The Marketplace is now OPEN!

If you signed up for Marketplace insurance last time - we encourage you to come back, update your application, compare your plans, choose the option that makes the most sense for your financial and health needs and enroll. The deadline to complete these steps is December 15, 2014.

If you’re shopping for Marketplace coverage for the first time – Open Enrollment to sign up for an affordable health plan runs now through February 15th. Your coverage can start as soon as January 1st if you sign up by December 15, 2014.

Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard to lay the groundwork for a successful Open Enrollment. We’re committed to giving you the very best consumer experience.

Join the millions of Americans who now have access to quality, affordable coverage: sign up today! 

-Secretary Burwell


P.S. — If you live in Idaho, Nevada, or Oregon, your process for 2015 enrollment has changed from last year. Learn about these changes in your state.

For information on resources available in your state, or to make changes to your 2014 coverage, visit the Nevada Health Link website. Your 2014 coverage ends December 31, 2014, no matter when you enrolled or update your information.

New for 2015: Beginning November 15, Small Business owners can use HealthCare.gov to apply for SHOP coverage.

Is Ron Knecht rewriting history?

—by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

In a Nevada Appeal op-ed, Controller-elect Ron Knecht laid out the premise for his ultra-conservative world view as follows:

“For 125 years, we’ve seen the rise of the dysfunctional politics of Progressivism. As it
has accelerated in the last five decades, we’ve had slowing economic growth and reductions in individual liberty, prosperity, opportunity and hope.”

I doubt that Mr. Knecht was referring to the short-lived Progressive parties of Theodore Roosevelt (1912), Robert La Follette (1924) or Henry Wallace (1948), so I’ll assume that he was actually referring to progressivism with a lower-case p. So what is that?

Wikipedia observes that “American progressives tend to advocate progressive taxation and oppose what they describe as the growing and negative influence of large corporations. Progressives are typically in agreement on an international scale with left-liberalism in that they support organized labor and trade unions, they usually wish to introduce a living wage, and they often support the creation of a universal health care system.”

All of the above have been around in one form or another for the past 125 years, and for lack of a better word we can agree to refer to them collectively as “progressivism.” And according to Ron Knecht, those progressive ideas have driven the “dysfunctional politics” he sees as responsible for “slowing economic growth and reductions in individual liberty, prosperity, opportunity and hope.”

I have no clue what Ron Knecht thinks of as individual liberty, prosperity, opportunity or hope, so I’ll leave those aside, but economic growth is something that can be objectively measured, so let’s do a fact check on that part of his world view. Knecht seems to believe that economic growth has been slowing for the past 125 years, and that perceived slowing has “accelerated in the last five decades.” So, is that a true statement? Let’s see.

Looking back 125 years, we find that nominal GDP in 1889 was $14 billion, which is $360 billion in 2014 dollars. That is 1/47th the output of today’s economy. And US GDP fifty years ago (1964) was 743.7 billion, which is $5.71 trillion in 2014 dollars. That is only 1/3rd of today’s $17 trillion GDP. I’m not an economist, but to my mind those numbers reflect a pretty robust rate of economic growth.

Perhaps the best test of Ron Knecht’s thesis that progressivism is bad for economic growth is to look at the years immediately following the Crash of 1929. That will let us contrast the effects of Hoover’s pro-cyclical regressivism to Roosevelt’s counter-cyclical progressivism. Here goes: GDP growth in 1930 was -8.5%, in 1931 it was -6.4%, 1932 -12.9%, 1933 (FDR took office in April) -1.3%, 1934 +10.8%, 1935 +8.9%, 1936 +12.9%, 1937 +5.1%, 1938 -3.3%, 1939 +8.0%, 1940 +8.8%, 1941 +17.7.

It should be noted that the recession of 1938 followed FDR pulling back on his counter-cyclical progressive policies at the urging of conservatives in his own party. The hope was that the economy already had enough momentum to grow on its own (bad guess).

