Saturday, July 21, 2007

You say you want me to teach WHERE?

From John Curry, July 21, 2007
Subject: You say you want me to teach WHERE?
This article came from an Athens (Georgia) newspaper, the Athens Banner-Herald. Well, recruiters from Savanna, GA "rushed" to the Dayton, OH area to try to recruit for "their" public schools! Why Dayton? Well, thanks (in part) to the Ohio charter school movement (compliments of our state legislature) and the resultant massive lay-offs at the Dayton City Schools...these recruiters flocked to good ol' Dayton for educators! Kinda' reminds one of the great "flight" of labor during WW II from the southern states to the northern factory areas IN REVERSE, doesn't it?
Meanwhile in GA, classroom educators are in demand...due in part to GA mandated "progressive" law which calls for smaller classes! This doesn't speak well for the state of public education in the State of Ohio, does it? Sad....a very sad commentary indeed!! John
P. S. Remember that rose-colored prediction of growth in payroll contributions that was recently bandied about to the STRS Board re. projected Ohio's public school payroll revenues that STRS could count on? Remember when Dr. Leone questioned this estimate? I do!
Many schools still short
State tries to solve teacher shortage
By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
Story updated at 10:26 PM on Friday, July 20, 2007
ATLANTA - When schools open for teacher work days in the next two weeks, many desks across Georgia will be empty as administrators try to solve a teacher shortage.
In Savannah, for example, the district is 60 teachers short of the 450 needed, according to Ramon Ray, director of employment services at the Savannah-Chatham County Schools.
The actual statewide shortage hasn't been calculated yet, but it's ranged from 400-1,000 in the last three years as the number of teachers needed steadily has grown.
For instance, schools in Georgia needed 4,000 more teachers last year than for the 2005-06 school year, but school districts had to hire 14,000 to fill every spot after retirements and resignations were figured in, according to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the agency charged with placing qualified instructors in classrooms
That's like filling a bucket that's leaking out 9.1 percent each year, a figure that's projected to rise to 9.8 percent by 2012 as older recent hires approach retirement age.
Then there's a state law requiring smaller classes, which adds to the number of teachers needed.
A recent analysis by the state Department of Audits and Accounts summed it up:
"While the commission should be commended for its recruiting efforts and its work to identify the degree of the problem facing the state, indications are that additional action by the state is necessary," the auditors wrote.
The challenge isn't new to Cyndy Stephens, director of recruitment, research and development at the commission.
"I don't know of a school year that ever happened that we had everybody in place when the first school bell rang," said the former teacher and principal.
The 15 public colleges in the state that educate future teachers only produce about one fourth of the new teachers needed, even though they're on a campaign to double their output.
"It's hard to attract teachers when the whole problem is they don't exist," Ray said.
So the commission and local districts have gotten aggressive about getting teachers from other places, like wooing back teachers who have been out of the field for a while and recruiting from neighboring states and even New York.
Savannah recruiters rushed to Dayton, Ohio, in May after 400 teachers there were laid off, but only one agreed to leave familiar surroundings to accept the offer to "teach near the beach."
Then there are the career changers who take advantage of recent law changes that allow people with college degrees in other fields to begin teaching after a short orientation without immediately having to return to college for a degree in education.
Principals across the state surveyed by the audits department rated 89 percent of alternative-route instructors as performing satisfactorily.
"We've had good success with it," said Bud Bierly, director of human resources in the Clarke County School District. "The vast majority of those we've taken through the (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program) we've been well satisfied with them."
Stephens said the commission is focusing on quality despite the rising demand and resisting the temptation to accept weaker applicants just to fill every position. Poor teachers don't last long, requiring that position to be filled again.
"We don't want just a warm body, and we don't want our retention rates to suffer," she said.

Friday, July 20, 2007


From John Curry, July 20, 2007
Subject: Thank you, CORE members....your letters helped pressure Rep. Mandel to "back down" on the severity of his original bill!
"After members of his own caucus balked under pressure from the retirement systems, Mandel was forced to accept a deal allowing voluntary divestment of half of the pension funds' investments in firms doing business in Iran and Sudan." ~ Cleveland Plain Dealer
State lawmaker Josh Mandel heads back to Iraq with Marines
Friday, July 20, 2007
Aaron Marshall
Plain Dealer Bureau
Columbus - State Rep. Josh Mandel will trade the buttoned-down look of a state lawmaker for the desert camo gear of a Marine as the 29-year-old reservist is headed back to Iraq.
The freshman state lawmaker, considered a rising star in Ohio Republican circles, has volunteered for a second stint in Iraq as an intelligence specialist in the Marine Corps.
"I didn't join the Marine Corps to say no when the Marine Corps needed Marines in my field," Mandel said Thursday.
Mandel, who was elected to his first term as state representative in 2006 after serving on the Lyndhurst City Council, previously served a tour in Iraq in 2004 as an intelligence officer attached to a battalion in the Al Anbar region, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq.
He will undergo about six weeks of training in the United States before returning to Iraq this fall for an approximate eight-month tour. He said he isn't sure yet exactly what unit he will be stationed with in Iraq.
Mandel said he has already pulled petitions for re-election and will keep his seat in the legislature while he serves in Iraq. He said he believes the people who voted him into office will support his decision to hold onto his seat.
"I'm fortunate to represent a district with many World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm veterans in it and my constituents are very patriotic and supportive," he said.
He declined to comment directly on the current debate over the war in Iraq, but said he was returning in part because of a sense of allegiance to his fellow Marines.
"One thing I will say is that regardless of how people feel about the war in Iraq, people here support the troops," he said.
During his first seven months as a lawmaker, Mandel stirred up controversy with a bill he sponsored that would have required Ohio retirement systems to divest themselves of roughly $1.1 billion in investments in companies doing business in Iran.
After members of his own caucus balked under pressure from the retirement systems, Mandel was forced to accept a deal allowing voluntary divestment of half of the pension funds' investments in firms doing business in Iran and Sudan.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 1-800-228-8272

