Affordable Care Act payment model saves more than $384 million in two years, meets criteria for first-ever expansion

Originally posted on Humboldt County Democrats:

Pioneer ACO Model advances quality and value in health care

Medicare01Today, an independent evaluation report released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that an innovative payment model created as a pilot project by the Affordable Care Act generated substantial savings to Medicare in just two years. Additionally, the independent Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has certified that this patient care model is the first to meet the stringent criteria for expansion to a larger population of Medicare beneficiaries.

The independent evaluation report for CMS found that the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model generated over $384 million in savings to Medicare over its first two years– an average of approximately $300 per participating beneficiary per year – while continuing to deliver high-quality patient care. The Actuary’s certification that expansion of Pioneer ACOs would reduce net Medicare spending, coupled…

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Fraud, Waste, and Lies: Charter Schools Cheating Communities Out of Millions of Dollars

Originally posted on Humboldt County Democrats:

New report warns that, due to lack of oversight, ‘vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected’

— by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

CharterFraud “Charter schools act like they have a ‘get out of accountability free’ card,” said Jonathan Stith, spokesperson for the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. (Image courtesy of report)

Accepting and soliciting bribes. Diverting public funds for personal profit. Lying about the number of students. These are just a few examples of the fraud and malfeasance committed by charter school officials—cheating communities out of millions dollars that were supposed to go to education, a new report finds.

The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse (pdf) was released Tuesday by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).

It concludes that, in 15 states alone—a third of states with charter schools—such waste…

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Bernie Sanders: Agenda for America—12 Steps Forward

Bernie Sanders, a challenger to Hillary Clinton, for President of the United States has put forth his “Agenda for America”

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
    We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.
  2. Reversing Climate Change
    The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
    We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
    Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
    The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
    Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
    Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.
    [Sign the petition to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another trade deal disaster]
  8. Making College Affordable for All
    In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
  9. Taking on Wall Street
    The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
    The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
    Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
  12. Real Tax Reform
    At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

Anti-Science GOP ‘Eviscerates’ NASA Spending on Climate Change Research

NASA administrator says proposal ‘guts’ crucial  Earth science program and ‘threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate’

Among the critical aspects of NASA’s earth science mission: weather prediction, monitoring ice in the Arctic, and tracking wildfires. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr/cc)

Reinforcing the GOP’s reputation as anti-science, Republicans in the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday voted to slash NASA spending on the branch that studies climate change issues.

According to news reports, the NASA authorization proposal, passed along party lines, would cut between $300-500 million in funding to NASA’s Earth Sciences division, which researches the planet’s natural systems and processes—including climate change, severe weather, and glaciers. The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

“When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?”
—Phil Plait, Slate

As Ars Technica notes, “This vote follows the committee’s decision to cut the [National Science Foundation]’s geoscience budget and comes after a prominent attack on NASA’s Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted campaign against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.”

Unsurprisingly, NASA pushed back against this latest attempt to stymie climate research.

In a statement released Thursday, the space agency’s administrator Charles Bolden saidthe proposal “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.”

And other scientists added their own criticisms to the mix. In a letter (pdf) to the committee, the head of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) said that group is “extremely concerned” about the funding cuts.

“The research performed and supported by the [NASA] division helps us understand the world we live in and provide a basis for knowledge and understanding of natural hazards, weather forecasting, air quality, and water availability, among other concerns,” wrote AGU executive director Christine W. McEntee. “The applicability of these missions cannot be overstated given their impact on your constituents.”

Astronomer and journalist Phil Plait, writing at Slate, agreed that “the evisceration of Earth sciences means this bill is seriously, critically flawed.” But, Plait said, U.S. voters only have themselves to blame for such short-sighted policy decisions:

When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?

We sowed this Congress, and this is what we reap. Potentially huge cuts to critical science, care of the GOP. Remember that in November 2016.

Several Democratic lawmakers have also expressed their opposition to the spending cuts.

In an op-ed published this week at The Hill, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the House committee’s ranking member, wrote:

In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people.

Of course, there would be implications beyond a potential dearth of climate research.

In an analysis published Friday at the Washington Post, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric sciences and geography at the University of Georgia and 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society, wrote:

As the former deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, I assure you that the level of cuts proposed for NASA’s earth sciences  program would not only harm but end many programs and jeopardize many federal and private sector jobs. The engineering, ground systems, science, and support work of NASA earth science missions is supported by some of the most vibrant private aerospace and science-technology companies in the world.  And they are U.S. companies.

“More importantly,” Shepherd continued, “none of us has a ‘vacation planet’ we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA’s mission to study planet Earth should be a ‘no-brainer’.”


