The LuLac Edition #701, Jan. 21st, 2009
Caroline Kennedy dropped out of consideration for the New York Senate seat held by Hillary Clinton the last 8 years. That paves the way for Governor David Patterson to pick Attorney General Andrwew Cuomo, the son of Governor Mario Cuomo. Here's my humble advice to Caroline. If you really want this seat, school yourself in the details of New York state politics. Take speech lessons if you need to. Go to a cliche school. Then if you really want this, get a boatload of money in 2010 and go after the seat painting Cuomo as an appontee. She'll win in a walk!
HEALTH CARE CHANGES
Look for some changes in the health care system in a few years. Here's something Congress is already toying with. The federal government would subsidize up to 65% of COBRA health insurance payments for many individuals who have lost their jobs since Sept. 1, 2008, under an $825 billion stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats. COBRA provisions are supported by health insurance groups, including America's Health Insurance Plans and the National Business Group on Health. However, AHIP said other parts of the plan tying increased investment in health information technology to stricter scrutiny of how health IT records are handled would make it more difficult for plans to coordinate care and streamline administrative costs. Dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the House bill allocates $39 billion to aid individuals attempting to continue paying health insurance premiums through the 23-year-old Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act program. COBRA allows employees who are terminated or leave their jobs voluntarily to remain in their former employer's group health plan for up to 18 months, which can be extended to 36 months for those with extenuating life circumstances. However, because COBRA enrollees can be charged up to 102% of the full cost of coverage, many find the plans prohibitively expensive and, according to Hewitt Associates Inc., only about 20% enroll. A recent report by the consumer group Families USA found monthly COBRA premiums for family coverage were $1,069, or 83.6% of the average monthly unemployment insurance benefit of $1,278. In nine states, average COBRA payments exceeded unemployment benefits, the group found. Health groups have been largely supportive of the proposal, with AHIP President Karen Ignagni writing in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the group believes the move would "help ensure continuity ofcoverage and serve as an important lifeline for many workers who do not qualify for Medicaid, but still need help paying their health insurance premiums." There has been no comment from Pelosi's office and it appears this might be either near the bottom or the middle of the Obama stimulus plan. However if resistance to bank funding continues, it may move up a notch.
MEDICAL RECORDS NEWS
Five years after President Bush announced plans for Americans' health records to go digital and didn't provide enough money to make it happen, (which was a typical Bush move) only one in five doctors has converted from paper to electronic record keeping. When Barack Obama takes over this could change. During his campaign for president, Obama promised a $50 billion investment to store patient records electronically. His economic stimulus package is expected to contain two year's worth of funding, or about $20 billion.The money would be distributed to hospitals and doctors through grants and through higher reimbursement rates when serving Medicare patients. And for doctors who do not make the switch, Obama will propose lowering reimbursements from government-subsidized health care programs.
HOME RULE STARTS
The NEPA Organizing Center will be working in collaboration with Luzerne Home Rule in order to develop the movement toward Home Rule in Luzerne County. Together, we are sponsoring a Home Rule Campaign Kick Off Event at the Center on Thurs., January 29th at 7:00 p.m. The event will be open to the public, and we encourage anyone interested in joining the movement to attend. Light refreshments will be served, and a social hour will follow the event.