Iowa lawmakers return with to-do list on taxes, Medicaid

Source: Barbara Rodriguez, Associated Press, January 7, 2018
 
Iowa lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday with a to-do list ranging from overhauling state taxes to possibly addressing issues with the privatized Medicaid program. Republicans, entering a second year of complete statehouse control, will work amid another budget crunch and a looming election year. …

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Medicaid privatization is saving Iowa 80% less money than predicted, state report says
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, January 5, 2018
 
Iowa’s controversial shift to privately managed Medicaid will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted, a recent state estimate suggests.  Iowa now stands to save $47.1 million this fiscal year by having private companies manage the $4 billion program, according to a quarterly report prepared by staff members from the Department of Human Services.  After then-Gov. Terry Branstad ordered the shift in 2015, he predicted it would save the state $232 million in fiscal year 2018. That is the current budget year. In fiscal year 2017, which ended last June 30, the state saved nearly $119 million over what it would have spent having government administrators run the program, according to a DHS report using the same criteria used in the new estimate. …

‘We’re completely in the dark’: Families still uncertain after Iowa Medicaid transition
Source: Stephen Gruber-Miller, Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 12, 2017
 
Ryan’s case is one example of the uncertainty that has played out in households around the state in the wake of AmeriHealth’s decision this fall to leave Iowa after it could not reach an agreement with the state on reimbursement rates.  Join now for as low as $29/YR Subscribe Now AmeriHealth and the two other companies chosen to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program when it was privatized last year by then-Gov. Terry Branstad have complained of losing hundreds of millions of dollars.  When AmeriHealth announced it was leaving, state officials first gave families a choice between UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup, the third company. Then they backtracked, saying Amerigroup did not have the capacity to handle new clients. In late November, the Department of Human Services said it would resume oversight for more than 10,000 Iowans who had tried to switch companies before the deadline. …

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Hospitals slam Kansas’ proposed Medicaid overhaul

Source: Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare, January 3, 2018
 
Providers are concerned that a new waiver to overhaul Kansas’ Medicaid program will impede access to care and further empower managed-care plans, which they claim lack proper oversight.   For years, Kansas providers have complained the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare, was complex to work under and that it underpaid or didn’t pay at all for services.  Rather than revamp KanCare’s oversight of the plans, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a waiver late last month that appears to cede additional power to them, providers said. …

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Legislative Panel Backs KanCare Renewal Plan, But Opponents Hope To Block Implementation
Source: Jim Mclean, KCUR, December 1, 2017

Republican legislators have temporarily sidetracked an effort to block the Brownback administration from obtaining federal approval to renew KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Democrats on a joint committee that oversees KanCare wanted the panel’s report to the full Legislature to recommend keeping the current program in place until a newly elected governor takes office in January 2019. … In addition to the timing issue, advocates and some lawmakers are concerned about several provisions in the administration’s KanCare 2.0 plan, including work requirements and lifetime caps on services for some beneficiaries. …

GOP candidates fight over health program serving 400,000 Kansans
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Wichita Eagle, November 26, 2017
 
A fight between the Republican candidates for governor over the state’s privatized Medicaid program could shape what happens to the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans.  The next governor could abandon a proposed work requirement for some recipients of KanCare, which serves people who are poor, elderly or have disabilities. Or he could pursue Medicaid expansion.  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is preparing to become governor, spearheaded the creation of KanCare in 2013. Some of his opponents say the current administration, including Colyer, has poorly run the program. …

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Release of Trump infrastructure plan may slip past January

Source: Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner, Politico, January 9, 2018
 
The White House may be pushing back the release of its long-awaited infrastructure package yet again, just a month after saying it would come out by the end of January.  A White House official said Tuesday that there have been “no decisions yet on timing” for the release. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) separately told POLITICO — after a meeting with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other officials — that administration officials are still deciding whether to publish legislative principles for the plan before or after the president’s State of the Union address Jan. 30. …

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Mixed signals on infrastructure plan emerge from Trump retreat
Source: Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, January 7, 2018
 
President Trump expressed misgivings about his administration’s infrastructure plan Friday at Camp David, telling Republican leaders that building projects through public-private partnerships is unlikely to work — and that it may be better for the government to pursue a different path.  Then on Saturday morning, Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, delivered a detailed proposal on infrastructure and public-private partnerships that seemed to contradict the president. He said the administration hoped $200 billion in new federal government spending would trigger almost $1 trillion in private spending and local and state spending, according to people familiar with his comments. Cohn seemed to present the plan as the administration’s approach, although the president had suggested such an approach might not work. …

Why Trump’s Infrastructure Push Might Stall Again
Source: Mark Niquette, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 5, 2018
 
The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency began with hopes for a unified effort to fix U.S. highways, bridges and airports. His second year begins much the same way. There was talk in 2017 about advancing a sustained infrastructure-improvement program, but there was little progress — a reflection of the president’s priorities and the differences between Republicans and Democrats on how to pay for and carry out such an effort. That hasn’t kept Trump from predicting bipartisan agreement on the issue in 2018. …

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Atlantic City Water Services to Remain in Public Hands

Source: Jocelyn Alcox, AFSCME Now, January 9, 2018
 
Members of AFSCME New Jersey worked hard to make sure Atlantic City’s water system remains in public hands. Just before the Christmas holiday, the state announced that it will not lease or sell the city’s water system to a private company. This followed more than a year of concern from residents and activists about the fate of the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), and is due in large part to the hard work and dedication of AFSCME members in and around Atlantic City. “We immediately knew we had to do something,” said April Gould, president of Local 3408. “Atlantic City is already struggling and outsourcing the water would have been disastrous.  AFSCME members have always been on the front lines of community issues and this time was no different. This is the community that we live in and that we work in, you can’t just leave those problems up to somebody else and hope they work out.” …

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State says it won’t sell or lease Atlantic City MUA to private company
Source: Erin Serpico, Press of Atlantic City, December 20, 2017
 
Following more than a year of concern from city residents and local activists about the fate of the city Municipal Utilities Authority, the state announced it will not lease or sell the water system to a private company. … The state has previously urged the city to dissolve the MUA, but the city either pulled or voted down measures to do so before the state took over in November 2016. For months after, more than 100 people from civic associations, the local chapter of the NAACP, Food and Water Watch and a group called “AC Citizens Against the State Takeover” knocked on doors and collected signatures to protect the water system from being sold. …

Atlantic City Votes To Protect Its Water From Chris Christie
Source: Daniel Cohen, Alternet, July 14, 2017
 
On Tuesday, the Atlantic City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure its residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.  Why might New Jersey sell or lease Atlantic City’s water? Well, because Christie has been laying the groundwork for such a deal for years. In 2014, he passed a statewide law making it easier for struggling municipalities to sell off water infrastructure. Turns out, Atlantic City has been struggling—mainly due to a rash of casino closures, including Trump’s failed Taj Mahal. Last summer, after the state bailed the city out, Christie made it loud and clear there were strings attached: “I want [the loan] secured by every asset they have, so that if they don’t pay it, I get to take the assets, sell them and pay you [the taxpayer] back.” Late last year, he delivered on that promise and took control of the city’s assets and most of its decision-making power. …

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Peorians Deserve Their Water Back

Source: Jenya Polozova, Food & Water Watch, December 14, 2017

Illinois American Water is running a complicated show in the City of Peoria. They control the water system and they’re charging residents twice as much as what customers of neighboring public systems pay and the U.S. average. Water privatization in Peoria mirrors issues that towns all across the country run into when they sell a public resource to a privately owned corporation. Each time it means: losing transparency, accountability, management, and reliability. In sum, local residents have little say over the operations of the water system. … With the deadline of fall 2018 fast approaching, it’s finally time for Peorians to take their water back – but the water company is not going to go come to the negotiation table without a fight. …

… Years of propaganda and messaging campaigns create doubt that a City has the ability to provide services. But, when it comes to water systems, public provision is the American way.
… This trend to public ownership continues today. In June, Missoula, Montana, bought its water system from a provide company to provide long-term stability and better water resource management, as well as to make necessary improvements. The system was losing more than half of its water through leaks. The city plans $30 million in investments over the next 5 years — all without raising water rates. As the mayor said: “The city of Missoula is in this business for only one reason and that’s to serve customers. Water is it.” While it is understandable that the local union in Peoria fears that jobs may be jeopardized if the city takes over the water company, the City Council can and should include recognizing the local labor union and keeping the existing workforce as part of the municipalization effort. Not a single union worker should be dropped. Furthermore, cities that take back their water systems experience incredible economic benefits as a direct result. Take the city of Evansville, Indiana, where remunicipalization from IAW was expected to save the city $14 million over a short period of five years. Or even the city of Cave Creek, Arizona, where the city took back their water from American Water and saved an astonishing $1,335,017. …

Florida’s disposable workers: Companies profit from undocumented laborers, dump them after injuries

Source: Maria Perez, Naples Daily News, December 14, 2017

Florida law makes some immigrants in high-risk jobs disposable, allowing businesses and insurers to benefit from their work without covering injuries. …. Some Florida businesses profit from the labor of unauthorized immigrants after accepting phony identification when hiring them, and then the employers or their insurers report them after a work injury for using false documents, a yearlong Naples Daily News investigation found. …. When authorities arrested 12 undocumented workers in a Fort Pierce Waste Pro plant in 2012, accusing them of obtaining a job with false identifying information, six employees told officers they were hired under the identities of former workers or with false information provided by managers or another worker. Arrested workers told U.S. Department of Labor investigators they were asked to pay hundreds of dollars in kickbacks to work at the company. They also said managers threatened to report them to immigration authorities if they said they were injured at work when seeking medical care. The Labor report on the 2013 investigation stated a supervisor once threatened to fire or report for deportation employees who didn’t pay $50 each. State investigators charged the workers for using fake identities, but not the employer. Federal labor officials didn’t cite the company for the kickbacks, saying the violations occurred beyond a two-year statute of limitations, according to the report. Waste Pro was not charged with wrongdoing, it cooperated with investigators, and increased scrutiny of employment documentation company lawyer Amy S. Tingley said. …

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12 Waste Pro workers accused of providing fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs
Source: Will Greenlee, Palm Beach Post, July 19, 2012

Twelve Waste Pro USA employees were arrested Wednesday after state investigators received information suggesting workers there submitted fraudulent Social Security numbers for employment purposes, according to affidavits released Thursday.

Unhappy with cleanliness, Chesterfield school leaders break ties with outside custodial service

Source: Vanessa Remers, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 12, 2017

Chesterfield County School Board members will bring at least some of their custodial services back in-house, cutting ties with an outside contractor that school officials said couldn’t keep the county’s schools clean enough. School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday not to renew their contract with Tennessee-based Service Solutions Corporation. Instead, they moved forward with a hybrid plan in which the daytime custodial work will be done in-house and after-school cleaning will be completed by at least three outside contractors. … In the past two years, school officials charged SSC more than $400,000 in penalties for not meeting the contracted level of cleanliness. … To shift back to at least some in-house custodial work, School Board members supported hiring custodians to work as day porters, in addition to outsourcing after-school cleaning to at least three contractors. That could cost the school system approximately $19 million in the first year, according to a plan that has been proposed by staff. That’s about $7 million more than it pays now under the current SSC contract. The tab could increase to $23 million annually as the schools increase staff to achieve a higher “ideal” level of cleanliness. … The school system switched from providing custodial services in-house to an outside contractor three years ago, in part because the shift would save millions. But even before that switch happened, school officials said the internal system wasn’t staffed properly. …

Private Prisons Offer ‘Poor Compensation, Instability’ to Employees: Study

Source: The Crime Report, December 12, 2017

Private prison staff are disproportionately women of color and receive “poor compensation” compared to employees of incarcerated state and federal populations according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. … Just as significantly, Burkhardt says his findings show that private prison inmates serve shorter sentences on average than their counterparts in federal and state institutions. … Compared to state-run prisons, inmates in private sector prisons have limited access to disease prevention programs, are guarded by staff with less training, and have more grievances. The study also found that private prisons are typically non-unionized workplaces that disproportionately hire female workers and in particular women of color. Staff workers in private prisons also receive lower wages than those in the public sector. The demographics for private prison employees show similar imbalances when compared to state and federal prisons. … The study raises questions about the process by which inmates are assigned to private vs. public prisons. …

Read full study (preprint).

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

Source: Anastasia Dawson, Tampa Bay Times, December 11, 2017

As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomach. It’s been there ever since the first day of classes, when a contracted driver from American Logistics Company pulled into her Riverview driveway to take Owen, her 5-year-old deaf son, to Doby Elementary School in Apollo Beach. “They had no identification, no logo on the van and they didn’t even bring car seats, I watched them try to strap my 50-pound kid into the front seat,” Storey said. … This is the fourth year the Hillsborough School District has used American Logistics Company to transport students protected by federal laws that allow them to attend a different school than the one assigned to their home address. Like Owen Storey, most are in specialized Exceptional Student Education programs. … The School District has paid out $1.4 million to ALC Transportation since entering a contract with the company in December 2013, district officials said. … Yet even with the high price tag, parents such as Storey say they shouldn’t have to fear for their child’s safety when they’re being driven to and from school. Although the same driver is supposed to transport a student all year, at least 10 different people drove Owen to school before frequent phone calls and emails to ALC secured a permanent driver, his mother said.

… ALC was hired in 2013 because it wasn’t financially feasible to continue transporting these students with district school buses and staff, Beekman said. … The same year the California-based company began driving Hillsborough students it was ousted from Dallas County schools in Texas. In September 2013, the Dallas Morning News reported that the School District returned to using school buses to transport special-needs students after parents flooded district offices with safety concerns and complaints about poor communication with drivers. … The Hillsborough School Board reapproved its contract with ALC in September after Beekman explained that bringing those transportation services in-house would have to wait until the School District “gets to a place of better financial stability.” Staff are already working out the costs in a “preliminary business plan,” he said. …

Video: Deal of the Year 2017 – Small Issuer: City of Missoula, Mont.

Source: Bond Buyer, December 6, 2017

The city of Missoula, Montana waged a six-year legal battle to wrest control of its water system from a private company. The water system in the town of 70,000 was privately-owned by Mountain Water – a company that refused to make needed repairs to the system or sell it to the city. … Obtaining traditional financing with no disclosure from Mountain Water — and water assets nearly beyond repair — was unattainable given the risks. The city also had to provide payment before the court could rule it owned the water system. The solution: the direct sale to Barclays of nearly $140 million in A-rated bond anticipation notes. The financing plan uniquely provided the necessary mechanics to allow the city to purchase the water system. Prior to the acquisition, water bills were 17% higher than elsewhere in the state, but dropped to 49% below average after the deal.

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City Of Missoula Takes Ownership Of Mountain Water Company
Source: Beau Baker, MTPR, June 22, 2017

The city of Missoula has taken ownership of the water utility that serves its residents after a three-year court battle. The city bought Mountain Water Company for $84 million and paid another $6.8 million to developers who had a claim against the company. A separate bundle of transition costs, the bulk of which are attorneys’ fees, amounts to $7.5 million.
Mayor John Engen said city attorneys originally estimated the legal costs would be $400,000. Missoula won the right to buy the utility in an eminent domain case. It now joins all 128 cities and towns in Montana in controlling and owning its own water and distribution system. … Merriam says there are no immediate plans to change the rates. …

One for the history books: Missoula will buy its water system
Source: Sherry Devlin, Missoula Current, February 22, 2017

In an historic vote Monday night, the Missoula City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Mountain Water Co., forever ensuring the city’s “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” … Throughout the recent effort, and decades of unsuccessful attempts by previous mayors and councils, the goal has been to place Missoula’s drinking water system into public ownership. … That now could happen by the end of March. With Monday’s vote, the local water system will be free from an increasingly distant and disaffected roster of corporate owners, most recently The Carlyle Group, a global investment fund, and the Canadian utility Algonquin Liberty. … Missoula’s water has always been in private ownership; all other Montana cities own their water system. … In fact, Bender said, Mountain Water Co.’s purchase by an international hedge fund – The Carlyle Group – imperiled every future generation.
The city’s purchase of its drinking water system will benefit those future generations the most, Bender said. …

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