With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem. The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington.
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement, Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded, it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy. The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
City Council could use leftover revenue from the previous budget cycle and money from the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether minority- and women-owned businesses should be favorably targeted by the city’s contracting policies. The study could cost between $500,000 to $1 million, according to city officials. Because of a U.S. Supreme Court case, the city must carry out the study before it can impose policies that favorably target minorities or women with business contracts. Since the city's last race- and gender-based program was dismantled in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses dropped from a high of 22.4 percent in 1997 to a low of 2.7 percent in 2007, but rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively unchanged. But the numbers could be understating how many minority-owned businesses there are because classifying as one is now voluntary, while it was mandatory in the 1990s.
State Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee, says he wants to move on a package of bills that would include the Medicaid expansion by early October. The bills will also tackle other issues, such as how to deal with growing concerns about opiate addiction in Ohio. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the federally funded Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate roughly $1.8 billion for the state in the next year. But Republican legislators in the General Assembly say they're concerned the federal government won't be able to uphold its commitment to the expansion. Recent polling found about 63 percent of Ohioans support expanding Medicaid.
East side residents pleaded with Greater Cincinnati Port Authority officials yesterday to reduce enforcement hours for parking meters under the city's controversial parking lease. The plan allows for enforcement until 9 p.m., but residents say it should only go to 6 p.m. to avoid hurting local businesses that might rely on free parking during the evening. The city is leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then manage the assets through private operators from around the country. The city administration estimates the deal will produce $92 million up front and at least $3 million a year afterward for Cincinnati, which officials plan to use for development projects and to help close budget gaps.
Meanwhile, opponents of the parking lease appealed their legal challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court. Opponents argue the lease should be susceptible to voter referendum. The city claims Cincinnati's emergency clause powers allow council members to expedite laws and remove the possibility of referendum altogether. The legal challenge was initially successful in a lower court, but the appeals court ultimately sided with the city. It's unclear whether the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the challenge.
Legal experts say it's unclear which, if any, of Ohio's new abortion restrictions could survive a court battle. The anti-abortion measures, which were passed in the state budget by Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich, impose a series of regulatory hurdles that require extra medical procedures prior to getting an abortion and could be used to shut down abortion clinics.
An internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report suggests that fracking, an oil- and gas-extraction process, can contaminate underground drinking water. The findings could have implications for Ohio, which is currently undergoing a fracking boom as companies rush to tap into oil and gas reserves in northeastern parts of the state. CityBeat covered Ohio’s fracking boom in further detail here.
Councilwoman Pam Thomas and ex-Councilman Cecil Thomas want everyone to know that they have not endorsed anyone for mayor.
Ryan Widmer's mother, who gained notoriety for defending Widmer during his three trials, was found dead yesterday. There were no obvious signs of trauma or foul play. Widmer is currently serving 15 years for drowning his wife in a bathtub in 2008.
Scientists may have to genetically modify oranges to save them from a deadly disease.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was last night. The general consensus from media pundits is Obama won by a substantial margin. But political scientists say debates typically have negligible electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up in Ohio by 1.9 points and Romney is up nationally by 0.6 points. Ohio is looking like a must-win state for both campaigns, so Obama’s advantage there is a very bad sign for Romney. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ election forecast blog, has an explanation of how and why the current electoral landscape favors Obama.
In a follow-up to the debate, Romney will be visiting Greater Cincinnati Thursday.
A new motion by City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could encourage more people and businesses to make use of the city’s LEED program. The program uses special tax exemptions to encourage buildings to be cleaner and greener.
Cincinnati’s City Planning Commission approved Plan Cincinnati Friday. With the approval, the plan’s only hurdle is City Council. If passed, the plan will reform city policies to put a new emphasis on the city’s urban core. That means a cleaner, greener city with more transportation options, ranging from walking and biking to the streetcar and rail. CityBeat wrote about Plan Cincinnati here. The full plan can be found here.
Three Republicans in the state legislature, including Cincinnati’s Sen. Bill Seitz and Rep. Louis Tehrar, introduced a bill that would require health insurance providers to cover autism. Critics say the move could cost small businesses too much during an economic downturn, but supporters say it’s necessary to Ohio’s mental health coverage requirement, which was passed in 2007. Seitz says the bill could also save money by bringing down special education costs.
In a sign of Ohio's education funding problems, one report found two of three Ohio school levies are asking for
additional funding. But Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) levy will only
not ask for extra funding or higher taxes; instead, it asks for funding
and taxes to remain the same. CityBeat covered Issue 42, the CPS levy, in-depth here.
A new report found Ohio students graduate with more debt than most of the nation. The report named the state a “high debt state” with an average of $28,683 in student loans — above the national average of $26,600.
Despite what a recent conflict between Commissioner Greg
Hartmann and Mayor Mark Mallory implies, Cincinnati and Hamilton County
are working together. The city and county are cooperating on the Banks
project, funding the Port Authority and operating the Metropolitan Sewer
Cincinnati is working harder to enforce a chronic nuisance
disorder. A property is classified as a chronic nuisance when it
surpasses a certain amount of crimes and violations. The law is meant to
hold property owners accountable for what happens in their buildings.
There are more signs that Ohio’s fracking boom may not be
sustainable. Natural gas producers are not seeing the profits they
expected from the boom. For many, the boom is quickly turning into a
bust. Still, natural gas prices have massively dropped, and an analysis
at The Washington Post suggests natural gas could play an important role in reducing carbon emissions. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the fracking boom in Ohio and the faulty regulations on the industry here.
The Ohio Board of Regents is using a grant to award 1,300 associate degrees to transfer students over two years.
Fourteen recreational trails in Ohio will get $1.6 million in federal funding, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, none of the trails are in Hamilton County.
The key to humanity: cooked food.
By the time a new mayor and City Council candidates take office in December, the city will have laid out roughly half a mile of track and spent or contractually obligated at least $117 million for the streetcar project. The contractual obligations mean it could cost more to cancel the project than to finish it, which will cost the city an estimated total of $88 million after deducting $45 million in federal grants. Still, mayoral candidate John Cranley and several council candidates insist they will try to cancel the project upon taking office. Check out CityBeat’s full in-depth story here.
The parking plan’s upfront payment has been reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city, as opposed to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets, according to an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city manager claims the lump sum payment dropped as a result of rising interest rates and the Port Authority’s decision to relax parking meter hours outside Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District. The parking plan leases Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which plans to hire private companies to operate the assets. CityBeat covered the plan in greater detail here and the controversy surrounding it here.
Gov. John Kasich is considering using an executive order to expand the state’s Medicaid program with federal funds. The executive order would expand eligibility for the government-run health insurance program so it includes anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $15,900 in annual income for an individual. Kasich would then on Oct. 21 ask Ohio’s seven-member legislative-spending oversight panel to approve federal funds for the expansion. Kasich, a Republican, has aggressively pursued the Medicaid expansion, which the federal government promises under Obamacare to completely fund through 2016 then phase down and indefinitely hold its payments at 90 percent of the expansion’s total costs. But Republican legislators claim the federal government might not be able sustain the payments, even though the federal government has met its payments for the much larger overall Medicaid program since it was created in 1965.
At its final full session before the November election, City Council approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits for Pure Romance to bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at least 20 years. Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on council, was the only one to vote against the tax incentives. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Gov. John Kasich’s administration was originally supposed to provide some tax incentives to the company, but it ultimately reneged after supposedly deciding that the company isn’t part of an industry the state typically supports. Critics say Kasich’s administration is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio yesterday announced it’s suing Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions passed in the 2014-2015 state budget. The ACLU claims the restrictions are unrelated to the budget and therefore violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.
Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s monitoring the impact of the federal government shutdown with some concerns. “I’m more concerned if this goes more than four weeks or so, when we start talking about reimbursement programs for our larger social programs such as food stamps and cash assistance to the needy and those types of things. We just don’t have the money to front that type of thing,” he said. CityBeat covered the shutdown in further detail here.
Hamilton County’s government shrunk by more than one-third in the past decade.
City Council yesterday passed a resolution condemning State Sen. Bill Seitz’s attempts to weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. A study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on their electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.
Early voting turnout is so far “anemic,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Ohio has the No. 12 worst tax environment among states, according to a report from the Tax Foundation. The rank is unchanged from the previous year’s report.
A central Ohio school might ban Halloween.
Bill Nye explains Jupiter’s big red spot:
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.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The vice presidential debate between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan took place last night. The general consensus among pundits is the debate was a draw, with perhaps Biden edging out ahead. Regardless of who won, political scientists say debates have little-to-no electoral impact in the long term, especially vice presidential debates.
Mitt Romney made a bit of a flub yesterday. He told The Columbus Dispatch, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack.’” However, that’s not completely accurate. Research shows the uninsured are a lot more likely to die from a heart attack, mostly because they get substantially less preventive health care.
PolitiFact Ohio says Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is wrong about Issue 2. Specifically, Husted said if a member of the independent commission was bribed, the member could not be kicked out of office. PolitiFact says the claim is false because methods for removing unelected officials from office exist outside of the redistricting amendment. If Issue 2 passed, redistricting would be handled by an independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials redraw district boundaries, but they often use the process for political advantage. The Republican majority redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, to include Warren County, giving Republicans an advantage by giving them more rural voters that are more likely to vote for them.
But Husted did have some good news yesterday. A federal appeals court judge upheld a decision requiring election officials to count provisional ballots that were brought about due to poll worker mistakes. Husted didn’t much care for that part of the ruling. However, the judge also said a legal signature must be required on every provisional ballot, overturning that part of the previous decision. A very small win, but Husted seemed happy in a statement: “I am extremely pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with me that we must have a valid, legal signature on all provisional ballots.”
The mayor and Cincinnati Public Schools announced a new joint effort that won a $40,000 grant yesterday. The effort will go to 50 tutors, who will help 100 students meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
However, a loophole in the Third Grade Reading Guarantee may allow third-graders to skip tests to move onto the fourth grade.
Out of 12 similar regions, Cincinnati ranks No. 10 on 15 indicators including jobs, cost of living and population. Cincinnati did fairly well in terms of just jobs, though; the city was No. 6 in that category. The ranks come from Vision 2015 and Agenda 360.
With the support of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio is trying to do more with university research. The theme of the push is to build stronger links between universities and the private sector to boost stronger, entrepreneurial research.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Ohio’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is in trouble again for not answering questions. A testy exchange on live radio started when Ron Ponder, the host, asked Mandel about potential cronyism in the treasurer’s office, and Mandel replied by implying Ponder is with the Brown campaign. Ponder got so fed up he eventually ended the exchange by saying, “Hang up on this dude, man.”
Does eating more chocolate earn a nation more Nobel prizes? Science says no. I say yes.
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov. At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers. Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country — will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Organizations from around the state and country will be working over the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate: A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion, or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley, will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate, which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today. He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology, worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
In results that will likely surprise no one, the 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll found that higher-income Ohio adults reported better health than those with lower incomes.
In 2013, 59 percent of Ohio adults above 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household, reported “excellent” or “very good” health, compared to only 26 percent of those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,490 for a single-person household.
For those at the bottom of the income pool, the results
fluctuate from year to year. In 2012, 36 percent of those below 100
percent of the federal poverty level reported “excellent” or “very good”
health. Only 21 percent reported similar results in 2011.
The poll led Ross Meyer, vice president of community impact for United Way of Greater Cincinnati, to ask in a statement, “Do healthy people make more money because they can work more days or at better jobs? Or are people who make more money healthier because they have resources to preserve and improve their health?”
As part of its “Bold Goals for Our Region” initiative, the United Way intends to get at least 70 percent of the community to report “excellent” or “very good” health by 2020. About 53 percent of adults in southwest Ohio currently report such health, according to the Ohio Health Issues Poll.
The poll was conducted between May 19 and June 2 through phone interviews with 868 adults around the state. 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 of Greater Cincinnati.
The poll previously found more than 1.25 million Ohioans lack health insurance, which the Health Foundation is using as more evidence Ohio should pursue the Medicaid expansion.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government is asking states to expand Medicaid to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then wind down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion’s total cost. That’s much higher than current levels; the federal government today pays for about 60 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid costs.
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the the Medicaid expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.
In separately reported results, the same Ohio Health Issues Poll found 63 percent of Ohioans support the expansion.
A federal judge on Tuesday extended the temporary restraining order recognizing a gay couple’s marriage in Ohio. As CityBeat covered here, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is expected to die soon, sued local and state officials hoping to have their Maryland marriage acknowledged by Ohio before Arthur’s death certificate was issued. Judge Timothy Black sided with the couple, and he’s now extended the temporary restraining order until December, which should provide enough time for Arthur’s expected death and the remaining legal battle. The judge has made it clear that the order only applies to Obergefell and Arthur.
Ohio could spend less on Medicaid if it expands eligibility for the program, according to a new analysis
from Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But
the expansion would have to come with cost controls that cap spending
growth at 3.5 percent to 4 percent, as opposed to the current rate of
7.2 percent. Still, the analysis shows that policies including an expansion can
save the state money. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the
federal government is asking states to expand Medicaid to include anyone
at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the
federal government would pay for the entire expansion for the first
three years then phase down its payments to 90 percent of the
expansion’s cost. Typically, the federal government pays for about 60 percent of Medicaid in Ohio.
