Discussing 'a $600 million dessert'

Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013
Discussing
KALAMZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In the days after the State Senate narrowly extended Medicaid coverage to nearly a half-million Michigan residents, it became clear that Senators want poverty-stricken people to help pay for their own health care.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says that by turning down more than a half-billion dollars in Obamacare reimbursements over the first quarter of next year, and then asking poor people to help make up the difference, paints a picture of a remarkably insensitive group of politicians.

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The Michigan Senate Minority Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, explained her Republican colleagues' opposition to medicaid expansion, which is a part of the affordable care act, this way:

"It's because (expansion) is associated with Obamacare and because the tea party in Michigan is the tail that's wagging the dog in this chamber."

And I think she's right.

There is no other logic to the Senate, 26 of whom are Republicans, and 12 are Democrats, in delaying enrollment from January 1st to April 1st.

By doing so they knew full well that they were turning their backs on $7 million a day in federal money to be used for Medicaid.

That's a total of more than $600 million. Six-hundred-million that the state loses.

That's not a number pulled out of the air by some hand-wringing alarmist. It comes from Jim Haveman, the Director of this state's Department of Community Health.

In fact, yesterday he said his estimate may, in fact, be too low.

Republican response? Well, we probably won't get that many enrolled right away, so that figure may be too high.

So what's their best guess? They haven't got one.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who to his credit, helped form the tiny coalition to get the matter through the Senate last week, doesn't even want to talk about it.

"It's like we had this really big dinner," he said. "We got the dinner done and people are going to ask for dessert.
 
“We're going to skip the dessert on this one. We're done. The legislature in total has gone through enough with this issue."

Dessert? He thinks $600 million is dessert? Sounds more like a main course of steak, potatoes, and choice of vegetable for a half-million people to me.

And of course during that same 90 day period state hospitals will continue offering what will amount to roughly a quarter of a billion dollars in expensive emergency room care to poor people.

Much of the cost of that gets picked up by the insured who pay higher premiums, and some of it gets picked up by federal reimbursement. But reimbursements will be reduced as of January 1, because that's ostensibly when people start signing up for Obamacare.

Look, you don't have to be a fan of Obamacare to take the money. Obamacare—even though it's the law of the land—may not work.

But the money is there for the taking. It's just smart government.

Phil Power, a former University of Michigan Regent, now a writer for Bridge Magazine, said yesterday he sometimes wonders if Republican lawmakers in Lansing would even vote against something called "Obamataxcut." Good point.

And then the icing on the cake. The Senate wants poor people, not just the new ones, the ones just above the poverty line, but all of them, to pay 5 percent of their income in copay fees.

So in addition to rent, food, transportation, clothing, and other things they can't afford, they have to fork over 5 percent in copay fees.

After four years it'll go up to 7 percent. Nobody knows how it'll get collected.

But its an intimidating little add-on that'll probably keep any number of qualified people from breaking the door down to enroll.

And those fees, all by themselves, could actually block the Medicaid expansion itself. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Expansion has to approve Michigan's legislation.

And an expert said yesterday she thought the CMS would be taking a close look at Michigan's bill before giving it an okay.

Forget dessert. We may lose the whole enchilada.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on July 31, 2015 07:22 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Labor Department releases the second-quarter employment cost index at 8:30 a.m.

The University of Michigan issues its monthly index of consumer sentiment for July.

Exxon Mobil Corp. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens.

CVS-GENERIC DRUG LAWSUIT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A lawsuit accuses CVS of deliberately overcharging some pharmacy customers for generic drugs by submitting claims to their insurance companies at inflated prices.

The suit filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco says those inflated prices led to higher co-pays for customers that exceeded what they would have paid for the drugs if they had no insurance and participated in a CVS discount program.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status, a court order prohibiting CVS Health Corp. from engaging in the alleged fraudulent behavior, and unspecified damages.

CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said the Rhode Island-based company had not been served with the lawsuit, so he couldn't comment. But he said co-pays are determined by a patient's insurance, and a similar suit in Massachusetts was dismissed.

MINIMUM WAGE

SEATTLE (AP) -- Menu prices are up 21 percent and you don't have to tip at Ivar's Salmon House in Seattle. The restaurant decided to institute the city's $15-an-hour minimum wage two years ahead of schedule.

It is staff, not diners, who feel the real difference, with wages as much as 60 percent higher than before. One waitress is saving for accounting classes and finding it easier to take weekend vacations, while another server is using the added pay to cover increased rent.

Seattle's law bumped the city's minimum wage to $11 beginning April 1, and scheduled increases will bring it to $15 within four years for large businesses and seven for smaller ones.

As Washington and other cities consider following Seattle in phasing in a $15-an-hour minimum wage, Ivar's approach, offers lessons in how some businesses might adapt. The restaurant adopted the higher wages in April.

TEC-MICROSOFT WINDOWS

PALO ALTO, California (AP) -- Microsoft says its' new Windows 10 operating system is now running on more than 14 million computers, two days after the software was released as a free download.

That's a far cry from the company's goal of getting Windows 10 onto a billion devices within three years. Microsoft says it's releasing the software in waves to make sure downloads go smoothly.

