Health Care for All? Not Really

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

As elected officials and many federal government agencies tout and hail the coming expansion of the health insurance to most Americans, there is still a group of county residents who will be left out of any gains made.

The exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the healthcare expansion will lead to them continuing to rely on the County Health Department for badly needed health services. Savings that are supposed to be achieved as a result of more people having access to preventative health care, will not be fully realized, continuing the burden on county facilities which may not receive insurance reimbursements for the care they provide.

And while legal U.S. citizens cannot be denied insurance coverage due to health related conditions or other issues, there is concern that many may not be able to afford the cost of buying the insurance.

Thus a sizable group of people will still need to depend on the county’s public clinics and other emergency health care centers such as emergency rooms and public hospitals for some time to come.

At a minimum, the County of Los Angeles will continue to shoulder the burden of subsidizing the care for the undocumented, which may include up to 4 million persons, 10 percent of the state’s population.

So, in our view, it is premature for State Health Department officials and the governor to presume they can use present funding amounts to help pay for the coming health care expansion.

We also believe that the federal government should make sure the funds it gives to the state are adequate to support the expansion of community healthy clinics and hospitals.

The state should in turn fund the county facilities so they can continue to meet the health needs of those left uninsured.

Why Use a Bludgeon When a Calculator Will Do?

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Sequestration is both ugly and hard to explain. As a budget wonk, I like to use this metaphor:

It’s as if the American people are being squeezed into the back of a dilapidated Chevy pickup. Careening down a dirt road, we’re headed for a brick wall. Try as we might to wake up from this nightmare, we can’t stop the truck.

That sounds frightening, and it is. Once sequestration kicks in, we’ll feel the impact of approximately $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board federal cuts focused almost exclusively on discretionary spending.

Designed as the ultimate penalty — a bludgeon when what’s called for is a calculator — sequestration was supposed to force members of Congress to work together within a deficit reduction paradigm. It failed as a disciplinary measure for our lawmakers and it’s looking more likely to fail us all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized Americans.

Discretionary budget cuts aren’t equal. As legislated, sequestration slashes more or less evenly from what’s known as defense and non-defense discretionary spending. That sounds fair on the surface but consider that — at 57 percent of all discretionary spending

— Pentagon-related federal expenditures have risen 35 percent since 2002, 48 percent when you include war costs. At the same time, non-military discretionary spending increased only eight percent, with notable reductions in funding for key social programs between 2010 and 2013.

Unlike the audit-dodging Pentagon, which has drawn bipartisan criticism for waste and bad management, there’s no excess to trim. Sequester cuts to depleted social initiatives will mean less money flowing into state and local budgets, job loss, and the termination of services in sectors where there are already aching gaps between what’s needed and what’s offered. The needs won’t evaporate. The costs will shift to cash-strapped state and local governments in the form of property tax hikes and budget overrides.

Consider the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. While we’ve been splitting hairs over public dollars for food and roads, the F-35 has become the most costly weapons program in U.S. history due to setbacks and delays. The cost of just one of these jets (and 2,457 are on order this year) is nearly equal to the entire cut projected for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program expected to take effect under sequestration.

Further, budgets are about revenue and spending. Many in Congress believe that the pot of money to be spent or saved is finite. It isn’t. Yet, some members have an almost mythical resistance to raising revenue at a moment when affluent individuals and big corporations have the lowest tax burden in more than half a century.

Prior to January 1, the top 1 percent of income earners got a bigger annual income-tax break than the bottom 99 percent earned on average each year. Members of Congress grudgingly let most of that benefit sunset at the end of 2012. As a result, we’ll see approximately $620 billion in additional revenue over the next decade.

There’s more available. What about ending the Bush tax cuts for the second-richest one percent? And what about corporations? Officially, large U.S. companies are slated to pay a 35 percent tax on their profits. In practice, they pay nothing like that. In 2012, for example, corporate givebacks, loopholes, and overseas tax havens cost the Treasury $165 billion.

We’d have a different national conversation right now if Congress would muster the political will to tackle tough questions like these.

The bottom line is that sequestration upends democracy. Americans deserve better than government by crisis. Through our taxes, we’re the nation’s major bill payers. Sequestration robs us — and our lawmakers — of our right and responsibility to make nuanced, thoughtful decisions about the fate of our nation. We need a federal budget by the people, for the people.

