Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Video: President Obama on the Final March for Reform

President Obama calls on supporters to help finish the fight for health reform.

Giving Peace of Mind Back to the American People
Posted by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on March 04, 2010 at 05:53 PM EST

The urgency of health reform couldn’t be more clear.

Across the country, working families have been saddled with huge rate increase in their health insurance premiums. In California, consumers were informed of rate hikes as high as 39 percent, and in Michigan, insurers sought a 56 percent increase and this is happening across the country.

This is unacceptable, particularly at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet and the largest insurers took in more than $12 billion in profits last year alone. The American people want to understand why their premiums are skyrocketing while some companies are doing well. And they deserve a clear and accurate explanation.

I just got out of a meeting where I asked leaders from big insurance companies for answers. I hosted a discussion with the CEOs of UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Health Care Service Corporation and CIGNA HealthCare Inc., along with leaders from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. I asked them to explain why these crushing burdens are being placed on middle-class families and what we can do to lower costs.

I also asked the CEOs to post the actuarial justification for these stunning rate increases online in an easy-to-understand manner, so that consumers can see why premiums are skyrocketing to the point that some people in the individual market can no longer afford coverage. I hope they will act quickly and make this information available to all of us. If insurance companies are going to raise rates, the least they can do is tell us why.

President Barack Obama reads a letter he received from Natoma Canfield of Medina, Ohio, during a meeting with insurance company executives hosted by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But families deserve more. They need to know how we can prevent these increases from happening in the future. Families want to be responsible and buy health insurance. They’re willing to pay a fair price. They understand that health care is not cheap.

But they don’t want to be afraid every time they open a letter from their insurer that their premiums are going up $7,000 a year. Or that their application has been rejected because they take a medicine for high blood pressure. Or that their insurance is being cancelled because of a mistake on their paperwork.

The point of health insurance is to give people peace of mind, and they’re not getting it. The system we have is failing them.

President Obama has offered a health insurance reform proposal to help working families and small business owners. It will hold insurance companies accountable by laying out common-sense rules of the road to keep premiums down, prevent insurance industry abuses and outlaw discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Reform also includes key provisions that will protect consumers from unjustified premium increases. Building upon existing state practices, the President’s plan includes a new Federal authority to force insurers to justify their rate increases, provide additional support for states that already do rate reviews, and help those states that don’t currently review increases on their own.

Right now, in 21 states, insurance companies can raise rates without any oversight, no questions asked, and consumers suffer. Reform will change the rules and help stop exorbitant increases.

And the President’s plan will help reduce costs and require insurance companies to dedicate more of the premiums dollars they collect to actual care instead of profits, CEO salaries and advertising. If they don’t spend enough on actual care, they’ll be required to send rebate checks to consumers.

Comprehensive reform is a necessary step to fix our broken health insurance market. Holding the insurance industry accountable is one step in that direction.

Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services

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Filed under Department of Health and Human Services, health care reform, Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama, the White House

APP: Big cuts, layoffs coming in Middletown school district

I wasn’t able to attend last night’s community forum that was presented by the Middletown Board of Education to discuss the effects that planned State budget cuts will have on the school district because I had to work last night. I was pleasantly surprise though to see that the Asbury Park Press wasted no time in posting the below article last night after the meeting.

I want to commend the Board of Ed for coming up with a plan so quickly that addresses this budget huge crisis. I am sure that it was not easy but they seemed to attack the problem head on and made some very hard choices to balance its budget without effecting to many programs that the kids rely on, which is more than I can say about how Middletown’s Township Committee is planning to handle its $7 million budget shortfall

MIDDLETOWN — According to the school district, big cuts are on their way for the coming budget year, including layoffs, as well as a tax increase, due to a reduction in state aid.

On March 4, the school district hosted a forum to discuss the repercussions of the governor’s state aid cuts, and how it will affect the school’s fiscal state for the 2010-11 budget. Business administrator Bill Doering said $2.8 million will be absent, in surplus and capital reserve funds, for the remainder of the current fiscal year, as a result of state aid being withheld to combat a state budget shortfall of $2.2 billion.

That money will not be available to be rolled over into the 2010-11 budget, and Doering said that in order to keep the 2010-11 tax increase at 2.9 percent, the three year average for budget increases, $4.3 million will need to be cut from that budget.

Bilbao presented slides to a crowded auditorium, showing large cuts across several areas — 36 teaching staff members must be cut — 18 at the elementary level, and nine each at the middle and high school levels — for a savings of $2,340,000.

Those staffing cuts would likely increases class sizes, pushing elementary class sizes into the 20s, and into the 30s at the high school, Bilbao said.

Additionally, two administrator positions will be cut for a savings of $210,000; 18 paraprofessionals will be cut for a savings of $340,000; four secretaries will be cut for a savings of $160,000; and four staffers in facilities will be cut to save $217,000 — the overall savings for personnel cuts would be $3,267,000, she said.

Other personnel reductions, including stipends, substitute teacher rated, and extended detention, would be cut, for a total savings of $383,000, Bilbao said.

Additionally, $700,000 in discretionary funding, which would handicap the replacement of textbooks, uniforms, supplies, and the expansion of technology initiatives, she said.

The total cuts for the coming year total $4,350,000, a “staggering” number Bilbao said.

