Obamacare Falls Short Signing Up Key Demographic in Ohio

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in Ohio and across the nation.   
by German Lopez 09.30.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Pensions, Health care at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Morning News and Stuff

Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits

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.
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Education, Environment at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Morning News and Stuff

Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures

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:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez 01.13.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obamacare Misses Demographic Target in Ohio

State lags behind national average for enrolling young adults

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. 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.
by German Lopez 10.28.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Privacy, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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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 10.17.2013
Posted In: News, Emery Theatre, Homelessness, Budget at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Morning News and Stuff

Shutdown ends, homeless sue county, Requiem makes demands in battle for Emery Theatre

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. Congress last night voted to end a partial government shutdown that lasted for more than two weeks and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. In the end, House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner and local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, got less than nothing for their threats of default and shutdown: Obamacare wasn’t repealed or delayed, taxes weren’t cut and federal spending remained flat. Instead, Republicans were left with the worst polling results Gallup measured for either political party since it began asking the question in 1992. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats got the clean budget and debt ceiling bills they were asking for all along. But the funding measures only last until Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling increase remains until Feb. 7, leaving some groups on both sides of the aisle to ask whether the dramatic showdown will happen all over again in a few months. Four local homeless sued Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil over his attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time. Homeless advocates argue the policy punishes homeless people for being homeless; they say the county should focus on creating jobs and housing opportunities, not arresting people who are just trying to find a safe spot to sleep. But the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says it’s addressing a public health issue; Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas. In the ongoing legal battle for the Emery Theatre, the Requiem Project amended its lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati and lessees and asked the courts to remove UC from ownership of the building. Requiem argues UC has failed to live up to the goals of Mary Emery’s charitable trust by allowing the building to fall into disrepair and non-use over the years. Courts originally approved the development of apartments in the building as long as the profits went toward renovating the theater, but after 14 years apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on the property and no profits. The trial is scheduled for February. Commentary: “Governor Finally Accepts Federal Funds.” Now in print: Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, rejected support from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), and the conservative organization’s history of anti-LGBT causes helps explain why. Qualls scored higher across the board than Cranley in the scorecard released today by the African-American Chamber of Commerce. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University, previously told CityBeat that the black vote will likely decide the mayoral election. Council candidates Charlie Winburn, P.G. Sittenfeld, Vanessa White, Yvette Simpson, David Mann and Pam Thomas also topped the scorecard. Ohio House Republicans may sue Gov. John Kasich for his decision to bypass the legislature and instead get approval from a seven-member legislative panel for the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would use Obamacare dollars to extend eligibility for the government-run health insurance program to more low-income Ohioans for at least two years. 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. CityBeat covered Kasich’s decision in further detail here. Meanwhile, the Ohio House and Senate are debating three different ways to approach an overhaul of Medicaid and bring the program’s costs down. State Rep. Barbara Sears’ bill pushes for a swathe of reforms and cost controls, while State Rep. John Becker’s bill aims to significantly weaken the program to the absolute minimums required by the federal government. Becker’s proposal would likely leave hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans without health insurance. Speaking in Cincinnati yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the federal government is working to correct the many errors plaguing Obamacare’s online marketplaces. The glitches and traffic overload have made HealthCare.gov, which acts as Obamacare’s shopping portal for Ohio and 35 other states, practically unusable for most Americans since the website launched on Oct. 1. Ohio’s prison agency reassigned the warden and second-in-command at the Correctional Reception Center weeks after Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was found dead in his cell. A 20-year-old woman is expected to recover after her car crashed into a Winton Hills building while she overdosed on heroin, according to Cincinnati police. Cincinnati is the only Ohio city to make Livability.com’s top 100 places to live. Headline: “Bad sperm? Drop the bacon.” A new study argues ancient climate change led early humans to adapt and evolve.