Conservative ideologues routinely make the same kind of mistakes here in the 21st century, as witnessed by the tea party’s on-going temper tantrum over counter-cyclical recovery measures like QE, TARP and the ARRA. Unlike real world conservatives like George W. Bush and his treasury secretary Hank Paulson, they don’t understand that the public and private sectors do not compete in a developed economy, they are in fact complementary.

Knecht ties off his progressivism-slows-growth argument with this counter-factual assertion: “Now, after a six-year blowout of it since the Great Recession, we’re mired in a long-term non-recovery it has caused.” Why do I call that counter-factual? Well, think about it…

In response to the Global Financial Crisis, European governments responded with austerity: pro-cyclical fiscal policies that drove the EU as a whole into a prolonged period of near-zero growth and southern Europe into an outright depression, with unemployment rates over 25% in Greece and Spain and joblessness up to 50% among the under-30’s.

Contrast that with the US, which was fortunate enough to have Democrats in control of both houses of congress when the financial crisis hit in September 2008. The progressive counter-cyclical response turned what was clearly an impending economic depression into a recession that was over in just a few months.

Today, after 56 months of continuous job growth, the US unemployment rate is under 6%, the economy is growing at a robust 3.5%, gasoline is under $3 a gallon, the stock market is at an all-time high, and the federal budget deficit has been cut in half, not to mention that ten million more Americans can afford to see a doctor when they get sick.

Not too shabby, and I can tell you this with total certainty: Were that the record of a Republican president, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity et al would be crowing about it around the clock. But they are all about politics, not reality, so all you’re going to hear about is “Obama’s failed agenda.” Yeah, right.

Health Insurance Exchange Marketplace Opens Tomorrow

Consumers  and Small Business Owners can sign up for health plans for the first time, renew or change their plans for 2015 on HealthCare.gov [or https://www.nevadahealthlink.com/ in Nevada]; more plans are available this year

HealthcareInsuranceStarting tomorrow, consumers can sign up for 2015 health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov, the call center, or in-person assistance. With more issuers offering coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace this year, the consumers will find more options for themselves and their families.

“When Open Enrollment begins tomorrow, consumers who are renewing their coverage or signing up for the first time will have an opportunity to obtain quality health coverage at a price they can afford,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether consumers visit the simpler, faster and more intuitive HealthCare.gov or contact the call center, they’re going to find more choices and competitive prices.”

The Health Insurance Marketplace is a simpler way to purchase health insurance for Americans and their families. Consumers can go online to find and compare options, see if they qualify for lower costs, and select coverage that best meets their needs and budget. About 85 percent of those who signed up last year through the Marketplace received financial assistance. Coverage begins as early as January 1, 2015 for people enrolling by December 15, 2014. Tomorrow, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is launching an education and outreach campaign in communities nationwide to drive both the uninsured and current enrollees to enroll in coverage or renew their coverage. Enrollment events will take place in local communities including in public libraries, churches, festivals, sports events, and community meetings.

“Tomorrow marks the beginning of an intense open enrollment and public education campaign for the Marketplace,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “We want consumers to visit the Marketplace, compare their options, see if they qualify for lower costs, and reenroll or get new coverage that best meets their needs and budget.”

CMS has worked to improve the consumer experience by making the application process easier. A window shopping tool allows consumers to answer a few simple questions, such as location and family size, in order to compare plans and get an estimate on how much financial assistance they may qualify for, without needing a log-in or submitting an application.

For most consumers who are renewing coverage, up to 90 percent of their application will be pre-filled based on last year’s application. And a new streamlined application reduces the number of screens to 16 with fewer clicks to navigate through the questions for most consumers signing up for the first time. Last year, consumers went through 76 screens to sign up for coverage. This year, along with a simpler, faster application, consumers can shop and enroll on a smartphone, tablet, computer, or by calling the call center or with in-person assistance.

Tomorrow, Secretary Burwell will participate in an enrollment event at the Evergreen Health Center in Manassas, Virginia with local consumers and Certified Application Counselors who are helping consumers enroll.