Monday is National Call-in Day for Stopping Medicare Advantage Overpayments

From Frank Kaiser ( July 20, 2007
Subject: [SeniorNews] Monday is National Call-in Day for Stopping Medicare Advantage Overpayments - from Suddenly Senior
Monday is National Call-in Day for Stopping Medicare Advantage Overpayments
Your U.S. Representative needs to hear from informed seniors! Please join other Alliance members across the country by calling your Representative on Monday and urging support for legislation that would create a level playing field for traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Use this toll-free telephone number -- 1-800-828-0498 -- to call the Capitol Switchboard. Ask to be connected with the office of your member of Congress. Once you are connected, let the staff know that you support ending overpayments to MA insurance companies, and using those savings for increased assistance to low-income seniors and providing health coverage for uninsured children.
Following is a sample script you can use when talking to your Representative's office:
"Please support legislation that stops the overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans. Use the funds to improve traditional Medicare, strengthen assistance to low-income seniors, and provide coverage to uninsured children. Instead of giving insurance companies billions of extra dollars at the expense of the Medicare program, I urge you to support legislation to equalize payments between traditional Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans."
An email was sent on Thursday to Alliance members, with a link for contacting Members of Congress with a similar message at: Also on Thursday, members of the Nevada Alliance took part in an event revealing that MA costs each Nevadan an additional $294 per year, 3.5% more than traditional Medicare would cost.
According to a US Action Education Fund study, the private plans cost Nevada's seniors and people with disabilities an additional $4.1 million annually. "Given the misleading and abusive marketing practices directed at our seniors, these subsidies add insult to injury," said Brenda Mitchell, Vice President of the Nevada Alliance. The CBS Evening News focused on those marketing practices on both Monday and Tuesday nights, noting confusion over coverage, premiums, co-pays, and provider networks.
Included in the reports: a Kentucky woman who had to call 9-1-1 to get a Medicare Advantage salesman out of her house, and a Mississippi man who was only able to get off his MA plan 11 days after he died. His family now owes $40,000 in bills that Medicare has not paid. CBS also reported that at least 36,000 seniors have pulled out of their MA plans in just the first four months of this year, and nearly 100 private plans have been ordered by Medicare to change the way they do business. "I'm glad someone called 9-1-1," said George J. Kourpias, President of the national Alliance. "This is an emergency."
Pharmaceutical Companies Increase Lobbying Efforts in States
While the pharmaceutical industry has long been influential in Washington, D.C., it is redirecting many of its lobbying resources toward states in order to achieve its goals more quickly, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. Representatives of the drug companies' trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, note that state legislatures move much faster than Congress, and are much easier to influence given that legislation may evolve from its beginning stages to a signed piece of legislation in under 90 days.
In 2004, the last year for which data is available from the Center for Public Integrity, drug companies spent over $44 million lobbying states. Campaign contributions from the manufacturers and their employees to state candidates have simultaneously increased, rising from $4.6 million to $8.8 million from 2000 to 2006, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
A recent campaign to make pharmacists' switching patients from name-brand to generic epilepsy pills more difficult has used such a strategy to propose legislation in various states, bypassing expensive clinical testing required by the FDA for the rule to be considered at the national level. "We will be ready to stand up to big drug companies not just in Washington, D.C., but in every state," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.
Two Senior CMS Officials Resign Two senior officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid, have resigned. Acting CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk will step down as of today, July 20. Her departure was originally scheduled to occur just after a July 18 hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on the nomination of Kerry Weems to permanently fill the post of CMS administrator. The hearing has been postponed until an unannounced date. S. Lawrence Kocot, senior adviser to the CMS administrator, will also be leaving today (Friday).
Alliance Legislative Conference: And the Winners Are? In just over 6 weeks - September 4-7, 2007 - the Alliance will be holding its National Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C. The theme this year is "Building for America's Future." The President's Award will be presented to Elmer Blankenship, President of the Indiana Alliance, for his lifetime of public service on behalf of older Americans. The Leadership award will be presented to Sen. Debbie A. Stabenow (D-MI) in recognition of her years of outstanding leadership in the U.S. Congress on behalf of older Americans. To obtain copies of the official registration form, either call 1-888-373-6497, email Joni Jones at or visit our website at The conference will be held at the Hilton Washington and Towers. Hotel reservations must be made by calling the Hilton and Towers directly at 1-888-324-4586. Be sure to ask for the Alliance for Retired Americans National Legislative Meeting attendee rate.
Did You Know ... In 1999, when 65 was the full retirement age, 66 percent of men and 71 percent of women applying for Social Security took early benefits. By 2005, when full retirement age had risen by one year to 66, a full 85 percent of men and women applying for Social Security took early benefits (CNN's Moneyline).

CORE Volunteers Needed

From Dave Parshall, July 20, 2007
Subject: CORE Volunteers Needed
Bill Leibensperger contacted Mary Ellen and me as a follow up to a meeting we held with Bill, OEA, ORTA, and STRS concerning the passage of the healthcare stabilization fund bill which will be introduced soon by Rep. Oelslager. It is time to get serious about fixing the funding of our healthcare for us and future retirees.
There is a need to train interested STRS (CORE) members to help carry the message in all regions of the state. The initial training will take place at STRS building on August 15, from 10-12 am. Other regional training sessions will be added as needed. I realize that the STRS board meeting and our CORE meeting is the next day Thursday August 16. So some may not wish to stay overnight, but others may decide that there is no more important issues facing us, and decide to do so this once. Some may decide to miss the CORE/STRS meeting on Thursday.
The Training will involve a review of the Health Care initiative, a discussion of frequently asked questions, the importance of staying on message, and strategies for outreach activities. These outreach activities will include contacting legislators (at home and in Columbus), writing letters to the editor, contacting local school boards, and talking with colleagues and peers. Any help will be needed and appreciated.
What Mary Ellen and I need to know right now is how many of you are willing to volunteer, and who you are. There is no more important issue facing us. CORE was formed to push for healthcare and now is our time to fight for those who have not had a voice. Please e-mail Mary Ellen or me and let us know if you are interested.
Dave Parshall, President, CORE
Mary Ellen Angeletti, Vice President, CORE

ALERT: "Privatize Medicare? NO WAY!" video available

From, July 20, 2007

ALERT: "Privatize Medicare? NO WAY!" video available

"Privatize Medicare? NO WAY!" shows how the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act threatens to privatize Medicare, irreparably harming over 40 million seniors and disabled people, and driving Medicare itself into bankruptcy and oblivion. We need to solve the problems of both Medicare and the uninsured by extending Medicare to cover everyone with expanded benefits: Medicare for All, also known as Single-Payer healthcare.

More than just a drug program, the Medicare Modernization Act is a plan to drive healthier Medicare recipients out of traditional fee-for-service Medicare and into private plans like HMOs, PPOs and private FFS plans, which will profit since their patients will need little care. Traditional Medicare would be left with the sickest, most expensive patients, and would have reduced funding because of fewer patients and stringent new cost controls built into the Act.

In addition, Medicare would become politically marginalized because the Medicare Modernization Act encourages higher income seniors to leave Medicare, both by charging higher premiums if they stay, and by giving tax reductions if they leave to set up Health Savings Accounts. If Medicare becomes a program for low-income seniors, it will become politically vulnerable to further cuts.

