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 August 20, 2014 07:30 GMT

JAPAN-TRADE

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit rose in July from the month before to a wider than expected 964 billion yen ($9.4 billion), though exports were higher for the first time in three months.

It was the 25th straight monthly trade deficit for the world's third-largest economy, due mainly to an increase in imports of oil and gas to compensate for idled nuclear reactors following meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

Exports rose 3.9 percent from a year earlier to 6.19 trillion yen ($60.2 billion), slightly outpacing a 2.3 percent increase in imports, to 7.15 trillion yen ($69.5 billion). Japan recorded an 822 billion yen deficit in June.

Japan's demand for imports has moderated in recent months as business slowed following an increase in the national sales tax. But a recovery in overseas demand, especially for machinery, buses and trucks, is a welcome relief.

CHINA-MONOPOLY CRACKDOWN-AUTOS

BEIJING (AP) -- China announced today it will fine 12 Japanese auto parts suppliers a total of $202 million for colluding to raise prices in an unfolding anti-monopoly probe of the country's auto industry.

Beijing has launched a series of investigations of global automakers and technology suppliers under its 6-year-old anti-monopoly law in an apparent effort to force down prices. Officials said earlier that Mercedes Benz, Audi and Chrysler also violated the law.

The Japanese suppliers were found to have colluded improperly, some for up to 10 years, to raise prices of ball bearings and other parts, according to China's main planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.

Regulators have given few details of their probe but industry analysts say they might have been motivated by complaints about the high price of imported luxury vehicles and replacement parts.

Business groups say China's anti-monopoly law is enforced more actively against foreign companies than against local rivals.

DEPARTMENT STORE-DISCRIMINATION

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The retailer Macy's has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle allegations of racial profiling at its flagship store in Manhattan's Herald Square.

Under the agreement signed with New York's attorney general, the company will adopt new policies on police access to its security camera monitors and against profiling, further train employees, investigate customer complaints, keep better records of detentions and report for three years on its compliance.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the settlement should help ensure customers are treated equally regardless of race or ethnicity at the retail giant's 42 department stores statewide.

The attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau said it opened an investigation into Macy's in February 2013 when it received several complaints from minority customers. Since then, the office recorded complaints from 18 African-American, Latino and other ethnic minority customers who claimed they'd been apprehended and detained at Macy's stores between 2007 and 2013, despite not having stolen or attempted to steal any merchandise.

BLOOMBERG-CITIES-INNOVATION

NEW YORK (AP) -- American cities looking to be more innovative in how they address local issues can now get a helping hand from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charitable foundation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is announcing today that it's putting $45 million into Innovation Delivery grants. The grants are to help cities create teams that use data and other tools to come up with ideas for how to tackle problems.

The team approach that the foundation is championing "is one way mayors can increase the likelihood of generating more powerful ideas more often and reducing the risk of failure," he said.

The foundation initially rolled out the Innovation Delivery model in five cities -- Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; and New Orleans -- which used the process to come up with ideas on a range of issues, from economic redevelopment to reducing violent deaths.

THE DAY AHEAD

Business Events Scheduled for Today

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its July interest rate meeting today. Lowe's reports quarterly financial results before the market opens. Target Corp. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens.

MORTGAGES-LATE PAYMENTS

UNDATED (AP) -- Fewer U.S. homeowners are falling behind on their mortgage payments, a trend that's brought down the late-payment rate on home loans to the lowest level in six years.

Credit reporting agency TransUnion said Wednesday that the percentage of mortgage holders at least two months behind on their payments fell to 3.46 percent in the second quarter.

That's down from 4.32 percent in the April-June period last year.

All told, the nation's late-payment rate on home loans is down nearly 20 percent from a year ago.

The last time the rate was lower was in the first quarter of 2008, when it stood at 3.39 percent.

The mortgage delinquency rate has been steadily easing over the past two years as U.S. home sales and prices have rebounded and foreclosures have declined.

PRIVATE PRISON-BACK WAGES

CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (AP) -- The nation's largest private prison company has paid more than $8 million in back wages and benefits to current and former employees at its federal prison facility in California City.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday that Corrections Corp. of America paid the money to staff at the California City Correctional Center after an investigation found it wasn't paying the rates required of federal contractors.

A department official says in some cases employees were paid 40 percent less than required by pay rate regulations established for contractors. The company also wasn't making required contributions to retirement accounts and health and life insurance.

Many workers will receive more than $30,000.

Messages left with the Nashville, Tennessee-based company spokesmen weren't immediately returned.

NO-FLY LIST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is promising to change the way travelers can ask to be removed from its no-fly list of suspected terrorists banned from air travel.

The decision comes after a federal judge's ruling that there was no meaningful way to challenge the designation, a situation deemed unconstitutional. In response, the Justice Department said the U.S. will change the process during the next six months. As of late last summer, about 48,000 people were on the no-fly list.

The government's policy is never to confirm or deny that a person actually is on the no-fly list, citing national security concerns. In most instances, travelers assume they are on the list because they are instructed to go through additional screening at airports or because they are told they can't board their flights to, from or within the United States.

The no-fly list is one of the government's most controversial post-9/11 counterterrorism programs because of its lack of due process, long criticized because people cannot know why they were placed on the list and lack an effective way to fight the decision. Changing how people can challenge their designation could amount to one of the government's most significant adjustments to how it manages the list.

PETSMART-SALE

UNDATED (AP) -- PetSmart says it is considering putting itself up for sale after receiving pressure from investors.

The pet supply chain said Tuesday that it will weigh "strategic alternatives" after a board review that included conversations with shareholders.

Investment firm Longview Asset Management and hedge fund Jana Partners have both pushed PetSmart to think about a sale.

The company also says it plans to cut costs and is focusing on pet food, exclusive brands and services, online shoppers and a loyalty program.

The Phoenix-based company in May cut its earnings outlook for the year, citing a challenging consumer environment and competition.

PetSmart said Tuesday that its second-quarter earnings rose 5.1 percent to $98.1 million, or 98 cents per share, while revenue rose 1.4 percent to $1.73 billion. It left its guidance unchanged.

OBAMA ADVISER-UBER

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's former campaign manager and White House senior adviser David Plouffe (pluhf) is joining car service startup Uber as it seeks to expand in cities worldwide.

Plouffe will serve as Uber's senior vice president of policy and strategy.

Uber uses a mobile application to connect riders with vehicles for hire. The San Francisco-based company has faced resistance in some U.S. cities from the taxi industry and regulators who have accused it of lowering prices to knock out competition.

Plouffe was the architect of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and a top White House adviser as the president sought re-election.

Announcing Plouffe's hiring, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says the company "has been in a campaign but hasn't been running one. That is changing now."

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