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins tomorrow, Nov. 15, 2014, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options and find out if they are eligible for financial assistance, which can help pay monthly premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs when receiving services. All consumers shopping for health insurance coverage for 2015— even those who currently have coverage through the Marketplace — should enroll or re-enroll between November 15 and December 15 in order to have coverage effective on Jan. 1, 2015.

A number of different resources are available to help consumers find Marketplace coverage. They can get more information through HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Assistance is available in 150 languages. The call is free.

The Marketplace includes a Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP), designed to give small businesses new health insurance options and a simpler way to cover their employees. The SHOP is available to small employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. Starting tomorrow, November 15, 2014, the SHOP Marketplace will allow qualifying employers to find, compare, purchase, and enroll in 2015 SHOP health and dental coverage entirely online through HealthCare.gov. Employees will be able to view offers of insurance from their employer and enroll online through HealthCare.gov. Small businesses and their employees can get help from the toll-free SHOP Marketplace call center at 1-800-706-7893 or for TTY, call 711. The hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.

To sign up for individual and family coverage, visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/apply-and-enroll/

To sign up for small business coverage, visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/

For more information about Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit: www.healthcare.gov/marketplace


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Please Note: Democratic Candidates May Have Lost, But Progressive Issues Won

— by David Morris (reposted from CommonDreams)

Ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues are not disrupted by the personality politics and subterfuge that dominate candidate races. (Photo: Susy Morris/flickr/cc)

On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects).  But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

Quote01Voters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.)  It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).

Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.

Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.

Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions.

By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.

By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.

The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues.  A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens.  On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.

Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.

What did Tuesday tell us?  When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican.  When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat.  I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.  My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks.  Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot.  No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.

I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed.  The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.

Voters Reject Oil Titan Chevron, Elect Progressive Bloc in Richmond, California

Tom Butt elected mayor and slate of progressive candidates all win city council seats after grim battle with corporate power

— by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams staff writer

Members of the Asia Pacific Environmental Network march against Chevron in Richmond, California on August 9. (Photo: Malena Mayorga/Flickr)

A slew of progressive candidates were elected in Richmond, California on Tuesday night in a resounding defeat of corporate power, after a multi-million-dollar opposition campaign funded by Chevron brought national attention to the race but failed to take control of City Hall.

Local politician Tom Butt, a Democrat, was elected mayor with 51 percent of the vote, beating the Chevron-backed candidate, Nat Bates, by 16 points. Richmond Progressive Alliance representatives Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and outgoing  Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also won three of the four open seats on the City Council.

Collectively, those candidates became known as Team Richmond.

In a victory speech from his campaign base, Butt said, “I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced.”

The sweeping win in the David-and-Goliath story was seen by many as an excoriation of corporate influence in elections after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Uche Uwahemu, who finished third in the mayoral race, said, “The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates.”

Chevron spent more than $3 million funding three political action committees that executed an opposition campaign including billboards, flyers, and a mobile screen, spending roughly $72 per voter in hopes of electing a slate of candidates that would be friendly to the oil giant.

Martinez, Beckles, and McLaughlin have all criticized the company and promised to tighten regulations on it. Chevron has an ugly history in the city, particularly in the wake of a large and destructive fire at their refinery in 2012, for which Richmond sued the company.

Butt spent roughly $58,000 on his campaign—a shoestring budget relative to Chevron’s resources.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

5 Steps to Staying Covered

Did you know that if you bought a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014, you can renew your current plan or enroll in a different plan for 2015? 

This fall, you’ll get two important 2015 health care plan notices about your health coverage. One will come from your health insurance company to explain any changes to premiums and benefits for the coming year. Another will come from the Marketplace with important deadlines and information about Open Enrollment, which starts on November 15, 2014. These notices help you understand your choices for 2015.

To stay covered through the Marketplace for 2015, make sure to follow these 5 Steps during Open Enrollment:

5 Steps to Staying Covered

Your Server Isn’t on the Menu

For women who make their living off tips, sexual harassment is a constant workplace peril.

By Marjorie E. Wood

Marjorie_Elizabeth_Wood

At a popular sit-down restaurant in Independence, Missouri, Allison waits tables for $3.60 an hour — the going rate for servers at her restaurant.

Advocates of raising the federal hourly tipped minimum wage of $2.13 up to the standard minimum wage — currently pegged at $7.25 — understand that living on tips is difficult. As Allison put it, “There are times when guests have left me one dollar or 50 cents just because they got angry at something.”

Sexual Harrassment and Tipped Workers

No Crop Photo/Flickr

In other words, tipped workers are financially insecure. According to the Economic Policy Institute, tipped workers are more than twice as likely to fall into poverty and nearly twice as likely to be on food stamps as the general population.

But there is another, less obvious, reason to abolish this sub-minimum wage, according to a new report from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

Not only are servers like Allison more likely to be poor — they are also highly likely to experience sexual harassment on the job. The new report found that a staggering 90 percent of tipped workers in the restaurant industry are sexually harassed.

Surveying nearly 700 current and former restaurant workers, ROC — in partnership with Forward Together — found that customers, co-workers, and management regularly impose “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” on industry employees.

Women reported experiencing sexual harassment more often than men, with a majority of respondents encountering it on at least a weekly basis. Women were also more likely to say that sexual harassment was “an uncomfortable aspect of the work environment.”

Living on tips means that women — who make up two-thirds of all tipped restaurant servers — are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than on their employer.

This creates an environment, the report says, in which women must “please and curry favor with customers” for their livelihood. Often, that means tolerating unwanted sexual advances. So it’s no surprise that while the restaurant industry employs only 7 percent of American women, it generates more than a third of all federal sexual harassment claims.

Yet the phenomenon varies widely from state to state. Interestingly, the report found that in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers — tipped and non-tipped alike — women were less likely to experience sexual harassment.

In so-called “$2.13 states,” however, tipped women workers were three times more likely to be told by management to “alter their appearance and to wear ‘sexier,’ more revealing clothing” than they were in states that had eliminated the tipped wage. And they were twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that have one minimum wage for all workers.

Men and non-tipped workers were also more likely to report being sexually harassed in $2.13 states.

What does all this add up to?

Eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers would do more than just improve women’s financial security. It would also create a safer, more equitable workplace where servers like Allison won’t have to tolerate inappropriate advances to make a living.

ROC is continuing to collect stories from tipped restaurant workers on its website at rocunited.org. If you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, share your story with ROC.

It’s time to send a message to the industry and to policymakers that servers aren’t on the menu.

OtherWords columnist Marjorie E. Wood is a senior economic policy associate at the Institute for Policy Studies and the managing editor of Inequality.org. IPS-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org

Can You Hear Us Now?

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is refusing to participate in any public hearings on Net Neutrality.

By Mary Alice Crim and Candace Clement

Mary-Alice-CrimCandace-Clement

On a recent Monday night in Brooklyn, five empty chairs stood on stage — one for each member of the Federal Communications Commission. A crowd had amassed in the room for a public hearing to send this message to the agency: Don’t hurt the open Internet.

But the commissioners’ absence sent a stronger message: We’re not listening.

The Corporate Fox in the Chicken Coop, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

When Corporate Foxes Mind Internet Coops, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The FCC — the agency charged with regulating telecommunications — is expected to vote by the end of the year on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to let Internet service providers (ISPs) offer “fast lanes” to companies that can afford to pay for speedier access.

Hundreds of businesses, organizations, and websites that rely on an open Internet have slammed the plan, which would kill Net Neutrality — the principle that requires ISPs to treat all traffic equally. Net Neutrality has made the Internet an unrivaled space for free speech, civic participation, innovation and opportunity. Without it, a few ISPs would become the gatekeepers of everything we do, say, and see online.

During the public comment period, nearly 4 million people— a record-breaking figure — weighed in on Wheeler’s plan. A whopping 99 percent of these comments oppose this proposal, according to one study.

Given the unprecedented public interest in this issue, many groups have urged the FCC to get out of Washington and host public hearings. But so far Wheeler has ignored this call.