Curmudgeon Notes 10.16.2013

1 Comment · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
 I’ll be the odd man out for now. If I have to write about Manning, I’ll probably refer to him as Bradley and explain why he now calls himself Chelsea.  

Curmudgeon Notes 10.2.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

0 Comments · Friday, October 4, 2013
I was covering federal courts and agencies for the Enquirer 17 years ago during the previous lockout. One impression remains unshakable: most federal employees told to stay home were offended by the “non-essential” designation. They didn’t think of themselves as bureaucrats, but more as civil service; apolitical and doing the best job they could with the resources provided by Congress.   
by German Lopez 10.01.2013
Posted In: News, Health care at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 10.02.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Health, Health care at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Morning News and Stuff

Shutdown hurts Ohio workers, infant mortality efforts continue, glitches snare Obamacare

Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and we may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum. 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. The ongoing federal government shutdown is keeping thousands of Ohioans from going to work. The federal government closed its doors yesterday after House Republicans refused to pass a budget that doesn’t weaken Obamacare and Senate Democrats and the White House insisted on keeping President Barack Obama’s signature health care law intact. Without a budget, non-essential federal government services can’t operate. As part of a broader campaign to reduce Cincinnati’s high infant mortality rate, the city yesterday launched another effort that aims to educate parents in the city’s most afflicted zip codes on proper ways to put their babies to sleep. According to the Cincinnati Health Department, 36 babies died from unsafe sleeping conditions between 2010 and 2011. Cradle Cincinnati plans to help prevent these deaths by reminding parents that babies should always sleep alone, in a crib and on his or her back. The education effort is just one of many to reduce Cincinnati’s infant mortality rates, which in some local zip codes have been worse than rates in third-world countries. Ohioans who tried to use Obamacare’s online marketplaces on opening day yesterday likely ran into some website errors, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking participants for patience as they work out the glitches, which appear to be driven by overwhelming demand. The problems weren’t unexpected, given that software launches are often mired in issues that are later patched up. “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. Domestic violence arrests in 2012 were down from the previous year, but law enforcement officials say they need more help from lawmakers to bring down the number, which remained above 41,000, even further. Officials claim a law on teen dating violence, which, among other things, allows protective orders on accused abusers who are under 18 years old, has helped, but advocates argue protections need to be strengthened. CityBeat covered the advocates’ efforts in further detail here. The Ohio Libertarian Party asked lawmakers at a hearing yesterday to loosen restrictions in a bill that seeks to limit ballot access for minor political parties. The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), requires minor parties to gather an estimated 100,000 signatures every two years to remain on the ballot, which Libertarians say would be difficult and expensive. Instead, Libertarians would like that provision to require the signatures every four years. Libertarians also asked lawmakers to allow voting thresholds, which give minor parties automatic recognition in Ohio if they get 3 percent or more of the vote, to apply to more than the gubernatorial race. Seitz said he’s open to the changes. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced yesterday that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded its goal of testing 1,500 rape kits in the program’s first year. In total, the agency has tested 1,585 out of 4,053 submitted kits. The program allows local and state law enforcement to analyze and match DNA evidence to verify criminal allegations. So far, it has led to 505 DNA matches. Cincinnati could make an offer by the end of the year for a currently unused section of the Wasson Way railroad line that the city plans to convert into a five-mile bike and hike trail. Three more downtown buildings will house apartments. Although the buildings aren’t directly on the streetcar route, the developer said that public transportation, along with bicycles, will play an important role in promoting the apartments because they won’t have dedicated parking. The Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council is offering an energy benchmarking toolkit that allows small and medium-sized businesses to see how they can improve their environmental performance. Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati is the No. 1 hospital for delivering babies in Ohio. The number of induced abortions in Ohio rose between 2011 and 2012 but ended up at the second lowest levels since 1976, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Transportation is putting more than $3 million toward purchasing new vehicles and equipment that should help elderly and disabled residents across the state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first “artificial pancreas” to help diabetics better monitor and control their insulin levels.