Saturday, December 21, 2013

FOUND on ESPN: "How Liberal are you?" QUIZ

December 21, 2013

Now that the DHS has my answers on file, I suppose I'll be getting a knock at 2am one of these mornings...

Here's the link:

Obamanomics combined with a liberal justice system almost makes stealing worth the risk

Dec. 21, 2013

Restaurant job applicant charged with tip theft for stealing tip jar

A woman applying for a job in Rehoboth Beach is accused of stealing money from a restaurant tip jar.

Rehoboth Police say the woman had just filled out an application at Five Guys on Rehoboth Avenue last Friday when she took about $15 in tip money from two separate jars.

A review of the application, as well as surveillance footage, led to the arrest of 44-year-old Melissa Brittingham of Rehoboth Beach.

She later pled guilty to a theft charge in Justice of the Peace Court Two and received one year of probation.

Brittingham is also required to pay a $500 fine and court costs.


New Beginnings: The Era of State Capitalism Begins in Alaska

Dec. 21, 2013

Alaska agency chooses Interior Gas Utility as natural gas distributor

The Interior Gas Utility, the municipal utility formed by the three local governments, will be in charge of delivering natural gas to North Pole and the medium-density areas of the borough.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska selected the municipal utility over the privately owned Fairbanks Natural Gas in the hotly contested dispute to deliver gas to the expanded territory of the borough.

FNG and IGU had both filed to earn the commission’s blessing of sole rights to distribute natural gas to the area stretching from North Pole to Farmer’s Loop and parts of Chena Ridge. Service is estimated to begin sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 depending on first delivery of trucked natural gas. Fairbanks Natural Gas holds a service area in the boundaries the city of Fairbanks, where it has roughly 1,100 residential and business customers.
The certificate is conditioned with the requirement that IGU maintain a five-day supply of natural gas for its customers.
The denial of FNG’s application chiefly landed on the private utility’s reliance on Golden Valley Electric Association as a buyer of its gas. FNG said it would require GVEA take some 3 billion cubic feet of gas per year, but GVEA CEO Cory Borgeson said they wouldn’t be able to take that much.
“We find that the build-out plan proposed by FNG relies on GVEA as an industrial customer taking 3 Bcf of natural gas on an annual basis. We find that GVEA has no plan to be an industrial customer of FNG and that GVEA has no need for 3 Bcf at its power plant, particularly beyond 2015,” the order reads. “Accordingly, we find that FNG has not demonstrated that it has a viable build-out plan for the proposed expanded service area. Therefore, FNG has failed to demonstrate that it meets the threshold level of fitness, willingness, and ability to expand its service area. We deny FNG’s application to expand its service area.”
GVEA told the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority that its need for gas is closer to 1.5 or 2.5 Bcf per year.
A separate statement penned by Commissioner Robert Pickett said the shortcoming “seriously damaged the overall credibility of FNG’s application.”
The commission continued to say that it doesn’t make any negative findings on anything else FNG presented during the multiple weeks of hearings it held on the matter.
The order goes on to grant IGU the certificate for public convenience and necessity for the area, saying it “has demonstrated sufficient levels of fitness, willingness, and ability for issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity to provide natural gas utility service in the FNSB.”
The order filed by the commission was less than complimentary of the applications filed by both IGU and FNG. One section begins with the underlined statement: “The Applications Were Not Complete Until the Close of the Hearing.”
It goes on to say that both applications “changed or supplemented in a substantive fashion” and “continued to evolve until the close of the hearing.” Both parties amended numbers, cost estimates and the number of potential customer they could reach.
The commission notes that these changes were tough on the commission and they “were forced to begin evaluation anew each time the applications changed before and during the hearing. Consequently, our evaluation of the applications took place in a much shorter timeframe than the six months contemplated by statute.”
Pickett also commented on the nasty attacks lobbied between the two parties, particularly at FNG by IGU’s witnesses.
“The time for sloganeering and scurrilous statements must end,” he said. “Now is the time for the Fairbanks North Star Borough and its utility to deliver on its commitments to the residents of the Borough.”
When reached shortly after the release of the order, IGU’s board president Bob Shefchik said he had already read through the 35-page report and was pleased with the commission’s ruling.
“We’re pleased and appreciative,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do and I expect we’ll start next Thursday.”
Representatives from FNG were sought for comment but have not yet responded.


