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Archive for December, 2009

Delaware joins 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in pact to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels

DOVER – Gov. Jack Markell joined the governors of 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states today in announcing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the states that underscores their commitment toward developing a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard in a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels for vehicles and other uses.

“We need to address the challenges we are facing with solutions that improve our environment and create jobs,” said Gov. Markell. “I am pleased that Delaware has again joined other states in addressing air quality and carbon emissions. This program will spark investment and innovation in alternative fuels and electric cars like those that Fisker Automotive plans to make in Wilmington.”

A Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program is a market-based, fuel-neutral program that would apply to the transportation sector, and potentially apply to fuels used for heating buildings. A regional standard is expected to spur economic growth related to development of advanced technologies and green energy jobs. A low carbon standard also has the potential to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which represent approximately 30 percent of emissions in the region; reduce regional vulnerability to petroleum price volatility; and facilitate the long-term transition from petroleum-based fuels in the transportation sector.

“Transportation fuels account for a significant portion of Delaware’s air pollution and 25 percent of our state’s and our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “A low carbon fuel standard is an innovative market-based approach that will find low-cost solutions to lowering carbon emissions and spurring local investments, and we’re pleased to be working once again on a regional level to address this important issue.”

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding along with Gov. Markell were: Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Gov. John Baldacci of Maine, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire, Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Gov. David Paterson of New York, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, Gov. Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island and Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the states agree to analyze low carbon fuel supply options, determine the feasibility of achieving a range of reduction goals, including a 10-percent reduction in carbon intensity of fuels, and develop a framework for a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard to ensure sustainable use of renewable fuels in the region. The Memorandum of Understanding also calls for a study to examine the potential economic impacts of any program moving forward.

The states have already demonstrated the success of regional emissions reduction programs with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. A regional program to address transportation and other fuels is considered prudent and efficient among the signatories given the interconnected nature of the fuel distribution system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

More information on the LCFS work in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region is available at:  http://www.nescaum.org/topics/low-carbon-fuels

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As part of its government watchdog role, the Caesar Rodney Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Delaware Board of Medical Practice — a division of the Department of State responsible for licensing physicians.

The FOIA request sought any prior complaints against Dr. Earl Bradley, the Lewes pediatrician charged with raping nine children.

Given the large victim pool and history of alleged abuse, CRI wanted to ensure the state had not overlooked or failed to investigate any previous complaints.

In their reponse, the Board of Medical Practice claims that no one had made any complaints against Bradley until this month.

The Board’s e-mail follows:

This is in response to your FOIA request for complaint information concerning Dr. Earl Bradley.

Investigative files, including complaint information, are exempt from FOIA and are not deemed public pursuant to 29 Del C., §10002(g)(3).  However, there are no documents responsive to your request, with the exception of the complaint and motion for temporary suspension which was filed by the Department of Justice on 12/23/2009.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your request.

Regards,

Kay Warren
Deputy Director
Delaware Department of State
Division of Professional Regulation

Phone: (302) 744-4503
Fax: (302) 739-2711

“Delivering Innovative and Responsive Services Through Individual & Team Initiative, Creativity and Leadership.”

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A fine example of what has become of the watchdog role of the state’s traditional media can be seen here.

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Feds grant DOC more time to satisfy Memorandum of Agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) has failed to keep it’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which it promised to improve inmate health care.

According to an e-mail sent Thursday morning by the DOC, the U.S. Department of Justice has granted the DOC an extension to make the necessary changes, and it has allowed the DOC to remove two institutions from the agreement.

The DOC entered into an agreement with the federal Department of Justice in 2006, after federal investigators determined that shoddy medical care was violating the civil rights of the inmates in state custody.

The e-mail from the DOC touts the improvements the agency has made. It does not specify the amount of additional time granted by the federal government.

The Justice Department had three options, as the DOC was not expected to fulfill it’s portion of the MOA. The DOJ could have brought suit against the state, quit the MOA without further action, or granted the extension.

The full text of the DOC’s email follows:

Department of Correction & US Department of Justice
Announce Extension of Medical Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
Significant progress cited, reduction in scope from initial agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) announced today that it has extended its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on inmate medical and mental health care services with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ). The extended agreement is greatly reduced in its scope from the original MOA and credits the State of Delaware with “significant” progress already made over the past three years.

During the time period covered by the current agreement, the State has come into full or partial compliance with 98 percent of the provisions – 214 out of 217 – contained in the original MOA. As a result of that effort, the extension eliminates provisions at every facility.

Improvements at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution were so substantial that the women’s prison is released entirely from the extended agreement. In addition, Sussex Correctional Institution has been removed from the medical care portion of the extension.

The new agreement, effective December 30, 2009, continues the role of the Independent Monitor, Joshua W. Martin, III of the Wilmington law firm of Potter Anderson and Corroon LLP, for the next year; however, the agreement specifically calls for the reduction of the role of the Independent Monitoring Team during the first year, and for the DOC to begin self-monitoring and reporting to the USDOJ during the second year.

The extension permits an extremely collaborative relationship between the DOC and the USDOJ to continue as the agencies share the common goal of bringing the State into full compliance with the MOA.

“I am pleased to sign this agreement,” said DOC Commissioner Carl C. Danberg. “Significant progress has been made as we continue to address the needs of inmate health care, and that effort is acknowledged in this new agreement. Through this extension, we are renewing our commitment to completely satisfy the MOA.”

While admitting there is still improvement to be made, Commissioner Danberg notes that the agreement itself reflects the State’s enormous progress over the past three years:

“Since monitoring began in early 2007, the State of Delaware and Department of Corrections staff have cooperated thoroughly with the Independent Monitor and his staff, as well as with the Department of Justice; have demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to addressing the challenging issues posed by meeting the requirements of the MOA; and have shown a willingness to proactively and voluntarily undertake measures to improve conditions throughout the system.”

  • “DOJ acknowledges that significant improvements have been made in many areas covered by the MOA during the past three years, and that the State has achieved substantial compliance with many specific provisions of the MOA.”
  • “In recognition of the substantial progress made towards improving the quality of medical and mental health care delivered at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution (“BWCI”), the greatly improved internal monitoring mechanisms established by the State, and the State’s demonstrated commitment to sustaining and building on these improvements, the Parties agree that BWCI is hereby released from the requirements of this Amended MOA….
  • “The DOJ also acknowledges that substantial improvements have been made to the quality of medical care delivered at the Sussex Correctional Institution (“SCI”).”

“Through this agreement, the Department of Justice confirms the tremendous strides we have made in providing inmate heath care in the State of Delaware,” said Danberg. “Using that as a foundation, we will continue to move forward and aggressively address the provisions in the new agreement.”

“This is good news for Delaware,” said State Representative J.J. Johnson, Chair of the House Corrections Committee.  “The U.S. Department of Justice has clearly indicated that significant progress has been made, but we have more work to do. This agreement commits the State to finish what we started.”

The two agencies entered into the original MOA on December 29, 2006, when the State agreed to take specific actions intended to improve medical and mental health care services at four prison facilities – Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (previously known as Delaware Correctional Center), and Sussex Correctional Institution.

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This is not the Christmas I had in mind. And the title of this post is in no way in jest.

For the first time in 114 years, the Senate has cast a vote on Christmas Eve – a vote for a terrible bill that has seemingly been part of a twisted game of telephone. In this case the message (the bill) began with one person and, once it made it through the Senate with plenty of special carve outs in exchange for votes, ended as something far different than how it originated.

President Obama recently wrote regarding the health care billl, “As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process.”

Compromise occurs when you meet in the middle, when there is give in take to come to a concensus. Compromise does not occur when certain states are given exemptions and special status in order to buy votes. That is bribery.

The supporters of this bill in the Senate have put special interests and pure selfishness above the greater good in this vote. They’ve put party loyalty over the public good. This is clearly evident in the carve outs. We are talking about $1.2 billion in carve outs to buy the votes (an amount equal to 1/3 of Delaware’s entire operating budget). Christmas came early for Ben Nelson, Chris Dodd and Mary Landrieu.

Other carve outs include:

  • Eliminating or reducing the Medicaid unfunded mandate on Nebraska, Vermont, and Massachusetts (starting on page 96, line 9)
  • Exempting certain health insurance companies in Nebraska and Michigan from taxes and fees (starting on page 367, line 6)
  • Providing automatic Medicare coverage for anyone living in Libby, Montana (starting on page 194 – section 10323)
  • Earmarking $100 million for a “Health Care Facility” reportedly in Connecticut (starting on page 328)
  • Giving special treatment to Hawaii’s Disproportionate Share Hospitals (starting on page 101, line 6)
  • Boosting reimbursement rates for certain hospitals in Michigan and Connecticut (starting on page 174 – section 10317)
  • Mandating special treatment for hospitals in “Frontier” States like Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming (starting on page 208 — Sec 10324)

In a recent interview, Harry Reid stated something along the lines of “Any Senator who doesn’t have something in this bill, well that doesn’t speak well of that senator.”

Is that really what this is about? This is not the twelve days of Christmas. This is a monumental action that will have a severe impact on our nation.

Even though they’ve cast their votes (even with no carve outs in the bill for Delaware) you can call the offices of Senators Carper and Kaufman and let them know how you feel. The bill still has to be meshed with the House version. Call Senator Carper. Call Ted Kaufman. Let your voice be heard!

For Senator Carper:

Washington, DC: (202) 224-24418-2190

Wilmington: (302) 573-6291

For Senator Kauffman:

Wilmington: (302) 573-6345

Washington D.C.: (202) 224-5042
There is one additional way you can take action. Over a half dozen state attorneys general have begun looking into whether the health care bill is constitutional.  When states are treated separately as a result of the carve outs, there may be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th Amendment.
There are plenty of Delawareans who are hurting right now. Yet, Senators Carper and Kaufman seem to have no problem supporting legislation that will have Delawareans subsidize folks in Nebraska or Louisiana.

You can urge Attorney General Biden to stand up for Delaware and the Constitution by joining the growing list of state attorneys general who have begun investigations into the constitutionality of this provision and into the “vote-buying.” You can call Attorney General Biden’s office at (302) 577-8400.

Since it is the holidays, I’ll end on a positive note. There has been little press given to H.R. 847, introduced by Representative Vern Buchanan. This legislation will require any health care negotiations to be open to the public. This is a no brainer. If you make a call to Carper or Kaufman mention that they should support this good move as well, maybe they’ll have a Scrooge type revelation.

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Here they are without fanfare: the good, the bad and the funny.

10. Markell’s First Governor’s Prayer Breakfast Highlights “Service Beyond Self”

9. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Provide Accurate Census Data

8. Governor, First Lady break ground on vegetable garden at Woodburn

7. Delaware Named One of the Nation’s Top 10 States for Cyclists

6. Markell Praises Announcement of DSU-UD Football Series

5. Delaware Department of Correction Announces New Bid for Prison Medical Contract

4. Governor Markell signs bill promoting plastic bag recycling

3. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Eat Locally Grown Fruit and Vegetables

2. Delaware ‘Should Have Its Day in Court’

1. ‘We Thought That The State Should Have A Chance To Make Its Case At Trial’


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For what it’s worth…

Both the New Castle County Council and the Wilmington City Council have passed resolutions supporting dredging the Delaware River.

Both resolutions, which lack any force of law, call on Gov. Jack Markell to support the dredging.

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In an untitled e-mail sent Thursday afternoon, Joe Rogalsky announced he is resigning his staff position as Gov. Jack Markell’s communications director.

Rogalsky, who joined Markell’s gubernatorial campaign as spokesman in December 2007, did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

“The Governor is and remains a public servant with bold ideas and vision, who is happy to take the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Rogalsky is quoted as saying in the e-mail. “Recently I decided it was time to make a difference in my own life.”

Before joining Markell’s team, Rogalsky worked as a reporter at the Washington Examiner and the The State News.

