From the daily archives: Monday, August 16, 2010

Attorneys for the two same-sex couples who successfully sued to strike down Proposition 8 have been joined by state Attorney General Jerry Brown in urging the 9th Circuit to allow gay marriages to resume without delay.

 

San Diego, CA – August 16, 2010 — With an extremely active hurricane season looming, today the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross joins Red Cross chapters nationwide in launching a new disaster relief fundraising drive.

“The Red Cross spends about $450 million a year responding to nearly 70,000 disasters across the country – floods, wildfires, tornados and home fires,” said Joe Craver, CEO of the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter. “We’re asking people to click, text or call to support Red Cross disaster relief.”

Red Cross chapters across the state and country are taking part in the new disaster response fund-raising drive, kicked off at the height of the hurricane season in August and September. As part of this effort, the Red Cross is airing national television ads, sending targeted fund-raising appeals and making public appeals for disaster donations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts between 4 to 6 major hurricanes this year. Major hurricanes are Category 3, 4 and 5 storms that do the most damage—such as Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita and Wilma—with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

These predictions bear an eerie resemblance to the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, when multiple major hurricanes, including Katrina, struck the U.S. More than 35 million people live in regions vulnerable to Atlantic hurricanes, and many in the Gulf coast region are already experiencing hardship as a result of the oil spill.

“We’ve all seen the predictions for this year’s hurricane season, and it’s worrisome,” said Craver.

Contributions for disaster relief will support relief efforts to the 70,000 disasters the Red Cross responds to every year, whether they are hurricanes that affect millions of people here or abroad, floods that affect thousands, or a house fire that drives one family from its home.

“We’ll be asking San Diego and Imperial Counties residents for donations to help support Red Cross disaster relief, and we hope people will respond,” said Craver. “Every single donation brings hope to people in need.”

Readiness is a big part of disaster relief. The Red Cross already has pre-positioned equipment and materials near areas that could be hit by hurricanes. In addition, the Red Cross frequently moves supplies and people closer to an area threatened by a hurricane so they can be ready to respond quickly. These preparations cost money, and those funds have to be available long before a storm strikes.

People who want to make a contribution to disaster response can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS to support American Red Cross Disaster Response or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a donation.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.  Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.  Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

 

Calexico, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents, in collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the Calexico, Calif., port of entry stopped more than $400,000 in undeclared currency from leaving the U.S. late last week during an outbound enforcement operation.

click for hi-res
More than $400,000 was hidden in the tailgate of this truck, which was intercepted during southbound enforcement operations.
More than $400,000 was hidden in the tailgate of this truck, which was intercepted during southbound enforcement operations.

The incident occurred at about 10 p.m. on Aug. 12, when an ICE agent conducting enforcement outbound operations with CBP officers and Border Patrol agents referred a white 1995 Ford F-150 pick-up truck for an intensive inspection.

The driver, a 58-year-old male Mexican national and legal resident of Phoenix, Ariz., gave officers a negative declaration to transporting more than $10,000.

A CBP K-9 team performed an examination and the currency detector dog alerted to the rear of the vehicle. CBP officers noticed anomalies with the vehicle’s tailgate and removed its access plate.

CBP officers discovered several vacuum sealed clear packages containing U.S. currency hidden within the tailgate. The total cash seized was $434,720.

CBP officers arrested the driver and turned him over to ICE agents for further investigation. CBP seized the money and vehicle.

Pete Flores, San Diego CBP assistant director for trade said, “Keeping this money out of the hands of criminal organizations helps to diminish their operations, which will keep our communities safe.”

This is the second large cash seizure at the Calexico port of entry this week. On Sunday, during outbound enforcement operations, CBP officers seized more than $2.1 million of undeclared currency from leaving the United States.

It is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling more than $10,000 to a CBP officer upon entry or exit from the U.S. or to conceal it with intent to evade reporting requirements. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

 

ECRMC is partnering with TeamHealth, one of the nation’s leading providers of emergency department staffing and management services.

TeamHealth has over 30 years of experience working with both small and large emergency departments across the country. The group brings a vast network of experience and best practices, which result in improvements to patient safety, customer service and patient wait times.

“In our search for emergency department providers we looked for strong references, strong medical director leadership, quality ER physicians, optimized staffing, and a focus on quality and accountability for physician performance,” said David Green, CEO of ECRMC. “We determined TeamHealth exceeded the criteria we set forth to continue to provide the best service possible for the Imperial Valley.”

Effective August 2010, the partnership continues to demonstrate ECRMC’s commitment to providing health care excellence.  TeamHealth will assist the hospital in providing quality emergency physicians and enhancing numerous efficiencies that will result in improved patient and staff satisfaction.

“TeamHealth has a proven reputation of providing top quality medical leadership, continuing education for medical staff, collaborative support of nursing and medical staff, and programs and tools to sustain patient satisfaction,” added Green. “They are a welcome addition.”

“We are excited about this opportunity to work in collaboration with hospital leadership, the medical staff, and the emergency department personnel to provide the Imperial Valley community with efficient and high quality emergency department patient care,” said Steven Myles, Vice President, Client Services, TeamHealth.

About TeamHealth

TeamHealth (Knoxville, Tenn.) (NYSE: TMH) was founded in 1979 and has become one of the largest suppliers of outsourced healthcare professional staffing and administrative services to hospitals and other healthcare providers in the United States. Through its seven principal service lines located in 13 regional sites, TeamHealth’s more than 5,900 affiliated healthcare professionals provide emergency medicine, hospital medicine, anesthesia, teleradiology, and pediatric staffing and management services to more than 530 civilian and military hospitals, clinics, and physician groups in 48 states.

About ECRMC

El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC) is a licensed 165-bed general acute care facility located in El Centro, Calif. ECRMC is committed to providing the community with high quality healthcare as reflected in its mission statement: “To Provide Healthcare Excellence For The Imperial Valley.”

ECRMC is moving forward with the planning and development of the hospital expansion project that will replace the older portion of the hospital. In addition, the hospital is developing a new facility to meet the needs of the Imperial Valley and provide an advanced healthcare facility and service, helping ECRMC continue to achieve it’s goal of providing excellence in healthcare.

Recent additions to the hospital include the opening of the Wound Care Center; the implementation of the Hospitalist Program; the Asthma and Diabetes Program; and the Children’s Specialist Program. A new Outpatient Center is planned in order to continue excellent service within the local community.

ECRMC has also recently announced a collaboration with the Oncology and Hematology Center of Imperial Valley to create the El Centro Regional Medical Center Oncology and Hematology Center. Maintaining its commitment to medical technology advancement, the hospital has invested in the da Vinci Si HD Surgical System. The surgery system allows for safe and less intrusive procedures in various surgical fields, including urology, cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology and more.

 

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the award of $1 million to California to help crack down on health insurance premium increases.  California will use this Affordable Care Act funding to help improve the oversight of proposed health insurance premium increases, take action against insurers seeking unreasonable rate hikes, and ensure Californians receive value for their premium dollars.
“The Affordable Care Act puts in place critical market reforms to improve quality and reduce the cost of health care for employers and individuals.  Increased competition, lower insurance overhead, and better risk pooling in health insurance Exchanges in 2014 are expected to reduce premiums in the individual market by anywhere from 14-20 percent according to the Congressional Budget Office,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Between now and then, we will continue to work with States to ensure consumers are receiving value for their premium dollars and to avoid the kind of double digit premium increases seen recently.  The State proposals approved today demonstrate the need and desire for new resources and tools to help them protect against unjustifiable premium increases.”
The Affordable Care Act provides States with $250 million in Health Insurance Premium Review Grants over five years to help create a more level playing field by improving how states review proposed health insurance premium increases and holding insurance companies accountable for unjustified premium increases.  Applications for the first round of Health Insurance Premium Review Grants were made available on June 7.
The grants build on the Obama Administration’s work with States to implement the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, Secretary Sebelius called on certain insurance companies to justify large premium increases and encouraged State and local officials to obtain stronger health insurance premium review authorities under State laws.  This increased scrutiny by the Administration and by several States has led to the withdrawal or reduction of several proposed health insurance premium increases that in some cases turned out to be based on faulty assumptions and data.
This grant will be used for the purposes detailed in the approved application.  The following is a general summary of how California intends to use its funding:
  • Pursue Additional Legislative Authority: The governor will present legislation that synchronizes review activities across the Department of Managed Health Care and Department of Insurance offices.  California’s Department of Managed Health Care conducts limited review of small group and guaranteed issue rates for HMO and other managed care plans.  The California Department of Insurance reviews health insurance premium increases in the non-HMO market prospectively.  An actuary reviews rates for compliance with California’s 70 percent medical loss ratio rule and also assesses actuarial assumptions and trends.  Insurers are contacted regarding most filings and approximately two thirds resubmit lower rates. For small group, plans must demonstrate compliance with rate factors requirements.  There is no large group review by either entity.
  • Expand the Scope of the Review Process: California will expand the authority of the Department of Managed Health Care to collect and review all submitted individual and small group health insurance premium increases.
  • Improve the Review Process: The Department of Managed Health Care currently has limited review authority.  Both the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance will improve the collection of health insurance premium information, enhance the depth and breadth of current rate review activities, and make IT system improvements.   The Department of Managed Health Care will initiate actuarial review of filings and the Department of Insurance will enhance its existing actuarial review capacity.
  • Increase Transparency and Accessibility: Currently only the Department of Insurance posts filings by insurance companies.  The Department of Managed Health Care will also begin to post filings and both agencies will educate consumers on influential underlying factors of cost data so consumers are able to understand the cost of health care choices.
  • Develop and Upgrade Technology: California will build the infrastructure necessary to scrutinize a significantly greater number of rate proposals.
“States will use these grant dollars in the way that makes the most sense for their insurance consumers,” said Jay Angoff, Director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.  “As we continue to implement the new health insurance reform law, we will continue to work with States to ensure they have the tools they need to ensure the stability of the marketplace, keep costs low and provide consumers with increased transparency, choice and quality they need to make the best health care decisions for their businesses and families.”
The Health Insurance Premium Review Grants are one element of a broad effort under the Affordable Care Act to reduce the unreasonable premium increases proposed by some insurers today.  Additional resources from this $250 million program will be available in subsequent years to further strengthen State health insurance premium review procedures.  Other statutory provisions designed to improve affordability include:
  • In 2011, the Affordable Care Act allows the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review justifications for unreasonable increases in premiums and make them public;
  • In 2011, insurers will generally be required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care services and quality-improvement activities and limit their spending on overhead, marketing, CEO salaries, and profits; and
  • In 2014, the Affordable Care Act empowers States to exclude health plans that show a pattern of excessive or unjustified premium increases from the new health insurance Exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act includes a wide variety of provisions designed to promote a high-quality, high-value, health care system for all Americans and to make the health insurance market more consumer-friendly and transparent.  Some of the provisions that take effect by the end of next year, or are already in effect, include prohibitions on pre-existing condition exclusions for children; prohibition on lifetime dollar limits in all health plans; extended access to insurance for many young adults; and an unprecedented level of transparency about health insurance through www.HealthCare.gov.
To read more about how each state will use its grant funding, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/center/grants/index.html.  For a national fact sheet visit http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/rates.html.

 
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