Covered California DEMANDS No Competition for Northern California Insurance Companies or Customers—Third World Health Care Offered Instead

Congressman Tom McClintock once said, “What makes Ford great is General Motors”. He was talking about competition forcing better service, highly quality products and cheaper prices. In all fields, technology, industry, banking, etc, the more competition the better for the industry and the consumer.

Government does not like competition in the health care field. Using its police powers, Covered California has determined that only one or two companies may provide health care insurance in each county. Since very few doctors and hospitals are willing to work for the government in this manner, the consumers really had the choice of mediocre doctors and bad doctors—the best laughed off government. Now a health care crisis is in the making, thanks to the socialistic government.

Government has made this man’s life miserable. “Wright and his wife, Kathy, now have piles of medical bills and insurance denial letters. Anthem Blue Cross, only covers emergencies out-of-state, not routine doctor care.  But Wright says travel to doctors in California, even though it is in his own state, is not as safe or convenient as going to Reno. He continues to see the Nevada doctors who put a defibrillator in his chest, and saved his life. State workers compensation and Anthem Blue Cross will pay for some of the bills, but the Wrights still don’t know if everything will be covered.”

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Few Choices, Restricted Coverage Afflict Northern California Health Insurance Market

 Pauline Bartolone. Capitol Radio, 12/18/14

As the Covered California open enrollment period continues, many people in Northern California find there is only one insurer available in the exchange.

Dennie Wright lives in Indian Valley, a tiny alpine community at the northern end of the Sierra, close to the Nevada state border.

“We’re back in the back country you might say. But it is a beautiful place to live, and that’s why we choose to live here,” says Wright.

Wright works as meat cutter in a grocery store, and lives in a modest home overlooking a green pasture. His zip code is one where Blue Shield stopped selling individual policies this year. Wright’s insurance agent told him he had only one insurance choice through the exchange.

“That was new to us, you know, Covered California. Anthem Blue Cross was the insurance carrier. Then of course, three months later I have a heart attack,” says Wright.

Wright had a rough year – first it was the heart attack, then he was assaulted at work, and there were more heart-related emergencies. More than once, he was flown across the state line to Reno for care.

Wright and his wife, Kathy, now have piles of medical bills and insurance denial letters. Anthem Blue Cross, only covers emergencies out-of-state, not routine doctor care.  But Wright says travel to doctors in California, even though it is in his own state, is not as safe or convenient as going to Reno. He continues to see the Nevada doctors who put a defibrillator in his chest, and saved his life. State workers compensation and Anthem Blue Cross will pay for some of the bills, but the Wrights still don’t know if everything will be covered.

“One of the things they don’t want you to do is get stressed out,” says Dennie Wright. “When you look at a bill like that, thinking it might not be covered, there’s nothing much more stressful than that.”

Dennie Wright has a pile of medical bills for services his health insurance might not cover because it’s out-of-state routine care. Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio

There are other options for Wright, but not through Covered California. His insurance agent didn’t know other health plans were available, so Wright didn’t either. Although he didn’t need a subsidy, he was left in the same position as people in his zip code who need financial help to buy insurance. Covered California and Anthem were the only choice.

“I mean, you should have some choices, especially if you’re going to have one that’s not going to cover you in the places you choose to go,” he says.

Rural Northern California Insurance Problems Pre-Date the Affordable Care Act

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee offered a different impression of choices in the marketplace last July.

“In every corner of the state, consumers will have at least two plans to choose from, and in most areas, where most of the Californians live, they can choose between five or six plans,” said Lee during an event to announce the marketplace’s 2015 plans and premium rates.

Lee says now, the exchange is working to increase the range of choices in places where there are none. But he says the situation that pre-dated the exchange.

“The challenges of northern, rural counties have been there for a long time and are still a challenge that we’re trying to address head-on,” says Lee.

Lee says the exchange is encouraging existing plans to expand to areas where there are enough doctors.  And it’s looking to bring new carriers in for 2016.

“We aren’t the solution to all the problems that have always been there in terms of challenges in rural communities, and that’s something we’re certainly looking at how to improve access and choice, and we’ll continue doing that,” says Lee.

Health consumer advocates agree: Covered California can have a powerful role in shaping insurance options. But Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access says increasing choice in rural areas is not simple.

“Some of this is a combination of putting pressure on the insurers, and some of this is trying to do work to actually increase the number of providers on the ground in these areas, whether through more training, incentives to be in some of these more rural areas,” says Wright.

Wright says more insurers in the marketplace makes it more likely people can get the care they need.

“This is one of the reasons why we advocated for a public option, a public plan. Just like yes, you have UPS and FedEx, but you also have the United States Postal Service that goes everywhere and provides some guaranteed service to everybody,” he says.

“At one level, we’re trying to make a functioning market, but it still means that consumers are at the mercy of the market.”

This year, people who want more choice than what Covered California offers, must venture into the broader health insurance market if they can afford it.

Political Hacks Control/Limit Health Care Options for Business in Northern California

The State of California and bureaucrats have made the determination that insurance companies are charging too much for their services. Not a problem. As we have seen, when government interferes, the companies leave the segment of the market, or leave the State entirely—causing much higher prices and drastically reduced services. In most of Northern California the government is allowing only one or two insurance companies to provide individual health care.

This decision by a political hack is to assure the same goes for business health insurance coverage. In the end, the costs will be too high, services too poor—“forcing” the government to take over the market and kick out all private providers. That is the goal—not better prices or services, but a government monopoly—if you like the Post Office you will love the government delivering your health care—just ask the elderly that no longer are able to get real health care—just palliative care—saves money and die quicker. That is America—a nation that needs you to die.

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Major health insurer imposes unreasonable rate on California businesses

Aetna’s gift to California’s small businesses—a hefty increase in health insurance rates

California Department of Insurance, 12/18/14

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced today that his department actuaries found Aetna Life Insurance Company’s recent rate filing on its small group policies both excessive and unreasonable. The average increase of 10.7 percent is effective January 1, 2015 will impact more than 64,000 individuals. For small business with renewal dates in the first quarter of 2015, the maximum increase is 19.5 percent.