Tax Dollar Update: Millions to be used for housing 18 year old murderer for next 70 years

Dec. 21, 2013

Police: Northwest student charged in slaying told acquaintance 'I got my first body'

An 18-year-old Northwest High student told an acquaintance “I got my first body” as he described the shooting death of an Omaha man, police allege.
Mitchell Q. Wynne, who just completed his senior football season at Northwest, was arrested Friday by police and charged with first-degree murder in the July 14 slaying of Darnell P. Haynes, 29, during a purported marijuana deal.
Wynne also is named as a suspect in a drive-by shooting earlier that day in which a bystander was shot. He has not been charged in that case.
At Northwest, Wynne was a running back on the football team. He was honorable mention on the Metro Conference coaches' 2013 all-district team.
His brother, Richard Wynne Jr., is a 2010 Creighton Prep graduate and former running back who now is a walk-on wide receiver at Nebraska.
Their parents are Richard Wynne Sr., a former standout running back at Omaha North, and Monica Wynne, an elementary teacher in the Omaha Public Schools.
According to Omaha police and prosecutors' accounts:
Haynes was shot about 3:20 p.m. outside the Mid-K Beauty Supply store near 60th Street and Ames Avenue.
Investigators found Haynes in the front seat, with clumps of marijuana covering his body and spilling onto the ground. They also found a 9 mm shell casing.
And they found something else: Haynes' cellphone.
Searching the phone, they discovered that the last communications to Haynes' phone were text messages between Haynes and a phone number belonging to Mitch Wynne.
The texts discussed meeting Haynes and buying marijuana from him.
Investigators seized Wynne's phone and discovered more texts in which Wynne sent out a picture of a 9 mm gun.
The person who received the picture asked where Wynne got the gun, and he named an acquaintance.
Detectives subsequently contacted the acquaintance and several of Wynne's friends.
Three friends said Wynne had either told them about the killing or had overheard him describing it to other friends.
One friend told police that Wynne had confessed to her, making statements such as “I got my first body” and “I did what I had to do.”
The friend said Wynne told her he had planned to rob Haynes because he had no money. A struggle ensued, and Wynne shot Haynes.
Wynne then described going through the victim's pockets and stealing $400 from Haynes, the friend told police.
The friend said Wynne also claimed to have done “a drive-by” earlier in the day.
In that case, he told the friend, he rose out of the bed of a black pickup truck and opened fire on a bystander. Officers believe that description matches the shooting of DeShawn Jackson near 44th and Pinkney Streets about an hour before Haynes was killed.
Jackson, 17, survived. A witness to that shooting described a distinctive black pickup truck with a letter painted on the side of the truck.
At the scene of Haynes' death, witnesses described a similar black pickup truck with a number or letter painted on the side of the truck.
Another friend told police Wynne was “extremely nervous” after the shooting.
“They (the police) are coming to get me,” Wynne kept saying, according to the friend.
Omaha police interviewed Wynne in October. They say he told them he was in church all day that Sunday.
Wynne has little criminal record. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for reckless driving and disorderly conduct in connection with an April 14 traffic stop.
Haynes had previous misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession and a felony conviction for assaulting a police officer, according to online court records.

NEW: Lawsuit threatens teachers unions’ power

Dec. 21, 2013

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics”
          — Former Assembly Speaker Jesse ‘Big Daddy’ Unruh
The California Teachers Association has poured more than $150 million into state politics in the past decade – most of it going to Democratic candidates and liberal ballot measures. That kind of spending makes the 325,000-member CTA one of the greatest political forces in state history.
But a lawsuit filed by a group of teachers threatens to turn off the CTA’s political funding spigot: the automatic deduction of dues from paychecks for political purposes.
The suit, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, is on behalf of the Christian Educators Association International and 10 teachers who have quit the teachers union and disagree with the CTA’s politics. They seek to stop the CTA from automatically collecting union dues.