Scrap the Medicare Modernization Act! Instead of being ditched, Medicare needs to be expanded to cover everyone. Call it Medicare-for-All, or Single-Payer Healthcare, we need equal, comprehensive, low-cost, government-financed healthcare for everyone. As market-based healthcare continues to melt down, we need to step up to make a new realty happen.

"Privatize Medicare? NO WAY" also shows examples of what the San Francisco Gray Panthers and the California Alliance for Retired Americans have done to organize against the Medicare Modernization Act and promote Single-Payer/Medicare for All.

You can see "Privatize Medicare? NO WAY" by streaming video at [click here].

You can also request a free DVD or Microsoft PowerPoint version suitable for group presentation with television or computer/projector by e-mailing . (The DVD and PowerPoint presentation is full-screen and has far better resolution than the streaming version.)

We are also available to make presentation to your group in the San Francisco Bay Area.

'Sign It For The Kids'

From Molly Janczyk, July 20, 2007
Subject: editorial/note: Campaign for Ohio's Future: Education Petition
Thank you, Janet! Please ALL help by requesting petitions at: Page down to 'Request Petitions'

Subject: Fw: editorial/note: there is a photo already at the Citizen Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2007 23:29:09 -0400
Molly: Thought you might like to see the editorial that was printed in the Urbana Daily Citizen Tuesday, July 17, 2007. Janet

Subject: editorial
"Sign It For The Kids" guest editorial by Dr. Janet W. Ebert
Vice President Champaign County Retired Teachers

What can be done "for the kids" of our community and the state? How can we provide a QUALITY education for the youngest members of Ohio's citizenry? How can the sad trail of "no" votes on school issues be addressed? And, finally, how can the unconstitutional funding for Ohio's schools be revised to ensure a quality education for every child in the state?
Ohio's Supreme Court has ruled FOUR TIMES that the current means of education funding in the State of Ohio is unconstitutional. The legislature has been directed to change the laws, but has been unresponsive.
A large coalition of interested groups came together to hammer out the answers to these questions. Members of these groups are often at odds with one another, yet they marched forward in deliberations to forge a new educational funding policy for Ohio. The coalition included businessmen, teachers and former teachers, city officials, and many others, who feel strongly about Ohio's children.
The coalition was driven by an imperative belief that "Education is fundamental. Every child has a right to a quality public education, regardless of the child's place of residence."
Recently, members of the Champaign County Retired Teachers Association were privileged to hear Mr. Bill Phillis, who is an education activist. He initiated the first case in the courts stating that Ohio's method of school funding is unconstitutional. The case went to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed.
Mr. Phillis presented the results of the coalition's work. An Ohio constitutional amendment is being sought. This amendment has been well-thought through, and provides a quality education for each student in the state. Funding is guaranteed through the State of Ohio, and its administration is without the possibility of assault from the legislature or other entities. Senior citizens and others on fixed incomes have not been forgotten in the amendment. The impact on their income is likely to be minimal. Also of concern was the thought that school districts with excellent successes in education might be "cut back." There is nothing in the amendment that prohibits districts from asking their constituents for more funds to enhance their schools and staffing. Provision for funding institutions of higher learning also has been made in the amendment.
Phillis boldly proclaimed, "State-wise, we are at the point where we have to protect our kids from the state government." He pointed out the occasions when education has become a political matter, unheeding of the needs of children and educators. He further said, "The state needs to establish funds for education - tamper proof."
A number of newspapers recently reported that the efforts to gather signatures supporting the amendment were to stop. The person who authorized the article's release was in error. This was a most unfortunate announcement, as those carrying petitions are to continue to collect signatures. When the appropriate number of signatures is available, the issue for the amendment will be placed on the Ohio ballot.
The issue at hand is; "What can be done for Ohio's 'kids'?" It seems that the best solution, so far, is the amendment. A person signing the petition should know that the petition asks only for the amendment to be placed on the ballot. In and of itself, a signature does not endorse the amendment.
Petitions will be available on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the Champaign County Fair. Members of the Champaign County Retired Teachers Association will collect signatures at a tent near the center of the fairgrounds. Champaign County residents are encouraged to sign. The coalition, Mr. Phillis, and the retired teachers say, "Sign it - for the kids".

Dr. K. Fluke on the Fordham Institute Report

From RH Jones, July 20, 2007
Subject: Fordham Institute Papers
To all:
This message is K. Fluke’s answer to the Fordham Institute’s so-called “study”. As a member of his SummitCRTA Legislative Committee, he has authorized me to send it.
From K. W. Fluke
Re: Golden Peaks and Perilous Cliffs July, 2007
(Rethinking Ohio’s Teachers’ Pension System
by Robert M. Costrell and Michael Podgursky
Thomas B. Fordham Institute)
The Fordham Institute study is a one-sided, self-serving report. To my knowledge the above publication was not requested or endorsed by the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System and was given to Ohio legislators. Questions – are the other retirement systems being researched and publications provided? According to the writers of the Ohio STRS report, they are college professors with virtually nothing indicated about their backgrounds and experience. What is their retirement system and how does it compare with Ohio’s STRS? Would they like to be analyzed?
This publication attempts to present the case that Ohio’s STRS might be subject to a fall off a cliff or reverses. This writer’s view is one that does not attempt to fix that which is not broken. Ohio STRS as rightly indicated is the oldest public retirement system in Ohio. It has provided for annuitants (retirees) during the 1929-1939 Depression. Yes, the capable STRS board members may make changes to policy as needed. This is understood.
This publication does not endorse the Defined Benefit Plan that is selected by over 80% of STRS annuitants. They are persons who want the security of an annuity at retirement and access to health care. Many are not familiar or interested with equities and the stock market and want the security of capable investments by the STRS investors.
Mention was made about the 13th Check, available if exercised under Ohio Statutes. Also, mention was made of the Ad Hoc provision. Yes, these are necessary to adequately provide for inflation. It appears that the Fordham Institute is recommending cancellation of these benefits. A 3% cost of living does not truly balance with inflation. Historically, STRS has provided the 13th Check and currently is unable to do so. The Ad Hoc raises have been generally provided every ten years. This study completely omitted looking at any options for STRS health care and completely omitted the adequate funding of Ohio Schools for the last 16 years.
This study totally impersonalized the Ohio State Teachers’ Retirement System and is attempting to analyze from a business perspective.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that the Fordham Institute and publication writers represent a neo-conservative philosophy and a thinking to privatize everything for the benefit of a few. This is evident in the lack of the Defined Benefit endorsement but support of Cash Balance or Defined Benefit Contribution Plans. The present Ohio STRS Defined Benefit Plan is not outdated. Some changes may be needed and capable STRS board members will address these.
Time will tell about the retirees who want to do their own thing about retirement planning and those who enroll with the STRS Defined Benefit. Research is not providing the answer now.
With over 20 years as an STRS annuitant and 15 years as a Legislative Chair, I had experience with the 13th Checks and Ad Hocs, etc. My support of the Ohio STRS is total.
K. W. Fluke, Ph.D.
Legislative Chair, Summit County Retired Teachers

Dejà vu on lavish spending? SHADOWS ON HIGH: E. Gordon Gee: The Man With the Scarlet "O"

By Brian Rothenburg, July 20, 2007

Imagine if your Governor was the highest paid in the United States and imagine how the Ohio public would react.

