Wednesday, July 31, 2013

REPORT: Big benefits from Obamacare for AZ

Today, the Obama Administration issued a new report highlighting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for the people of Arizona.  Thanks to the health care law, the 82% of Arizonans who have insurance have more choices and stronger coverage than ever before.   And for the 18% of Arizonans who don’t have insurance, or Arizona families and small businesses who buy their coverage but aren’t happy with it, a new day is just around the corner. 
“Soon, the Health Insurance Marketplace will provide families and small businesses who currently don’t have insurance, or are looking for a better deal, a new way to find health coverage that fits their needs and their budgets,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.   
Open enrollment in the Marketplace starts Oct 1, with coverage starting as soon as Jan 1, 2014.  But Arizona families and small business can visit right now to find the information they need prepare for open enrollment.
The health care law is already providing better options, better value, better health and a stronger Medicare program to the people of Arizona by:
Better Options
The Health Insurance Marketplace
Beginning Oct 1, the Health Insurance Marketplace will make it easy for Arizonans to compare qualified health plans, get answers to questions, find out if they are eligible for lower costs for private insurance or health programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and enroll in health coverage. 
By the Numbers: Uninsured Arizonans who are eligible for coverage through the Marketplace. 

·         947,878 (18%) are uninsured and eligible
·         695,083 (73%) have a full-time worker in the family
·         338,111 (36%) are 18-35 years old
·         411,776 (43%) are White
·         50,017 (5%) are African American
·         366,713 (39%) are Latino/Hispanic
·         26,771 (3%) are Asian American or Pacific Islander
·         544,266 (57%) are male

866,371 (91%) of Arizona’s uninsured and eligible population may qualify for either tax credits to purchase coverage in the Marketplace or for Medicaid if Arizona takes advantage of the new opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Arizona has received $30,877,097 in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of its Health Insurance Marketplace. 
New coverage options for young adults
Under the health care law, if your plan covers children, you can now add or keep your children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Thanks to this provision, over 3 million young people who would otherwise have been uninsured have gained coverage nationwide, including 69,000 young adults in Arizona.
Ending discrimination for pre-existing conditions  
As many as 2,794,358 non-elderly Arizonans have some type of pre-existing health condition, including 410,684 children.  Today, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition, like asthma or diabetes, under the health care law. And beginning in 2014, health insurers will no longer be able to charge more or deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.  The health care law also established a temporary health insurance program for individuals who were denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  4,861 Arizonans with pre-existing conditions have gained coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan since the program began. 
Better Value
Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule
Health insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 cents of your premium dollar on health care or improvements to care, or provide you a refund.  This means that 423,981 Arizona residents with private insurance coverage will benefit from $18,711,067 in refunds from insurance companies this year, for an average refund of $71 per family covered by a policy.
Scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases
In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Arizona has received $3,000,000 under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.  Since implementing the law, the fraction of requests for insurance premium increases of 10 percent or more has dropped dramatically, from 75 percent to 14 percent nationally.  To date, the rate review program has helped save Americans an estimated $1 billion.
Removing lifetime limits on health benefits
The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 2,091,000 people in Arizona, including 769,000 women and 570,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.
Better Health
Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
The health care law requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults.
In 2011 and 2012, 71 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 1,406,000 in Arizona. And for policies renewing on or after August 1, 2012, women can now get coverage without cost-sharing of even more preventive services they need.  Approximately 47 million women, including 916,996 in Arizona will now have guaranteed access to additional preventive services without cost-sharing.
Increasing support for community health centers
The health care law increases the funding available to community health centers nationwide. In Arizona, 17 health centers operate 139 sites, providing preventive and primary health care services to 408,737 people.  Health Center grantees in Arizona have received $67,579,387 under the health care law to support ongoing health center operations and to establish new health center sites, expand services, and/or support major capital improvement projects. 
Community Health Centers in all 50 states have also received a total of $150 million in federal grants to help enroll uninsured Americans in the Health Insurance Marketplace, including $1,435,991 awarded to Arizona health centers.   With these funds, Arizona health centers expect to hire 30 additional workers, who will assist 40,731 Arizonans with enrollment into affordable health insurance coverage. 
Investing in the primary care workforce
As a result of historic investments through the health care law and the Recovery Act, the numbers of clinicians in the National Health Service Corps are at all-time highs with nearly 10,000 Corps clinicians providing care to more than 10.4 million people who live in rural, urban, and frontier communities.  The National Health Service Corps repays educational loans and provides scholarships to primary care physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health providers, and other primary care providers who practice in areas of the country that have too few health care professionals to serve the people who live there.  As of September 30, 2012, there were 274 Corps clinicians providing primary care services in Arizona, compared to 103 in 2008.
Preventing illness and promoting health
As of March 2012, Arizona had received $9,400,000 in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care law. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Arizona, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.
A Stronger Medicare Program
Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
In Arizona, people with Medicare saved nearly $123 million on prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act.  In 2012 alone, 65,267 individuals in Arizona saved over $45 million, or an average of $689 per beneficiary.  In 2012, people with Medicare in the “donut hole” received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 14 percent discount on generic drugs.  And thanks to the health care law, coverage for both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase over time until the coverage gap is closed.  Nationally, over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on drugs since the law’s enactment.  That’s an average savings of $1,061 per beneficiary.  In addition, the average premium for a basic prescription drug plan in 2014 is projected to remain stable for the fourth year in a row, at an estimated $31 per month.
Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
With no deductibles or co-pays, cost is no longer a barrier for seniors and people with disabilities who want to stay healthy by detecting and treating health problems early. In 2012 alone, an estimated 34.1 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing.  In Arizona, 434,397 individuals with traditional Medicare used one or more free preventive service in 2012.
Protecting Medicare’s solvency
The health care law extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by ten years.  From 2010 to 2012, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at 1.7 percent annually, substantially more slowly than the per capita rate of growth in the economy.  And the health care law helps stop fraud with tougher screening procedures, stronger penalties, and new technology. Over the last four years, the administration’s fraud enforcement efforts have recovered $14.9 billion from fraudsters.  For every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse activities in the last three years the administration has returned $7.90.
To hear stories about how the Affordable Care Act is helping people across the country visit:

AARP: Promise of Medicare must be kept

Calls for commonsense solutions,
not cuts to critical program

(Peoria, AZ)  -- Today, AARP released the first in a “commonsense solutions” series of new videos on the 48th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing Medicare into law on July 30, 1965.
Arizona has over 791,000 residents who rely on Medicare for their health care coverage, on average spending about 9% of their income on out-of pocket income on their health care costs. 
AARP’s Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond released the following statement with the video which can be viewed at:
“As Medicare continues to provide access to health care for millions of seniors and those with disabilities, AARP is celebrating its 48 successful years and advocating for responsible, commonsense solutions that will strengthen the program by lowering drug costs, improving care coordination and cracking down on over-testing, waste and fraud. Nearly 50 million Americans—15 percent of the nation’s population, and growing—depend on Medicare for health security which is why AARP will continue our work to ensure that it is there for current and future generations.
“Medicare does face financial challenges, which is why AARP is calling for responsible, commonsense solutions that would help ensure Medicare’s continued success, including fair prescription drug prices and ridding Medicare of waste, fraud, and abuse. For example, AARP supports two bipartisan bills that would prevent drug companies from agreeing to delay consumers’ access to lower cost medications.  AARP also supports bipartisan legislation that would crack down on fraud by targeting improper billing and increasing penalties for identity theft.
“Unfortunately, some in Washington are considering harmful proposals, including raising the Medicare age, adding new copays to lab test and home health service, and increasing deductibles.  Americans deserve solutions that will reduce costs throughout the health care system, not cut benefits or force seniors to pay more. 

“Recent changes in the new health law have improved Medicare by closing the coverage gap in the drug benefit, adding cost-free preventive benefits, and adding additional protections to curb fraud and abuse and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. Seniors already have saved almost $4 billion in prescription drug discount savings. 

“Medicare is a promise—a promise of health security for all Americans. For years, AARP has fought to protect and strengthen Medicare, and through You’ve Earned a Say, we’ll continue to make certain every American has an opportunity to amplify their voices. The promise of affordable, guaranteed access to health care that Medicare holds for millions of Americans is one that must be kept.”

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin;; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en EspaƱol, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.  The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at​

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scalia offers to help Pope judge gays

The Borowitz Report

July 30, 2013
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Responding to Pope Francis’s suggestion that the Pope is not capable of judging gays, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia contacted the Vatican today to say that he would be “more than happy” to help the Pontiff do so.

“If he’s having trouble judging homosexuals, well, then I’m his man,” Scalia told reporters after making his offer. “I have over a quarter century of professional experience.”

Justice Scalia said that he was sympathetic to Pope Francis’s difficulty in judging gays, but added, “Once he spends a few weeks watching the master at work, I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it.”

“I wasn’t great at judging homosexuals my first year in the job, either,” he said. “But now I can do it without thinking.”

Justice Scalia said that once Pope Francis feels confident about his ability to judge gays, he would help the Pontiff learn how to judge minorities and women.

Photograph by Jose Luis Magana/AP.

Annual August Doin's Rodeo is Aug. 16-18

 112th Annual World’s Oldest Rodeo 

Photo by Bill Huddleston

Dates: August 16 through 18

Where: Payson Event Center

Performances: Friday and Saturday night - Rodeo starts 7 p.m. – GATES OPEN 5 p.m.

             Saturday and Sunday Day Performances 1 p.m. – GATES OPEN 11 a.m.

Tickets: Adults – 13 to 64 -- $18, Seniors – 65+ -- $16, Children ages 8-12 $10, Children 7 and under free

Tickets available at: Rim Country Chamber of Commerce – ALL Circle K’s, Bob’s Western Wear & The Rim Country Museum

Stock Contractor:  Salt River Rodeo – Featuring some of the top Bulls in Rodeo!