In a blog post late yesterday, Microsoft said it has not yet delivered Windows 10 to everyone who requested a free upgrade for computers running older Windows versions. Microsoft says the 14 million includes some copies installed on new computers sold in stores.

Reaction has been mostly favorable, with reviewers calling the new Windows an improvement over the last version, known as Windows 8.

ARCTIC OFFSHORE DRILLING

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker that was the target of environmental protesters is leaving Portland, Oregon, bound for an Arctic drilling operation.

The Fennica headed out yesterday after authorities forced protesters in kayaks from a river and removed others dangling from a bridge.

The demonstrators had been trying to stop the vessel from leaving dry dock and making its way along the Willamette River toward the Pacific Ocean.

The Fennica arrived in Portland for repairs last week.

It attempted to leave earlier in the day but turned around when activists dangling from St. Johns Bridge refused to let the vessel pass.

The icebreaker is a key part of Shell's exploration and spill-response plan off Alaska's northwest coast. It protects Shell's fleet from ice and carries equipment that can stop gushing oil.

RELATIVITY-BANKRUPTCY

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Relativity Media, the struggling "mini major" Hollywood studio behind movies such as "Immortals" and "Mirror Mirror," has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The filing will allow the studio to continue to operate while restructuring. The company owes $681 million to secured creditors. Of that, nearly $362 million came due June 1, triggering a search for new financing that ultimately failed.

The filing comes after a spate of lawsuits between Relativity and an entity called RKA that had lent it money to market movies. RKA claims Relativity inappropriately used most of the money to stay afloat.

Yesterday's bankruptcy filing comes one day after Relativity announced it was laying off 75 of its approximately 350 employees.

Relativity had also pushed back the release of several movies to preserve cash, including the Kristen Wiig-led comedy "Masterminds."

GREECE BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Lead negotiators from the European Union and International Monetary Fund begin an intensive round of talks with Greece today to hammer out details of a third international bailout worth some 85 billion euros ($93 billion). Greece needs the money to keep paying its debts and remain in the euro currency.

The envoys are to meet Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (sahk-oh-LOH'-tis) following talks during the week in Athens between lower-level officials on reforming the tax system and labor market regulations.

The bailout talks must be concluded before Aug. 20, when a debt repayment to the European Central Bank worth more than 3 billion euros is due.

VENEZUELA-TELEPHONE CUTOFF

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelans are struggling to call abroad as telephone carriers fall behind on payments to international partners. The country is in the midst of a currency crisis that is leaving it increasingly cut off from the rest of the world.

The South American nation's largest private telephone operator, Movistar (MOH'-vee-stahr), quietly ended service to all but 10 countries in May. The other major private operator here, Digitel (dee-hee-TEL'), cut service to more than 100 countries around the same time, and later told Congress it was tens of millions of dollars in debt to foreign providers.

The changes have not been formally announced. Instead, Venezuelans are making the unhappy discovery when they dial an international number and bump into an ominous pre-recorded error message.

Internet calling services like Skype go only so far toward resolving the issue. Many people don't have easy access to WiFi, so they have to rely on cellphone data packages that can be prohibitively expensive. And pay-as-you-go services that allow for cheap calls to cellphones over the Internet require a foreign credit card, which most Venezuelans don't have.

The phones are just the latest things to go as currency rationing cuts Venezuela off from global trade.

VENEZUELA-BEER COMPANY

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's largest food distributor yesterday denounced the government occupation of a Caracas warehouse amid accusations that the company is hoarding goods.

Soldiers took over the warehouse complex used by Empresas Polar late Wednesday just as Venezuela's federation of brewers announced that Polar's beer manufacturing subsidiary is shutting two of its six plants because of a lack of imported barley.

The South American oil-exporting nation is grappling with chronic shortages of all kinds of staples from sugar to toilet paper, which businesses blame on the socialist government's economic policies.

President Nicolas Maduro (nee-coh-LAHS' mah-doo-roh) has accused Polar of sabotaging the economy by hoarding goods and intentionally creating shortages, a charge the company denies. As December congressional elections approach, Maduro has been levying frequent attacks on sectors that he claims are staging an economic war against Venezuelans.

Workers said the takeover was intended to provide land for new houses, another resource that has become scarce in Caracas in recent years, pushing people to live in shacks in the hills outside the city.

Polar executive Manuel Felipe Larrazabal asked the administration to reconsider the occupation, saying it had already paralyzed the company's supply chain in the capital.

CHINA-CORRUPTION

BEIJING (AP) -- China has expelled a former top general from the ruling Communist Party over corruption accusations as President Xi Jinping's campaign to root out graft in the government and military churns onward.

Guo Boxiong, a former vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, will be prosecuted under the armed forces' justice system, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

Xinhua said Guo, 73, is accused of accepting bribes to grant promotions and other benefits for others as a vice chairman of the commission that is led by China's head of state. Further details weren't given, although prosecutors have focused on the selling of ranks and positions, and the embezzlement of military funds as they attempt to clean up corruption in the world's largest standing military.

Guo's expulsion, a key precursor to prosecution, "illustrates the unswerving will to punish corruption," the military newspaper People's Liberation Army Daily said in a front page article on Guo.

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