Imagine if you provided the Governor with no limits on renovating the Governor’s Mansion, but knew from his history that he’d spent $6 million on his last residence, imported a room from England for another Ivy League gig and was the subject of a major Wall Street Journal expose’ on his prior spending habits -- fair or not.

Imagine if you found a Governor that created jobs in Ohio decades ago, plopped him back in Bexley today and waited for that magic to work again 17 years later – as if you are in some strange Austin Powers’ political episode where he lands at the “Oval” some Saturday from a strange land down south.

Ohioans are a scrappy lot. When the chips are down, they seek a hero. And when they are wandering in the wilderness, they seek a messianic presence to rescue them from the confusion of false idols. The fact is that Heroes never die – in fact their legend only grows in the memory of distant minds.

But there is a certain truth in the parables of the Bible that comes to mind about E. Gordon Gee and his popular coronation this past week. It reminds me of when Moses left the Israelites to scale the mountains for the 10 Commandments, only to come down and find them worshipping fallen idols, lost in the desert, longing for belief. In the end, Moses never went into the Promised Land – only the Israelites crossed the border.

And if we Ohioans have strayed in the desert, we are a different people with a different economy than OSU President E. Gordon Gee discovered 17 years ago when he arrived from the Mountains of Colorado to the Mountaintop at OSU. And because of that, like him or not, the E. Gordon Gee of 2007 takes an investiture in a very different Ohio.

The Buckeye Institute’s Richard Vedder wrote recently, “The highest level administrators at the great universities I know alternatively despise, despair or are jealous of Gee, looking at him as a rube upstart without the cultivation and manners and dignity that a University president should have. But he delivers – raises schools in the US News and World report rankings, builds pretty buildings, throws great parties, and raises tons of cash. Isn’t that what higher education is all about these days.”

And therein lies the rub. It’s not what higher education should be about these days. Not with Ohio’s undereducated population struggling to pay rising tuition costs at our state colleges. Not with OSU, a land-grant college, suddenly being so selective as to place itself out of reach for even some of Ohio’s brightest. Not with all public colleges struggling to pay for upkeep of the growing number of buildings.

OSU can no longer afford a PR man as its president.

The recent high-level investment in Higher Ed is a financial commitment that the new administration has made to boost the state’s economy.

We are desperate for jobs and our Universities are the cornerstone of what little hope there is of past glory. Our Governor may not feel it in the honeymoon of today, but jobs are our hope – not newspaper rankings. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher’s recent trip to Russia is just the start of the kind of focus, zeal and commitment it will take to recreate a burgeoning Ohio economy.

A recent Quinnipiac survey found that 28% of all Ohioans feel one of their family member will leave Ohio for a better opportunity in the next year. And if that responsibility rests with our elected leaders like Governor Strickland – it also rests at the feet of Ohio’s Higher Ed establishment that long has criticized cuts in funding and stands at the threshold of all it could want.

And if Professor Vedder is right about Dr. Gee, then the OSU club we at Shadows on High often dub “Scarlet and Green” should fear a return of a 17-year old business model.

  • THE BUILDING BOOM MODEL IS BUSTED: With the University of Phoenix online across the world, and numerous private colleges and even Central Michigan University with branch Columbus campuses – pretty buildings may be a thing in Higher Ed’s past. (Not to mention OSU’s pretty building – The Blackwell -- named after marketing professor Roger Blackwell, found guilty two years ago of insider trading).

    You don’t need pretty buildings named after the famous or the felonious -- or even need a picturesque setting while you are sitting in your family room watching your class lecture via computer. You may need labs and hands-on instruction for the sciences and certain disciplines. But today’s classroom requirements are much different than yesterday’s. Technology has made Higher Ed more portable.

  • THE PARTY’S OVER: The famed Gee parties are legendary and come with baggage. The Wall Street Journal a few years back did a damning article about the $700,000 in entertainment and personal chef costs of Dr. Gee at Vanderbilt. The $3 million renovation of the President’s House at Brown (including a conservatory built in England and shipped to Brown) and a $6 million renovation of the President’s House at Vanderbilt were also prominently mentioned.

    Dr. Gee pointed out that those parties helped him raise money. Still, even the Vanderbilt Trustees created controls for his lavish spending.

  • IT’S ABOUT THE CLUB: The bottom line is this is about endowment cash for the institution and the wealth that fuels that money machine is an exclusive club. But the problem is that for Ohioans starved for jobs, and elected officials clawing to survive in the barren economic desert, endowment cash may not mean a whole lot come 2010.

    The Wall Street Journal article details a Vanderbilt Committee report led by a retired investment banker, which found the full board never approved the budget or financial items between 2000 and 2005. Among the report’s recommendations was a special panel to monitor Gee’s entertainment, travel, food staff and maintenance expenditures on the President’s mansion.

If there is ever a telltale neon warning sign in Ohio these days, it lies in the shadows of the echo chambers of Ed Boards and board room power ties that cling all too fast to connected straw men like Bob Ney, or Tom Noe, or Bob Taft, or Frank Gruttadauria and a list of endless false power prophets. Given Ohio’s recent past with fallen idols who had little financial oversight, the WSJ article is troubling. Ohio citizens have lost enough public money with the help of loosey-goosey financial checks and balances.

In a political environment where food is scrutinized at all levels of Ohio government thanks to gourmet meals at the Board of Regents [ to the point where the public seemed to be outraged over boxed bologna sandwiches, chips and brownies at event like the BMVs annual computer training sessions ] it would seem logical that OSU Trustees would be sensitized to unnecessary spending and write in appropriate oversight given the public lashing – fair or not – that Gee received over Vanderbilt and Brown expenses.

