The LuLac Edition #1250, July 30th, 2010
PHOTO INDEX: PROTESTERS IN FRONT OF THE BLUE CROSS BUILDING THIS WEEK (PHOTO COURTESY OF TIMES LEADER), PNC FIELD, MAYOR LOU BARLETTA AND CONGRESSMAN PAUL KANJORSKI AND UR 1966 LOGO.
SINGIN’ THE BLUES
A few people congregated outside of the Blue Cross building Wednesday trying to persuade the insurance behemoth to continue financial support for an insurance plan for low-income workers. Too bad it wasn’t last week when Blue Cross had their annual blow out for the employees under 2 tents on the grounds of Coughlin High School. The pickets could’ve begged a Metz Burger to sustain their strength. In Steve Wilcox's story in the Times Leader, he got some interesting feedback. “This is part of a statewide action in an effort to tell our state legislators and Blue Cross that we can’t afford to lose adultBasic. It’s a critical low-cost health insurance program that’s serves almost 46,000 Pennsylvanians, including about 1,100 in Luzerne County,” said Athena Ford, a statewide organizer with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network – a coalition of organizations advocating for quality health insurance coverage that organized similar rallies statewide. “These are some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians when it comes to obtaining health insurance,” Ford continued. “They make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Most of them make a little too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to be able to afford the skyrocketing costs of health insurance, and so this is their only option,” Ford said. Among those who attended the rally was Ann Marie, a 56-year-old Clarks Summit resident who declined to give her last name. She’s been on the adultBasic plan for about four year Without adultBasic, she said, “I just don’t know what I’ll do. I make under $10,000 a year. I looked at other plans and they’re way above what I could pay.” The monthly premium is $36, and people who make less than $21,660 a year qualify for it. There are nearly 400,000 Pennsylvanians on the waiting list. Ford said Blue Cross is a non-profit charitable organization and therefore receives “generous” tax breaks from the state. “In return, they’re legally obligated to make charitable contributions. It’s the right thing to do to continue making a portion of those contributions to helping the most vulnerable people of our state get insurance,” she said, adding that the Blues have a combined nearly $6 billion surplus. Ford provided a copy of a report released Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center titled "AdultBasic Sings the Blues," which examines adultBasic and the Blues's surpluses. Blue Cross of NEPA spokeswoman Michelle Davidson said many of the tax breaks in existence 10 years ago are no longer in place. “We’re proud to have this role in the community … to do what we can to help people in the community. But the taxes have shifted and the world has changed even in the last five years. We think adultBasic is a very important program. But realistically, we need other (health insurers) to join us in funding it,” she said.
Okay, I see two points here. First off, when I worked at BC, I was the recipient of a lot of pleas from people who knew that they needed to get health insurance but couldn’t afford it. These weren’t knocked up welfare mothers or slobs who were living generationally on the public dole. These were people that weren’t provided the educational breaks and social skills that are found amongst some of those people in that big building on North Main Street. These are the working poor toiling in car washes and minimum wage jobs. They aren’t asking for a handout, they are just asking for a bit of aid. And it is hysterically funny to me that the BC spokesperson cited the fact that tax breaks are the reason why the Blues can’t be involved anymore. Uh, do non profits pay taxes? And if they do, are they really non profits? It is not as if the Blues are solely funding adult basic, it is a state program. It is a state funded program with my tax dollars, your tax dollars and those people vying for Adult Basic that pay for it. The fact that the huge Accounting Departments and Legal Departments at the Blues can’t come up with a little money to help fund this is pretty sad. But you’ll see Blue Cross workers paraded in the newspapers wrapping up daffodils and pulling weeds at a non profit agency. Nice PR and a day out of the office for the workers but c’mon, put your money, not where your tax breaks are, but maybe where your surplus is. Health Insurance companies are in business to insure people and pay claims. I realize that. I know that. My chemo treatments were 10,000 grand a pop. I know that a surplus is there to pay a claim. But to cite shifting tax breaks as a reason for bailing on this desperately needed program is a pretty lame excuse. However, I do have sympathy though for the spokesperson’s point that other insurance companies need to come on board. Blue Cross is constantly being undercut and bombarded by other health plans who are offering residents a better deal, a more comprehensive program. Nine times out of ten, these out of town jaspers deny more claims than they pay. The Blues have been accused of being a monopoly and they do have a huge chunk of the market. But that is because even with high rates they provide better service than the others. The fact that other insurance companies have not supported this is beyond conscience. The fact that the Blues are joining them in not helping to fund this program is unfortunate. At some point, government is going to have to step in and urge or force the non profit Blues to do the right thing and in the case of other profit making insurers, doing the right thing for the first time. This protest was a good start in highlighting the plight of those people not being able to get insurance. It’s too bad the gutless Obama Health plan got rid of the public option. This reluctance on the part of the Blues is proof positive why it was needed.
