0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
In the middle of a state economy mired in
stagnant growth, Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans are
attempting to weaken a key safety net that benefits more than 1.8
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I have seen Boehner’s political rise —
from courtside seats in the early days — and I am amazed but not
surprised by it because it’s easy to be “impressive” and to be passed up
the ranks and into many branches of American politics; it’s a trait
politicians share with student/athletes in higher education.
Groups attempt to educate Ohio’s uninsured while the GOP tries to slow down Obamacare
4 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
As the Oct. 1 opening date approaches for
the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, outreach
campaigns are beginning to take root and aim at states with the largest
uninsured populations, including Ohio.
by German Lopez
Medical center blocked from helping uninsured navigate online marketplaces
Limitations imposed by Ohio lawmakers who
oppose the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have forced Cincinnati
Children’s Hospital Medical Center to give up a $124,419 federal grant
that would have gone toward helping uninsured Ohioans navigate new online
marketplaces for health insurance.
Specifically, the state law, which Gov. John Kasich signed on April 30 and went into effect on July 30, excludes any
organization that receives payments from a health care payer, such as an
insurance company, from being designated as a “navigator.”
The designation is necessary for Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital to receive the federal grant, which is part of national
outreach efforts to enroll as many Americans, especially young adults,
into Obamacare’s online marketplaces when they open for enrollment on Oct. 1.
Without the designation, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
was forced to give up the federal money, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
spokesperson Terry Loftus told CityBeat.State legislators passed the restrictions to clarify regulations on navigators that avoid potential abuses and conflicts of interest.
But Obamacare’s supporters claim the state law is part of a
nationwide effort from state and federal Republicans to make Obamacare
more difficult to implement.
The federal government intends to sign up 7 million people
into Obamacare’s online marketplaces, but 2.7 million have to be young adults to keep costs low. Otherwise, older,
less healthy Americans will fill up the marketplaces, exhaust health
services and drive up costs.
Supporters of Obamacare acknowledge that signing up so
many young adults will be difficult, so they’ve taken to national and
state-by-state education campaigns that tell young adults about the
benefits and cost savings made available through the president’s
signature health care law. These campaigns are being headed by various
organizations that have been dubbed “navigators.”
But opponents, particularly Republicans, are preventing some of the efforts by investigating navigators and passing
legislation in state governments that limits what navigators can do and
who can be classified as a navigator.
Most recently, Republicans in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to groups participating in the navigator program with a series of accusations and questions.
“This is a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate
groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health
insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare
counselors have been doing for years,” Erin Shields Britt, spokesperson
for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told The Hill.
For the uninsured, not knowing about the online marketplaces could mean losing
out on opportunities to obtain health insurance at lower costs. Recent reports have found that Obamacare’s online
marketplaces and tax subsidies will lower costs for Ohioans in the
individual health care market.
An Aug. 29 study from the RAND Corporation,
a reputable think tank, found health care premiums will rise to an
average of $5,312 under Obamacare in 2016. Without the law, premiums
would reach an average of $3,973 that year. But when Obamacare’s tax
credits are plugged in, the average Ohioan will only pay a premium of
$3,131 — $842 less than he or she would pay without the law.
Avik Roy, a conservative health care economist and prominent critic of Obamacare, found even better results for Ohio. His model found premiums will drop by 30 percent in Ohio,
although they’ll rise by 24 percent on average for 13 states, including Ohio, and the District of Columbia as a whole.
Unlike RAND, Roy’s calculations don’t take subsidies into account, so
the final cost for the average Ohioan is likely much lower.The numbers only apply to Ohioans in the individual
health insurance market. Under Obamacare, individuals will be able to
enroll for health insurance through an online marketplace. The majority of Americans who get health insurance through their
employers or public programs fall under different rules and regulations.
It’s unclear how much Republican opposition will
ultimately play into the numbers. But for Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital, it means $124,419 less to help its neediest, less
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
, Health care
at 02:01 PM | Permalink
Ohio Poverty Law Center releases county-by-county breakdown
The Medicaid expansion could provide health insurance to
more than 42,000 people living in Hamilton County, according to a
county-by-county breakdown released on Aug. 28 by the Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC).