The Columbus Dispatch last Sunday gave Gee an opportunity to address the Wall Street Journal article when he said:

    “In this instance, (the president's house) is in fairly good shape. It does need to have some renovation. I have a particular philosophy. One is the fact that I entertain all the time, so the house needs to be made available for entertaining. ... Secondly, I believe very strongly in people coming and staying with me like a bed and breakfast … I've always used my home to celebrate the community that we're in. But I think being transparent about it, and second of all, having everyone understand that I'm intending on raising $2.5 billion (in a capital campaign). Whatever we expend on buffing the house up will be paid for every month.”

Will OSU adapt away from monolithic buildings to the web-based worlds of our future? Will OSU really be able to become a job incubator for in-state jobs that an increasingly desperate Legislative crowd has anointed and invested? Will the magic of endowments return because of the mystique beneath the bow tie, or is the lagging endowment a sign of a changing desert, in part, because of the Fortune 500 losses in Ohio?

The question is whether the homage to past glory and hope that Ohioans find E. Gordon Gee worth the price tag:

  • A $775,000 yearly salary.
  • A $250,000 deferred compensation package per year.
  • An open ended agreement to allow renovation of the President’s House in Bexley.
  • A PERS retirement package averaged off of $775,000 if he stays three years.

Certainly outside sources fund a large part of the cost. But it is still a public institution. And we know that spending on such a scale would doom almost any other public official in any office in Ohio.

What makes this public official so different? Lots of things, but mainly fierce loyalty from Les Wexner, founder and chairman of Limited Brands. Wexner is central Ohio’s most powerful resident, among Ohio’s most influential citizens and one of America’s wealthiest men.

Wexner was so unhappy with Gee’s predecessor, Karen Holbrook, that he’s rumored to have helped engineer not only her ouster but also reshape the Board of Trustees to insure that he could hand-pick her successor. His admiration for Gee is well-known.

In fact, some insiders in the shadows of the Statehouse are of the opinion that Wexner lured Gee back, not because he wanted to pick the next OSU president but because he wanted to pick the next most influential public voice in State Government. His concern over Strickland – whose pro-union views conflict with Wexner’s overseas business endeavors, are also well known.

While Gee’s spending habits will be the subject of intrigue, they could play second fiddle to his relationship to the Strickland Administration – the new governor who already stands firmly against pricey lunches and for public colleges; but also seems decidedly less socially ostentatious and bookishly more policy oriented than camera oriented.

And the reality is that outside of the “Scarlet and Green Club,” for most Ohioans this is not about financial endowments or Ohio’s notoriously self-immolating “king of the hill” politics. It’s about our need for an economic hero and jobs for our graduating Buckeye sons and daughters.

And you just can’t stop thinking that the block “O” on his chest is scarlet in more than just color. Heroes are larger than life and Gordon Gee is expected to be not just what he really was – but the legend or memory of what people think he was embellished over time.

While OSU Trustees may be satisfied with financial endowments and budget gold, most Ohioans are looking for this collegiate Moses to create hope, opportunity and to create jobs – not a testosterone-laden comparison of University financial endowment size at the annual Big Ten Presidents’ Conference Dinner, or PR rollouts of college magazine rankings and new buildings.

In the end, the E. Gordon Gee of the past, just awoke in a new land and inherited not just the highest salary in the country, but the highest threshold from which to fall. But then again, he has a golden parachute.

Medicare Advantage Overpayments Undermining Traditional Medicare, Shortchanging Beneficiaries
19 Jul 2007

Congressional policy staff and members of the media were briefed on Capitol Hill today on Medicare Advantage overpayments and their effect on the Medicare program. Three of the nation's leading healthcare advocacy organizations were joined by Health Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) who stated:

"The over-payments made to Medicare Advantage are a gaping hole that is draining the Medicare trust fund and imposing unfair costs on millions of beneficiaries across the nation. The time has come for Congress to put an end to these subsidies to ensure that Medicare remains a reliable source of health care for the elderly and disabled for many years to come."

Thousands of letters from National Committee members calling on Congress to pass legislation, which would repeal billions in insurance industry overpayments, are being sorted for delivery to Capitol Hill later this month. The President of the National Committee and former Congresswoman, Barbara Kennelly told the audience:

"At a time when our nation is struggling with how to create affordable health care coverage for all Americans, it is simply incomprehensible to me why we would destroy the one affordable, universal health care system that already exists in Medicare. The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries remain in the traditional program. But their voices are not as loud as the insurance industry's".

According to the Congressional Budget Office, private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans will collect $75 billion dollars this year alone and $1.31 trillion over the next decade. That's funding which could have gone to Medicare but is now going to the insurance industry instead. Judith Stein, Executive Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. says:

"Medicare wasn't broken. But because of the ever-increasing private Medicare options, it is. The solution for the Medicare crisis is not to increase the eligibility age or decrease benefits, but to stop privatizing the program at the expense of older people and taxpayers."

Rev. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, President of the Campbell Heights Resident's Association, described how D.C. seniors became victims of a private insurer's marketing pitch that puts sales ahead of seniors' care. Campbell Heights seniors were promised the private plan wouldn't replace Medicare, there were no co-pays and they could stay with their own doctors. None of that is true.

"We are now in limbo, waiting 45 days to be placed back in Medicare. What do we do if we need care within those 45 days? Most hospitals are in trouble financially and don't want to admit patients without medical insurance. What do we do?"

Richard Deem, Senior Vice President of Advocacy with the American Medical Association says

"Congress can stop Medicare cuts to doctors and preserve seniors' access to care by eliminating overpayments to private health insurers providing Medicare Advantage plans. These subsidies are making Medicare less sustainable as the baby-boom generation reaches Medicare eligibility"

If Medicare continues to fund large subsidies to private plans, the program will face even more pressure to cut benefits and increase out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. Traditional Medicare will be eroded while private plans continue to collect billions in subsidies and beneficiaries pay more of the high costs of healthcare.

It's time to stop disadvantaging Medicare. End these costly subsidies to insurance companies and put that money to work for all of the 43 million Americans enrolled in Medicare not just the few enrolled in private plans.