Forced to ‘opt out’

Currently, their only recourse is to opt out every year by applying for a rebate of the portion of their dues used for political purposes. The portion’s percentage is determined by the union.
That has led to an over-reach into the wallets of those nonmembers who do not want to contribute to political spending, according to the Supreme Court in a similar case last year, Knox vs. Serv. Emps. Int’l Union, Local 1000.
In what could be precursor of Friedrichs, the court ruled 7-2 in Knox in favor of a group of California teachers who wanted to opt out of a special dues hike to fight Propositions 75 and 76 on the 2005 ballot.
Proposition 75 would have required unions to receive employee consent before charging fees for political purposes. Proposition 76 would have limited state spending, and allowed the governor to reduce government-employee compensation in certain circumstances.
Both propositions lost after opponents spent $10 million, nearly half of it from the CTA.

Republicans get stiffed

Although the CTA has deep pockets for Democrats and liberal causes, the union is quite stingy when it comes to Republican candidates, according to
From 2003-12, the CTA gave $15.7 million to Democratic candidates, but only $92,700 to Republicans. The California Democratic Party received $11.4 million from the CTA from 2004-12, while the California Republican Party got just $20,000, which it received in 2004.
Receiving more than $50,000 each were Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Gov. Jerry Brown, state Sen. Jim Beall, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, state Sen. Mark Leno, former state treasurer Phil Angelides, former Assembly speaker Cruz Bustamante, Sen. Loni Hancock and School Superintendent Tom Torlakson.
But the CTA truly flexes its political muscles with ballot measures, which have received more than $135 million from the union from 2003-12. The union spent more than $33 million in 2012 alone.
Most of it, $21.3 million, went to the Alliance For a Better California 2012, which defeated Proposition 32. That measure would have prohibited unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes. CTA’s contribution was nearly $15 million more than the next highest contributor for the measure.
The CTA also donated $10.2 million last year to Californians To Protect Schools, Universities & Public Safety, which helped pass the Proposition 30 tax hike. Again the CTA gave more than twice as much as the nearest contributor for the measure.
In 2005 the CTA donated $20.3 million to Alliance For A Better California Yes On Propositions 79 & 80, although neither measure had anything to do with education. Proposition 79 would have provided prescription drug discounts for low-income residents. Proposition 80 would have required increased renewable energy resource procurement by 2010.
Despite the CTA’s $20.3 million, both measures failed.

District Court rules in favor of CTA

CTA’s large donation days could be over if the Friedrichs lawsuit is successful, forcing the CTA (and other public employee unions) to stop automatically deducting paychecks for political purposes.
The suit recently took either a step backward or a step forward in the judicial process, depending on which side you’re on. On Dec. 5 U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton ruled against the teachers, based on Supreme Court precedents allowing the current opt-out system.
CTA President Dean Vogel celebrated the lawsuit’s dismissal in a statement:
“It’s always satisfying when the courts side with working people and the rights of their unions to protect and defend them. On a daily basis, CTA works tirelessly to represent all educators – members and non-members alike. Because non-members benefit from this work to ensure they have quality teaching and learning conditions, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled it is only fair that they contribute toward these expenses. The Supreme Court has held these fees to be fair, constitutional and proper.
“It’s gratifying to see that this court has ruled that these fair share fees are lawful and entirely constitutional. We are confident that this attempt by forces to use the courts to gravely diminish the voices of CTA and other unions will not succeed if appealed, as we expect this case will be.”
The litigation is now headed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. That was the goal of the Center for Individual Rights, which is representing the teachers, in requesting Staton’s ruling against their complaint.
CIR President Terry Pell issued the following statement:
“With today’s decision, the ten California teacher plaintiffs we’re representing will be able to continue their efforts in obtaining the relief they are entitled to from the forced collection of union dues. These fees do nothing but cause ongoing and irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights.
“California’s ‘closed shop’ law is an egregious violation of one’s First Amendment rights because it forces all public school teachers to financially support highly controversial, political and ideological causes that often run contrary to their political and policy beliefs….
“With this case now one step closer to reaching the United States Supreme Court, our goal is to restore the constitutional right of millions of teachers to be able to decide for themselves whether to join and financially support a union.”