In fact, the FCC has gone out of its way to avoid attending public gatherings like the one in Brooklyn. It’s been more than five years since all five FCC commissioners left Washington together to participate in a public hearing where anyone could testify.

These kinds of public hearings used to be commonplace for the agency, regardless of which political party was in control of Washington. But Wheeler’s FCC is different.

Instead of appearing at events with open microphones, Wheeler — a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries — has opted to attend industry trade shows. In fact, all five commissioners consistently attend the annual conventions of the cable, wireless, broadcasting, and electronics industries.

Yet somehow they just can’t find the time to meet with the public.

The FCC seems to fear hearing from everyday people who use the Internet to communicate, connect, learn, and survive. And while some of the commissioners have left Washington on a few occasions since Wheeler proposed his rules (Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai convened an official FCC hearing in College Station, Texas), the chairman himself has been absent from any public events on Net Neutrality.

“This is a real inflection point for us as a society,” says former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who attended dozens of public hearings during his decade in office and spoke at the event in Brooklyn. “The decisions they’re going to make between now and the end of the year are probably the most important that the FCC is going to make in a generation.”

The commissioners, Copps concludes, shouldn’t vote “until they get out of the Beltway and listen to the people who have to live with the results of their decisions.”

As the clock ticks down to a final FCC vote — which could happen as soon as December — the question looms large: Where is Tom Wheeler? And why won’t he meet with the people he’s supposed to serve?

Candace Clement is the Internet campaign director for Free Press and Mary Alice Crim is the organization’s field director. FreePress.net
Distributed via OtherWords

The Stakes in THIS Election Could NOT be Higher!

Originally posted on Humboldt County Democrats:

The Federal budget deficit may be down, but because of all the various deficits, the debt has continued to rise under President Obama but at a much lesser rate. Evidence continues to show that the Great Recession, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain most of the deficits that have occurred on Obama’s watch.  However, Republicans continue to blame President Obama for ALL our budgetary woes, figuring if they say that enough folks will begin to believe that and once again, put them back in the driver’s seat.

AT ISSUE

On April 10, 2014, the House passed budget resolution HConRes96 for fiscal year 2015 [Vote 177: 219(R) – 205 (12R + 193D)].  That resolution has not yet been taken up in the Senate as a budget already covering fiscal year 2015 was authorized within the Bipartisan Budget Act passed in December 2013.

HConRes96 was introduced…

View original 1,751 more words

Amodei on the Minimum Wage

— submitted by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

I’m old enough to remember when the minimum wage was raised from $1.40 to $1.60 in 1968, but I don’t remember anybody saying that the increase would cost jobs or drive small businesses into bankruptcy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, $1.60 in 1968 translates to $11 today, so the $7.25 minimum wage actually represents a 34% pay cut.

Even an $11 minimum wage would only bring purchasing power back to where it was in 1968, a year when GDP was $910 billion. That’s equivalent to $6.15 trillion now. The GDP is currently over $16 trillion, an increase of 180%. Had the rising tide actually lifted all boats, the minimum wage would have to be $30 an hour for workers on that wage to realize their fair share of the wealth.

When progressives call for the minimum wage to be adjusted for inflation, conservatives usually accuse them of engaging in “the politics of envy” and “class warfare.” They need to be reminded that the war on the poor has been raging non-stop since 1968, but in the absense of a  ceasefire in Washington, the living wage battles have moved to the state and local levels. That’s where we now hear about “radical” proposals for the wage floor to be raised to $15 an hour, which would only account for inflation plus half the increase in labor productivity. How radical can you get?

In 2013, Rep. Amodei voted against raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over two years. Meanwhile back in Nevada, his lobby group has been advocating for repeal of the state’s $8.25 minimum wage. Apparently he thinks it’s just fine for low-wage workers to be paid a third less in real terms than they were in 1968, even as the economy has grown nearly three fold. I don’t think the average Nevadan would agree with him on that if they knew the facts. But they don’t.