In Hamilton County, OPLC reports nearly 89,000 people are currently uninsured and roughly 155,000 use Medicaid.OPLC found Hamilton County also includes the two hospitals that spent the most on uncompensated care in Ohio last year: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University Hospital. Much of that cost is incurred when low-income patients use services and can’t afford to pay for them — an issue that would be in part resolved if the same patients could pay for care through Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are
asked to expand Medicaid eligibility so the public health insurance
program covers anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty
level, or an annual income of about $15,856 for a single-person
household. If states accept, the federal government will carry the
entire cost of the expansion for the first three years then phase down
its burden to indefinitely pay for 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. That’s much higher than the 73-percent share the federal government paid for Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2010.
Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis
that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million
Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.
Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Democratic legislators
support the Medicaid expansion, but Republican lawmakers, who control
the Ohio legislature, have so far resisted it.
Republican legislators say they’re concerned the U.S. government
won’t be able to afford its future Medicaid payments, even though the federal
government has done so since the program was first established in 1965. Many tea
party Republicans also oppose Medicaid and other public health programs
from a philosophical perspective that calls for smaller government.
Ohio Health Issues Poll results released in June found 63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
Legislative leaders have said they will vote on a Medicaid
overhaul bill and perhaps a separate bill including the Medicaid
expansion when they reconvene in October.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
State senator gives proposal another shot in Ohio
State Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) is introducing
legislation Thursday that would attach mandatory drug testing to welfare
benefits, even though similar policies have proven to be costly with
little gain in other states.
“It is time that we recognize that many families are
trying to survive in drug-induced poverty, and we have an obligation to
make sure taxpayer money is not being used to support drug dealers,”
Schaffer told The Columbus Dispatch. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.”
Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties
would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire
to using drugs in the past six months. Children, who make up a bulk of
welfare recipients, would be exempt. (In June, 24,443 adults and 105,822
children obtained welfare benefits in Ohio, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.)
The policy, which was originally touted as a way to reduce
welfare costs, has backfired in many states. That’s why the supporting
line is now about preventing dollars from going to drug dealers instead
of cost savings.
reports the latest problems in Utah: “Utah has spent more than $30,000
to screen welfare applicants for drug use since a new law went into
effect a year ago, but only 12 people have tested positive, state
When Ohio legislators in 2012 proposed a drug testing requirement for welfare benefits, CityBeat reported another failure in Florida originally covered by The Miami Herald:
In that state, the program had a net loss of $45,780 after it
reimbursed falsely accused welfare recipients for their drug tests. Only
108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive,
and most tested positive for marijuana.
Utah and Florida are among eight states
that have enacted drug testing requirements for welfare recipients since
2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A court placed an injunction on the Florida program after
the American Civil Liberties Union sued on September 2011. That injunction
was upheld on Feb. 26 by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in
Atlanta, which concluded,
“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF
(welfare) applicant of the same constitutional protection from
unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”
Given that Schaffer’s bill would require drug testing only
after information is solicited through questionnaires, it’s unclear
whether legal challenges like the one in Florida would be successful in
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working
on a bill that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy
efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Over the weekend, The Columbus Dispatch
ran a story asking if cutting government hurts the economy and job
creation. Really, the only answer to that question is a resounding,
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Ohio legislators on Aug. 15 reintroduced a
bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after
conception, but questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.
by German Lopez
Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues
Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help
— a sign that homelessness may be trending up.
Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human
services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has
steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs
from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this
year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population
growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of
Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was
at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent
in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month
and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many
people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally
unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate
was 7.4 percent.
More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves
tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never
said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is
supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio
and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the
governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack
of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good
traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating
Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban
on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The
proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax
credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid
Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics
Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest
because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was
Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million
to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to
the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as
one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation.
No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding
cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style
accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the
investments through an independent board. City officials and unions
claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and
hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the
amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information
to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students
about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds
after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates.
Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding
of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving
permitting services to one location, according to a statement from
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more
efficiently and bring down costs.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus.
A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that,
while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped
in the past year.
The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall.
Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters.
A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.