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A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall..”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

PLEASE, would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many
people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our
U.S service men and women for our being able to celebrate these
festivities. Let’s try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people
stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq

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Eric Staib of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute has written a thorough piece on what will happen if the current health insurance reform passes. Taking snippets of the piece wouldn’t do it justice, so you can read it in its entirety below or click on the link above to read it in its entirety.

It has been shown that the so-called “public option” for low-premium health insurance is sure to significantly crowd out, and perhaps even eliminate, the private provision of health insurance. Thanks to Senator Joseph Lieberman’s courageous stand, it appears that the public option will not be a part of any bill that passes the Senate. Unfortunately, HR 3962 includes regulations that will destroy the ability of private firms to provide marketable insurance, with or without a public option.

To understand the devastation that will be wrought by this bill, one must understand how health insurance functions on a free market to transfer individuals’ financial risk to large “risk pools” with less variation across time. Consumers who are risk averse pay “premiums” to insurers each month for the removal of that risk, and in turn insurers assign their clients to different pools according to their risk of large claims.

An Already-Regulated Industry

Insurance companies have already been strictly limited in their ability to assign individuals to different risk pools and charge them varying premiums. By forcing high-risk and low-risk groups into the same pool, existing regulations increase premiums for low-risk consumers and decrease premiums for high-risk consumers. This is nothing more than a coerced subsidy to the less healthy, and it drives low-risk consumers away from purchasing health insurance. This is why the majority of the uninsured are not poor and dying, but in fact healthy young people who are at almost no risk of unanticipated healthcare costs.

To cope with their inability to partition along risk levels, profit-seeking insurance companies must cut costs by excluding the highest-risk patients from insurance. In a free market, these individuals would be offered insurance at a higher premium aligned with their high risk of major claims. In human terms, this leads to the exclusion of people with preexisting conditions and those with significant claims on past insurance plans. Once again, we see how leftist economic policy harms the very class of society that its supporters desire to help.

Obamacare is a Welfare Program

Not oblivious to the exclusion of these unfortunate citizens, on page 95 of the bill, House Democrats have proposed to completely outlaw the exclusion of any customer on any of the following grounds:

health status, medical condition, claims experience, receipt of health care, medical history, genetic information, evidence of insurability, disability, or source of injury (including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence) or any similar factors.

Thus, it will become illegal to refuse to insure any consumer on any grounds, including evidence of insurability. In addition to being unable to exclude future enrollees, insurers will be prevented by page 29 from legally dropping any consumers from their plans on any grounds other than “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.”

The effect on the structure of insurance is obvious; this new law will turn health insurance into a legally-enforced entitlement program, and the new entitlement will be used by those who are too costly to be insured under the current restrictions on risk-pool partitioning. Again, it is important to remember that these patients would have the option to buy insurance on a free market, but that their plans would carry premiums that actually reflect their personal health risk.

While risk-pool separation is considerably limited by national and state regulations, the little separation that is allowed would still be able to mitigate the heavy costs of forcing insurers to cover literally every customer who wishes to buy insurance. While the high-risk individuals would not pay as much in premiums as they would on a free market, insurance companies would still be able to use slightly lower premiums to attract low-risk customers.

However, this inequality in premiums is offensive to politicians hell-bent on equality. Therefore, in the very next page of the bill, House Democrats propose to outlaw all variations in premiums except according to geographical area, age group, and whether the plan in question covers an individual or a family.

“The majority of the uninsured are not poor and dying, but in fact healthy young people who are at almost no risk of unanticipated healthcare costs.”

These provisions will be catastrophic to the insurance market. The bill only allows for premium variation across age by a ratio of two to one between the highest and lowest premiums. In real terms, elderly patients who cost several times as much to insure can only be charged twice as much as 20-somethings who often go entire years without claims. That this is a subsidy for the elderly hardly needs to be explicitly stated.

The bill leaves the determination of the maximum difference between individual and family plans at the discretion of the “health choices” commissioner, who is likely to find himself bombarded with visits and letters from family-centered lobbying organizations seeking subsidized health insurance paid for by singles and nonparents. This rent seeking will inevitably end up in subsidies handed out according to political objectives, whether the goal is to attract more young, single voters or more parents of children.

Turning any transaction into a subsidy both induces the subsidized class to enter the transaction and induces the subsidizing class to attempt to avoid it. In this case, it means that an even greater number of young and healthy individuals (and, most likely, nonparents) will drop their increasingly expensive insurance plans and attempt to prepare for healthcare risks on their own. This terrible result of coercive price-fixing decreases the benefit of the subsidy to high-risk consumers and decreases the ability of the insurance companies to control and reduce average payouts.

Democrats are aware of this effect of their policy, and have legislated accordingly. Pages 296–300 amend federal tax law to create a new tax on all citizens who fail to purchase health insurance. Depriving these individuals of the ability to opt out of the new, undifferentiated insurance pool is an atrocious affront to individual choice, and requires the threat of imprisonment. This new tax will help achieve the statistical goal of universal coverage, but it will do so at an incredible cost to the income and liberty of the relatively young and healthy, most of whom, ironically, voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

Soaring Costs

Not only will high-risk individuals who are now forced out of the market by regulation be legally entitled to purchase the bill’s minimum standard of coverage, but both these excluded consumers and those who are now in high-risk pools will have financial incentives to buy higher levels of insurance. Facing new, subsidized prices, high-risk individuals will purchase plans with lower deductibles. Paying for a higher percentage of the price of more claims will massively increase the cost of insuring the new general pool of clients.

One of the only remaining ways for insurers to cut their costs, then, is to limit the amount that individuals are able to receive in claims. Indeed, insurance companies already use lifetime claims limits to cope with risk-partition laws and deliver lower-price packages to low-risk consumers. Predictably, page 50 of the House bill prohibits insurance companies from imposing any such limits on lifetime benefits.

Outlawing lifetime limits guarantees that all consumers will have the incentive to undergo drastically more treatments in their lifetimes, because the bill ensures that they will not be moved into a higher premium group until they enter a different age group or move to a different area. For the already-subsidized elderly, this creates incentives to undergo many more life-extending treatments in the final year of their lives. Such treatments are several times more expensive than general care for other elderly patients.

Astute readers will correctly object that while the Democrats’ healthcare proposal will drastically increase the costs facing every insurance provider, the bill also requires all individuals to buy the minimum package of insurance, or to enroll in the public option. Especially because in the current discussion we are ignoring the effects of the public option, it is possible to argue that if there were no public option this bill would actually be a boon to private insurers, who are virtually guaranteed that every American will buy their plans. To survive this bill, then, insurance companies will simply increase the premiums of the packages that are forced onto every citizen.

This would indeed be true, were it not for further regulations effectively barring premium increases. Page 31 of the bill would require insurance companies to “submit a justification” for any projected future increase in premiums for any group to the secretary of Health and Human Services as well as state-level authorities.

The secretary of HHS and the state “health czars” would then annually review and approve or deny any increase in premiums. In various sections of the bill, the health choices commissioner is given power to determine the cost-accounting and other ratings methods that will determine whether a price increase is “justified” in the eyes of the DHHS Secretary.

$15 $12

Has Rose Wilder Lane received the recognition she deserves? Not even close. But this shirt makes a contribution.

Public officials operating under a Congressional mandate to achieve universal coverage are hardly likely to approve price increases, even though that means slowly bankrupting private insurers. Even if they are not made to “compete with” and be strangled by a public option that consumers have already funded with their tax dollars, private insurers will be absolutely ruined by restrictions on their ability to control and separate costs and to increase prices to account for their ever-rising costs.

Conclusion

While a public option would certainly hasten the death of the private-insurance market in America, it is not a necessary means to that end. By destroying the economic structure of insurance, House Resolution 3962 would convert an already-overregulated industry into a pseudo-private welfare program. Even without a public option, insurance companies would be kept from controlling costs or adjusting their prices. The inevitable result will be the complete dissolution of the private health-insurance market.

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