In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.
To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials.In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.
Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.
If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.
State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.
Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.
One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.
Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
Voting for the 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, celebrating the best of the Greater Cincinnati music scene, ends TONIGHT at midnight. Click here to cast your ballot for your favorite nominated local artists.
The CEA ceremony is set for Sunday, Jan. 26, at Covington’s Madison Theater. The show/party will feature performances from CEA-nominated artists Honey & Houston, Moonbow, The Yugos, The Upset Victory, Valley High, The Almighty Get Down and DAAP Girls, as well as a secret opening performance by an entity known (as of now) only as Saint Ain't Mangled Angels (those who read CityBeat regularly will likely be able decipher the thinly-veiled pseudonym).
Also added to the run of show for the CEA event is a special performance by Cincinnati Folk trio The Tillers, who released their fantastic Hand on the Plow album and toured the U.K. with Pokey LaFarge in 2013. The group, nominated for CEAs in the Folk/Americana, Album of the Year and Artist of the Year categories, will be paying tribute to their former bassist Jason Soudrette, who lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia late last year.
Prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration said it needs to enroll about 2.7 million young adults out of 7 million projected enrollees — nearly 39 percent of all signups — for the law to succeed.
The reasoning: Because young adults tend to be healthier,
they can keep premiums down as sicker, older people claim health
insurance after the law opens up the health insurance market to more Americans.
But the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Monday — the first time the agency provided demographic information — show the law missing the target both nationally and in Ohio.
Roughly 19 percent of nearly 40,000 Ohioans who signed up for Obamacare were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report. Not only does that fall below the 39 percent goal, but it also lags behind the national average of 24 percent.
In defense of the demographic numbers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post Monday that enrollments are demographically on pace with the 2007 experience of Massachusett, where state officials implemented health care reforms and systems similar to Obamacare through Romneycare.
Indeed, a report from The New Republic found just
22.6 percent of enrollees through the third month of Romneycare were young adults. That number rose to 31.7
percent by the end of the law’s first year.
If Obamacare ends up at Massachusetts’ year-end rate, it will still fall behind goals established by the White House. Still, Obamacare would be in a considerably better place than it finds itself today.
The disappointing demographic figure comes after months of technical issues snared HealthCare.gov’s launch. Most of the issues were fixed in December, which allowed Obamacare to report considerably better enrollment numbers by the end of the year.
But the enrollment numbers — nearly 2.2 million selected a plan between Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — still fall below the administration’s projections to enroll 3.3 million by the end of December.
It’s also unclear how many of those signing up for Obamacare actually paid for their first premium, which is the final step to becoming enrolled in a health insurance plan.
Given how Romneycare worked out in Massachusetts, it’s possible signups for Obamacare could pick up before open enrollment closes at the end of March. Based on previous statements from the White House, Obamacare’s success could depend on it.
One hundred percent of the sales of the bakery on Saturday will benefit ArtWorks and their youth development programs this summer.
“Breadsmith is committed to giving back to the community that we live and work in,” Ward Bahlman, owner of the Breadsmith and resident of Cincinnati, says in a press release. “We want to celebrate our new store by supporting the worthwhile projects of ArtWorks which is doing so much for our community’s landscape.”
Tamara Harkavy, the founder, CEO and artistic director of ArtWorks added, “ArtWorks is grateful to Breadsmith for donating their sales to our Adopt-an-Apprentice campaign that will directly support the 120 teen apprentices we’ll hire this summer to work on ten new community murals and other creative projects.”
The fundraising event for ArtWorks will also include behind-the-scenes tours and free samples of Breadsmith's award-winning breads, muffins and sweets. Customers will get a look at the European-style interior design which allows them to see the “hand-made, hearth-baked” Breadsmith process.
For more information visit artworkscincinnati.org.
Downton Abbey Season Four is here, guys. Well, at least for those of us who live on this side of the pond and refuse to download PBS illegally. It’s here, and Masterpiece Classic has delivered that beautifully crafted stiffness that can only be described as “English” once again. Two episodes into the season and we’ve already had countless snide remarks and drama from both upstairs and downstairs, all while the ever-crumbling 20th century class system hangs over everyone’s heads. So, while I work on my interpretive dance to the opening score, here is your weekly analysis and recap.