Supreme Court may welcome anti-CTA suit

Based on the reasoning and arguments in last year’s court ruling in Knox vs. SEIU, the court’s conservative justices and swing voter Anthony Kennedy appear interested in taking on a case like Friedrichs and perhaps ruling in favor of the teachers and against CTA.
The majority opinion in the Knox case, written by Samuel Alito (with citations omitted), asserts that constitutional rights are at stake:
“A close connection exists between this Nation’s commitment to self-government and the rights protected by the First Amendment, which creates ‘an open marketplace’ in which differing ideas about political, economic, and social issues can compete freely for public acceptance without improper government interference.
“The government may not prohibit the dissemination of ideas it disfavors, nor compel the endorsement of ideas that it approves. And the ability of like-minded individuals to associate for the purpose of expressing commonly held views may not be curtailed.
“Close­ly related to compelled speech and compelled association is compelled funding of the speech of private speakers or groups. Compulsory subsidies for private speech are thus subject to exacting First Amendment scrutiny and cannot be sustained unless, first, there is a comprehensive regulatory scheme involving a ‘mandated association’ among those who are required to pay the subsidy and, second, compulsory fees are levied only insofar as they are a ‘necessary incident’ of the ‘larger regulatory purpose which justified the required association.’”
Also from the Knox ruling:
“When a State establishes an ‘agency shop’ that exacts compulsory union fees as a condition of public employment, ‘[t]he dissenting employee is forced to support financially an organization with whose principles and demands he may disagree.’ This form of compelled speech and association imposes a ‘significant impingement on First Amendment rights.’ The justification for permitting a union to collect fees from nonmembers – to prevent them from free-riding on the union’s efforts – is an anomaly.
“Similarly, requiring objecting nonmembers to opt out of paying the nonchargeable portion of union dues – rather than exempting them unless they opt in – represents a remarkable boon for unions, creating a risk that the fees nonmembers pay will be used to further political and ideological ends with which they do not agree.”

Afoul of the First Amendment

The court majority in Knox also criticized the SEIU’s treatment of those wanting to opt out, saying it “ran afoul of the First Amendment.”
The union claimed that those wanting to opt out still had to give up 56.35 percent of the amount taken from their pay for chargeable expenses, even though all of the dues money was slated for fighting those propositions.
“[T]he SEIU’s understanding of the breadth of chargeable expenses is so expansive that it is hard to place much re­liance on its statistics,” wrote Alito. “[E]ven a full refund would not undo the First Amendment violations, since the First Amendment does not permit a union to ex­tract a loan from unwilling nonmembers even if the money is later paid back in full.”
Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the majority in the vote, but are reluctant to change the status quo.
“[T]he majority strongly hints that this line may not long endure,” Sotomayor wrote. “To cast serious doubt on longstanding precedent is a step we historically take only with the greatest caution and reticence.”
Stephen Breyer’s dissent noted that the dues opt-out process goes back to the court’s ruling in 1986 in Chicago Teachers Union vs. Hudson:
“For the last 25 years unions and employers across the Nation have relied upon this Court’s statements in Hudson in developing administratively workable systems that (1) allow unions to pay the costs of fulfilling their representational obligations to both members and non­members alike, while (2) simultaneously protecting the causes not germane to [the union’s] duties as collective ­bargaining agent.
“Even were the underlying facts different, I can find no constitutional basis for charging an objecting nonmember less than the 56 percent that the preceding year’s audit showed was appropriate.”
The one thing that all sides agree on is that the fight is far from over.
Breyer wrote that the majority’s opinion in Knox could be read to apply not just to the specific special dues hike by SEIU, “but to ordinary yearly fee charges as well. At least, its opinion can be so read. And that fact virtually guarantees that the opinion will play a central role in an ongoing, intense political debate.”
He certainly was right that the political debate is intense, and will continue.


