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11.16 Scotland was first Industrialized Country to Run wholly on Wind in October

11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]

11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks

11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

11.13 Global report highlights Australia’s renewables potential amid mixed signals for coal

11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

11.12  This Land is Your Land:  The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]

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11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]

11.16 Trump’s latest interview shows a president who’s in way over his head

11.16 Why the political fight in Georgia is far from over

11.16 Florida judge sides with Democrats, giving thousands a second chance to fix their ballots

11.15 Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too? [it's about suppressing the influence and leadership by Republican-like Democrats who counsel 'íncremental' (no) change, such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Shumer and Joe Biden]

11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]

11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]

11.15 Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side

11.14 The Real Florida Recount Fraud

11.14 Telling NRA #ThisIsOurLane, Doctors' Photos Show Blood-Soaked Reality of America's Gun Madness

11.14 At Freshman Orientation, Young and Growing Progressive Caucus Makes Clear It Will 'Fight Like Hell' for Bold Democratic Agenda

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High Crimes?

11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]

11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]

11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]

11.14 Brexit: May tells her cabinet, this is the deal – now back me

International & Futurism

11.15 Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments [terms must be negotiated for fairness to Cuba's health professionals without disruption of healthcare for Brazil's poor]

11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]

11.14 Israel and Hamas launch hundreds of attacks in Gaza clash

11.14 Mueller seeking more details on Nigel Farage, key Russia inquiry target says

11.13 Austin's Fix for Homelessness: Tiny Houses, and Lots of Neighbors

11.13 Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival.

11.13 Caravan marks one month on the road: ‘We keep on going, laughing or crying’

11.13 Letter Shows Einstein’s Prescient Concerns About ‘Dark Times’ in Germany

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  Some Federal Workers Can't Afford Their ''Model'' Health Care Plan
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COMMENTARY:

Some Federal Workers Can’t Afford Their “Model” Health Care Plan

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation on 30 September 2009

Like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.

Now that the Senate Finance Committee has driven a stake through the public option, there’s likely to be renewed talk about the Federal Employees Health Benefits program (FEHB). Throughout the contentious health care debate, the federal workers health plan has been often hailed as the model everyone can live with. It’s even been described by some as the basis for an alternative “public option,” under which the unisured could either buy into the FEHB or, more likely, into a program modeled on it. Members of Congress just love to talk about offering Americans the “same health care” they themselves enjoy, and Obama has said much the same thing.

Too bad there really isn’t anything public at all about the FEHB, as I (and others) have written before. It’s simply a system that allows federal workers to sort through dozens of different private insurance plans, and pick one they want. (This supposed model for a public option doesn’t even include a public option itself.) Their employer, the government, then picks up the majority of the cost of the premiums, with the workers paying the rest. They have a wide range of choices among private plans and access to group rates, which is better than what a lot of Americans have. But like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are expensive–so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.

Now the FEHB’s premiums–like everyone else’s–are getting a lot more expensive. As Joe Davidson reports today in the Washington Post:

Federal government employees can expect a big jump in their health-care costs in 2010, officials said Tuesday.

Employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will pay an average 8.8 percent more in health-care costs, according to figures released by the Office of Personnel Management....The increase compares with a 7.9 percent jump in 2009 and a 2.9 percent increase in 2008, according to the OPM.

The rates for FEHB Blue Cross Blue Shield, a popular choice because of its comprehensive coverage and wide choice of providers, will increase far more–15 percent for individuals, and 12 percent for families.

These rate hikes will likely present no problem for members of Congress, who earn $174,000 a year (and have expense accounts). But Davidson cites responses from unions representing rank-and-file federal workers:

“This is an enormous increase that erodes federal employees’ standard of living,” Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. “Affordable health care is essential in attracting and retaining a stable, high-quality workforce.”

The American Federation of Government Employees expressed “grave concern” at the news. “FEHBP is getting more and more unaffordable for more people,” said Jacqueline Simon, AFGE public policy director.

Most telling of all is the statement given to reporters by Nancy Kichak, an associate director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: “An 8.8 percent increase is not an increase that we feel comfortable with,” Kichak said. “It’s not one that we would like to see our enrollees bear, but unfortunately we’re a victim of the market.”

A “victim of the market.” Sounds like the same thing that’s wrong with the whole U.S. health care system (with the exception of original Medicare, which Congress could look to as a model for a public option, if only they had the political will).

But as we know, in the market there are always winners as well as losers: Witness the jump in health insurance company stocks on Tuesday afternoon, following the Finance Committee’s defeat of two proposed public option amendments.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on October 2, 2009.
 

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