Tag Archive | "Health"

Postal Workers Might Pay for Own Salvation

Pulling the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) might prevent financial Armageddon, but that salvation could come at a high price to postal workers, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Calling the move a key to regaining solvency and financial stability, the Postal Service has proposed withdrawing from FEHBP and running its own USPS health insurance program instead. The change would require the approval of Congress and elements of the plan are included in both the House version and Senate version of current postal reform legislation.

Also See: GAO Says USPS Should Prepay its Retiree Fund

While agreeing that the USPS “would likely realize large financial gains … primarily by increasing retirees’ use of Medicare,” the GAO reported that many current postal employees would see the cost of their health coverage increase under a USPS-administered health insurance program.

“[S]ome elements of USPS’s proposal would add uncertainties that could reduce funds available for its employees’ and retirees’ future health care,” said the GAO in its report.

In its report, the GAO listed three reasons why the Postal Service’s proposal could reduce money available for its employees’ and retirees’ future health care.

  • USPS’ plan to invest funds from its own health plan in stocks, commodities, and foreign currency, rather than U.S. Treasury securities significantly increases risk. Postal Service investments, noted the GAO, “may experience losses in a market downturn and would thus have reduced assets available for health care.”
  • Savings from the health plan switch could result in surpluses, which the USPS proposes to use to help shore up its shaky financial status, rather than plowing the money back into its health plan. However, this idea “is not fiscally prudent” according to the GAO. “If USPS were to consistently exercise this option to help maintain its financial solvency, it could result in an unfunded liability for retiree health benefits.”
  • Finally, the GAO found the Postal Services’ estimates of the financial risks it would face by operating its own health insurance plan were “Overly optimistic” and “could lead to inadequate funding for the health plan over time.”

The GAO estimated that at least 63% of postal workers and retirees now enrolled in an FEHBP insurance plan would pay similar or lower premiums under a USPS plan, but some employees and retirees “could have higher total costs — premiums and out-of-pocket costs for the use of care.” In addition, GAO noted that while employees and retirees would get coverage similar to that provided by their FEHBP plan, some might be required to change doctors.

In addition, the GAO noted that postal retirees would lose the assurance that the Postal Service’s contribution to their health benefits – and thus the amount they pay – would remain fixed by law as it is now.

What about postal employees themselves? They “vehemently” oppose the plan. In a press release, the Postal Service’s largest labor union, the American Postal Workers Union APWU), said it considers the plan “a brazen attempt to shift costs to postal employees and Medicare.”

“The FEHBP is the most successful health insurance program ever run by the federal government. Removing postal employees would jeopardize the FEHBP, and would result in less coverage and higher healthcare costs for postal workers,” claimed the APWU.

While postal employees currently make up about 25% of the total enrollment in FEHB plans, GAO found that “most non-postal (FEHB) enrollees would likely not be affected by a USPS withdrawal.”

Also See: Why Postal Unions Oppose Postal Reform Bill

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars Recipe

border="0" alt="chocolate oatmeal bars" hspace="5" width="200"
height="130" align="left"/>These no bake chocolate oatmeal bars are rich, chocolatey, crunchy and full of great flavors. BUT – they are also pretty healthy. Made with rolled oats, chopped almonds, coconut oil, coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter and honey, these bars are one of my favorite after school snacks for the kids.

I use raw honey, which is rich in antioxidants, but these bars are briefly heated on the stove. So the health benefits of the honey may be muted.

Check out my oatmeal chocolate chip bars, too.

Sign up for my Cooking for Kids newsletter

Get my new Coping with Picky Eaters e-course – It’s free!

Follow me on Twitter

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars image by Stephanie Gallagher 2013, licensed to About.com Inc.

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in CookingComments Off

The True Cost of War

The U.S. announced it could launch air strikes against Syria as early as Thursday. That’s because the U.S. believes the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its rebels, killing 1,000 men, women and children.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said any strike would be limited, such as cruise missiles that would strike specific Syrian military targets. These missiles would be launched from U.S. warships that have already been moved to the Mediterranean. It would not be massive bombing on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The action would be in partnership with allies in NATO and the Arab League. (Source: New York Times, Momentum Builds for Military Strike in Syria, August 27, 2013

How It Affects You

The Dow dropped 100 points, adding to its decline since August 2. (For more, see Dow Closing History.) Investors flocked to the traditional safe haven investments, gold and Treasuries. As a result, gold prices rose while Treasury yields dropped to 2.76%. Oil prices rose above $108 a barrel, as investors grew worried the conflict could escalate and create shortages. (Source: CNBC, Dow Drops 100 Points, August 27, 2013)

This potential conflict affects you in two ways, one short-term and one long-term. The short-term impact will be felt over the next few months, depending on how involved the U.S. becomes. This, of course, depends on the reaction of Syria and its allies, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The current unrest in Egypt could also be worsened, which has investors worried. Therefore, expect volatility in the next few weeks, which will drive stock prices lower and gold, Treasuries and oil prices higher.

The long-term impact may surprise you. Most analysts say that war is good for the economy. The theory is that defense spending creates jobs. This theory is based on the boost in U.S. economic growth from World War II, which many say ended the Great Depression.

However, times have changed. First, military spending is not the way to create jobs. A Brown University study estimated the cost of the Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan wars at $3.7 trillion, or $31,000 for every family in America. This counts benefits to disabled vets — nearly half of the 1.25 million who served have made health or disability claims.  It also counts the interest on the debt incurred to finance the wars — $185 billion.

A U Mass/Amherst study showed that $1 billion of military spending created 8,555 jobs and added $565 million to the economy. That sounds great until you compare it to other ways the money could have been spent. That same $1 billion given back to your family as a tax cut would have created 10,779 jobs and put $505 million into the economy as retail spending.

The best way to create jobs? Spend $1 billion on building mass transit. That creates 19,795 construction jobs and puts $880 billion into the economy. If you want to leverage that $1 billion in government spending into the best bang for the buck, try spending it on education. It puts $1.3 billion into the economy, while creating 17,687 jobs.

Even more important than the money are the lives disrupted. A quarter of a million people were killed, half of them Iraqi civilians.  The wounded total 365,000, while 7.8  million have been displaced.

As put so well by Reuters reporter Daniel Trotta:

In one sense, the report measures the cost of 9/11, the American shorthand for the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen hijackers plus other al Qaeda plotters spent an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 on the plane attacks that killed 2,995 people and caused $50 billion to $100 billion in economic damages.What followed were three wars in which $50 billion amounts to a rounding error. For every person killed on September 11, another 73 have been killed since.

Perhaps it’s time to admit we can no longer afford the true cost of war. Tell us in How Much Should the U.S. Spend on National Security?

Related Articles

  • Current Military Budget
  • How Bin Laden’s Death Could Help the Economy
  • The War on Terror: Facts About Its True Cost

Connect with: NEWSLETTER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | E-COURSE

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

VA Paid Incompetent, Missing Doctors Bonuses

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid bonuses to many of its doctors even though they had been disciplined for incompetent performance and negligent patient care, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In its investigation, the GAO found that annual performance bonuses ranging from $7,500 to $11,189 were paid to VA doctors who had been disciplined for: practicing medicine with an expired license, failing to read mammograms and x-rays competently, leaving the operating room during surgery, refusing to see emergency room patients, failing to be available for assigned hospital duties, and behavior that created an “atmosphere of fear and poor morale” in the emergency room.

At the four VA hospitals examined by the GAO, every medical professional eligible for a performance bonus got one, whether they had been disciplined for poor performance or not.

The GAO criticized the VA for a lack of a policy clearly defining what constitutes exceptional performance and how disciplinary actions affect the award of incentive bonuses.

“VHA (Veterans Health Administration) does not provide adequate oversight to ensure that its medical centers are in compliance and remain in compliance with performance pay and award requirements,” wrote the GAO.

During fiscal year 2011, about 18,000 (20%) of the 22,500 doctors and dentists employed by the Veterans Health Administration were awarded performance bonus, at a cost to taxpayers of about $150 million.

In response to the GAO’s report, the VA stated that it was working on policy changes it says will “clearly articulate the purpose or performance pay under VA’s physician and dentist pay system.”

And Now, Bonuses for VA Claims Processors?

The report could hardly come at a worse time for the VA, already suffering intense criticism for delays of up to 2 years in processing veterans’ claims for disability benefits. Despite working overtime since May, the VA acknowledges that some 480,000 benefit claims remain in “backlogged” status, taking more than 125 days to process.

On August 26, the Washington Post reported that the VA had paid its claims processors “millions of dollars in bonuses” for helping to show a reduction in the backlog by avoiding complicated claims that would take extra time to confirm veterans’ injuries and medical condition.

“The more complex claims were often set aside by workers so they could keep their jobs, meet performance standards or, in some cases, collect extra pay, said VA claims processors and union representatives,” reported the newspaper.

That may not have been exactly the method President Obama had in mind on August 10, 2013, when he promised the Disabled American Veterans that the benefit claims backlog would be eliminated “once and for all.”

Also See:
VA Says Catching Up on Disability Claims
VA Speeds Up Veterans Education Benefit Processing

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

Obamacare Card Calls are Scams

Watch out! A flood of scammers are exploiting the national state of confusion over the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – to steal your credit card, Social Security, and bank account numbers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers need to just hang up on telemarketers claiming to be “from the government” offering “Obamacare cards,” and even threatening jail time for people who do not buy health insurance.

The scammer’s call might go like this:

“Good morning. I’m calling from the government. We’re about to send out national Obamacare medical cards for the new Affordable Care Act. You’re one of the lucky people to get yours first, so I just need to confirm your name, address and phone number. Oh, and your bank account number, too…”

With the information these telephonic goons are trying to get out of you, they can: charge your existing credit cards, steal from your checking account, open new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, write fraudulent checks, or take out loans in your name.

As the FTC warns, “The government and legitimate organizations you do business with already have the information they need and will not ask you for it.” No agency of the federal government makes unsolicited phone calls or sends unsolicited email to citizens.

In a related scam targeting Medicare enrollees, scammers claiming to be “from Medicare” tell consumers that Obamacare requires them to report their personal financial information in order to keep getting benefits. They may even claim that Obamacare is replacing Medicare, which of course, is not true.

The truth is that the Affordable Care Act does not affect the benefits of current Medicare enrollees.

And It Will Only Get Worse

The FTC expects the volume of Obamacare-related scams to grow even larger with the approach of the October 1, 2013 deadline for the opening of the state insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act.

To help uninsured Americans buy insurance from the exchanges, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will employ “navigators” trained to explain coverage options and help consumers get the most affordable policy that will meet their specific health care needs.

The Obama administration has made $54 million in grants available for organizing and training the navigator, who must be trained and certified before being allowed to assist consumers.

However, Lois Greisman, associate director of the FTC’s division of marketing practices told the Washington Post, “What we’re very likely to see is (fake navigators saying), ‘For an upfront fee we can help you,’ but there shouldn’t be an upfront fee, it should be free.”

Greisman told the newspaper the FTC would advise consumers on how tell real navigators from scammers as soon as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized certification standards for navigators.

Also See:
Congress Gets an Obamacare Break
Latest Text Message Scams: Don’t Text Back

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

Will You Get “Slammed” by Obamacare?

A reader writes:

I am scared to death of Obamacare and what it means to me and my family. So far, the promise of lower premiums is not happening in my state because of lack of competition. I expect to get slammed the first of the year, according to everything I’m hearing. I will find out soon enough what the damage is.

Actually, you can find out now. Get familiar with the health care exchanges. You can find out today what subsidies you might be eligible for. You can also see if your insurance plan provides the 10 essential health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  Find out all the deadlines in When Does Obamacare Start?

As for what happens to you in January, it all depends on your current income. Here’s a way to estimate now what you will pay with Obamacare if you purchase insurance through the exchanges. How Can I Get an Estimate of My Costs Now?

Related Articles

  • How to Get Obamacare
  • How Does Obamacare Work?
  • 5 Obamacare Definitions You Need to Know

Connect with: NEWSLETTER | E-COURSE | TWITTER | GOOGLE PLUS | FACEBOOK

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

Will You Get “Slammed” by Obamacare?

A reader writes:

I am scared to death of Obamacare and what it means to me and my family. So far, the promise of lower premiums is not happening in my state because of lack of competition. I expect to get slammed the first of the year, according to everything I’m hearing. I will find out soon enough what the damage is.

Actually, you can find out now. Get familiar with the health care exchanges. You can find out today what subsidies you might be eligible for. You can also see if your insurance plan provides the 10 essential health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  Find out all the deadlines in When Does Obamacare Start?

As for what happens to you in January, it all depends on your current income. Here’s a way to estimate now what you will pay with Obamacare if you purchase insurance through the exchanges. How Can I Get an Estimate of My Costs Now?

Related Articles

  • How to Get Obamacare
  • How Does Obamacare Work?
  • 5 Obamacare Definitions You Need to Know

Connect with: NEWSLETTER | E-COURSE | TWITTER | GOOGLE PLUS | FACEBOOK

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

DOD, VA, Other Agencies to Study PTSD, TBI

The Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have launched a $107 million project to develop improved methods of diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in U.S. veterans.

The project responds to President Obama’s executive order calling for the creation of a National Research Action Plan for improved access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families.

Also See: What is an Executive Order?

The $107 million will fund two research groups joining the federal government and the academic community in developing new PTSD and TBI prevention and treatment methods.

The Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, will partner the University of Texas Health Science Center, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and the Boston VA Medical Center.

The Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma (TBI) Consortium, will be a collaboration between Virginia Commonwealth University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Richmond VA Medical Center.

“VA is proud to join with its partners in the federal government and the academic community to support the president’s vision and invest in research that could lead to innovative, new treatments for TBI and PTSD,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said a press release. “We must do all we can to deliver the high-quality care our service members and veterans have earned and deserve.”

Along with the Department of Defense and VA, the National Research Action Plan will engage the Departments of Health and Human Services, and Education in an effort “to improve scientific understanding, effective treatment, and reduce occurrences of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, co-occurring conditions, and suicide,” according to the DOD.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 2.5 million U.S. service members have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. “Military service exposes service members to a variety of stressors, including risk to life, exposure to death, injury, sustained threat of injury, and the day-to-day family stress inherent in all phases of the military life cycle,” stated the DOD.

President Obama spoke to the need to improve mental health care for veterans in his August 10 address to the Disabled American Veterans annual convention in Orlando, Florida.

“We also need to keep improving mental health services, because we’ve got to end this epidemic of suicide among our veterans and troops,” said the President. “I issued an executive order to step up our game, and we have: hiring more counselors, hiring more mental health providers, new awareness campaigns so that those who are hurting know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a part of staying strong.”

“So I’m not going to be satisfied until every veteran and every man and woman in uniform gets the support and the help they need to stay strong,” he said.

Also See:
Obama Vows to Speed VA Benefit Processing
VA to Work Overtime on Benefits Claims

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

USPS Lost Less Money in Third Quarter

While the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) lost another $740 million in the third quarter of 2013, that was a lot less than the $5.5 billion it lost during the same period last year. Could the Postal Service be on its way out of financial darkness and into the light of profitability?

Dream on. In fact, on August 13, the Washington Post quoted USPS Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett as stating that by the end of October, the service would be down to only five days worth of operating cash on hand. “This is a dangerously low level of cash,” said Corbett. “We do not have a sufficient cash cushion to run a business the size of the Postal Service.”

The Postal Service will continue to operate without “a sufficient cash cushion” at least until the first quarter of the new year, when its revenues traditionally rise.

According to Corbett, the Postal Service will again be unable to make its required $5.6 billion retiree health benefits prefunding payment due by Sept. 30, and will continue to have no ability to borrow additional funds.

In a press release, the Postal Service credited increases in efficiency and revenue from its shipping and package delivery services, along with decreases in workers’ compensation payments for losing less money than usual. However, First-Class mail revenue continued to fall as it has since 2008.

Also See: Postal Service Losses By Year

Along with the never ending drop in First-Class mail, the Postal Service blamed continued expenses for the legally-mandated prefunding of retiree health benefits and continuation of six-days-per-week mail delivery for its third quarter loss.

The Postal Service acknowledged that losing money more slowly will not cure what ails it. “We need to make fundamental changes to the way we currently do business, changes that are part of our Five-Year Business Plan,” said Corbett in a press release. “However, without comprehensive postal reform legislation signed into law, our hands are tied and we expect multi-billion dollar annual losses to continue.”

Both the House and Senate now have versions of postal reform legislation before them. The House version, which would not end the retiree health benefit prefunding requirement, is opposed by postal worker unions. The Senate version, which would end the prefunding payments, has more bipartisan support.

“We are encouraged that comprehensive postal reform legislation has started making its way through the legislative process in both the House and Senate,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe. “We continue to evaluate the current legislation based on whether it enables $20 billion in savings by 2017.”

Also See: Bill Would End Door-to-Door Mail Delivery

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in EconomyComments Off

Mike D

It Pays to Lose: Los Angeles Lakers Preview for 2013-14

Mike D'Antoni

Since the Los Angeles Lakers remain one of the most popular sports franchises in America, I decided it was time to put together an in-depth preview of the team for the 2013-14 NBA season.

Writing the preview wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be. Once I started to put ink to paper, I realized there are too many unanswered questions to accurately analyze the team.

Click here to read my detailed 2013-14 NBA preview for the Los Angeles Lakers.

As I detailed several weeks ago, I still believe that the Lakers will head into the upcoming season with the objective to tank for a high lottery pick and try to sign LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony in the 2014 offseason.

With that said, the Lakers’ plans may hinge on the health of Kobe Bryant. If he’s able to play at an elite level from day one, Los Angeles may attempt to make a run at the playoffs.

Although I have to admit, any attempt at making the playoffs would be a foolish move by Lakers management. Even if Bryant is 100 percent healthy and is somehow able to turn the clock back on Father Time, I still don’t believe L.A. has the necessary pieces in place to contend for a championship. Instead, I believe the team would make the playoffs only to lose in round one.

Losing early in the playoffs wouldn’t accomplish anything and it certainly wouldn’t please the diehard Lakers fan base. Ultimately all it would do is hurt the franchise by pushing them out of the Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker sweepstakes.

Sometimes it pays to lose. Like it or not, that’s the attitude Los Angeles should approach the upcoming season with.

Image source: Getty Images

Source: About.com


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...



Posted in BasketballComments Off

See Fresh News

From Around The World

News By Month

News By Date

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031