Questions from the public were taken on index cards to be answered by a panel, including Bilbao, Doering, Executive County Superintendent Carole Knopp Morris, and several elected officials.

Moderator Marie Curtis, of the League of Women Voters, said many of the questions reflected concern over the teacher layoffs, some saying that administrator cuts were preferred instead. Other questions reflected whether or not the district has considered wage freezes for all staff district wide, or if the state has considered the rising cost of unemployment insurance that would result from the aid cuts. Bilbao said a wage freeze isn’t possible due to contract obligations.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget cuts, chris, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education

The John Curley/Lincroft Sports Complex Conspiracy Theory


I never put much thought into the validity of various conspiracy theories; for the most part these theories are generally not based on facts or have only a loose affiliation with them.

One such theory has recently developed around the controversial Lincroft Sports Complex issue thanks to members of the River Plaza/Lincroft Chargers Pop Warner football organization.

The theory revolves around the fact that Trezza Field, the home of the Chargers for over sixty years is located next to Shadow Lake Village, an age restricted community for those over the age of fifty-five and the fact that Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley moved into the community in 2008 just before his first attempt at running for Freeholder.

It is believed that many of the seniors that live at Shadow Lake are unhappy with the field being located so close to the complex and that the lights and noise from PA system are a nuisance that can no longer be tolerated.

It is believed that Curley used his political influence in some way to pressure the Middletown Committee to give up its plan to refurbish Trezza Field by threaten that the all important senior vote from Shadow Lake would not be there for them come November if the Chargers were not moved from Trezza Field.

Here’s some history that lead to the theory:

The Chargers were promised a number years ago by the Middletown Township Committee that their home, Trezza Field, would be re-surfaced with artificial turf and in 2006 a bond was issued that stated as much, but somehow along the way plans changed.

Instead of re-surfacing Trezza field as promised the Township decided that it would build a multi-sports complex in Lincroft, off of Middletown-Lincroft Rd. The complex was to have light towers, bleachers, snack bar, PA system and ample parking to accommodate hundreds of cars, much like the currently proposed and controversial complex planned for West Front Street.

But the plan met with so much anger and resistance from the residents in the area, that it lead to the town dropping the plan and the election of Patrick Short, the first Democrat elected to a committee seat in Middletown in 20 years.

During the three years that followed the Chargers continued to press the Mayors of Middletown to have their field taken care of because it’s condition continued to worsen. Middletown in the mean time hired a consulting firm to develop a master plan for it Parks and Recreation Department.

When completed, the Master Plan had made a number of recommendations as to how to better utilize the use current parks and sport fields throughout the Township. The plan called for the creation of two multi-use artificial turf fields that could be used for football, soccer and la cross and suggested that the Township enter into mutual use agreements with the Board of Education to build at least one of these fields on BOE property and to share the use of the newly turfed fields at both township high schools. But yet again no real plan for Trezza Field.

Shortly after the plan was adopted Mayor Brightbill met with the Chargers and told them not to worry, that all of the concerns would be addressed and taken care of, the Chargers would have a new field to play on soon.

In May 2009, the Township hastily approach the Board of Ed with a plan to possible build two multi-sports fields on the grounds of Thompson and Thorne Middle Schools. After lengthy negotiations between the BOE and Township talks broke down in October. The BOE felt that the Township was not addressing their concerns over usage and maintenance while the Township felt that the BOE was not negotiating in good faith.

It was at this time that the Township Committee voted unanimously drop the idea of mutual usage of fields with the BOE and announce their intention to build a multi-use sports complex on the corner of West Front St. and Crawford Corner Rd. in Lincroft, on the grounds of West Front Street Park, which has lead to the current controversy.

And now instead of having Trezza Field re-surfaced, the Chargers are being told that they will have to move from their beloved field of over sixty years to the new complex at West Front Street Park due to lack of space and wetlands issues, even though the new complex will not have the amenities that they feel are vital for the continued expansion and success of their organization.

As conspiracy theories go this one is somewhat plausible but highly unlikely. It seems to have come from that fact that members of the Chargers organization are frustrated and angered over how the feel repeatedly lied to and betrayed by the majority that sit on the Township Committee, that have promised field upgrades years ago and have not delivered on those promises.

And when I asked my friends at Shadow Lake if they had heard of any rumors floating around the Lake about opposition to the Trezza Field upgrades they had this to say… “Nobody at the Democratic Club Steering Committee meeting had any issues with the sports field, and no one had heard any rumblings about disaffected residents. In fact, people seemed to agree that a bit of noise during some afternoons in the summer was just kids having a good time and something that came with the neighborhood. So there very well may be some folks who are grousing about the games, heck, somebody is *always* complaining about something around here. But it is surely not some kind of organized protest.”

So it seems that Freeholder John Curley and the residents over at Shadow Lake are not behind some master conspiracy theory to pressure the Middletown Township Committee into not renovating Trezza Field (much to my chagrin).

At this point it seems that the reason for not putting artificial turf over Trezza Field is based entirely on the recommendations of the Township’s Master Plan which recommended the installation of synthetic fields for multi-use complexes that could accommodate many, not just a football field that in the eyes of the Township could not be expanded.

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Filed under conspiracy theories, John Curley, Pop Warner, Shadow Lake Village, sports complex