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. NPP is part of the Pentagon Budget Campaign, a broad national effort to rein in wasteful Pentagon spending. NationalPriorities.org. Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Congress, Not Illegal Immigrants, to Blame For Immigration Mess

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

In the coming immigration reform debate the nation must return to the doctrine which governed through the 19th and much of the 20th centuries. To wit: Immigration policy must be based on what is good for the nation, not the immigrant.

Congressional representatives of both Houses must stop blaming illegal immigration on the immigrant who illegally crosses the border in search of economic opportunities not present in their home country. The blame lies with political decisions made or their silence on the issue by past and present members of the House and Senate.

Ignoring the issue for the benefit of political campaign contributions and favoritism to business interests since the early 1940’s caused the abandonment of the most successful immigration policy that made the nation great by supplying it with dedicated and fully committed loyal citizens from all countries in the world.

As early as 1947, then President Harry Truman noted that the undocumented entry along the nation’s southern border was becoming epidemic asking Congress to pass laws prohibiting such hiring. Congress ignored his request allowing the unrestrained flow and hiring to continue.

President Eisenhower guided in part by a New York Times article reading, “The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican ‘wetbacks’ to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government” in 1954, launched Operation Wetback deporting over one-million illegal entrants. The operation was hailed as a success, but in reality the southern border had been turned into a turn sty – don’t worry boss, I’ll be back tomorrow. An again, nothing was done about the hiring practices that was the invitation for illegal entries and reentries.

Politicos became adept at blaming Mexico and Mexican citizens for the illegal immigration phenomenon while taking their cue to say much but do nothing from their business political contributors and gaining favor with the nation’s nativist in which a fair number of Congressional members are among their ranks. There was little care about the animosity and resentment citizens held against these economic opportunity seekers. This led to the wide held belief that it’s not the jobs that attract; rather it is the lawlessness of Mexicans because after all, the U.S. is a nation of laws and law abiding citizens.

During his second term, President Ronald Reagan showed the necessary resolve to tackle the issue. And tackle it he did. He pushed and had Congress pass the first truly immigration reform, which for the first time made it a Federal offense to hire illegal immigrants. The passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986, was to hail a new era on immigration policy and bring back the nation on course returning to an immigration policy that was best for the country.

But politicos guided by and influenced by special interests gutted the sections pertaining to illegally hiring and in many cases when the then Immigration and Naturalization Service attempted to enforce illegal hiring of undocumented workers, Congressional members stepped in to stop them. It was a blatant disregard for the law for which ordinary citizens would have been accused of aiding, abetting, conspiring or at minimum, interfering with authorities in the process of their duty. It was a shameful practice but no one spoke up against those Congressional representatives.

So IRCA was blamed as a failure. The failure was not the law; it was the political hypocrisy of our elected body. Had IRCA been properly enforced, illegal immigration would not be the problem it is today. To be sure, illegal immigration would continue today, but without jobs available the numbers would be minimal.

So now we are leaving it up to Congress to once again come to the table and provide us with WHAT? More of the same?  If so, we will be no further ahead than we were in 1986.

There is no need for long and prolonged debate on the issue. It is as simple as revisiting IRCA and adjust it but with clear mandate for strict adherence to the sections prohibiting hiring of undocumented workers, and forcing the agricultural sector to comply with IRCA’s mandate regarding the use of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Guest Worker Program. IRCA’s probation section, wrongly labeled Amnesty, can be duplicated as written but with stricter controls and enforcement. It’s all there.

Once this is done, the work can begin on making the other

changes to keep the flow of highly skilled and educated immigrants that are in high demand and needed to continue the nation’s growth.

It is simply a matter of doing right by the nation, not the politicians and their patrons.

Patrick Osio is the Editor of HispanicVista.com. Contact at: PosioJr@aol.com


EGP Open Call for Community Contributors

February 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Want to write a Blog or a news article? Are you an amateur photographer interested in sharing your work with the community? Or are you just an active community member who wants to raise awareness about important events or issues.

If so, here’s your chance. Eastern Group Publications Inc. (EGP News)—a family-owned group of 11 bilingual newspapers, including this one, in the greater East Los Angeles area—is looking for community contributors.

Community contributors can submit work anytime to be considered for publication at EGPnews.com, EGP’s facebook page or in our newspapers: Eastside Sun, Northeast Sun, Mexican American Sun, Bell Gardens Sun, City Terrace Comet, Commerce Comet, Montebello Comet, Monterey Park Comet, ELA Brookyln Belvedere Comet, Wyvernwood Chronicle, and Vernon Sun.