Solution for Medicare crisis: Stop privatizing at the expense of older people and taxpayers

Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.
Medicare was created in 1965 because over 50% of everyone 65 or older had no health insurance. Private insurance failed to meet their needs. Medicare, on the other hand, is a success. It increased the number of insured older adults to 95%. In 1972 Medicare coverage was extended to people with significant disabilities. But Medicare's success in providing access to healthcare for millions of people is in danger. Ironically, the threat comes from private insurance plans. Funded by windfall subsidies from taxpayer dollars, privatization is jeopardizing the cost-effective, dependable Medicare program.
Medicare wasn't broken, but because of the ever-increasing private Medicare options, it is breaking. The myriad private plans are creating confusion and barriers to care for real people. The Center for Medicare Advocacy is contacted everyday by people who were inappropriately marketed to, people who did not understand what they were getting into, people who have been unable to get the health care services they need from their Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, and people who are “locked into” their MA plan. Further, the Center gets calls for help from people who thought they had MA "on top of" their regular Medicare and/or Medigap and are surprised to find out that is not true when the service or provider they need is not covered by their MA plan.
Medicare privatization will cost taxpayers approximately $150 billion over the next ten years, while it hurts many people with Medicare and strangles the traditional Medicare program. Consider these stories from just a few of our clients:
• Mrs. W called us with a Medicare Advantage (MA) problem. She went from a hospital to a nursing home and is now being billed for $13,000 because the nursing home was out of her MA plan’s network. She was told by both the hospital and nursing home staff that original Medicare would cover her nursing home stay, even though she had an MA plan. This is not the case. The beneficiary herself is extremely confused and was unable to answer any of the Center attorney’s questions.
• The Center has a case pending for a gentleman who is in an MA plan in Connecticut and went out of network for doctor’s services. He is now being billed $5,000. This gentleman is functionally illiterate and states that he did not understand that he needed to go in network when he first signed up for the MA plan. He says he did not receive any booklets or anything in writing from the MA plan regarding the network’s providers. Even if he did, he likely wouldn’t have been able to read the information or comprehend the concept of a network.
• A Center attorney recently received a call from a woman with significant MA concerns. She and her husband were visited by an MA marketing representative for a Private Fee For Service Plan (PFFS). He came door to door and was absolutely not invited. The woman told our attorney that both she and her husband suffer from brain injuries and previous strokes and that they were both distressed when the agent came into their home. He told them that he wanted to talk to them about a “new kind of Medicare.” She said that she listened but did not understand and that he gave too much information too fast. She said she filled out the form he had and said yes to all of his questions just to get him to leave her home; this all happened in January, 2007.
When the woman called the marketing representative to disenroll the representative told them to just send a letter to the plan and that would effectuate the disenrollment. She did so in January and has still not been disenrolled. In fact, they have needed and received medical services since then and are now being billed and sent to collection. For example, the husband requires shots from an oncologist which cost $3000 each; he has had three. Other doctor’s visits include a hospital CT scan, neurologist visits, and endocrinologist visits.
• Mr. N, one of the Center’s clients had traditional Medicare along with a Medigap supplemental policy. He was approached by an MA plan while at his dialysis unit. He was told that the MA plan and the Medigap policy together would cover all his expenses. Our client’s wife called today because they are now receiving bills for the balance of what the MA plan did not cover. When she contacted the Medigap representative, he told her that because she now is in an MA plan, the Medigap won't cover the balance. Mrs. N then called the MA plan to disenroll because she is worse off than before joining the MA. They told her she couldn't disenroll at this time.
The Center is working to retroactively disenroll Mr. N from the MA plan based upon the misinformation that he was given by the marketing representative. Hopefully, if the retroactive MA disenrollment is granted, the Medigap policy will provide retroactive coverage for the past bills.
• A Center attorney received a call from the daughter of a beneficiary who speaks very little English. Apparently an agent from an MA plan in Hartford, CT came door-to-door (without being invited, which is a marketing violation) visited this woman's mother and got her to sign an application. The representative told the mother that everything would be "free". The daughter called the plan and was able to get her mother disenrolled. But, Social Security is still deducting the monthly premium for the MA plan from her mother's SS check so she called the Center to get help with the premium problems. Her mother needs the money.
• The Center was recently contacted by the daughter of a woman who signed up for a particular MA plan. Apparently representatives from the MA plan called and asked if they could come to the mother's home. She, and the daughter, visited with the representatives and made it very clear that what they were looking for 100% coverage of the mother's dialysis treatments. The representatives told them that if she signed up her dialysis treatments would be covered 100%.
It soon became clear to the mother and daughter that the plan only covers 80% of dialysis treatments, the same as traditional Medicare. In addition, it became clear that the plan never should have offered to sign her up in the first place because she has ESRD which precludes her from signing up for this plan.
• Another gentleman called the Center. He was visited by an MA plan and was told that the plan was "free" which it is not. He just received a letter from SS saying that $46.00 would be deducted from his Social Security check. This is how he found out that the plan was not "free."
“Medicare Advantage” is starving the successful traditional Medicare program and hurting beneficiaries. Studies by MedPAC, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Commonwealth Fund and numerous scholars confirm that taxpayers are spending between 12 – 19% more on private plans than it would cost to serve the same people in the traditional Medicare program. Meanwhile, private Medicare has proven far less able to provide secure health insurance and a wide choice of doctors and other healthcare providers for older people and people with disabilities.
The solution for the Medicare crisis is not to increase the eligibility age or decrease benefits, but to stop privatizing the program at the expense of older people and taxpayers.

Judith A. Stein, Esq. • July 16, 2007
Executive Director

Thursday, July 19, 2007

AARP Bulletin: Michael Moore Sounds Off on Health Care

‘Sicko’ Diagnoses Ills of U.S. Health System
AARP Bulletin, July-August 2007
Click here to read interview.

CBS news re:the "Medicare Disadvantage"...a MUST READ for STRS Retirees

Medicare Disadvantage
WEST HAVEN, Conn., July 16, 2007
(CBS) It was the summer of 1965 when Medicare was created to provide government-sponsored health care for seniors. Today some $381 billion tax dollars a year are spent on Americans 65 and older.

But in recent years, more and more Americans — 8.3 million and rising — are getting Medicare through private insurance companies. Tonight, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian takes a closer look at the program critics charge has turned into a disadvantage for seniors, and a windfall for the insurance industry.

It was the winter of 2003 when Congress, in the dead of night, overhauled Medicare.

"This prescription drug benefit is a good deal for all seniors," said Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

But buried inside the bill was another deal — one that CBS News investigation has discovered was not necessarily a benefit for seniors.

A large portion of one of the most successful public programs in history was quietly placed in the hands of private insurance companies. The goal of Medicare Advantage: to provide seniors with more benefits, like vision and dental care, and control rising costs. But today, for seniors like Aaron Cohen, it's become Medicare Dis-Advantage.

"I'd rather go back to the old-fashioned Medicare," Cohen told Keteyian.

Cohen, an 86-year-old who lives in Connecticut, says he switched to an advantage plan only after a salesman assured him he would be completely covered while staying in Florida.

But after breaking his leg in that state, Cohen began to believe he had been sold a bill of goods.