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Possibly the Most Important Video You Will Ever See — Just Say NO!

Pre-NAFTA trade deficits, 1962-1992

NAFTA related trade deficits, 1993-2012Read More:

Twelve by 2020

Apr 30, 2015 | by CAP Action War Room

RaiseTheWage-3Sen. Murray and Rep. Scott Introduce The Raise The Wage Act To Raise The Minimum Wage To $12

Today, Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Bobby Scottreleased the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, get rid of the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, and tie future increases to the median wage. This legislation would not only be a huge step forward for low-wage workers, but also for the recognition that growing our economy requires investing the workers that make it run, from the middle out, not the top down.

For decades, the value of the federal minimum wage has continued to fall, forcing low-wage workers to fall further and further behind. Raising the minimum wage is a key step in building an economy that works for everyone and investing in the everyday working Americans who strengthen our economy. Here are just a few of the many necessary things the Raise the Wage Act does:

  • Give 38 million workers a raise. Raising the minimum wage to $12 will help nearly 38 million workers, 90 percent of whom are adults, and more than 25 percent of whom are parents.
  • Help working women get ahead. More than half of all workers who would earn a raise from the Raise the Wage Act are women. The vast majority of women who would receive a raise are over the age of 25 and one-third of the women who would be affected are mothers.
  • Give workers $100 billion in increased earnings. According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers would see earnings increase by more than $100 billion over the next five years, money they would likely spend in their communities, helping to boost local economies.
  • Help families make ends meet. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour would reduce taxpayer spending on food stamps by $5.3 billion annually, by helping to lift families out of poverty, allowing many who currently turn to nutrition assistance to make ends meet.

America’s current minimum wage is a poverty wage: Many full-time workers who receive minimum-wage salaries live at or near the federal poverty level. This means that many must turn to public assistance such as food assistance and Medicaid in order to make ends meet. In a recent study, the Center for American Progress analyzed the impact of past minimum-wage changes on spending in one particular program—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The study found that minimum-wage increases lead to statistically significant reductions in SNAP enrollment and spending. When workers’ incomes are increased, some end up relying less on SNAP benefits while others see their earnings boosted above the threshold for SNAP eligibility. The result is a win-win situation for both low-wage workers and taxpayers.

RaiseTheWage

BOTTOM LINE: Americans who work hard and play by the rules should never have to live in poverty. Investing in workers honors the hard work of millions of Americans and puts money back in the pocket of families. What’s good for workers and families is good for the economy.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

And Now There Are Two—Bernie Announces

—by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Candidate for President of the United States

I am writing to inform you that I will be a candidate for President of the United States. I ask for your support.

For many months I have been traveling from coast to coast across our country, and have had the opportunity to meet with thousands of good, hard-working, and remarkable people. Like you and me, they are deeply concerned about the future of our country.

They wonder why they are working longer hours for lower wages. They worry about whether their kids will be able to afford college or get decent jobs. They fear that they may not have the savings to retire with dignity and security.

The challenges facing our country are enormous.

It’s not just that, for forty years, the middle class has been disappearing. It’s that 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality today is worse than at any time since the late 1920s. The people at the top are grabbing all the new wealth and income for themselves, and the rest of America is being squeezed and left behind.

The disastrous decisions of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case and in other related decisions are undermining the very foundations of American democracy, as billionaires rig the system by using their Super PACs to buy politicians and elections.

And the peril of global climate change, with catastrophic consequences, is the central challenge of our times and our planet.

The middle class in America is at a tipping point. It will not last another generation if we don’t boldly change course now.

After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have decided to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. But let’s be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It’s about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: “Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

I run not to oppose any man or woman, but to propose new and far-reaching policies to deal with the crises of our times. And I run because I know we must change course now, or risk losing the future for so many to the interests of so few.

A successful national campaign is a massive undertaking, especially when we will be heavily outspent. It will require the active participation of millions of Americans in every community in our country. In fact, it will require nothing less than a political revolution which combats the demoralization and alienation of so many of our people from the political process.

Let me be very honest. It may be too late to stop the billionaire class from trying to buy the Presidency and Congress. The forces of greed already may be too powerful.

But we owe it to our children and grandchildren to try. We owe it to them to make the fight and, through the power of our numbers, turn back this assault on the foundation of our democracy and our future.

We are at a moment of truth. We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a mass movement of people to fight for change.

I believe America is ready for a new path to the future.

On May 26th I will formally launch our campaign at the City Hall in Burlington, Vermont, where I served as Mayor.

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EMILY’s List Endorses Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate in Nevada

emilyslistWASHINGTON, D.C. – April 16, 2015

Today, EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, endorsed Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate in Nevada.

“Catherine Cortez Masto is an experienced leader who will be a champion for Nevada women and families in the U.S. Senate,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. “Catherine is a dedicated public servant with a record of working to make communities safer, prevent violence against women, and increase educational opportunities so that all Nevadans have a fair shot. She is poised to make history as the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate and as the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada. The EMILY’s List community of more than three million members is proud to endorse Catherine Cortez Masto’s campaign to keep Nevada moving forward and excited to help her make history.”

Born in Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto has deep roots in the Silver State. Serving for eight years as her state’s attorney general, she worked to keep Nevada communities safe, strengthening state laws to prevent domestic violence and protecting middle-class families from fraudulent mortgage schemes and predatory lenders. Before she was elected to serve as Nevada’s chief law enforcement officer, Catherine served as the assistant county manager for Clark County and was a federal criminal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington. She’s dedicated her career to fighting for women, middle-class families, and hardworking Nevadans looking for a fair shot.

When Catherine is elected, she’ll be the first woman Nevada has ever elected to the Senate—and the first Latina senator in U.S. history. With a strong belief in the power of women’s leadership, Catherine has said that women “bring a different and much-needed perspective to the table. Nevada could benefit from more women in leadership roles and so could our country.”


EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, has raised over $400 million to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates – making it one of the most successful political organizations ever. We recruit and train candidates, support strong campaigns, research women’s issues, and turn out women voters. We’ve trained over 9,000 women to run and helped elect over 100 women to the House, 19 to the Senate, 11 governors, and over 700 to state and local office. Since its founding in 1985, almost one-third of the candidates EMILY’s List has helped elect to Congress have been women of color – including every single Latina, African American, and Asian American Democratic Congresswoman currently serving.

Catherine Cortez Masto Announces Run for Senate

MastoLogo

CatherineCortezMastoMy name is Catherine Cortez Masto. I’ve spent my life and career fighting to protect the families of Nevada. And today, I’m proud to announce that I am running to become the next U.S. Senator from Nevada.

As Attorney General, I stood up to special interests and fought for consumers in Nevada. I worked with local law enforcement to crack down on meth labs to help combat our state’s growing drug problem, protected domestic abuse victims and children preyed upon by sex traffickers and looked out for seniors who have been cheated by scam artists.

As a native Nevadan, former prosecutor and Attorney General I care about the people of our state and that’s who I’ll be standing up for in the Senate. I was proud to be the first Latina elected to serve as Attorney General. To be the first Latina elected to the United States Senate would be an honor, and an incredible opportunity for me to fight for all Nevadans.

I’m running for the Senate to continue my work standing up for Nevada seniors, consumers, homeowners, women and children. But these days, campaigns aren’t as simple as which side has better ideas. Outside groups and special interests will try to tear me down. Outside money and attacks will flow into the state. It’s not a battle I can fight on my own.

We need to show the special interests that we mean business not just with words, but with action. Sign here to stand with me today.

Bridging Funding for WNC and GBC Should Be a Top Priority

Since GBC President Mark Curtis came on board three years ago, he has had to cope with the defunding of 58 full time positions, representing a 27% cut, with the college’s share of state operating funds plummeting 25%, from $16 million to $12 million. At the same time, graduations rose by 60% between 2010 and 2014, a minor miracle made possible by Dr. Curtis’ adept reallocation of resources and tireless efforts to seek out gifts and grants to fill in the gaps.

Now GBC faces the prospect of an imminent $1.45 million budget cut, necessitating a further staff reduction of of 25 full time positions, leaving state-funded headcount 38% below pre-recession levels. Even a miracle worker like Dr. Curtis can only do so much with so few resources in such a limited amount of time. It can’t be done.

Chet Burton has put his business experience to good use in coping with the ongoing budget squeeze without resorting to further faculty or curriculum cuts, and none are in his plans going forward. His decision to defund the baseball and softball teams hasn’t been popular, but when you put the interests of students first, something has to give. Like Dr. Curtis, he has a plan in place to live within the constraints of the new funding realities, but fully implementing that plan in the next 90 days is not humanly possible.

The Chancellor’s budget request for the next biennium includes more than $40 million to start up a medical school at UNLV, and $3 million to compensate for a drop in enrollment at that university’s law school. I have little doubt that those are worthy goals, but they must not be allowed to eclipse the higher education needs of the rural counties. GBC and WNC are already doing more with less, and deserve to be provided with the resources necessary to finish the job.