Trump blasts Fox News election coverage

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Newsom Changes Course On Plan To Pay For Immigrant Health Coverage

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration Friday reversed course on his plan to divert public health dollars from several counties to help provide health coverage to young adults who are in the country illegally.

The administration heeded the alarm sounded by Sacramento, Placer, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus counties, which had warned that the governor’s plan would compromise their ability to cope with surging rates of sexually transmitted diseases and, in some cases, measles outbreaks.

“The Administration has subsequently reevaluated this proposal due to the potential negative impacts to public health activities in these counties,” Vivek Viswanathan, chief deputy director of the state Department of Finance, wrote in a letter Friday to the chairs of the state Assembly and Senate Budget Committees.

Sacramento County, for example, estimates it would have lost roughly $ 7.5 million  that goes toward operating its STD clinic and paying communicable disease investigators. It warned that without the money, it would have to close the STD clinic and cut its own health services for undocumented immigrants of all ages.

“The public health dollars being restored make a big difference particularly at a time we have measles,” Dr. Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County Health Services Director, told California Healthline Friday. “We’re thrilled. It’s a great thing for the patients that we’re serving.”

This year, there have been 44 confirmed cases of measles in California as of May 8, three of them in Sacramento County. Public health officials also are struggling to address record rates of sexually transmitted diseases, with more than 300,000 cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis reported in California in 2017.

On Thursday, when Newsom unveiled his revised budget — one that still included the plan to divert money from the four counties — he announced it would cost less to cover young adult unauthorized immigrants next year than previously estimated.

Because the state would have to delay the implementation date by six months to address IT issues, he said, it would cost $ 98 million to cover them in 2019-20, a significant drop from his original forecast of $ 260 million. The number of people expected to enroll also has dropped from 138,000 to 106,000.

The lower cost estimate means the administration won’t need to divert money from those four counties. What it does need, it will take from a special state budget reserve fund, said Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

Newsom still plans to divert state money from 35 mostly small and rural counties, funds that currently pay for health services for uninsured residents, including undocumented immigrants, Palmer said.

Those counties participate in something called the County Medical Services Program, which has a $ 300 million budget surplus, Newsom noted at his budget briefing Thursday.

“That’s more than enough to address their issues,” Newsom said.

He also noted that his budget includes $ 40 million to combat infectious diseases.

Legislators are crafting their own budget proposals and have held dozens of hearings examining Newsom’s plan. The governor and lawmakers have until June 15 to negotiate a final budget, so it’s not yet clear which proposals will be included.

Placer County, which has reported three measles cases this year, praised Newsom’s change of heart.

“I appreciate the governor listening to some of the potential impacts it could have on public health and realizing that, in this time in California, we need to be making investments,” said Jeff Brown, director of Placer County’s Health and Human Services Department.


This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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This year’s Stars in the Alley concert was held on May 10. Hosted by Alex Brightman, the celebration included performances and appearances by 2019 Tony Award-nominated performers including Caitlin Kinnunen The Prom, Sarah Stiles Tootsie, as well as performances from 2019 Tony Award-nominated musicals including Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations Beetlejuice Hadestown Kiss Me, Kate Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma The Prom and Tootsie.
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Federal Shutdown Mostly Spares Health Coverage, But Other Issues Loom

As the partial government shutdown drags on, about 800,000 federal employees who work for the shuttered agencies — and their families — are facing the reality of life without a paycheck.

And those workers need to consider a host of other related issues as they attempt to make ends meet.

For starters, what will happen to their health insurance?

For the most part, federal employees needn’t worry about that, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in an FAQ blog post.

Both the online FAQ and the health insurance industry’s trade association confirm that coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program will continue even if some federal agencies affected by the shutdown aren’t issuing those paychecks or paying premiums.

“The shutdown should not impact their coverage,” said Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance plans, the trade group that represents insurers, including those that offer coverage through the federal program. “It’s business as usual.”

Once the shutdown ends and those payments resume, workers should expect that their usual share of premiums plus some of the accumulated amount that wasn’t deducted during the missed pay periods will be taken out.

“Procedures may vary somewhat by payroll office, but the maximum additional deduction allowed under regulations is one pay period’s worth of premiums (in addition to the current pay period’s premium),” said an OPM spokeswoman.

What about government contract workers?

Less clear is what happens to workers under contract with the affected federal agencies — including some people working as analysts, administration assistants and janitorial staff — who are mostly excluded from the FEHB program.

Many companies that contract with the federal government offer workers insurance. The federal Office of Personnel Management recommends these contracted employees consult the human resources office at their company for answers regarding the shutdown.

“In 95 percent of cases, even if it’s not required by law, I would think most everyone would continue that coverage,” said Rachel Greszler, a senior policy analyst and research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who studies economics, budget and labor issues.

For contract workers who buy their own coverage and are struggling to pay bills without their paychecks, it’s a different story. One strategy may be to ask their insurers for a grace period in paying their premiums, similar to how the government has suggested workers seek accommodation from mortgage lenders and other creditors. But there is no requirement that insurers grant such a request.

“We are concerned about the disruption that this shutdown has caused our members and their families,” noted a corporate statement from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “We are currently exploring how to best address this issue should the shut-down continue.”

What else could be affected?

Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, dental, vision and life insurance programs may start sending bills directly to workers.

Federal workers pay the premiums for these benefits themselves, according to Dan Blair, who served as both acting director and deputy director of the OPM during the early 2000s. He is now a senior counselor and fellow the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Because workers’ checks are not being processed, the amounts usually sent to these carriers each pay period also aren’t being paid. If the shutdown lasts longer than two or three pay periods, workers will get premium bills directly from these firms and should pay them “on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage,” the OPM says in its FAQ. Blair agrees.

There also may be a delay in processing claims for flexible spending accounts. These are special accounts in which workers use pretax money deducted from their paychecks to cover certain eligible medical expenses, such as eyeglasses, braces, copayments for doctor visits or medications, including some over-the-counter products. With no paychecks going out, these deductions are not being made and transferred into FSAs. Once paychecks start up again, the amount deducted will be adjusted so the worker will get the annual total they had requested.

During the shutdown, though, reimbursement claims to these accounts also won’t be processed, the OPM says. Blair suggests holding off on big-ticket purchases during the shutdown, if possible, and always keeping paperwork on the purchases.

Another consideration: Those who changed plans before the furlough may find their paperwork wasn’t processed in time.

In those cases, the OPM says to stick with the old health plan until the shutdown ends and the new plan is processed. The new plan will pick up any claims incurred.

How will workers know if their change was processed? The OPM’s FAQ says workers who receive an ID card in the mail are enrolled.

“The new policy will be what applies and pays benefits, but there could be some administrative burdens and hassles on the part of workers if the shutdown continues much longer, if the initial bills are not going to the right insurance company,” Greszler said.

Overall, Blair says workers should continue to monitor news media sites, particularly those that focus on federal workers and issues, looking for any updates.

“We’re getting into uncharted territory and there are always things that pop up that no one has planned for,” said Blair, who did not face any shutdowns during his tenure at OPM.

Kaiser Health News

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Make a joyful noise Last night, January 8, Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway premiere of Choir Boy, written by Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraneyMoonlight, The BrotherSister Plays and directed by Drama Desk Award nominee Trip Cullman, officially opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre 261 West 47th Street.
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Kaiser Permanente Urges DHS to Withdraw Proposed Changes That May Prevent Access to Care and Coverage

This week Kaiser Permanente joined numerous organizations, advocacy groups, businesses, and policymakers in urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to withdraw a proposed rule to expand the definition of public charge, which may prevent legal immigrants and their families from accessing health care and coverage.

Under the proposed rule, the definition of public charge would include the lawful receipt of assistance from several health, nutrition, and housing programs, which were previously excluded from consideration by U.S. immigration officials when determining whether an individual was likely to become a “public charge.”

Kaiser Permanente is concerned that threatening the immigration status of eligible immigrants as a result of their lawful enrollment in public benefit programs would lead to more people being uninsured and negatively affect the health of millions of people. When people lose coverage and access to affordable care, we can anticipate sicker patients, increased use of emergency rooms, and worsening health outcomes for our communities.

Moreover, this policy has far-reaching implications beyond legal immigrants and permanent residents. Nationwide, over 19 million children live in a family with an immigrant parent, and nearly 9 in 10 (86 percent) of these children are American citizens.

In the best interest of our more than 12 million members and the 65 million people residing in the communities we serve, Kaiser Permanente believes that we must continue to support increased access to high-quality, affordable care, and ensure coverage for more — not fewer — people in this country. The proposed rule jeopardizes access to the care that is delivered by Kaiser Permanente’s more than 22,000 physicians every day.

Kaiser Permanente called on the Department to not penalize the individuals who use these important public benefits, to withdraw the proposed rule, and to maintain the Department’s longstanding guidance on public charge.

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Photo Coverage: Inside Opening Night of CLUELESS, THE MUSICAL

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Media coverage of disasters can have lasting effects on children’s mental health

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Trump administration weakens Obamacare birth control coverage mandate

The Trump administration issued two final rules on Wednesday providing employers more flexibility with exemptions to deny women insurance coverage for birth control.


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