Attention Seniors: Merry Christmas from AARP-Endorsed Obamacare

Dec. 21, 2013

Seniors scrambling after United Healthcare drops doctors from Medicare Advantage 

A popular, AARP-endorsed Medicare plan is dropping a large number of doctors from its network, generating cries of outrage nationwide from older patients and medical groups who say the seniors were not given enough time to shop for new insurance.

Dr. Lee Angioletti, a retinal specialist, performing a laser treatment on Jeffrey Charles of Fort Lee. Angioletti was recently dropped from the United Healthcare Medicare plan.
Dr. Lee Angioletti, a retinal specialist, performing a laser treatment on Jeffrey Charles of Fort Lee. Angioletti was recently dropped from the United Healthcare Medicare plan.
Betty Baker, 70, of Wyckoff, said she was notified in late November that the Medicare Advantage plan operated by United Healthcare would be dropping four of her longtime doctors on Feb. 1, including the eye doctor who recently performed her cataract surgery.

“My husband and I knew this has always been considered one of the best plans, so we didn’t know if it made sense to switch,” said Baker, who ended up reenrolling even though her husband also had his primary care doctor dropped. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time to decide what to do.”

Complaints about the changes to United’s Medicare Advantage plan, which provides HMO-like coverage to seniors, are building nationwide. Medical societies in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Connecticut and other states as well as senior groups say a substantial number cardiologists, eye doctors and other specialists widely visited by older people with chronic conditions have been dropped from United’s network.

Locally, many individual physicians are appealing to be reinstated. A doctor’s organization in Connecticut went to court and persuaded a judge to stay the terminations in that state. And 82 state and national physician’s groups signed a letter asking federal regulators to have the changes put on hold, questioning whether the networks will have an adequate number of physicians in each region.

United Healthcare would not disclose the exact number of doctors dropped from its New Jersey network. A company representative said that nationally, the insurer’s 2014 network of providers will be between 85 to 90 percent of its current 2013 size. The representative, Jessica Pappas, also said the company has long had one of the larger networks and will continue to comply with the federal government’s standards for having an adequate number of geographically accessible doctors, hospitals and other providers.
“Our networks will continue to meet, if not exceed, Medicare standards,” Pappas said.

Seniors have a short window each year — from Oct. 1 to Dec. 7 — to decide which type of Medicare plan they want in the coming year.

Most choose what’s called traditional Medicare, which is open to all doctors who want to participate. But growing numbers opt to go with all-inclusive HMO-like plans offered by private insurance companies, which can save a senior from having to buy more expensive supplemental insurance to get dental, vision and other benefits not offered under the government-run Medicare plan. As a trade-off, these so-called Medicare Advantage plans require participants to go only to doctors and hospitals included in their networks.

The Medicare Advantage plan offered by United Healthcare — which bears the stamp of approval from AARP, the nation’s largest senior-citizen advocacy group — is the biggest seller nationwide, with more than 3 million enrolled, including 79,000 in New Jersey. Its lure is that it has no monthly premium on top of the Medicare fee subtracted from a retiree’s Social Security check.

The notifications about dropped doctors — which some plan members say arrived too close to the re-enrollment deadline — forced many seniors to choose between keeping their monthly costs down or staying with doctors they’ve been using for years for the treatment of glaucoma, heart disease or age-related conditions.

Pappas said the company is required to notify plan members of network changes 30 days before a provider is removed but strived to send letters more than two months ahead of that deadline. The letters recommended alternative doctors their members could choose, she said.

“We certainly understand that these changes can be concerning,” Pappas said. “We are doing our best to address those concerns.”

To William Burke, a 72-year-old Elmwood Park resident who has emphysema, high blood pressure and severe glaucoma that has left him blind in one eye, the concerns about changing doctors were too great. He decided to switch to a more expensive plan when he was notified that his cardiologist and ophthalmologist were being dropped.