Special Events: **** “Tough Enough to Wear PINK ***
Friday – Aug. 16 a special Breast Cancer Support Performance
            Saturday – Patriot Performance to honor our Vets and our Fallen and Wounded
             Come see some of Rodeo’s Best and support a good cause to Boot!

Don’t Forget the Rodeo DANCE AND AFTER PARTY at the Rodeo Grounds Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. – Featuring: MOONSHINE MAFIA – Families Welcome

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weiner names penis new campaign manager

The Borowitz Report

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—One day after his campaign manager quit, the mayoral candidate Anthony D. Weiner named his penis to the post, telling reporters, “He was already making most of the major decisions, anyway.”

In announcing the new appointment, Mr. Weiner lavished praise upon his penis, calling him “a tough hombre” who “cares about the struggles of ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers.”

After one reporter questioned the wisdom of naming his penis to such an important role in the campaign, Mr. Weiner dismissed that concern, saying, “Look, he’s gotten me this far.”

While Mr. Weiner’s decision to give the top job to his controversial appendage raised eyebrows among political observers, insiders said the move merely reflected his headline-grabbing member’s already prominent role in the campaign.

“He [Mr. Weiner’s penis] has been calling the shots for weeks now,” one source said, adding that clashes between the former campaign manager Danny Kedem and the mercurial body part had led to Mr. Kedem’s exit.

“There was a power struggle between Danny and the package, and Danny lost,” said one campaign source. “Danny would try to talk sense to Anthony, but at the end of the day, the penis had his ear.” 

Photograph by Bryan Pace/New York Daily News.

How Apple, Walmart, McDonald’s screw employees and taxpayers

Paul Buchheit
Published: Monday 29 July 2013

Apple, Walmart and McDonald's are among the largest corporate employers and profit-makers in the U.S., with a total of 2.6 million employees worldwide (1.6 million in the U.S.) and combined 2012 pre-tax profits of more than $88 billion.

All three companies pay the majority of their employees low wages, poverty-level wages. This is borne out by SEC data and the press releases of the companies themselves. The only question is who gets away with the most profits while their employees are forced to tap into public money—our tax money—for food stamps and health care and other assistance.

Walmart: Underpaying the Most People
Walmart employs about 2.1 million workers, two-thirds of them in the U.S. Its 2012 revenue is three times that of Apple, and about fifteen times that of McDonald's. The company claims that its average full-time wage is $12.78 per hour. That's just under $26,000 per year. (IBISWorld says Walmart pays associates $8.81 per hour).

Based solely on its U.S. business, Walmart makes over $13,000 in pre-tax profits per employee (after paying them), which comes to more than 50 percent of the earnings of a 40-hour-per-week wage earner.

A little-known fact about Walmart that impacts most of us: A study in Wisconsin by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce determined that a typical Walmart store costs taxpayers over $1.7 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee. Not mad enough yet? Four members of the Walmart family made a combined $20 billion from their investments last year. Less than half of that would have given every U.S. Walmart worker a $3 raise, enough to end the public subsidy.
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McDonald's: Paying the Lowest Wages
McDonald's employs 440,000 workers worldwide, most of them food servers making the median hourly wage of $9.10 an hour or less, for a maximum of about $18,200 per year. The company's $8 billion profit, after wages are paid, works out to the same amount: $18,200 per employee. estimates that U.S. income per employee is approximately the same as the worldwide figure. As for franchises, which make up about 80 percent of worldwide stores and add well over a million employees to the global total, their sales totals are "not recorded as revenues by the company," although franchise fees are included.

At fast food establishments like McDonald's, not only are workers poorly paid, but they also have little hope for advancement. According to the National Employment Law Project, managerial, professional, and technical occupations make up 31.1 percent of jobs throughout the U.S. economy, but only 2.2 percent of jobs in the fast food industry.

In summary, for the U.S. and around the world, McDonald's makes over $18,000 in pre-tax profits per employee (after paying them), almost 100 percent of the earnings of a full-time food service worker. The company's own employee budget recommends a second job to make ends meet.

Apple: Making a Half-Million per Employee
Now for Apple. Like Walmart and McDonald's, the company pays extraordinarily low wages to its store workers, an average of about $12 per hour, or $24,000 per year, for a full-time employee. In-store salespeople make up about half of the total workforce.
With 80,000 worldwide employees (50,000 in the U.S.) and a 2012 profit of $55 billion ($19 billion declared in the U.S.), Apple made an astonishing $697,000 per employee in 2012 (almost $400,000 in the U.S.).

Apple, of course, more than the other two companies discussed here, has numerous high-paying positions in engineering, design, programming, marketing, etc. Reports by two independent salary trackers indicate that the overall average salary at Apple is about $50,000. Even with this much higher figure, Apple pays its U.S. employees only $1 for every $8 in profits.

So who's the biggest wage stiffer? Apple is by far the worst in rewarding profitability. But Walmart underpays the most people. And McDonald's pays the lowest wages. For those of us who subsidize these companies with tax dollars for their employees' food stamps and Medicaid, it doesn't matter who's worst. We're all getting stiffed.