A Sycamore Township man died yesterday after Hamilton County deputies used a Taser on him during a brief struggle. Deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows right before they took him into custody. It’s unclear how many times the Taser was used or whether the Taser was the direct cause of death. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the deputies followed protocol, given the violent actions carried out by Roell, who punched a deputy in the face during the confrontation. Still, some groups have been asking police departments around the country to change protocol altogether. A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail.
The 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll found that higher-income Ohio adults reported better health than those with lower incomes. In 2013, 59 percent of Ohio adults above 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household, reported “excellent” or “very good” health, compared to only 26 percent of those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,490 for a single-person household. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is pointing to the results as just one other way life is more difficult for low-income Ohioans. The group intends to get at least 70 percent of the community to report “excellent” or “very good” health by 2020. Only about 53 percent of adults in southwest Ohio currently report such health, according to the Ohio Health Issues Poll.
Hamilton County is still offering its free recycling program for electronic equipment, including computers and televisions, until noon on Oct. 26.
The Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) today sent out a warning to college students asking them to watch out for drugged drinks. OIU provided four safety tips: Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be drugged, students shouldn’t leave a drink laying around or turn their backs on it, they shouldn’t accept drinks from strangers or someone they don’t trust, and students should watch their friends’ drinks and act if they see anything suspicious. The Ohio Incident Based Reporting System (OIBRS) shows there were 14 incidents of forcible rape with drug as a weapon in 2012, but not all Ohio police departments report to OIBRS, so the numbers are likely understated.
A developer is planning to build 20 apartments in the mostly vacant Schwartz office building on Main Street, along the streetcar’s planned route.
Developers are still working on building apartments above the Fountain Place retail complex, as announced nine months ago.
Another steakhouse is opening in downtown Cincinnati.
Delta is now offering direct flights from Cincinnati to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Jungle Jim’s sold a $1 million Mega Millions ticket.
Watch lab-grown heart tissue beat on its own here.
Mayor Mark Mallory and other community officials today jumpstarted a six-month effort to enroll uninsured Cincinnatians into the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, which open for enrollment on Oct. 1.
“This is not politics,” Mallory said. “Obamacare is now the law of the land.”
The goal is to reach out to the 21 percent of Hamilton County residents who currently lack health insurance and hopefully help enroll them through the marketplaces, which will allow anyone to go online and browse and compare different health insurance plans.
Forty-six plans will open for enrollment in Cincinnati on Oct. 1, but coverage won’t begin until 2014. The three-month period is supposed to give consumers enough time to decide on a plan before insurance kicks in.
“A new day is starting tomorrow for millions of Americans who have been shut out of the health insurance market,” said Kathleen Faulk, a director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who will oversee the Cincinnati area’s marketplace.
At the marketplaces, 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 a family of four making $50,000 a year will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers. Other options will range from catastrophic plans, which will cover the barest minimums for a low price, to “platinum” plans, which will provide the most expansive coverage at the highest price.
Participants with an annual income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals making between $11,490 and $45,960, will be eligible for tax subsidies, with the highest incomes getting the smallest subsidies and the lowest incomes getting the largest.
Throughout the enrollment period, outreach campaigns will attempt to enroll as many Americans as possible. Some of those efforts have been made more difficult through new regulations passed by legislators who oppose Obamacare, including Ohio Republicans.
The federal government estimates it will have to sign up 2.7 million young adults out of the 7 million Americans who are expected to enroll. Otherwise, older Americans, who are more prone to sickness and poor health, will flood the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs.
Enrollment will remain open from October through March. Afterward, enrollment will open annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, just like Medicare. There will be exemptions for those who have life-changing events, such as losing a job or turning 26, to allow people to sign up for coverage during unexpected circumstances.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country — will have to enroll for health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The penalty will start at $95 per uninsured adult in a household or 1 percent of household income, whichever is higher, and grow in 2016 to $695 per uninsured adult in a household or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.
Anyone interested in the marketplaces will be able to browse options and sign up online at www.healthcare.gov or www.mayormallory.com, by phone at 1-800-318-2596 or in person at various locations, including community health centers and the Freestore Foodbank.
Update: Clarified metal-based classifications for different health care plans.
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.