“In the final days of 2014, one of the best gifts California small business owners could receive would be the promise of reasonable health insurance rates for the new year,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Unfortunately, California law does not protect consumers and businesses from excessive and unreasonable health insurance rates. The ongoing trend of unreasonable rate increases imposed on California businesses and families over the last decade is likely to continue in 2015.”

Department of Insurance actuaries reviewed the rate filing submitted to the department and found that the average 10.7 percent increase unreasonable. Unfortunately, Aetna’s small group policyholders were charged an unreasonable rate in 2014 after the department found its April 2014 rate increase unreasonable, and 2015 is not any better, as policyholders face another unreasonable double-digit rate increase.

After the Department’s health actuaries completed their analysis of the rate filing, the results were shared with Aetna’s leadership and the department requested they reduce the rate. Aetna is moving forward with this unreasonable rate increase, which will cost small businesses a projected $23.5 million in excessive premium, based on the company’s own projections.

Media Notes:  The Department of Insurance actuaries found this rate increase unreasonable based on a number of factors:

Aetna’s Morbidity Adjustment is Unreasonable

The company’s assumption that members in the new ACA-compliant plans are less healthy than members in the older plans contradicts Aetna’s actual experience. Moreover, any such adjustment should be offset by the federal risk adjustment program, so this should not result in a rate increase.

Utilization Assumptions

The company’s assumption that utilization will grow by 2.5 percent in 2014 and 2015 in unjustified. This assumed growth in utilization is excessive given the recent history of utilization growth in the company’s health plans and current trends among carriers.

Aetna’s Extra Loading to the Rates for Groups Issued or Renewed during 1Q2105 is Inaccurate

The company has applied its pricing trend over a full quarter using an annualized trend rate of 9.4 percent. The company should have applied the pricing trend to only one and one-half months. Also,the trend rate used (9.4 percent) is larger than and inconsistent with other trend assumptions used in the filing

NIH Blows $1.3 Billion On Failed Children’s Health Study Over Ten Years

Ten years ago the National Institute of Health authorized $1.3 billion to be spent monitoring the lives of 100,000 children, from before birth to age 21. After that much has been spent, ten years have gone by, not a single child has been studied or followed. In fact, the plan is to start the first pilot program starts next year. In fact, they have found this too complex to do!

Earlier this year the Left and Democrats (sorry about being redundant) complained that the NIH did not have the money to research Ebola—yet said nothing about this waste of money. Government has too much money, cut spending and taxes—and fire those responsible for this waste of tax dollars.

“The working group’s findings were devastating . The study, it said, wouldn’t provide useful insights into how environmental factors influence health — in other words, it would fail at its primary objective. It also found that the sampling system was “overly complex,” and the study’s design was still “incomplete even after years of effort.”

In short, the working group said, the NCS “is not feasible.” And with that, NIH Director Francis Collins pulled the plug, flushing the $1.3 billion down the drain.”

WhiteHouseMoney

NIH Blows $1.3 Billion On Failed Children’s Health Study

Investors Business Daily,12/17/14

Government Waste: The good news is the National Institutes of Health pulled the plug on a national children’s health study because it was fatally flawed. The bad news is they wasted 10 years and $1.3 billion before they admitted it.

Congress mandated the National Children’s Study as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000. The idea was to follow 100,000 newborns across the nation — in places ranging from urban California to the Florida swamps — until they turned 21, and measure how environmental and other factors affected their health.

Yet for the past 14 years, all the NIH managed to do was spend $1.3 billion figuring out how to conduct the massive effort and running some pilot experiments. The actual study wasn’t scheduled to start officially until some time next year.

As with so many other failed government projects, red flags emerged early enough that, if heeded, would have spared taxpayers plenty of wasted money.

President Bush repeatedly tried to cancel the project, only to have Congress turn around and fully fund it.

When the National Academy of Sciences looked at the NCS in 2008, it found serious problems with the feasibility and management of the project. And in 2009, the Senate accused NCS officials of knowingly low-balling its costs, and ousted its director.

In early 2012, the NIH decided to overhaul the project after it “had come to see the study as unsustainable,” according to an article in Nature that year. These changes prompted two advisory committee members to resign, saying the study’s scientific value had been undermined.

Yet the NCS lumbered on until this summer when, after a second unflattering National Academy of Sciences review, the NIH decided to put the project on hold and set up a working group to figure out whether it should continue.

The working group’s findings were devastating . The study, it said, wouldn’t provide useful insights into how environmental factors influence health — in other words, it would fail at its primary objective. It also found that the sampling system was “overly complex,” and the study’s design was still “incomplete even after years of effort.”

In short, the working group said, the NCS “is not feasible.” And with that, NIH Director Francis Collins pulled the plug, flushing the $1.3 billion down the drain.

Bad as this is, at least the NIH could claim the money could have produced something worthwhile. That can’t be said of the $349 million NASA wasted on a tower in Mississippi to test the J-2X rocket, which was going to take Americans back to the moon.

 

Thanks to Obama Care: Health Care for Elderly is Palliative Instead of Real Health Care—Take Aspirin Instead of Seeing Doctor

Covered California and the Federal ObamaCare are by their administration death panels for the elderly. Under both, if the elderly get “too” sick (government, not doctors make that decision) they will only get two aspirin and a pat on the head—no medical care, no operations, no life saving—government needs them to die because they are too expensive to keep alive and they no longer “contribute” to the Obama society.

“Palliative care — a multidisciplinary approach to helping people with serious, chronic and life-threatening illnesses better manage their conditions and improve their quality of life — is commonly provided to patients in the hospital, with about half of acute-care hospitals in the state offering the service, according to The California HealthCare Foundation.

But a growing number of palliative care programs, including the one at Sutter Health, are being expanded to chronically ill patients in community clinics and at home, spurred by federal and state health reforms, said Judy Thomas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, a statewide collaborative of health-care organizations and individuals supportive of palliative care.”

Thanks to ObamaCare and the cut backs in reimbursement, it is cheaper to let a patient die then keep them alive—so palliative care is given. This is a slippery slope. Obama lied and people die.

Obama the listener

Palliative Care Poised to Expand Amid Health Reform


By Claudia Boyd-Barrett, HealthyCal,   12/16/14

Cleo Boyd of Santa Rosa was close to despair in early 2013.

Her husband, Robert Boyd, 89, was constantly in and out of the hospital, receiving emergency treatment for complications related to a heart problem, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other long-term health issues. When he came home, Cleo Boyd, 92, wasn’t always sure how to best take care of him.

“He would hardly get home before he was back in,” she said. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was trying to be positive, and tell myself it’s going to be OK, but I didn’t really believe it.”

Then, in March of that year following two particularly serious hospital visits, staff referred the couple to an outpatient palliative care program called Advanced Illness Management offered by northern California health-care network Sutter Health. The program provided home-care visits by a nurse, social worker, and physical and occupational therapists to the Boyds’shousehold, who assessed the couple’s needs and found ways to make it easier for them to manage Robert Boyd’s health problems at home.

The result is that Robert Boyd has stayed out of the hospital almost entirely, except for one visit because of a problem with his defibrillator. Everything else has been managed from his home.

Palliative care — a multidisciplinary approach to helping people with serious, chronic and life-threatening illnesses better manage their conditions and improve their quality of life — is commonly provided to patients in the hospital, with about half of acute-care hospitals in the state offering the service, according to The California HealthCare Foundation.

But a growing number of palliative care programs, including the one at Sutter Health, are being expanded to chronically ill patients in community clinics and at home, spurred by federal and state health reforms, said Judy Thomas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, a statewide collaborative of health-care organizations and individuals supportive of palliative care.

“It’s really about quality of life, it’s not about medical treatment,” she said. “As people are living longer, there’s more and more people living with complex medical conditions, and our (current) health-care system is not designed to provide them with the best care.”

California bill expands services

Legislation signed by Governor Brown in September will further expand access to palliative care services. The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires the Department of Health Care Services to define standards for palliative care under Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. The department must work with Medi-Cal managed care plans to increase access to these services.

In an email, department spokesman Anthony Cava said the work will be done over the next several months, and new palliative care options will be phased in based on health plan capacity and the availability of palliative care teams. The agency believes that the cost of providing palliative care will be offset by a reduction in hospital and nursing home stays, he said.

Health care reform is likely to continue to encourage the expansion of palliative care programs. The Affordable Care Act seeks to gradually shift the health-care system away from the traditional fee-for-service payment model by offering financial incentives to hospitals and clinicians that can improve patient health while reducing costs. Palliative care fits into that approach.

Home visits reduce hospitalizations

When the palliative care nurse came to the Boyd’s house, Cleo Boyd learned how to handle her husband’s medical equipment, and monitor his blood pressure, oxygen levels and weight.

Meanwhile, a social worker, Catherine Arnold, connected Robert Boyd to services he was entitled to through the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, including 16 hours a week of in-home caregiver support such as cooking and cleaning, meals on wheels, and vision care for his failing eyesight.

Once Robert Boyd’s condition stabilized, Sutter health-care workers continued to check on the couple by phone, sending a nurse to visit them whenever necessary. The Boyds could also call for help or advice when they needed it.

Providing palliative care to patients after they leave the hospital or when a serious illness is diagnosed helps prevent unnecessary hospital visits, reduces patient and caregiver stress and saves money in the long run because patients need less emergency medical care, Thomas said.

The services provided under a palliative care program can vary. However, it generally involves care on multiple levels, from pain management and symptom relief, to counseling, social work services, end-of-life planning and spiritual support. Typically the work is carried out by a team of professionals from different disciplines such as doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, dietitians, pharmacists and chaplains.

The goal is to go beyond medical treatment of the disease and tend to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families so they can live the best life possible, even if there is no hope of a cure and their condition is likely to worsen over time.

Challenges remain

There are 189 community-based palliative care programs in the state, a recent survey by The California HealthCare Foundation found. Most of these programs are clinic-based, although 65 involve home-based services, and another 39 provide services across different settings, which could include clinics, nursing homes and patient homes. The programs are spread across 36 counties.

Health-care providers that offer community-based palliative care say they have seen dramatic reductions in emergency-room visits and hospital stays among those they serve. Betsy Gornet, who heads the advanced illness management department at Sutter Health, said the program has seen a 60 percent reduction in hospitalizations among patients enrolled, and a 33 percent decrease in emergency room visits.

At Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, an in-home palliative care program launched in 2007 has reduced hospitalizations and emergency-room visits among the 1,200 patients served annually, said Suzi Johnson, director of hospice and palliative care programs.

“The traditional mindset is, ‘If I get sick, I go to the hospital,’” she said. “That worked 50 years ago … It doesn’t work so well now because people are living to be older and they’re living with chronic illness. We teach people that you never have to go to the hospital with a chronic illness, assuming we can help teach you how to manage your chronic illness.”

Nevertheless, challenges remain. Medicare currently does not cover palliative care, said Kathleen Kerr a health-care consultant for the California HealthCare Foundation. There is also a shortage of qualified palliative care professionals, Thomas said.

“The funding for palliative care is not there yet from a federal level, but I think it will come over time because of the demographics of our population,” Johnson said. “It’s a very solid solution to an aging population that needs more supportive, home-based, coordinated care.”

 

NIH Has Spent $100.2 Million on Mindfulness Meditation–No Joke

When you heard that the NIH did not have the money to do Ebola research, you were not told the agency spent $100 million on “mindfulness training”. Huh? “Mindfulness is a New Age kind of meditation that focuses on the present moment “non-judgmentally,” tracing its origins to Buddhism. The growing phenomenon was the subject of a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday, for which May and other fans of the practice were interviewed.”

Instead of saving lives the National Institute of Health decided to use your tax dollars to play mind games. How is this used? “A $42,676 study is using mindfulness to help women drink less during PMS, and another $1,399,153 grant attempts to use the technique to combat “menstrually related mood disorders.”

A $729,352 project is testing the technique as a coping skill to reduce stress for gay men. Obese people can also mindfully meditate to a healthy weight, according to the hypothesis of several NIH grants.”

In the “Music Man” the guy came to town and taught music by having the students “THINK” music—instead of learning to play the instruments. This is the government version of the Music Man—silliness from the silver screen as public policy.

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NIH Has Spent $100.2 Million on Mindfulness Meditation

BY: Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon, 12/16/14
“The advantage of this is that it actually doesn’t cost anything,” said Karen May, a vice president at Google, explaining how her company offers “mindfulness” classes to its employees.

Mindfulness is a New Age kind of meditation that focuses on the present moment “non-judgmentally,” tracing its origins to Buddhism. The growing phenomenon was the subject of a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday, for which May and other fans of the practice were interviewed.

“We’re just asking you to sit and know that you’re sitting,” explained Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and author of the book Wherever You Go, There You Are. “When you’re in the shower next time check and see if you’re in the shower,” he advised viewers.

The segment featured Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio), a so-called “rock star among mindfulness evangelists” who earmarked nearly $1 million to teach mindfulness to preschool students in his district. The $982,000 project provided deep breathing exercises, and “Peace Corners” for kids in Youngstown, Ohio.

Ryan said he practices mindfulness on the House Budget Committee and hosts weekly meditation sessions for members and staff. No Republicans attend.

The congressman “really believes it can change America for the better,” as does the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Contrary to May’s assertion, mindfulness has cost taxpayers a fortune. The Washington Free Beacon analyzed 81 active studies on mindfulness that have cost taxpayers more than $100 million. Included in the total were all studies in which mindfulness is used as a central component in the research.

Ryan’s hometown is not the only place where schools are trying out mindfulness at the taxpayer’s expense.

A “school-based mindfulness and yoga intervention to prevent substance use among disadvantaged, urban youth” is costing $749,751 in Baltimore. Innovation Research and Training, Inc., a social sciences firm in Durham, N.C., is conducting two similar studies for elementary students and high schoolers, costing $457,921, and $199,449, respectively.

IRT’s “Master Mind” course involves “mindful breathing, mindful movements, and mindful journeys.”

Mindfulness is proposed as the solution for a wide range of diseases and conditions for nearly every demographic.

A $42,676 study is using mindfulness to help women drink less during PMS, and another $1,399,153 grant attempts to use the technique to combat “menstrually related mood disorders.”

A $729,352 project is testing the technique as a coping skill to reduce stress for gay men. Obese people can also mindfully meditate to a healthy weight, according to the hypothesis of several NIH grants.

Mindfulness-based stress management is being integrated into a workplace weight loss program in one $359,177 study. A “family-based mindful eating intervention” is targeted at teens.

The $412,216 study argues mindfulness is a “unique and novel scientific approach.”

Yale University is conducting its own family-based mindfulness intervention to prevent obesity, at a cost of $428,873. Another study is promoting healthy dietary and exercise habits in adolescents for $432,541.

A $5,668,102 project targets “automatic eating patterns,” while another is testing mindful eating and “mindful walking exercise,” which Anderson Cooper demonstrated during 60 Minutes by walking as slowly as he could. That project has cost taxpayers $12,916,105 since 2004.

Yoga and mindfulness is being used for young adults with irritable bowel syndrome

($690,101), youth with bipolar disorder ($358,489), HIV positive youth ($963,315), and teen moms ($649,093).

Even prisoners are getting into mindfulness. A $905,984 study is creating a “culturally tailored, [mindfulness meditation] MM-based relapse prevention intervention for incarcerated substance users.”

Studies are also questioning whether mindful breathing therapy can reduce problem drinking among college students ($332,232) and risky sexual behavior ($421,705).

A mind-body intervention is being used on pregnant women to reduce their “perceived stress” ($638,682), to “increase meaningful coping” among schizophrenics ($214,830), and impact cocaine addiction ($744,768).

Mindfulness advocates such as Kabat-Zinn believe that technology is causing too many distractions, and he makes everyone turn over their cell phones before attending his retreats. Ironically, the NIH is working on several projects that will deliver mindfulness training through mobile technology.

Three projects developing mindfulness apps to quit smoking have cost $683,474, and a breathing meditation program to reduce blood pressure via smart phones has cost $1,370,503.

Mindfulness is also seen as the solution for major depressive disorder ($137,160), treatment-resistant depression ($3,512,460), residual depressive symptoms ($557,481), social anxiety disorder ($2,419,692), anxiety ($486,099), and generalized anxiety disorder ($812,162).

Mindful meditation is being tested to treat migraines ($1,434,134), as a cure for the common cold ($2,192,599), and a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease ($5,983,580), sickle cell disease ($32,758), Type 1 Diabetes ($2,343,122), Type 2 Diabetes ($706,244), and high blood pressure ($734,857).

Parenting with mindfulness encourages “nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child,” costing $3,137,880. Family caregivers are the subject of another study trying to make them capitalize on “gratitude, mindfulness, positive reappraisal, personal strengths, and acts of kindness,” for $1,002,347.

One study compares using mindfulness to stress-reduction techniques for mice ($414,907). Mindfulness can also be blended with the Chinese martial art Tai Chi, which is being used for training children with ADHD ($262,216).

Meditating to limit chronic pain is the subject of numerous active studies totaling $7,908,516. Six studies examining neural functions, brain mechanisms, and psychological factors during mindfulness total $5,105,949. Another $1,629,592 is going to projects testing meditation to reduce asthma.

There are dozens more, indicating that the feds are spending at least $100,183,860 on research related to mindfulness.

While the NIH is exploring the possibilities of mindfulness for any and every ailment, Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness is not for everyone.

“It’s not a big should,” he said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh now one more thing that I have to put in my mind, now I have to be mindful.’”

“It’s not a doing at all,” Kabat-Zinn added. “In fact, it’s a being. And being doesn’t take any time.”

 

LA Taxpayers Save: San Diego Chargers Continue to Sponge Off San Diego Taxpayers

Great news for the Los Angeles taxpayers—the San Diego Chargers are going to sponge off the taxpayers of San Diego for at least another year. If they came to LA, the city and/or county would have had to waive millions in fees and permits, give sweetheart deals on parking lots owned by government and much more. The billionaires that own the Chargers are smart enough to know that a Mayor or Supervisor loves to tell folks they brought the NFL to town. This is without telling them the price to services and higher taxes to pay for the billionaires play toy.

“Today, the Chargers are making the same announcement that the team has made each year since 2007: The team will not be exercising the lease- termination clause and will keep working to find a publicly acceptable way to build a Super Bowl-quality stadium in San Diego,” said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the team’s president.”

I prefer to save on taxes, not wait on line for the bathroom and definitely not pay $12 for a cup of warm beer.

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Chargers will stay in San Diego next year

Posted by Debbie L. Sklar, MyNewsLA, 12/17/14

The San Diego Chargers won’t be coming to Los Angeles next year.

The number of potential NFL teams that could move to Los Angeles in 2015 dropped by one when the Chargers announced they will again play in Qualcomm Stadium next season.

“Today, the Chargers are making the same announcement that the team has made each year since 2007: The team will not be exercising the lease- termination clause and will keep working to find a publicly acceptable way to build a Super Bowl-quality stadium in San Diego,” said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the team’s president.

“Calendar year 2015 will constitute the team’s 14th year of work on a San Diego stadium solution,” he said Tuesday.

The Chargers were considered among the three teams most likely to move to Los Angeles in 2015 because they have a stadium lease allowing them to do so, along with the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis told San Jose Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakami last week that “we’re more than happy to be the second team (at a new stadium in Los Angeles) if in fact we can’t get something done here.”

Davis also said he’s “not doing anything based” on the NFL’s Feb. 15 deadline for teams to request permission to move.

“I’m going to do what’s right for this organization,” Davis said.

NFL owners received an update at their meeting in Irving, Texas Wednesday on the situation with Los Angeles.

“We continue to work to see if there is a solution for us,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I’m not at the point where I would tell you that anything is imminent or that we have a solution identified at this point in time.

“There is progress, but we’ve all heard that before. What we’re all looking for is the solution and when we have a solution, we’ll certainly tell everybody about that.”

The NFL has not had a team in the Los Angeles area since 1994. The key stumbling point has been the lack of an adequate stadium.

The Chargers have unsuccessfully searched around San Diego County for a suitable site for a new place to play instead of aging Qualcomm Stadium. Numerous proposals have been floated but none have withheld scrutiny.

Rumors have come and gone over the years that the team would move to Los Angeles, where they played their inaugural season in 1960, the moved to San Diego in 1961.

The Chargers have a window each year to announce whether the escape clause will be exercised.

UC Refuses to Provide Financial Audit to Legislature

The California legislature demands that the University of California system make annual reports on its finances. Yet the UC folks have failed to meet the first two deadlines for the information. In fact, if they do not make the reports until 2019 or 2020, no big deal. While the legislature wants the reports, they put NO penalty in the bill for failure to meet the deadline. So, Janet Napolitano is telling the Capitol to pound sand, she will give the information when she wants, in the form she wants—and how much SHE wants.

This was another one of the feel good measures so elected officials can say they did something—though actually all they did was wastepaper. If Sacramento was serious about these reports, it is easy to get them. Until the reports are presented AND audited (seriously do you trust Napolitano to tell the truth?) the State stops giving the UC any money. That would catch their attention. If the UC system acts like a child, it should be treated like one—take away its allowance.

Photo courtesy The National Guard, flickr.

Photo courtesy The National Guard, flickr.

UC boots deadlines to disclose spending

by SAMANTHA GALLEGOS, Capitol Weekly, 12/16/14

Missing its own deadlines, the University of California is now more than two months behind in disclosing to the state Legislature and the Department of Finance details of its expenses.

The 10-campus university system first failed to meet an Oct. 1 deadline. It then submitted a seven-page preliminary account on Oct. 31 while requesting an additional six weeks to complete a final report. Those six weeks expired on Dec. 11.

The intent of the law was to give the public greater knowledge about how the universities spend money.

Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the Brown administration “hopes and expects” to receive the report this week. The Department of Finance (DoF) writes the administration’s budget proposals.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein didn’t say whether the  report would be completed this week, but said the university is “in close contact with DoF and we’re all on the same page …  we’re doing it as quickly as we can, and of course accuracy is key here.”

State law requires California’s two public university systems, UC and the California State University, to biennially report on “the total costs of education at the university on a system-wide and campus-by-campus basis,” according to a 2013 bill, AB 94. The bill, authored by the budget committee, was a “trailer” bill to the state budget, a measure that contains provisions required to put the budget into effect. The intent of the law was to give the public greater knowledge about how the universities spend money.

UC’s Board of Regents recently approved a 28% tuition hike through 2020, pending additional higher education funding in the state budget. UC’s failure to meet the reporting deadlines and the information it ultimately provides is likely to play a role in Capitol negotiations over the 2015-16 budget among key lawmakers who want the university to justify its spending. Brown will present his budget draft to the Legislature in January.

The pending report is also intended to help university attendees and prospects in planing their path through higher education.

“It’s an important piece of data for not only the governor, the administration or for legislators,” Palmer said, “but for students and their families to find out exactly what the cost of instruction is for a particular field.”

But disaggregating, or parsing down, student data collected by UC into specific subgroups is a lengthy process and is the reason for the report’s delay, noted UC.

“The way the legislation is crafted, they want the data in certain ways and that’s what they’re working on, the so-called disaggregation of the data,” Klein said.

In June, UC Legislative Director Nadia Leal-Carillo sent a letter to Assemblyman Das Williams, (D – Santa Barbara), at the time the chair of the Committee on Higher Education, describing the process as “an extremely complicated issue demanding large amounts of staff time.”

UC historically has bundled its expenditures and called that number the “average cost of instruction.” The new report would break down expenditures in order to compare the cost of undergraduates vs. graduates, or student instruction vs. research.