He had already unsuccessfully tried to appeal when his primary care doctor and pulmonologist were terminated from the plan’s network earlier this year.

“They really threw me under the bus,” Burke said.

“I’m up in years, and I’m kind of on a banana peel, health-wise,” he added. “When you’re older and you have health issues, you need these maintenance doctors, and you need to be comfortable that those doctors know you and know what you need.”

Burke will now pay an additional $153 a month for a Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, which includes all of his doctors.

“I’m not going to renew that AARP membership either,” he said. “They aren’t much use to me.”

AARP, which helps fund its advocacy by selling the rights to its name to insurers looking for its endorsement, has been affiliated with United Healthcare since 2007, but has no say in administering the company’s Medicare plan, said David Allen, an AARP spokes¬man.

“AARP has no input on individual decisions about what doctors, hospitals, etc., companies contract with in building their networks,” Allen said in a statement. “What we can and will continue to do is to provide any affected member with information that can help them make health coverage decisions for themselves and their families moving forward.”

But Betty Baker complains that such decisions are not easy to make, particularly because insurers can alter networks at any time during the year. She still hasn’t found replacements for her primary care doctor, gynecologist, rheumatologist and ophthalmologist and is upset that a booklet the company sent her with a list of included doctors incorrectly contained the name of her gynecologist. “The list isn’t even accurate,” she said.

Specialists who were dropped from the United Healthcare plan argue that, for seniors who are forced to switch doctors, the disruption could compromise care. “The patients that we see have debilitative conditions,” said Dr. Lee Angioletti, a Fort Lee retinal specialist whose practice was dropped. “They are often on a schedule to receive injections or treatments.”

Angioletti is also concerned that many of his more than 250 Medicare Advantage patients were referred to general ophthalmologists who don’t have the same expertise in treating retinal problems.

Dr. Hadley Phillips, medical director of Philips Eye Center in Elmwood Park, lodged an appeal of his practice’s termination to United Healthcare. He said the insurer’s decision will affect 1,500 of his patients.

United Healthcare acknowledges it has received numerous complaints and questions from its Medicare Advantage members, as has AARP. The insurer is open to appeals from doctors who believe they offer specialized care their patients need and from seniors who are post-surgery or in the middle of extended treatment, Pappas said.

“For those instances where there are specific concerns, we encourage them to contact us,” Pappas said.

She would not discuss the specifics of why some doctors were removed but said the company relied on a new Medicare star rating that seeks to reward physicians who score well on a range of quality and cost-containment measures.

Physician groups have asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicesto put the terminations on hold and to review whether enrollees were given enough time to choose a different plan and whether United’s network has a diverse enough offering of providers in each region.

Medicare officials, however, said they do not have concerns that United’s network is too small or that seniors were not given enough notice.

Meanwhile the Medical Society of New Jersey filed a brief in support of the Connecticut lawsuit and made its concerns known to members of Congress.

“This is important to seniors,” said Melinda Martinson, general counsel of the Medical Society of New Jersey. “They are not making informed decisions about their plan selection if they don’t know whether or not their physician of choice will be in the plan the following calendar year.”


A Non-Muslim Pork Rarity?

Dec. 21, 2013

Man gets 12 years in deadly fight over pork steak

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A St. Louis County man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing his uncle during an argument over pork steaks.
KMOX Radio reports John Cunningham was sentenced Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court, where he was convicted earlier of voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.
Police said the Jennings resident shot Lessie Lowe in September 2012 at the older man’s home in St. Louis.
The shooting followed a dispute over whether the cuts of meat they were planning to cook were pork steaks or pork chops. Cunningham said they were pork steaks, but Lowe disagreed.
Police said they were pork steaks. 

Yet Another Unconstitutional Change to O'BumblesCare

Dec. 21, 2013

Obama opens insurance law loophole

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration opened a last-minute loophole in its health insurance overhaul, offering one-year hardship exemptions from tax penalties to Americans whose private coverage was cancelled because it did not meet the new law’s benefit requirements.
Opposition Republicans have fought to rescind the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, since it was signed in 2010. They seized on the exemption announced Thursday as further proof that the overhaul is fatally flawed and must be taken off the books.
“President Obama is now admitting, after years of deliberate lies, that ObamaCare is unaffordable and a hardship for millions of Americans,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday. “Unilateral delays by this president can’t change the basic fact we all know: Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and must be repealed and replaced with a plan that actually improves health care.”
The Oct. 1 launch of the website became an embarrassment for the White House after problems with the online gateway to coverage froze out millions of potential customers. But the biggest political damage to the president has come from cancellations issued to at least 4 million people whose old plans did not pass muster under the new health care law, which requires more robust benefits.
The insurance industry immediately and loudly complained that the decree, three days before the deadline to sign up for coverage with federal or state insurance marketplaces, would upset the delicate financing balance of the law.
The health overhaul is designed to give all people access to affordable policies. Insurance companies had been enticed into participating in the insurance marketplace by the law’s insistence that all Americans buy coverage. The premise was that young and healthy people who often forego coverage would be brought into the pool to offset the cost of paying the claims of older and sicker policy holders.
“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans. Only Wednesday, the industry had announced its own accommodation — giving consumers an extra 10 days to pay January’s premiums.
Insurance coverage under the new law cannot be denied to people who have pre-existing medical conditions, nor can it be cancelled for policy holders if they become seriously ill. Both tactics were widespread in the insurance industry before the new law went into force.
The loophole, outlined Thursday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, would allow those with cancelled private coverage a one-year grace period to continue with the kind of bare-bones or catastrophic policies the health care overhaul was designed to eradicate.
For Americans wanting uninterrupted coverage on Jan. 1, Monday is the deadline for signing up with the federal insurance marketplace or one of the state markets. The latest decree also would exempt those who claim they can’t afford the coverage available in the mandated marketplaces.
The administration was thought to have made the move Thursday in response to complaints from a group of Democratic senators — many of whom face tough re-election campaigns next year — about the private insurance cancellations.
The bulletin announcing the exemption was issued as well in the face of heavy criticism from Republicans and those who had their privately purchased insurance cancelled despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that any American satisfied with current coverage would be allowed to keep it. While the number of those caught in the surprise cancellations is a small percentage of the U.S. population, those affected still are in the millions. The vast majority of Americans have health insurance through their workplace.
On Thursday, the administration estimated at less than 500,000 those who have not yet found new coverage after their old one was canceled.
Obama was roundly criticized for reneging on a longstanding promise that if you liked your plan, you would be able to keep it under his health care law. The president apologized, and then said insurers could extend those plans for one more year. Most state regulators followed Obama’s lead and gave insurance companies the additional latitude, but it’s unclear whether the problem has been fully resolved.
Although the website is now working more smoothly, there’s still a concern that technology problems may prevent some people who got cancellations from signing up for a new plan. The industry says it will accept payment of the first month’s premiums until Jan. 10. Timely payment is required for the new plan to take effect.
“There still may be a small number of consumers who are not able to renew their existing plans and are having difficulty finding an acceptable replacement,” Sebelius wrote Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and several of his colleagues, adding: “These consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ha! Ha! This should piss the left off!!




On December 16th the Gainesville, GA, school board voted to purchase Colt M4 AR-15s for resource officers in its middle and high schools. 
The rifles will be kept in safes in school and will be accessed "using biometric technology." This will limit access only to those people -- resource officers -- whose finger prints have been saved into the biometric mechanism.
According to The Washington Times, chairwoman Maria Calkins said the school board has "a very strong working relationship with the Gainesville Police Department." She said she and other board members work "with [the police] every day to protect the kids and make Gainesville City Schools a safe place."
The school board allotted $6,000 for AR-15 purchases.
Every board member except Willie Mitchell voted for providing the rifles to resource officers. Mitchell said he voted "no" because he "just can't buy into guns in school." 
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins.