond that, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Hamilton County commissioners could consider today whether to use excess tourist tax revenues on more funding for tourism-related infrastructure projects. The tourist tax was previously used to help build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers and fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the county administrator intends to lay out more options in his meeting with commissioners.

In the mayoral race between Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, black voters could make the big decision.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday warned about so-called sweetheart scams in which a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, typically through the Internet, before asking for money. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving the scams since October 2011, resulting in an average loss of more than $14,000 with the highest reported loss coming in at $210,000, according to the attorney general.

Ohio’s school chief ordered two Columbus charter schools to shut down for health and safety reasons and inadequate staffing.

Findlay Market is tapping into crowdsourcing to decide three new storefronts.

Ohio gas prices increased for the second week in a row.

A thermal wristband promises to keep the user’s body at the perfect temperature.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News

• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 10.16.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Homelessness, Health care at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

First streetcar tracks set, homeless to sue county, Medicaid expansion expected to pass

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Cincinnati yesterday laid down the first two streetcar tracks, putting the project on a clear path to completion after years of financial and political hurdles. The $133 million project is now expected to continue its construction phase over the next three years, with a goal of opening to the public on Sept. 15, 2016. City officials, including Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, celebrated the milestone and thanked supporters for remaining committed to the project. Meanwhile, former Councilman John Cranley, a streetcar opponent who’s running for mayor against streetcar supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, criticized the city for laying down the tracks instead of delaying the project until a new mayor takes office in December. Cranley insists that he’ll cancel the project if he takes office, even though roughly half a mile of track will be laid out by then and, because of contractual obligations and federal money tied to the project, canceling the project at this point could cost millions more than completing it.

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition yesterday announced it’s suing the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department over a new policy that attempts to remove homeless people from courthouse steps with the threat of arrest. The sheriff’s office says it still intends to redirect homeless people to housing and other services, but it told WVXU that clearing out the courthouse is necessary to invoke a “type of immediacy” to encourage homeless residents “to seek housing and a better situation.” Advocates call the policy dangerous and unfair. A press conference will be held later today to discuss the lawsuit.

State Senate President Keith Faber says he expects Gov. John Kasich’s proposal for a two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion to gain approval from a seven-member legislative oversight panel known as the Controlling Board. Faber, a Republican who opposes the expansion, says it’s now time for the legislature to consider broader reforms for Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income and disabled Ohioans. After months of wrangling with legislators in his own political party to approve the expansion, Kasich, a Republican, on Friday announced he would bypass the legislature and instead ask the Controlling Board to approve federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans for two years. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Mayor Mallory says the Millenium Hotel’s owners agreed to conduct a feasibility study to see what kind of renovations the market will support for the hotel. Mallory told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the agreement is the first sign of progress since discussions about overhauling the shabby hotel began.

To tackle concerns about second-hand smoking, one state senator proposed a bill that would ban smoking in a car when a young child is present. It’s the second time in two years State Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced the bill.

Allegiant Air will offer low fares to fly to Florida from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), ending months of speculation over whether the airline would pick CVG or Lunken Airport.

A state audit released on Tuesday found a local water worker was paid $437 in 2001 for work that wasn’t done.

Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel was named the No. 1 hotel in the country and tied for No. 11 in the world in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Scientists found a way to block the dopamine rush associated with THC and make marijuana un-fun to help people with a psychological dependence on the drug.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.14.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Health care, Commissioners at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Governor bypasses legislature, voter turnout historically low, museum price tag criticized