Under the AB 94 law, the UC system is required under to identify costs at each of its campuses every two years.

 

CA Proposes First Crop-Based Program for State’s Carbon Market

Phony science, phony economics, bigger government, more regulations all equal to the reason California is in a Depression and productive people are leaving the State. Now the rice farmers are going to be involved in cap and tax (cap and trade). Yet, thanks to the government created lack of water—we have a drought—but the lack of water is due to government policy—most farmers did not have enough water last season to plant the rice crop. The same, maybe worse next summer.

Still the idea is to make as many products, companies and industries dependent on government programs, to they will be supported by those prospering from them. This is the way government operates—it use policies, taxes and programs to buy support.

“”This is a very unique protocol,” he said. “This would be the first time a crop-based protocol would be a part of California’s cap-and-trade system. So, it’s really significant.”

Rice production is especially important to clean-air efforts because flooded rice fields produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The proposal allows farmers to voluntarily switch from wet to dry seeding; drain their fields seven to 10 days earlier; or alternate flooding and drying throughout the growing season.”

220px-Al_Gore

CA Proposes First Crop-Based Program for State’s Carbon Market

Public News Service, 12/17/14

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Rice farming in California is entering a new era. The Air Resources Board is considering a proposal to allow rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in the state’s cap-and-trade market.

The program will allow rice farmers to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while creating new revenue, said Robert Parkhurst, agriculture greenhouse-gas markets director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

“This is a very unique protocol,” he said. “This would be the first time a crop-based protocol would be a part of California’s cap-and-trade system. So, it’s really significant.”

Rice production is especially important to clean-air efforts because flooded rice fields produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The proposal allows farmers to voluntarily switch from wet to dry seeding; drain their fields seven to 10 days earlier; or alternate flooding and drying throughout the growing season.

Paul Buttner, manager of environmental affairs for the California Rice Commission, said the rice industry has been at the forefront of innovative farming practices, and called this an important first step.

“We’ve been working for many years,” he said, “and we’ve developed many technical tools and unique approaches to address making this a reality for emissions reductions across large landscapes of agriculture.”

Rice is one of California’s largest crops, contributing more than $5 billion a year and 25,000 jobs to the state’s economy.

Parkhurst said the protocol will allow rice farmers across the United States to generate offsets to sell in California’s carbon market. It eventually may be used for other crops to help the state’s agricultural producers’ transition to practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“A lot of what’s been done in this protocol can set the stage for future protocols from agriculture,” he said. “So, this could be something that could be applied to California almonds or to another California crop.”

Parkhurst said the rice protocol also ensures that important wetland habitat will be maintained for wildlife and bird populations. The Air Resources Board is to meet on Thursday to consider it.

 

An alternative to suspension and expulsion at government schools: ‘Circle up!’

No need to get bullies and disrupters out of the classroom—send them to a peer group therapy session—that is the ticket..make sure the gangsters in the classroom are told in the strongest terms that stopping teachers from entering a classroom is not right. Make sure the stalkers of students, threatening bodily harm are reminded they would not want their sister or mother treated in that way…that will surely get them to stop.

Any wonder Oakland, Los Angeles and other “restorative justice” schools are dangerous places? Feel safe in a government school that provides bad people with a “circle” instead of suspension or expulsion and you will understand why sending your child to such a school could be considered a priori evidence of child abuse.

“This school and the Oakland Unified School District are at the forefront of a new approach to school misconduct and discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.

Its proponents say it could be an answer to the cycle of disruption and suspension, especially in minority communities where expulsion rates are higher than in predominantly white schools.”

The victims of government schools will need therapy, possibly for the rest of their lives—plus welfare, since they are not allowed to learn thanks to teachers and administrators that consider the gangsters more important.

classroom

An alternative to suspension and expulsion: ‘Circle up!’

Eric Westervelt, KPCC/NPR 12/17/14

One by one, in a room just off the gym floor at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., seventh-graders go on the interview hot seat.

Some 80 students have applied to be “peer leaders” in the school’s new, alternative discipline program called “restorative justice.”

Kyle McClerkins, the program’s director, grills them on aspects of adolescent life: “What is the biggest challenge for middle school girls? What has changed about you from sixth grade to now?”

This school and the Oakland Unified School District are at the forefront of a new approach to school misconduct and discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.

Its proponents say it could be an answer to the cycle of disruption and suspension, especially in minority communities where expulsion rates are higher than in predominantly white schools.

Oakland Unified, one of California’s largest districts, has been a national leader in expanding restorative justice. The district is one-third African-American and more than 70 percent low-income. The program was expanded after a federal civil rights agreement in 2012 to reduce school discipline inequity for African-American students.

At Edna Brewer Middle School, the fact that students are taking the lead — that so many want to be part of this effort — shows that it’s starting to take root.

“Instead of throwing a punch, they’re asking for a circle, they’re backing off and asking to mediate it peacefully with words,” says Ta-Biti Gibson, the school’s restorative justice co-director. “And that’s a great thing.”

Last school year — the program’s first year — Gibson says, kids weren’t ready to talk things out. “Last year there was a lot of different conflicts, a lot of fights.”

This year, he says, they’re more willing to “circle up.”

The school tried this alternative discipline approach a few years ago. But problems with teacher buy-in, training and turnover killed it before it got off the ground.

And it’s still a big work in progress, says Principal Sam Pasarow. “I believe our staff is struggling with restorative justice because they might feel at times a consequence didn’t come down on a student when it should have.”

Districtwide, Oakland says the approach is working. The district says new, as-yet unpublished research shows the percentage of students suspended at schools that have fully adopted the program has dropped by half, from 34 percent in 2011-12 to just 14 percent in the following two years.

They say the data show chronic absence is down dramatically and graduation rates are up at restorative-justice schools, and that at two sites last year the disproportionate discipline of African-American students was eliminated.

Several other urban districts are trying some version of the approach, among them: Chicago; Minneapolis; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Denver.

But there is no real agreement, yet, on how best to implement these kinds of programs, says Trevor Fronius, who’s researching the trend with WestEd, a national nonprofit education research and development agency.

“Most programs involve dialogue and some form of talking circle,” he says. “But there are a wide variety of types, and there’s no consensus yet on best practices.”

Fronius adds that it’s not clear that anyone is tracking just how many U.S. school districts are doing restorative justice “in a serious way.”

Teacher concerns

At Edna Brewer, Principal Pasarow says he’s trying to work with the handful of remaining teachers who have yet to embrace the approach: those who think it’s not their job to lead talking circles when kids misbehave.

Some teachers, he says, have told him, “I don’t know how to teach circle, and I don’t know how to have deep conversations about my feelings and emotions with students.” Pasarow says he understands the concern and thinks it’s a valid one, but he points out that the program “is not group therapy; it’s community-building.”

But some critics say it is pretty close to group therapy, and they worry that some kids might think they can rig the system and get away with behaving badly if they talk about their feelings.

Teachers “have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable” to make it work, McClerkins says.

Students here say the “harm circle” talks do come with consequences — that’s the restorative part — including school community service, apologies, public acknowledgement of their bad behavior and more.

At lunchtime, I asked some students if they’d seen any difference this year in terms of school culture, discipline and community.

“They’re not as judgmental,” 13-year-old Kweko Power says of her classmates.

Her friend Eva Jones, 12, agrees. She says there have been fewer hurtful rumors and fights, and there has been less gossip. “It seems easier now to, like, make friends with people, because people are less angry and defensive. It’s just way easier,” she says.

Last year, “there was, like, a lot of fights — like, every other week there was a fight. And now there’s, like, a fight once per year. ”

Well … not quite.

About a half-hour later, I hear some yelling. In the gym, pushing and verbal sparring has descended into a full-blown fistfight between a seventh-grade boy and an eighth-grade girl.

The program’s director, McClerkins, has pinned the boy to the gym floor.

After the students are pulled apart and people calm down, the restorative justice process kicks in.

Encouraging dialogue

After a weekend “cooling off” time, the school schedules what they call a “harm circle.” Both of the students — the eighth-grader, Briona, and the seventh-grader, Rodney — must attend. The school has asked us not to use their full names.

At first blush, the circle session looks a little California flaky: teachers, parents and the students sit in a circle of desks. On a small stand in the middle sit a rock, feather, candle and water jar — representing earth, air, fire and water.

Rodney’s mom, Tozma, sets the tone early on.

“I be worried about Rodney,” she tells the group. “He’s tall for his age, and a lot of stuff happens to black boys. And I try to get that across to him.”

Tozma is raising her son on her own, and tells the circle that she’s deeply worried about where he’s headed. He has an anger problem, she says, and she’s tried to get him counseling.

“Talk to Rodney like he your own son,” she says. “I’m not the kind of parent who’s gonna argue with you about chastising my son, because I want him to be here. I don’t want him to be in jail.”

Then Briona’s mom, Marshae, looks at Rodney and, with a mix of gentle reprimand and warning, talks about her own son.

“He used to go to counseling and they’d say, ‘Oh, he’s angry.’ But he knew you don’t hit a female.” Her son was an athlete in track and football, but now, “he’s in jail,” she says. “He just turned 18 in jail. You don’t want to go there,” Marshae says.

This kind of communication is central to alternative discipline. Here are two mothers sharing fear and worry about raising kids through hard times in a tough neighborhood.

It’s not a he said/she said breakdown of a fight. The hope is that dialogue builds trust and community and reduces the need for suspensions and expulsions.

McClerkins tells the students, who are both African-American, “you already have a lot against you and it has nothing to do with what you’ve done good or bad. There is wisdom in this circle that can help you navigate this. Stay close to it as you get older, and listen. Really listen.”

Eventually, the circle does get around to the fight on Friday and who did what.

Rodney shows some remorse with a whispered apology. But his mom is not satisfied and wants to know what’s going to change.

“What do you plan on doing to make sure these kinds of incidents don’t happen again?” she asks.

Rodney pauses. He thinks for a moment and answers in a quiet voice. “Like, I don’t play with people and stuff, I won’t horseplay and stuff like that.”

Then Briona admits she helped instigate by yanking his backpack and teasing.

The school’s restorative justice co-director, Ta-Biti Gibson, reminds Briona, who runs track, how much she has improved this year in sports and in class. “I think about your future,” he says, “I talk with you about college.”

Her mother tells her to “really learn from this” and “pick your battles.”

It’s agreed as a group that the two students will have to write and post anti-bullying posters and do after-school service. And they’ll have to do joint morning announcements offering tips on how students can get along better.

Rodney’s mom ends the meeting by thanking the group. “He really don’t have a man voice at home,” she says, “so I appreciate everybody. And just keep working with my child.”

Rodney responds, too. “I appreciate my mom for not giving up on me.”

As the circle breaks up, Briona’s father, Al, tells Rodney: “I can tell your mom will never give up on you.”

LA Convention Center: Economic Boost or White Elephant?

Whenever a government builds a stadium, arena, or convention center, they lose money; it is a source of subsidies to keep it open and to BUY conventions and sports teams. In the end the taxpayers can not afford to attend events at these venues, in part because of the high taxes needed to payoff the special interests, the billionaires and the unions.

“The LA Convention Center was formerly managed the city, which still owns the premises—some 720,000 sq. ft. It is presently being managed by AEG, owners of LA Live, who have promised to spend some $80 million in refurbishing the venue.  By outsourcing the management, the city has seen its annual expenses for the Center decrease considerably.”

Why should the city have ANY expense for the convention center? Sell it to AEG or the highest bidder—put the property back on the property tax rolls—let’s make money from the center, instead of taxpayers always losing money.

price cost expensive money

LA Convention Center: Economic Boost or White Elephant?

Written by Denyse Selesnick, City Watch LA, 12/16/14

MY TURN-I’m sure all of you have shared the experience when your kids were at a big holiday dinner, and you were apprehensive they would do something to cause negative comments from your most critical Aunt.

