The LuLac Edition #1516, March 22nd, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: HEALTH CARE REFORM LOGO, COUNTY COUNCIL CANDIDATES WIL TOOLE AND BRUCE SIMPSON.
HEALTH CARE BILL AT 1
The Health Care bill the Republican Congress is trying to repeal and have continually tried to vilify is now one year old. And while I personally feel it didn’t go far enough, there are some good positive things it is already yielding for the state. The White House issued a report highlighting the benefits of health reform for Pennsylvania residents. Signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act has given Pennsylvania residents more freedom and control over their health care choices.
The Affordable Care Act is:
Reducing costs for seniors and strengthening Medicare.
More than 247,438 Pennsylvania residents who hit the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” received $250 tax-free rebates, and will receive a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole this year. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole completely. And nearly all 44 million beneficiaries who have Medicare, including 2.1 million in Pennsylvania, can now receive free preventive services – like mammograms and colonoscopies – as well as a free annual wellness visit from their doctor
Offering new coverage options.
Insurance companies are now required to allow parents to keep their children up to age 26 without job-based coverage on their insurance plans. An estimated 32,100 young adults in Pennsylvania could gain insurance coverage as a result of the law. Additionally, most insurance companies are now banned from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. An estimated 657,000 kids with a pre-existing condition in Pennsylvania will be protected because of this provision.
Lowering costs for small businesses.
The law provides $40 billion of tax credits to up to 4 million small businesses, including up to 178,505 in Pennsylvania to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees and make premiums more affordable.
Improving the quality of coverage.
All Americans with insurance are now free from worrying about losing their insurance due to a mistake on an application, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick. The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014. This will protect 7.7 million million Pennsylvania residents with private insurance coverage from these limits.
Providing flexibility and resources to States.
The Affordable Care Act also gives States the flexibility and resources they need to implement the law in the way that works for them. Under the law, States have received millions of dollars in Federal support for their work to hold down insurance premiums, build competitive insurance marketplaces, provide insurance to early retirees, and strengthen their public health and prevention efforts. So far, Pennsylvania has received $80.8 million from the Affordable Care Act. Grants to Pennsylvania include:
$1.1 million to support a consumer assistance program
$1 million to plan for a Health Insurance Exchange
$1 million to crack down on unreasonable insurance premium increases
$22.5 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
$48.1 million in Therapeutic Discovery Project Program Tax Credits and Grants
$1 million for Medicare improvements for patients and providers
$3.4 million for demonstration projects to address health professions workforce needs
$436,542 for Nursing and Home Health Aides Training Programs
$2.2 million for Maternal, Infant and Childhood Home Visiting
Luzerne County Council candidate Wil Toole is letting the rubber hit the road in his effort to be elected on the Luzerne County Council as a Democrat. Besides attending county meetings and offering ideas and opinions, Toole is using a lot of shoe leather to get his name and message out to the public. Toole is the only candidate to seek this county office who has the Professional Municipal Manager credentials recognized by the International City/County Manager’s Association (ICMA).
SIMPSON AND FRACKING
County Council candidate Bruce Simpson has weighed in on the gas drilling issue and what that means to the county. Simpson says, it is well known that the Luzerne County area needs jobs and the taxes that flow from them. Many businesses and individuals have argued for allowing gas exploration companies to come into Luzerne County and to search for natural gas for these exact reasons. In fact, the Governor has made the industry tax free on production which is strange and questionable in itself in light of the Commonwealths budget shortfall which has led the Governor to cut education funding for our schools.
The real question is whether or not the risks of the "fracking" process are worth the potential benefit. After much consideration and consultations with advisers, Simpson has now taken the position that "fracking" should be prohibited throughout Luzerne County.
The gas industry refuses to identify the chemicals used in the fracking process and sufficient evidence indicates that these chemicals are making their way into the drinking water supply along with gas itself as witnessed by people being able to light their tap water on fire. If these chemicals weren't deadly, the industry would not hesitate to identify which chemicals are being injected into our shale and water tables.
Now a new danger has surfaced. In the state of Arkansas since the advent of fracking in that state six months ago, over 1000 earthquakes have occurred with at least one registering almost a 5 on the Richter scale which was the largest to hit the state in 35 years. As a result, the state of Arkansas has ordered a halt to all fracking anywhere in Arkansas. In the seven days prior to the cessation of fracking, there were 100 minor earthquakes. In the seven days since the halt, earthquakes have dropped to 50 and continue to decline in number with the severity dropping as well with the quakes registering between 1.2 and 2.8.
All of the side effects of fracking indicate that this is a dangerous process that places both the environment and lives at risk. Fracking should be banned until proper advancements are made to limit the negative consequences to the environment and eliminate the dangers to people's lives. For once, health and safety must come first over corporate profits.
For more information on Bruce J. Simpson please visit his website at http://www.simpsonforcouncil.org/