Joe Corcoran has taken his share of hits politically over the years. He ran Lackawanna County, no check that, he micromanaged Lackawanna county like a maniac in his twenty years as Commissioner. And even though he made mistakes along the way, I always felt he and Ray Albieriggi had the future of Northeastern Pennsylvania on their radar. It was only 200 votes that kept Joe Corcoran from staying on as Commissioner. Perhaps if he did there wouldn’t be the murky cloud surrounding the Scranton Wilkes Barre Yankees. Here’s the story:
The Yankees want a new Stadium. They were most likely promised it by Bob Cordaro, recently indicted former County Commissioner. The current commissioners want to try and get the Yankees to buy the franchise in exchange for them aiding in funding a new stadium. The old commissioners want the original team agreement to stay in place. People are saying a renovation project or a new Stadium is needed because no one is going to the ballpark. There is talk about a grand concourse and other things to bring people in. The problem, they say, is that no one is going to the ballpark anymore. Here’s why:
1.The Yankees got greedy. The first year they raised the ticket price to 9 bucks. Now they are at $14.00. When the Barons played here, bleacher seats were 5 or 6 bucks. A family of four could go to a game for under 25 dollars. At the $14.00 rate, a family of 4 has to pay double that.
2.The Yankees are plain and simple elitists. All of the umbrellas, bobble heads, team insignia giveaways go to the season ticket holders. The regular walk up people get nothing. The Phillies and the Barons understood that the people of LuLac land don’t necessarily want to be romanced but they’ll take one or two perks along the way. When I was in radio we called this “value added”.
3.The Phillies were more involved in the community doing clinics, talking to the schools, letting little ballplayers roam the infield. The Yankees do not.
4.While the Yankees staff are polite enough, there is not the old home week feeling you get when you go to a game. People in NEPA are sensitive to that.
A new stadium run by the same people isn’t going to change anything. Like the first year when the Yanks were in town, there will be a surge in attendance. But even after a first date with the stranger of your dreams, if you aren’t wooed, you’re not coming back anytime soon. And that’s the reason why people aren’t coming to the ballpark.
KANJO AND BARNEY
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee Chairman Paul E. Kanjorski today announced that the committee will continue its series of hearings on the future of housing finance in September. Chairman Kanjorski will conduct an oversight hearing of the GSEs, and the full committee will continue its examination of policy options for restructuring the nation’s housing finance system. “By passing the legislation in 2008 that allowed the Bush administration to put the GSEs into conservatorship and by finally enacting strict prohibitions against the sort of reckless, predatory and subprime loans that have been made in the mortgage market, we have completed the initial, defensive steps needed in the housing area. We will continue our efforts as we move to the next phase, a complete restructuring of the tangle of housing finance tools so that we move forward in a way that protects taxpayers, prevents economic turmoil and appropriately serves all aspects of the housing market,” said Chairman Frank. Said Chairman Kanjorski: “The landmark Wall Street reform law has laid the foundation for reforming our housing finance system by altering securitization rules, protecting against inflated appraisals, and holding rating agencies accountable. The Capital Markets Subcommittee has already convened several hearings about the future of housing finance, and in September we will examine taxpayer protection issues in greater depth. In particular, we intend to explore the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s recent efforts to recoup funds from the issuers of the underwater securities purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We also will examine the present policies related to calculating guarantee fees, including whether these charges are appropriately priced to cover risks and provide a reasonable return. Moreover, as our housing markets begin to stabilize, we will begin to consider innovative ideas for recovering the costs resulting from the decision to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship. Twenty years ago, we found a way for industry to pay back the sizable U.S. Treasury payments for resolving the savings-and-loan crisis. We can do it again.”
LOU’S NEW AD
Today, Mayor Barletta unveiled a new Web ad. This ad says nothing, is vapid, and has one too many cliches for me. That said, it drives home a point on an issue that many people here in this district feel they can articulate and grasp on to. On that level, it will be a resounding success. Take a look:
OBAMA ON "THE VIEW"
President Obama took a seat as a sitting President on “The View”. Here’s my reaction, I don’t know about that. Look we had Bill Clinton as a candidate on Arsenio Hall, Richard Nixon on Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Merv Griffen. Bobby Kennedy and JFK on those talk shows. But they weren’t President. C’mon Barack, hold a meeting or something, you’re the President, you don’t have to work so hard to please the women.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG
Been a while since we saw our two friends in the water. Today they debate, “Which Came First”.
Sniper Charles Whitman kills 13 people and wounds 31 from atop the University of Texas at Austin Main Building tower, after earlier killing his wife and mother……Statewide, candidates for Lt. Governor, Raymond Broderick and Leonard Staisey (Republican and Democrat respectively say they won’t agree to a debate unless the top of the ticket Raymond Shaffer and Milton Shapp do so. Shapp implores Shaffer for a debate but is rebuffed……in Wilkes Barre the newly formed Luzerne County Community College starts to outgrow its offices on River Street. Minority Commissioner Ed Wideman calls for a new location for the facility and 44 years ago the number 1 song in America and LuLac land was “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones.