Statewide group asks Ohio voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
While two states have successfully
legalized marijuana, Ohio is beginning to move forward with ballot
initiatives that could legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes and to
produce industrial hemp.
by German Lopez
12 days ago
Council combats human trafficking, Medicare reveals price data, Duke tops 'Dirty Dozen'
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
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.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics.”
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.
by German Lopez
13 days ago
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
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
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
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).
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A new study from Harvard researchers revealed
access to Medicaid in Oregon led to better mental health outcomes and
reduced financial strain, but no short-term gains were found in physical
by German Lopez
14 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:14 AM | Permalink
Measure may limit voting, city tops LEED certified buildings, Medicaid could be on ballot
Today is primary election day in Ohio, but there are no
ballot items in Cincinnati. Some Hamilton County precincts outside the
city have ballot issues, which are listed here. Polls will be open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
An amendment snuck into the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House would force universities to decide
between providing the proper documentation for voting to out-of-state
students or getting extra money from out-of-state tuition rates,
prompting concerns from Democrats that Republicans are attempting to
limit voting opportunities once again. Republicans spent a bulk of the
lead-up to the 2012 election approving measures that limit voting,
including a later-repealed set of laws that greatly reduced early voting
About 82 percent of all Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in Ohio are in
Cincinnati, and the reason is likely local tax incentives,
which allow Cincinnatians to eliminate property taxes for up to
15 years by retrofitting businesses and homes in an environmentally
friendly manner. CityBeat covered Cincinnati’s successes in solar energy here and FirstEnergy’s campaign to weaken Ohio’s energy efficiency standards here.
If legislators fail to take up the Medicaid expansion, the issue could appear on the ballot
on November 2014. Supporters of the expansion, including Gov. John
Kasich, say the expansion will help insure hundreds of thousands of
Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade, but Republican
legislators say they’re concerned the federal funds backing the
expansion will eventually dry up. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill, which effectively rejected the expansion for the time being, here.
The Ohio Department of Transportation says 2,230 bridges in the state need repairs, but there’s not enough funding to make it happen.
Ohio banks are warning of possible cyberattacks
that could happen today. The Ohio Bankers League and the Ohio Credit
Union League said the attacks would impact online services but not the
security of customers’ bank accounts.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has the second highest airfares in the nation, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble was ranked No. 7 in a ranking for top 50 most diverse companies by DiverseInc.
Sometimes human brains make people do bad things, such as enjoying high-calorie foods even when the foods aren’t delicious.
Ohio Republicans continue their ill-conceived war on sex education, women’s rights and health care for the poor
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Progressives often argue that society has made great strides, but looking at the budget proposal passed by the
Republican-controlled Ohio House, there
seems to be a strong reluctance by conservatives in power to accept the
scientific and social progress made in the past few decades.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Ohio House Republicans are poised to
reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal
funding that would come with it for the next two years.
Study: Consumers need more options for accessing health care information and costs
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in
price from $367.46 to $2,865.42 — a variation that is leading some
companies to specialize in bringing transparency to the health care
by German Lopez
125 days ago
New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”
City Council wants to do more research
before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say
the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the
restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues
the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in
downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.
A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion.
The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government
pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison
inmates. A previous study
found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results,
including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from
the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save
$378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study
would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health
institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients
that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.
The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,”
the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all
scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the
pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will
deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.
The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms.
The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their
children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of
Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More
stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed
to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience.
If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney.
Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and
Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the
city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires
evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the
deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.
Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position
for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force
for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief
Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage.
Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin
putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for
the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime,
neighborhood cleanup and beautification.
Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.
Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.
Some people really suck at political slogans.
Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.
by German Lopez
Decision means federal government will take over
Gov. John Kasich is refusing to work with Obamacare. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the governor today declined to have the state government run its health
insurance exchange. With the move, the federal government will be put
in charge of managing Ohio’s exchange.
Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance
markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more
transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. As
part of Obamacare, states have to decide by Dec. 14 whether they’ll manage
the exchanges or let the federal government do it.
Conservatives were quick to praise Kasich's decision. Americans for
Prosperity applauded the choice in a statement. The Buckeye
Institute put up a blog post calling the move “the right decision for Ohio.” The Coalition
Opposed to Additional Taxes and Spending (COAST) called the move
the right choice.
At first, the choice seems like a contradiction for
conservatives. After all, they’re the group that normally rails against a
big federal government. Why let the federal government take over a new,
major part of the health-care system? Rob Nichols, Kasich’s
spokesperson, justified the decision in a statement: “Ohio would have no
flexibility to shape an exchange to our needs and its costs will be so
high that it just doesn’t make sense for the state to operate a health
exchange under Obamacare.” In other words, even if the state managed the
exchanges, it would still have to answer to the federal government.
In his letter, Kasich also stated Ohio will not give up
its right to regulate the insurance market. So the federal government
will have the final say on exchanges, but Kasich wants to keep the rest
of the market under state regulatory control. The state will also keep
control over deciding Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan
Ohio is not alone in declining to supervise exchanges. Other states have
signed off on letting the federal government manage them, including
Florida and Texas.
Still, Republicans may want to proceed cautiously. Recent polling has shown that support for repealing Obamacare has massively dropped.
That shift could reflect reality catching up to public opinion.
Republicans tend to rail against Obamacare by saying it’s too expensive,
but a Congressional Budget Office report found repealing Obamacare
would increase the deficit by $109 billion between 2013 and 2022.