I felt that way last week when the International Association for Expositions and Events (IAEE) came to the Los Angeles Convention Center. They hadn’t been here since 1996 and I was practically holding my breath that things go well. It is a tough audience, as it is comprised of exhibition managers and suppliers, who are accustomed to being treated like VIP’s and, naturally, are trained to notice everything about a city and its facilities. They are also the decision-makers on where exhibitions are held.
Why should anyone not in the business care? The exhibition and events industry adds over $80 billion annually to the U.S. GDP. It adds about $3 billion plus to the Los Angeles economy each year.

You may have wondered if that greenish-turquoise building near the 10 and the 110 freeways is more than just a white elephant. Hundreds of thousands of local Angelenos have attended car shows or any number of events there in the last forty-five years.

The IAEE exhibition and conference saw the largest attendance for its annual meeting, with more than 2000 delegates and 30 countries represented. It meets in a different city each year and there is huge competition from the cities to host IAEE. One attendee shared that he represents 12,000 room nights for his exhibition and conference. Just imagine what his event does to a city’s economy!

The IAEE members represented almost every type of industry possible—- from food to floor coverings—- to farm equipment and technology. Some are non-profits run by associations, others represent some of the largest corporate, for-profit media companies, and others were selling some of the largest convention centers in the world.

Los Angeles just won the number one position for tourism worldwide with New York and London taking second and third place respectfully. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same stature when it comes to exhibitions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was the featured speaker at the opening of IAEE and really impressed the audience. His speech was not the usual canned presentation and targeted the benefits of bringing conventions to the City.  He said that near future plans include extending the convention center to one million sq. ft and adding plenty of meeting rooms. This will make LA much more attractive and competitive.

The LA Convention Center was formerly managed the city, which still owns the premises—some 720,000 sq. ft. It is presently being managed by AEG, owners of LA Live, who have promised to spend some $80 million in refurbishing the venue.  By outsourcing the management, the city has seen its annual expenses for the Center decrease considerably.

Historically speaking the Convention Center, until the last decade, lacked hotel rooms near the facility. When people attend an exhibition or event they want to be able to either walk or take a short shuttle. They also want to be able to dine, shop and have entertainment in close proximity.

Originally, trade show organizers were not happy when the city selected AEG  out of several bids to run the Convention Center. The feeling was that entertainment/sports events would be their primary focus and the convention center would be treated as the stepchild.

Now:

I was absolutely the proud parent watching my colleagues completely blown away by what has happened in Downtown LA since some of them were here. The Convention Center staff did a tremendous job in making sure everything not only looked good, but was smooth and efficient in the three-day conference, exhibits and food functions. Even the food was good, which is unusual for Convention Centers.

The only complaint I heard was that the facility itself is “dated”.  It is and some of the LA fire regulations should be re-examined because they eliminate useable space.

Downtown LA has really come “alive.”  There is no shortage of anything except reasonably priced Hotel rooms. The average hotel rate is $156 according to Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. That rate holds when there are no conventions in town, but four and five star hotels were in the $200-450 a night range last week.

There is talk about building more reasonably priced hotels on the south side of the Convention Center.  That part of Downtown hasn’t changed or had the investment that the north side has enjoyed. Trade shows allow middle management and operational people to see the latest equipment and technology, since they are usually the ones to recommend what their individual companies need.  Modern and reasonably priced hotels and eating establishments are crucial. The south part of the area adjacent to the Convention Center could also use some investment and re-gentrification

Exhibitions book their space in Convention Centers usually from two to ten years out. One of the deterrents in booking LA long term is the “Stadium” concern.  AEG recently received a six-month extension from the City Council to convince an NFL franchise to come to LA.

So now there are plans A and B regarding the Convention Center.  Plan A considers the new stadium. Plan B is without a new stadium.

In my, as well as many others opinion, we don’t need another stadium in downtown LA. There are sufficient venues now in which hold football games. The Coliseum, which for the pitiful amount of rent USC is paying the city —can well afford to update that facility and has already started the process. The Sports Arena offers a diverse venue – it is a little shabby around the edges and smaller than Staples.

The Rose Bowl packs in audiences and Staples certainly fills the coffers between the ongoing concerts, and professional sports franchises, the Clippers, Lakers and Kings. Getting around the area in LA Live as well as going north on Broadway or any other of the through streets leading to the Music Center, is very congested now.  Imagine adding 50-100,000 more people to the mix?

Los Angeles competes with Anaheim, San Francisco, San Diego and to a lesser extent Long Beach for exhibitions, conventions, conferences and large corporate events. The 20/20 Committee had suggested that the Southern California Cities-form a regional Tourism Board and try to multiply their efforts. Quite frankly I don’t think it would work because they are competing for similar pieces of business.

Until LA Live and the new hotels were opened, Anaheim had the advantage because it was much larger and had many more reasonable hotel rooms as well as attractions like Disneyland etc.  We maybe the entertainment capital of the world, but there was nothing to do in the evenings unless you wanted to drive a half hour or more to visit Hollywood, the Westside, Beverly Hills etc.  Now, one of the organizers told me, LA offers more sophistication and entertainment outlets than Anaheim.

They call the events and exhibition business the “hidden industry”, but it has a great trickledown effect in creating jobs in ancillary areas.  Shopping—- especially by out of country visitors—is a big draw. Part of the sizable room tax of 14% (city, county and local) is returned to the non-profit but independent Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. The organization is also funded by 125 hotel members as well as other related hospitality oriented companies.  Their primary focus is filling hotel rooms or as it is known in the industry …putting “heads in beds”.

The Mayor’s recent trip to Asia highlighted the advantages of doing business in LA.  Since the city also attracts huge numbers of visitors from the Americas, we are at the “sweet spot” for conventions seeking to attract international visitors.

It behooves us to pay attention to this industry…to encourage our various individual industry associations and trade shows to take another look at LA.  Other cities are much more aggressive in their marketing efforts. IAEE attendees received the “show business” experience last week. Now it is time to show our creativity and ingenuity in implementing a really great sales and marketing campaign.

It is time to ask for the business!