"There was something radically wrong," Cohen said. "They wouldn't give me any home therapy, claiming that it wasn't covered."

But that's only part of the problem. With traditional Medicare, there's one plan for everyone, everywhere. Private Medicare Advantage offers as many as 50 different plans, causing untold confusion over coverage, premiums, co-pays, provider networks.

"These insurance benefit packages are very complicated. Almost nobody without really technical sophistication can figure out exactly what they are buying," said Robert Hayes, who runs the Medicare Rights Center.

Hayes said every year his staff fields thousands of calls from seniors scared to death they've made the wrong choice.

Not only are private plans more confusing, they are more expensive to taxpayers.

In fact, three independent reports found private insurance companies are paid, on average, 12 percent more than what it cost the federal government to run Medicare — in some cases, 50 percent more.
FYI: Find out more about private medicare and how to find help navigating the system.
The head of Medicare insists private plans give you more for your money.

"I think there is a lot more that we could do in regular Medicare that we aren't doing currently, that some of the Medicare Advantage plans are able to do because of how the payment structure works," Leslie Norwalk told Keteyian.

But how much of that money is going back into the pockets of the insurance companies?

"Well, it's required by law: 25 percent goes back to the federal treasury, 75 percent goes back to the beneficiary," Norwalk said.

So the insurance companies are doing this, what, out of the kindness of their hearts, asked Keteyian?

"There, there would be, I'm sure, some small amount to administer the additional benefits," Norwalk said.

But CBS News has found that's not always the case. An independent report found when it comes to the fastest-growing plans, known as private fee-for-service, half of that extra money goes back to the insurance companies. All these private Medicare plans are expected to cost taxpayers an additional $54 billion over the next five years.

"Taxpayers are losing; people in Medicare are losing," Hayes said. "And the structure of Medicare as a national treasure that we need to rely on moving forward, is being undermined."

So much so that key Congressional Democrats now want to cut payments to private plans. The insurance industry is fighting back with a direct mail campaign urging seniors to contact their representatives.

Ironically, Cohen got one of the letters. On the back, his very personal feelings about his Medicare Advantage plan.

"This plan is worthless," he wrote.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NEA sued over kickback

2 teachers sue union over retirement plan
The National Education Assn. is accused of getting a kickback for touting a costly offering.
By Kathy M. Kristof
Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2007
The National Education Assn. faces a federal lawsuit accusing it of breaching its duty to members by recommending a high-cost retirement plan in exchange for millions of dollars from the managers of the plan.
The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by two of the 57,000 schoolteachers who the suit says invested $1 billion in a so-called 403(b) retirement plan endorsed by the NEA.
The suit says the teachers were lured to invest in the plan by assurances that the NEA "conducted an extensive review of numerous financial services companies to find the best provider." But the NEA's member benefit unit "received millions of dollars … as the quid pro quo for NEA's exclusive endorsement," the filing says.
The money received by the NEA ultimately came from its members' pockets, according to the suit, through "excessive" fees charged by plan providers Nationwide Life Insurance Co. and Security Benefit Life Insurance Co. The fees reduced the returns earned by the teachers who invested in the plan, the suit claims.
Nationwide and Security Benefit were also named as defendants, as were the NEA's benefit unit and its directors. All of the defendants declined to comment on the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington state, saying they had not received a copy of the filing.
The suit, which liberally quotes from a Los Angeles Times article about lucrative union endorsements of teacher retirement plans, is unusual in that it is among the first to contend that a teachers union could be considered liable for a bad retirement plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs retirement plans in private industry.
The act requires employers to act in their workers' best interest when screening retirement plans. School districts have largely escaped those dictates because the law says that if a district makes retirement plans available but doesn't encourage membership in any particular one, it does not have to meet the same duty of care as other plan sponsors.
The suit, however, says the NEA, by endorsing, marketing and selling a retirement plan, became both sponsor and administrator to the plan's participants.
The lawsuit asks that the fees paid to the NEA be returned to the participants. The amount of damages would be determined in court, said Jeffrey Engerman, a Los Angeles attorney who is representing the plaintiffs.
The case was brought by teachers David Hamblen of Diamond Springs, Calif., who works for the El Dorado Union High School District, and Jerre Daniels-Hall of Port Orchard, Wash.

Nancy Hamant to STRS Board: Know the impact before you adopt Medicare Advantage

From Nancy Hamant, July 18, 2007
Subject: Medicare Advantage--Deep Concerns

Dear STRS Board Members:
You are facing major decisions regarding STRS Health Care for 2008. One of STRS members deepest concerns would be the addition of a Medicare Advantage option. It has been STRS members' assumption that the Medicare Advantage option would be added to both the current Traditional and Basic Options.
However, after reading the SERS comments about SERS's Medicare Advantage Plan for 2008, it appears that if the SERS members do not choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage they will have NO health care from SERS. Hopefully, this is not an accurate understanding of the SERS plan, however, if true, it is totally abhorring to STRS members.
Each day more news is available concerning the problems with Medicare Advantage programs. The most recent follows for your review and consideration before you make any decisions regarding adding a Medicare Advantage option (which seems to be a disadvantage for those who have to use it).
Please do not add Medicare Advantage without knowing how it will impact STRS members, Ohio and the traditional federal Medicare program.
Nancy B. Hamant

Update re: States passing PBM transparency laws (not Ohio...surely you jest) and NY's AG 2004 suit against Express Scripts NOT SETTLED as of yet!