Community contributor work, like at other news websites and publications, is unpaid. However, experienced writers and photographers may solicit/submit freelance work for consideration.

News also offers internships in editorial writing, graphic design and/or website design.

Submit your story or photos today at editorial@egpnews.com or call EGP’s Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez at (323) 341-7970 to schedule an appointment and discuss this opportunity further.

For Web Only: Opinion pieces are also being accepted for consideration to be published in our Editorial Page.

Herbalife Voluntarily Recalls Meal Nutritional Shake Mix Packets

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Herbalife International of America has announced the voluntary recall of certain lots of Instant Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix packets because the label identifies the product as dairy-free, when it may contain trace amounts of milk proteins.

The product was distributed from Jan. 16-Feb. 16 exclusively to individual independent distributors as cartons of 12 packets or as single-serving packets in the company’s introductory business pack (lot numbers 133405G10, 133408G10, & 133409G10).

The lot code is printed on the pressed seal to the right side of the front panel of the Instant Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix packet and at the bottom of the carton.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that certain lots contained unanticipated trace quantities of milk proteins.

Individuals with severe allergies to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume products containing milk proteins.

Independent distributors and their customers that have purchased this product are urged to return the product for exchange or refund. Consumers with questions may call Herbalife’s customer service department from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays at (866) 866-4744.


Armed Home Invasion Suspect Jailed, Police Search for More East LA Victims

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department on Feb. 22 announced the East Los Angeles Sheriffs Station is seeking victims of un-reported home invasion robberies possibly committed by a suspect now in custody.

The District Attorney’s Office filed two counts of robbery with gun enhancements against 27-year-old East LA resident Josue Vasquez, who was arrested on Feb. 13. Vasquez is accused of two home invasion robberies that occurred in East LA, the first was on Jan. 9 at a home on the 3600 block of Floral Drive. The second crime took place on Jan. 25 at a home on the 3500 block of Cesar Chavez Avenue.

Vasquez was arrested after being picked out of a photographic line-up. He is currently in custody in lieu of $200,000 bail.

Vasquez is a 5’6” Hispanic man, weighing 200 lbs., with short brown hair and brown eyes. His photo has not been release due to the on-going investigation.

Detectives believe there may be additional un-reported, home-invasion robberies committed by Vasquez. Anyone who may have been a victim or has information regarding these crimes or others, should contact Detective Steve Hernandez at (323) 981-5035.


Despite Challenges, Health Centers Have High Satisfaction Rates With Patients

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Low-income Americans are more likely to be satisfied with the care they receive at federally qualified health centers (FQHC) than at mainstream health care providers, reveals a new study in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

The level of satisfaction shown by people who use the health centers was surprising, said lead author Leiyu Shi, DrPH, MBA, MPA, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, Baltimore, M.D.

Because the centers treat a more vulnerable population, they often have a more difficult time addressing their patients’ needs, he noted. Yet, the study shows that health centers appear to be reducing gaps in both quality of service and accessibility, he said.

Federally funded health centers are usually located in medically underserved communities, making them more likely to be either in inner city or rural areas, explained Shi.

Patients using these centers are more racially and ethnically diverse than the national population and more likely to be uninsured (39 percent compared to 17 percent) or to receive Medicare or Medicaid (54 percent compared to 27 percent) and to be in fair to poor health than the general population. But patients at FQHCs also reported better access to primary care and were more likely to be satisfied with the care they received (97.7 percent) than low-income Americans getting health care elsewhere (87.2 percent).

“This study tells us a lot about the role of a safety net system,” said Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. Federally qualified health centers have become like other health providers, but are more focused on primary care and preventive medicine, he noted. They are based in the community, with one federal requirement being that 51 percent of the members of their board of directors be from the community. They can bill private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, he said. “They have a range of ways for the completely uninsured to pay, usually on sliding fee scale,” he added. “They are much more sensitive to the individual who does not have any money or the ability to pay it back.”

Study authors suggest that there should be broader adoption of the FQHC model of care, which includes comprehensive and preventive primary care, a focus on vulnerable populations such as minorities and the uninsured, consumer participation, and cultural and linguistic sensitivity, among other features.

Key Points from Study

-Low-income Americans are more likely to be satisfied with the care they receive at federally qualified health centers (FQHC) than at mainstream health care providers.

-FQHC patients are more ethnically and racially diverse, more likely to be uninsured or on public insurance and more likely to be in poor health than the general population.

Commerce Business Ordered to Pay Back Wages

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A home furnishings business located in the city of Commerce has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay 57 current and former employees $130,000 in back wages, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, which totals $260,000.

Dahdoul Textiles Inc. was found to be willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions at the company’s Los Angeles retail store located at 1049 S. Los Angeles St. and at a warehouse located at 7200 Bandini Blvd. in Commerce.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Negocio Local Citado por Salarios Atrasados, Daños y Perjuicios

Investigators from the labor department’s Wage and Hour Division established that Dahdoul Textiles employees were paid straight time for all hours worked and did not receive an overtime premium for hours worked beyond 40 per week, as required by under federal labor law. The employer also maintained two separate timekeeping systems to conceal employees’ work hours, according to the labor department.

“The Wage and Hour Division is focused on not just recovering what is rightfully due to workers, but also preventing employers from breaking the law in the future,” said Kimchi Bui, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Los Angeles District Office. “The fact that we were able to recover double the original wages owed to the workers serves as a warning to employers, who try to skirt the law, that they may face serious financial consequences.”

As part of the consent judgment, the company must not violate federal labor laws in the future, and is required to pay $10,000 in civil money penalties., Dahdoul Textiles is also required to provide annual employee training on federal labor laws and must display a notice of the department’s findings in both English and Spanish in areas highly visible to employees.

Under federal labor law, covered employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. Employers are required to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.

As a general rule, employers who violate the law are liable for the employees back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.

Dahdoul Textiles is a retail and wholesale business that sells comforters, blankets, rugs and various home furnishing items.

Coming Soon: A New Way to Buy Health Insurance

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

When key parts of the health care law take effect in 2014, you’ll have a new way to buy health insurance for yourself, your family, or your small business: the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is designed to help you find health insurance that fits your budget, with less hassle.

Every health insurance plan in the new Marketplace will offer comprehensive coverage, from doctors to medications to hospital visits. You can compare all your insurance options based on price, benefits, quality, and other features that may be important to you, in plain language that makes sense.

You’ll know you’re getting a quality health plan at a reasonable price, because there’s nothing buried in the fine print.

When you shop at the Marketplace, all your costs are stated upfront. So you’ll get a clear picture of what you’re paying and what you’re getting before you make a choice.

California’s Marketplace is called Covered California (www.CoveredCa.com).

Under the health care law, you and your family also will have new protections. Health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you, or charge you more just because you have a chronic or pre-existing condition. And they can’t charge more for women than for men.

Here are three things to keep in mind about the Health Insurance Marketplace:

—It’s an easier way to shop for health insurance. The Health Insurance Marketplace simplifies your search for insurance by gathering all your options in one place. One application, one time, and you and your family can explore every qualified insurance plan in your area – including any free or low-cost insurance programs you may qualify for, such as Medi-Cal or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

—Most people will be able to get a break on costs. Programs that lower costs are available for almost everyone. You may be eligible for a free or low-cost plan, or a new kind of tax credit that lowers your monthly premiums right away. New rules and expanded programs mean that even working families can get help paying for health insurance at the Marketplace.

—Clear, apples-to-apples comparisons. All health insurance plans in the Marketplace present their price and benefit information in simple terms you can understand, so you don’t have to guess about your costs.

Starting on October 1, 2013, you’ll be able to enroll in a health plan through Covered California. Detailed information will be available about all the insurance plans offered in your area.

You can sign up now at www.CoveredCa.com to get email updates that will let you know how to get ready to enroll in the plan of your choice.

If you have difficulty finding a plan that meets your needs and budget, there’ll be people available to give you personalized help with your choices. These helpers aren’t associated with any particular plan, and they don’t receive any type of commission, so the help they give you will be completely unbiased.

Www.CoveredCa.com will be much more than any health insurance website you’ve used before. Insurance companies will compete for your business on a level and transparent playing field, with no hidden costs or misleading fine print. You’ll have more choice, more control, and more clout when it comes to health insurance.

Insurance coverage offered through Covered California takes effect on January 1, 2014.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Trust Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).


Preparatoria Roosevelt Consolidará Sus Escuela Pequeñas

February 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Un consejo compuesto de representantes de las siete escuelas de la Preparatoria Roosevelt en Boyle Heights esta semana votaron a favor de reducir el número de escuelas en el campus a solo una. La decisión resultó después de horas de discusiones y votos emparejados. El consejo también recientemente decidió mantener a una academia localizada fuera del campus principal, en su ubicación actual por ahora. La escuela Magnet Academia de Matemáticas, Ciencia y la Tecnología no será afectada por los cambios en Roosevelt.

El consejo de toma de decisiones compartidas (Shared Decision Making Council en inglés), compuesta por dirigentes del sindicato de maestros en cada escuela pequeña de Roosevelt así como los directores de las escuelas, el martes votaron a favor de unir las cinco escuelas pequeñas de Roosevelt a solo una grande, de acuerdo con Patrick Sinclair, portavoz de  la asociación Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), que gestiona Roosevelt.

El consejo de toma de decisiones compartidas el 21 de febrero votó a favor de permitir que la academia del Medio Ambiente y Póliza Social (ESP) permanezca en el East LA Skills Center durante un año. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

El consejo y PLAS están trabajando para crear un plan de reorganización requerido por el Superintendente del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles John Deasy, que quiere que Roosevelt sea “más económica y funcional” y que haga frente el rendimiento estudiantil de todo el campus.

El consejo inició sus largas deliberaciones el lunes, pero después de varios empates, el debate se postergó hasta el martes, cuando lograron el voto final de 10 a 6 a favor de fusionar las cinco escuelas.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Roosevelt Plan Will Consolidate Small Schools on Main Campus

Rafael Huipe, presidente del cuerpo estudiantil de Roosevelt y alumno en la Escuela de Ciencia, Tecnología, Ingeniería y Matemáticas (STEM por sus siglas en inglés), dijo a EGP que la mayoría de los estudiantes querían que Roosevelt sea solo una escuela y ya que él los representa, votó a favor del plan para consolidar las escuelas en el campus principal.

Huipe dijo a EGP que ha habido mucha competencia entre las escuelas. Además de competir por recursos, durante los esfuerzos de reclutar los estudiantes las escuelas se promueven como mejor que los demás. Los malos sentimientos de competencia se hicieron más evidente recientemente cuando se inciaron los esfuerzos de reorganización, dijo Huipe.

La votación del martes solo es parte del inicio de la planificación, y establece el escenario para la próxima serie de cuestiones que deben tomarse en cuenta durante el proceso de reorganización. El plan se debe someter a Deasy el 8 de marzo, de acuerdo con Sinclair.

En la actualidad, cada una de las escuelas de Roosevelt tiene tema académico central, como el medioambiente o la ingeniería, pero aún es por decidir si estos temas continuarán bajo la nueva estructura.

Algunas de las ventajas de la consolidación será la eliminación del programa de “pasaportes”, así como combinar recursos para proporcionar una mayor intervención para los estudiantes que no están a nivel de su grado escolar.

Detalles acerca de la financiación y dotación de personal también tendrán que ser abordados en futuras discusiones. Pero con menos escuelas, parece probable que algunos puestos ya no serían necesarios.

Antes de la votación del martes, la academia del Medio Ambiente y Póliza Social (Academy of Environmental & Social Policy, o ESP) recibió un respiro temporal. El viernes pasado el consejo votó a favor de permitir que la escuela pueda seguir en el East Los Angeles Skills Center. Un miembro del consejo, dijo que no creía que fuera buena idea obligar a ESP a regresar al campus principal, si no era lo que querían. La votación final acerca de ESP fue 12 si, 2 no y 3 abstenciones.

Mientras que el voto era una especie de victoria, ESP ahora debe averiguar cómo cubrir el costo de $50,000 anuales para el transporte de estudiantes de Roosevelt a la instalación ubicada en Lincoln Heights. ESP tiene hasta el 1 de julio para presentar un plan aceptable o podría ser disuelto y los estudiantes y profesores enviados a otras escuelas dentro de la zona local.

Mientras tanto, Roosevelt no es la única escuela de PLAS en Boyle Heights que esta experimentando cambios. La preparatoria Felicitas y Gonzalo Méndez Learning Center también se esta sometiendo a una reorganización autoimpuesta, Sinclair dijo a EGP. El personal de Méndez votó a principios de este mes para consolidar las dos escuelas—escuela de Ingeniería y Tecnología y la escuela de Matemáticas y Ciencia—en una sola escuela antes del inicio del año escolar 2013-2014.

Los padres que deseen más información acerca de los cambios en Roosevelt pueden comunicarse con el director de su estudiante al (323) 780-6500.


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