Gov. John Kasich will not look to the full legislature to expand Medicaid and is instead asking a seven-member legislative oversight panel to consider using federal funds for the next two years to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The Controlling Board, which is made up of one Kasich appointee, four Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators, will make its decision on Oct. 21. The expansion would allow Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program, to cover all Ohioans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Cincinnati’s 2013 mayoral and City Council elections may be on track for the lowest ever voter turnout. As of Friday, the Hamilton County Board of Elections had processed 3,173 absentee ballot applications in Cincinnati. At the same point in 2011, the board had processed 8,964 applications in the city. The numbers come just one month after a measly 5.68 percent of voters cast a ballot in the mayoral primary election, much lower than the mayoral primaries held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and 2005.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann acknowledges Union Terminal is in need of repairs, but he says the Museum Center must lower the estimated $180 million price tag on the project. “These are great facilities, but we don't have an unlimited amount of dollars, and I think taxpayers expect us to view their tax dollars in that way. I think that number for the Museum Center is too high right now. I've encouraged them to bring that number way down for (county commissioners) to consider having the property tax payers of this county pay for it,” Hartmann said.

Hamilton County judges say witness intimidation is on the rise, which could be making it more difficult to put criminals in prison. Judges are so concerned that they banned cellphones from their courtrooms after some residents used the devices to take pictures of witnesses and showed the photos in neighborhoods as an intimidation tactic, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Now, some witnesses are refusing to testify even when threatened with jail. To them, the threat of violent crime is so real that some jail time makes more sense in comparison.

City officials plan to break ground today for a new police station for District 3 on the west side of Cincinnati. The district serves East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill, Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Roll Hill, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, West Price Hill and Westwood.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the Ohio EPA to explain in writing why a proposed permit for Murray Energy’s coal slurry project doesn’t include certain pollution limits. Without the restrictions on specific toxic gases, the U.S. EPA could reject the project’s permit. Former Ohio EPA Surface Water Division Chief George Elmaraghy previously said his call to adhere to pollution limits for coal companies led the Kasich administration to fire him.

Part of Ohio’s electronic food stamp system temporarily shut down on Saturday after a glitch cropped up at Xerox, the company that handles the electronic benefit system. The partial shutdown affected 16 other states as well.

StateImpact Ohio recommends “eight must-read posts” on Ohio’s new Common Core education standards.

Ohio gas prices increased this week, edging toward the U.S. average.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble appeared in Reuters’ list of top 100 innovators for the third year in a row.

Popular Science hosts an in-depth look at what it will take to find life outside of Earth. Hint: It requires more funding and public support.

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.11.2013
Posted In: News, Health care at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Governor Bypasses Legislature for Medicaid Expansion

Legislative panel to consider expanding eligibility

After months of wrangling with legislators from his own political party to support the federally funded Medicaid expansion, Republican Gov. John Kasich decided to bypass the legislature and instead ask a seven-member legislative oversight panel to consider expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans.

Kasich’s decision to go through the Controlling Board means he no longer requires a vote in the Ohio House and Senate to take on the expansion. The choice is instead left to the seven members of the panel: one Kasich appointee, four Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators.

For most of the year, Kasich has been lobbying Republican legislators, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, to approve the expansion. But Republican legislators refused, citing concerns about the federal government’s involvement in the health care system and fears that the federal government can’t afford the expansion.

Meanwhile, Democrats, in a rare alliance with a Republican governor, applauded Kasich for taking up a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Kasich’s administration initiated the alternative route to expansion on Sept. 26, when Ohio’s Medicaid director submitted a plan to the federal government to expand Medicaid eligibility. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday approved the plan.

Following federal approval, Ohio’s Medicaid director on Friday submitted a request to the Controlling Board to take up the expansion for two years. The board will make its decision on Oct. 21.

The expansion would allow Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program, to cover anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less.

The expansion is necessary to fill what officials call a “coverage gap.” Currently, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level don’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid.

The expansion would be financed with mostly federal funds. Under Obamacare, the federal government pays for the entire expansion through 2016. Afterward, the federal contribution is phased down and indefinitely held at 90 percent of the expansion’s total costs.

In comparison, the federal government’s 2013 contribution to Ohio’s Medicaid program was nearly 64 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans throughout the next decade.

This story was updated with more information.

 
 
 
Close
Close
Close