From John Curry, July 18, 2007
Subject: Update re. states passing PBM transparency laws (not Ohio...surely you jest) and NY's AG 2004 suit against Express Scripts NOT SETTLED as of yet!
Source: National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices Newsletter (July 2007)
Legislation on PBMs has fared much better this year following the federal court decisions upholding the Maine and DC laws. PBM transparency and fair dealing laws have been signed in Iowa, Arkansas and Tennessee so far this year. A PBM bill has been moving through the Texas legislature, and New York has passed legislation in the Assembly. Summaries of the bills signed into law so far in 2007:
ARKANSAS ACT 843 Effective: 04/02/07
**Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights sets forth standards for audits by a managed care company, an insurance company, a third-party payor or any entity that represents such companies or groups
**Pharmacy must be given one week notice of an audit
**If clinical or professional judgment is required audit must be conducted by or in consultation with a pharmacist
**Pharmacy may use records of a hospital, physician or other authorized practitioner to validate the pharmacy record
**Recoupment of claims has to be based on actual overpayment unless it is part of a settlement with the pharmacy
**Period covered by audit cannot exceed 24 months from the date the claim was submitted to or adjudicated by the entity
**Unless consented to by the pharmacy, the audit cannot take place during the first 7 days of the month
**Extrapolation audits are prohibited
IOWA SF 512 May 25 07 Signed by Governor. S.J. 1577, Effective: 07/01/08
**PBM must obtain a certificate as a third party administrator
**PBM must perform its duties exercising good faith and fair dealing
**PBM must notify the covered entity in writing of any conflicts
**PBM cannot contact a covered individual without permission of the covered entity
**PBM cannot require more stringent record keeping than that required by state or federal law or regulation
**PBM must notify the pharmacy when it receives notice from a covered entity of a contract cancellation within 10 working days
**Within three business days of a price increase notification by a manufacturer or supplier the PBM must adjust its payment to the pharmacy consistent with the price increase
**Commissioner must enforce the provisions and adopt rules concerning timely payment of pharmacy claims and a process for adjudication of complaints and settlement of disputes between a PBM and a pharmacy related to auditing practices and termination of pharmacy agreements
**Legislative Council is directed to establish an interim committee on PBMs to review transparency, disclosure, confidentiality protections, ability of covered entities to audit PBMs and appropriate remedies for covered entities to enforce the provisions in the Act
TENNESSEE SB 1112, Chaptered Law 224; Signed by Governor on 05/25/07, effective July 1, 2007
**Establishes certain standards for audits of pharmacies conducted by PBMs
**Advance notification of audit
**Prohibition of audits during the first 7 days of the calendar month unless consented to by the pharmacy
**Establishment of an appeals process and rights for pharmacies
**Prohibition of use of extrapolation in calculating recoupments or penalties.
**Requires PBMs to provide timely updates to pharmacy product pricing files used to calculate prescription prices and reimburse pharmacies. Files must be updated no less than every 3 business days.
“PBM transparency will save taxpayers, health plans millions; Assembly passes measure to remove cloak from corrupt industry” Press Release from Office of Assemblymember and NLARx member Richard Gottfried, June 7, 2007:
“The Assembly has unanimously passed legislation that, if enacted, will save taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars a year by shedding light on the practice of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and requiring PBMs to work for the benefit of their client health plans. PBMs are companies that manage prescription drug benefit programs for health plans. They have promised to save health plans and their members money. But in reality, their negotiations are very secretive. PBMs commonly pocket payments from drug manufacturers that ought to be used to lower drug prices, and they accept payments in exchange for giving preference to more expensive drugs. The bill, modeled on recent legislation in Maine, would require that PBM act not in their own best interest, but rather in the interest of the health plan and its beneficiaries. Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried (D, WF – Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Committee on Health and the sponsor of this legislation, said, “This legislation will shed light on an industry that has repeatedly been found to be abusing the public trust and has been allowed to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money with no regulation for too long.” In New York, this lack of transparency has resulted in several major lawsuits. In June of 2004, then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer settled a claim with MedCo Health Services, Inc. for illegal drug switching. The State of New York is also currently involved in a pending lawsuit against ExpressScripts, Inc., alleging that the company inflated the cost of drugs paid for by the state health plan and illegally diverted rebates due to the plan. The legislation passed by the Assembly would eliminate the ability of these companies to hide such practices. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), nine states and the District of Columbia have passed PBM transparency laws. Twenty-seven other states, including New York, are considering taking this step. In June of 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the State of Maine’s right to pass legislation regulating pharmacy benefit managers by refusing to hear arguments in Pharmaceutical Care Management Association v. Rowe. The New York legislation is closely modeled after that legislation. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Senator James Seward.”
Note from John: I boldfaced (and underlined) the part about Express Scripts in the paragraph above as STRS is currently considering Express Scripts as one of two finalists in the choice of which PBM services STRS retirees in 2008. When will a brave Ohio legislator introduce a bill to regulate PBM's in our fair state? Don't hold your breath!

Americans United for Change, Medicare Advocates Call on Sen. Voinovich to Stop the Privatization of Medicare

Americans United for Change, Medicare Advocates Call on Sen. Voinovich to Stop the Privatization of Medicare

Bush “Medicare Advantage” program nothing more than a handout to the big insurance companies at the expense of the taxpayer and of the long-term care of seniors and disabled Americans who need it most

(COLUMBUS) – As a major battle looms in Congress over the future of the so-called “Medicare Advantage” program – a program which provides huge subsidies to big private insurance companies that provide Medicare insurance – Americans United for Change and the ‘Stop Medicare Privatization’ campaign call on U.S. Senator George Voinovich to take immediate action and stop the privatization of Medicare.

This morning, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees released a report commissioned by USAction that shows in 2007 alone, private Medicare plans are being overpaid $311 million in the state of Ohio. Congress’ non-partisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Congressional Budget Office have found that private insurance companies are being paid billions more than it would cost to treat the same beneficiaries under the regular Medicare program.

Click here to read the full USAction report.

In 2003, Senator Voinovich voted in favor of the Medicare Modernization Act, which was the first major step towards privatizing Medicare by establishing billions of dollars in government subsidies or ‘corporate welfare’ to big insurances companies that were allowed to provide Medicare insurance to recipients under Bush’s so-called “Medicare Advantage” program.

Despite its innocuous title, the Bush administration’s “Medicare Advantage” program actually costs the Medicare program and ultimately the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars at the same time it endangers the soundness of the Medicare program that seniors and the disabled depend upon for health care. Like Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, “Medicare Advantage” is a scheme to privatize Medicare and allow traditional Medicare to whither on the vine.

“Just two years after the American people resoundingly rejected the Bush Administration’s misguided scheme to privatize Social Security, President Bush is trying to get away with doing the same to Medicare,” said Brian Rothenberg of, an Ohio partner of Americans United for Change. “And just like Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme would have irreparably harmed Social Security, Medicare Advantage disadvantages Medicare, disadvantages taxpayers and is undermining one of the most successful government programs in history. Today, we are mounting a campaign to stop the privatization of Medicare – just as we stopped the privatization of Social Security. We call on Senator Voinovich to take meaningful steps to bring an end to a corrupt era of ‘corporate welfare’ by eliminating subsidies for “Medicare Advantage” plans before overpayments destroy America’s greatest health insurance success story.”

Like its successful campaign in 2005 to defeat the President’s Social Security plan, Americans United for Change is again leading an aggressive national effort in 23 states to apply pressure on Members of Congress to pull the plug on Bush’s under-the-radar plot to dismantle Medicare. Americans United for Change is one of many groups participating in the ‘Stop Medicare Privatization’ campaign: the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Alliance for Retired Americans; Medicare Rights Center; Campaign for America’s Future and USAction.

Click here to read more about the ‘Stop Medicare Privatization’ campaign

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