The season premiere did not start out with the usual shot of Labrador butt; instead, a dark view of the abbey. Matthew’s death, comparably shocking to the beheading of a certain Game of Thrones character, left us all in pieces. Julian Fellows, the show’s creator – who is like the Hitchcock of period dramas – cruelly chose to skip ahead six months, robbing us of our chance to grieve with the Grantham family. What about the viewers, Julian? Am I the only one who spent the last year in darkly beaded clothing, mourning the death of beloved Matthew? I need closure, or at least a hug from Carson, the overly attached butler.
While Lady Mary is busy perfecting her dead-behind-the-eyes look and ignoring her son George, Edith is living in scandal with an (almost) divorced man. “Poor Edith” is constantly trying to prove herself and her love to her father, who is so god forsakenly set in his old ways. Meanwhile, Lord Grantham mutters little gems like, “Who’s the glamorous pirate?” and “What does one say to a singer?” while secretly gambling away all of his family’s money.
Rose, the blonde cousin from the Highlands, has been a rogue element since last season. From dressing up in a housemaid’s outfit to sneaking off to smoking houses and dance halls, she seems to represent everything new and threatening to upper-class English society. Maggie Smith, who plays the matriarch and Dowager Countess of Downton, is as snarky as ever: “If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper-class”. Oh, Violet, how right you are.
And of course, with the ever-changing times comes the impeccable 1920s women’s fashion. Think neutral colors, beaded flapper outfits and perfectly pleated day dresses.
The lady’s maid we love to hate, Miss O’Brien, abruptly moved to India with some distant Scottish relatives, and there’s no telling when she’ll be back. But hold up, there’s a new bitch in the abbey: Edna Braithwaite. Last season, Braithwaite was fired from Downton because she was hitting on Tom Branson, the widower of the family’s youngest daughter. (RIP Sybil, you could have had a future in politics.) This season, Braithwaite’s weaseled her way into another job, and is taking full advantage of Tom’s vulnerability. (Seeing that his wife is dead and he doesn’t know how to mingle with high society.) And Thomas Barrow, the under-butler, stirs up trouble with quips like: “There’s no one so jealous as a lady’s maid,” because obviously everyone knows that. And the plot thickens.
Molesley seems to be developing a severe case of asthma to pair with his mid-life crisis while Mrs. Hughes intervenes in Carson’s personal life. Ms. Patmore continues to run around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to handle the stress of cooking for all of these stuck up rich people and eventually goes into full-blown panic mode.
Disappointingly, the end of this week’s episode leaves us with the unsettling rape scene of Anna, something that was both unexpected and horrifying to watch as a critic and lover of the show. I would advise viewers to watch with caution, as it may be potentially triggering for many. Let’s hope the rest of the season handles this delicate subject in a tasteful manner.
So, in the words of Isobel Crawley, “They say life must go on and of course it must.”
Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.
The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be replaced while the legal battle unfolds.
Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary, discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the right to sue in a local case that could have broader implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.
As local and state officials work to address the opiate epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.
The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold courts’ attempts at impartiality.
Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.
Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.
Rises in heroin and prescription
painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the
country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.
The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.
But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.
Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity.
CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic?
Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally use. That’s No. 1.
No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons of overdoses.
CB: The governor unveiled an initiative essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use with students. And then the state legislature is considering strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know, do these kind of solutions work?
IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them. They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something else.
They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before, so they’ve changed to something else.
I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that.
CB: As you alluded to, one study found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do — and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a crackdown on that.
Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they
decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium.
So all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know what the dosage is.
CB: Based on your research, what kind of solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose program.IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the street and buying from black-market dealers.
CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties, criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they could be doing better in this regard?
IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease of the brain.
I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict.
Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter. …
But addiction problems are real problems. People really do become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are illegal. …
We can’t really expect the government to figure out all these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way.
CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year, Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization could help put an end to this kind of violence?
IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs.
Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal.
It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding more violence.
CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons?
IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s incredible.
CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000 worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that?
IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium- or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those organization will be weakened.
I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology to thwart the high technology being directed at them. …
Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states. But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that sort of thing.