Afternoon coffee break: startups, shutdowns, penalties, and awards

Photo: Bruno, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Bruno, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Big events are in motion on the national political scene. The new federal fiscal year starts tomorrow. This year that means that the statewide health insurance  exchanges mandated under the Affordable Care Act open for business. NPR has an explainer on the complex system of costs, benefits and subsidies.

And there’s a good chance the federal government could mark the beginning of the new fiscal year by shutting down all but essential services. The House and Senate are standing by competing and mutually incompatible bills that would keep the government running. Mark Memmott of The Two-Way blog reports on the process and the prospects for a midnight shutdown of federal services.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Albany office is citing Champlain, NY rail car maker Testori Interiors Inc. for 24 health and safety violations, which could result in $170,100 in fines. The agency press release states:

“Testori’s deficient safety protocols place its workers at grave risk of injury, including amputation risks and death,” said Kimberly Castillon, OSHA’s Albany area director. “The fact that no serious injuries resulted from these hazards is fortunate because workplace safety must be established through proactive initiative, not complacency. The large penalties proposed in this case reflect the severity of the hazards and this employer’s disregard for safety.”

NYS Sen. Patty Ritchie wants to give St. Lawrence County winemakers a boost and has introduced a bill to create a “St. Lawrence County Wine Trail” featuring producers in Lisbon, Black Lake and Winthrop. According to Ritchie, the Wine Trail, “will create a new county-wide tourist destination that will provide new business and employment opportunities for neighboring restaurants, stores and attractions.”

A research team at Clarkson University in Potsdam has been awarded nearly $400,000 to study the ecological, social and economic impacts of wetlands restoration. According to the press release from Clarkson:

The project, awarded to Clarkson by the University of Michigan Water Center, will examine the effectiveness of wetlands restoration projects on 50 private properties across northern New York…

The Clarkson team — Associate Professor of Biology Tom Langen, Biology Professor Michael Twiss and Associate Professor of Economics and Financial Studies Martin Heintzelman — will examine whether wetlands projects that successfully restore wildlife correlate with higher property values and homeowner satisfaction.

Here’s what’s coming up for your Tuesday morning coffee on The Eight O’clock Hour:

  • Brian Mann reports from the small town in Quebec that’s still struggling to recover from this summer’s deadly rail accident.  Local officials now say parts of the downtown may be so contaminated that they’ll have to be abandoned permanently.
  • What your neighbors have to say about what’s happening in Congress
  • New York State may have some money for you, and it’s waiting at a place called “The Office of Unclaimed Funds.”  State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli explains it all to reporter Natasha Haverty.
  • And..look up! Astronomer Aileen O’Donoghue stops by to share what’s happening in the night sky this month.

25 Comments on “Afternoon coffee break: startups, shutdowns, penalties, and awards”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    I think the Affordable Care Act should be called the Un-Affordable Care Act because health care costs too much.
    I wish the only thing that would shut down is the Senate and the Congress – and never start up again until all in either branch are stripped of their health insurance and pensions.

  2. Walker says:

    Let the house vote. Period.

  3. Two Cents says:

    tea- partyists should be lead out of Washington on a rope. Boehner the boner as well. he can not control his conservative extremists. worst speaker of house ever.
    87 percent disapproval? when we hit 90 do they ALL get fired?

  4. Michael Greer says:

    Starting today, as folks sign up for coverage, or opt to pay the tax penalty instead, we will finally start moving in the right direction. The Republicans have lost this fight, and every American that gains new coverage will make sure that the topic never comes up again.
    The Affordable Care Act, with it’s provision for a “tax penalty” leaves the door open to move in the direction of a single-payer system, and for those who refuse, a private system with exorbitantly expensive insurance still available to the rich…they can have it.
    The Tea Party folks will be drained of all resource soon, paying for private health coverage out of pocket will amount to…a tax on stubbornness.

  5. Walker says:

    The ACA is the law of the land. It has survived all challenges before the Supreme Court.

    Republican congressional leaders have held forty votes to overturn it. It is still the law of the land.

    The most recent presidential election was largely a referendum on the ACA, and Republicans lost.

    It is generally recognized that if Boehner would allow the house to vote on a clean budget resolution, one without an attempt to stifle the ACA, it would pass.

    Republicans know that if the ACA is allowed to function, it will be popular, and it will become clear that they have been lying about it from the beginning. They have painted themselves into a corner.

  6. Paul says:

    It will be interesting to see how it works out. In NYS it looks like a catastrophic policy at the low end comes in at $1,700 a year (in Rochester) and a “platinum” comes in at around $11,400 a year (somewhere on LI). It seems to me that long before today you could have purchased insurance like this at similar rates. So Peter raises a good question is that “affordable”? The questions is will the threat of a penalty get folks to sign up? I fear that most people will continue to keep their fingers crossed and spend the money on other things. But I hope it works.

    Where I work we may have to switch to a different type of policy to avoid some of the premium increases that are related to the ACA. We don’t know yet what the premium increase will be somewhere between 7 and 30%. Our insurance company is not telling us yet what we can expect. Where my wife works (and I get my insurance) they have had some premium increases related to ACA (as we can all expect) but they have been modest. They are a much larger organization so there is probably less impact.

    What are other peoples experiences? So far I would say this isn’t major given the size of what they are trying to do.

  7. Paul says:

    Gonna take some time to work out the kinks. Here is the NYS exchange website. Click on get started and see what happens:

  8. Mervel says:

    Where I work we are looking at increases in the 30%-45% range for premiums due to the ACA. My wife’s place looks less. I support the ACA for getting people insured. I think the issue is going to be the costs no one wants to talk about for the number of people who currently have insurance.

    There is a reason that congress wanted their staff to be exempt from this law as did many of the labor unions and government employees. Many indeed did get this exemption.

    I am not sure I fully understand how this will all play out though and certainly am willing to wait a year to see the net effects.

    For example as a person who has health insurance now and makes an “ok” salary, can I dump my private insurance if it gets to expensive and go the exchanges? Or because of my income am I not allowed to go into the exchanges?

  9. Paul says:

    Mervel, I think you can go to the exchanges if you want. But most likely they will not be cheaper for you than your employee plan. Anyone can buy on the exchange the only thing is that your income may not afford you a subsidy.

    This one was an interesting shut down it looked like it was a dispute between the democratically led house and the democratically led senate. Go figure!

    “The Democratically-controlled House continued to uphold the ban on using Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions, except in cases where the life of the mother was at stake. Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled Senate pressed to loosen the ban to allow abortion funding in the case of rape or incest. A funding gap was created when disagreement over the issue between the houses had become tied to funding for the Departments of Labor and HEW, leading to a partial government shutdown. A temporary agreement was made to restore funding through October 31, 1977, allowing more time for Congress to resolve its dispute.”

    Despite all the fretting (I was watching this woman reporter on CNN last night, I thought she was going to have a heart attack she was talking so fast!) government shutdowns are business as usual in Washington. And they are often over issues that have been already signed into law. And despite what the president says, presidents have always made some effort to negotiate around the issues.

  10. Mervel says:

    OK I just checked it looks to me that if you currently have private health insurance through your employer you cannot go into the exchange, at least that is what the Kaiser Calculator told me which was linked from the ACA site to find your estimated costs.

  11. The Original Larry says:

    It makes me sick to hear about “the law of the land.” How come certain parts of the Constitution aren’t the law of the land? Yeah, I’m going to bring that up again. Liberals just love to have it both ways.

  12. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – you keep bringing that up – but the constitution is the law of the land – all of it. No one disagrees. And… its the supreme court that gets to decide what it means. and they decided that the ACA was constitutional.

    The NYsafe act is the law of the land too. – Someday the supreme court may decide that it isnt, and then it wont be the law of the land any more. Thats what being a nation of laws is all about.

  13. Walker says:

    Paul, the point of the ACA is to cover people who don’t have employer-provided insurance.

    After I retired, and had to buy insurance as an individual, I was paying over $1300 per month, until I went on Medicare. That’s over $15,000 per year, way over the ACA high end policy. Since my wife is still buying as an individual, and since we really don’t need gold-plated insurance, the ACA will save us a bundle.

  14. The Original Larry says:

    When the Constitution explicitly states something and the courts decide that it means something other than what it says, that’s wrong. When the courts decide that a penalty is really a tax, that’s wrong too. Isn’t it great how liberals twist facts to support an untenable position?

  15. Walker says:

    Gee, Larry, you think the Supreme Court is packed with liberals?

  16. The Original Larry says:

    Enough of them to turn a penalty into a tax.

  17. Walker says:

    A few quotes from a site where folks are discussing the effects of the ACA:

    My coverage stayed the same today. My premiums stayed the same this year– first time I have been able to say that in a long time.

    As an employer, I did not have to decide between health care coverage for everyone or a job for everyone– no layoffs because of increased health care premiums despite a challenging business environment.

    And my premium rates are lower by over $200/month than I’m paying now. Without subsidies. And for a comparable (gold) plan.

    We just received Open Enrollment forms from my husbands employer…and guess what…our premiums have actually gone down by over $60 a month. That means a savings of over $720 for our family. Add that to the five or six hundred dollars (at least) we’ll save by having annual check-ups covered at no cost and you’re talking a savings for my family of at least $1200.

    Even if you KEEP your current plan you can still benefit from the ACA. Like specified preventive services and medications at $0. Or a refund/reduction in your premiums because of the 80% rule. You don’t have to be uninsured or underinsured or in an extortive policy to win here.

    Still got my employer healthcare too, but I had United in my last job and now Cigna, and my old doctor does not take Cigna…surprise, sometimes you have to change doctors or pay out of network in the old status quo and last I checked, employers choose your plan so where is my FREEDOM??

    This is what the Republicans were worried about. It’s why they had to stop Obamacare before October 1. Now that people are noticing that their health care is actually less expensive, they’ll be wondering what in the hell Republicans are fighting about.

  18. Paul says:

    Walker, thanks. What is the “site”? If you are going to paste their stuff you should provide a link. Is it from the Daily Kos? Thanks.

  19. Walker says:

    Sorry, Paul, you’re right (on both counts). That’s Daily Kos: OBAMACARE DAY ONE: My hideous experience.

  20. Paul says:

    Thanks. It is pretty easy these days to find a source. I just took a line of text and looked for a match. Thanks again.

    It will be interesting to see how things work out in the long term. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of yesterday’s issues with the websites was due to all the “curious” people using those sites that probably didn’t need to clog them up. But I am guilty. I went to check out the NYS site (despite the fact that I will not be needing anything from there now) and got the error message every time.

    It is time to move on and prepare for the debt ceiling. This could prove to be a real disaster. There the GOP does have leverage. Despite the fact that the president says he will not negotiate, he will. He doesn’t want his legacy to be a new health care law and a destroyed economy. At that point nobody cares about the blame they just know the consequences. Look back at things like the history of the many government shutdowns we have had in the past (what I posted above). People don’t remember who was to blame only that it sucked.

    Right now a shutdown is politically good for the democrats. In fact they probably are best off politically if they really let it hurt. So they are in no rush to do anything. And some of the GOP has lost its marbles so they are not going to give in.

  21. Mervel says:

    I think it is a bad situation. I think Boehner could solve it by simply putting two clean propositions forward for the debt ceiling and to fund the govt. with no attachments. Both would likely win even in the house. But will he?

    The house members opposed don’t care. Now if their districts are actually impacted they might start caring, because given how they act they will be frozen out of any real leadership positions in the House from the committee standpoint.

  22. Mervel says:

    The bottom line on the ACA will be how does it impact the majority of Americans who currently have health insurance through their employers? Will they pay a LOT more or less or the same? Will their care get better or worse? I don’t think we know right now.

  23. Walker says:

    The ACA requirement that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premium dollars on medical care is the part most likely to affect people who already have employer-provided coverage. I’ve already gotten some significant rebate checks, and our rates have actually gone down slightly in the last couple of years. I have trouble seeing how the ACA would raise costs for individuals.

  24. George says:

    I’m self employed and have been buying my own family Health Ins plan for yrs. Three yrs ago I switched companies and went with a $5500. ded/person(from $2500.) and saw my premiums drop from $1000./month to $440./month. My monthly premium went up to $705./month as of 1/1/13. So in 3 yrs my premiums have gone up aprox 60%. So I sure hope the ACA helps stop the incredible increases that I’ve seen with Excellus Blue Cross. If these increases continue I’d have to seriously consider going without any Health Ins and take a big chance on staying healthy, which I am now.

    Hopefully the ACA will stop these big rate increases with competition.

  25. Paul says:

    “I have trouble seeing how the ACA would raise costs for individuals.”

    I hope this law works but here is the problem that I see. Why sign up for insurance unless you need medical care? Especially if you are young and healthy and feel invincible like we all did at one point. You can’t be turned down for a preexisting condition (not even sure you can call it insurance anymore it is like buying homeowners insurance after the house has burned down)? If you are young and healthy why sign up? The penalty is far cheaper than the insurance. The people that are clogging the exchanges are probably one of two kinds. One is there for curiosity like I was. My fear is that the only significant other group is made up of people who are sick and have medical problems that are going to be very expensive to take care of. Many of the people I have seen being interviewed are talking about how finally they can get insurance to take care of all these problems they have had for years. I have not heard too many where they were talking about how healthy they are and they just want insurance in the off chance that they might get sick when the are older. Look around, here in NYS we don’t have lots of healthy young folks. When I lived in Denver we did have mostly young healthy people. If you can get them to sign up it might work in a place like Colorado.

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