Mayor Gray designates all of District government ‘essential’ to avoid shutdown

Mayor Gray designates all of District government ‘essential’ to avoid shutdown

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, Wednesday, September 25, 1:29 PM

Mayor Vincent C. Gray moved Wednesday to designate the entirety of the District government as “essential to the protection of public safety, health, and property,” in a bid to allow city services to continue during a federal shutdown.

Gray announced his position in a letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget, which is handling preparations for a shutdown that could take place if congressional leaders fail to reach an accord by Oct. 1.

“I am writing to inform you that I have determined that all operations of the government of the District of Columbia are ‘excepted’ activities essential to the protection of public safety, health, and property and therefore will continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations,” the mayor wrote to budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Gray’s posture is unprecedented for the District government, whose budget comes largely from locally raised taxes and is set by locally elected officials but is ultimately appropriated by Congress. During past shutdowns, in keeping with federal guidance, the city has designated public safety and some other crucial functions as exempt from shutdown but curtailed many city services, including libraries, recreation centers and trash pickup.

The letter comes a day after Gray and D.C. Council members openly debated ways to defy the federal shutdown and keep the city government operating.

It is unclear how President Obama’s budget office will respond to Gray’s broad definition of “essential.” Requests for comment made to the agency Tuesday and Wednesday have gone unreturned.

In a statement issued with the letter, Gray said it is “ridiculous” that the District “cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without Congressional approval.”

“Congress can’t even get its own fiscal house in order; they should be taking lessons from us rather than imposing needless suffering on us,” he said. “I will not allow the safety and well-being of District residents to be compromised by Congress’s dysfunction.”

D.C. officials ponder whether to defy federal shutdown and keep city government open

D.C. unions to City Council: We’ll remember your Walmart vote

D.C. unions to City Council: We’ll remember your Walmart vote

by: Mark Gruenberg

September 23 2013

WASHINGTON – The leader of Washington, D.C.’s Central Labor Council says union members and workers citywide will remember which city council members voted for Walmart in upholding Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of legislation requiring a $12.50 minimum wage for workers at non-union big box retailers in the Nation’s Capital.

The council initially passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act, 8-5. Passage led Walmart, the monster anti-worker retailer, to threaten to cancel its planned six stores in poor neighborhoods. Walmart is known for its vicious anti-worker actions, its labor law-breaking, low prices, and its notoriously low wages and benefits. But it claims to create jobs – a claim unions and their allies say studies disprove.

Walmart’s jobs claim swayed Gray, a Democrat. The override vote on Sept. 17 was 7-6, with nine votes needed to overturn his veto.

Two council members who plan to challenge Gray in next year’s primary – Democrats Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells – voted to uphold Gray’s veto, as did another council member and mayoral hopeful, independent David Catania. The remaining mayoral contender, council member Jack Evans, voted to override the veto.

Wells explained his vote by saying he prefers a comprehensive citywide hike in the minimum wage, and it is part of an economic package he unveiled earlier this year and introduced at the same council session. Catania, son of a union clerk at a Missouri A&P, said, "I wish I could do this in my heart, but I know in my head this is not the right way to solve income inequality in this country." Bowser was silent.

Metro D.C. Central Labor Council President Jocelyn Williams was not. "While we thank those who stood with workers, those who did not must know that their actions will have consequences," he said in a story posted on the council’s website after the vote.

And the Washington Post reported that supporters of the law, who jammed the council chambers for the vote, chanted "We won’t forget!" and "Recall!" Several, while leaving the room, stopped to point at Wells and Bowser, while holding signs that said "My next mayor supports the Large Retailer Accountability Act."

Photo: Washington, DC, Mayor Vincent Gray announces his veto decison. Charles Dharapak/AP

How insurance rates compare under Maryland health exchange

Sep 17, 2013, 2:16pm EDT Updated: Sep 17, 2013, 3:00pm EDT

How insurance rates compare under Maryland health exchange

The Maryland Insurance Administration released Tuesday rates for the 13 insurance carriers that under to offer coverage under the state’s new health exchange.

Sarah Gantz

Reporter- Baltimore Business Journal

The Maryland Insurance Administration released rates Tuesday for the health plans that 13 carriers want to offer to small businesses through Maryland Health Connection beginning Jan. 1. Compared to similar plans this year, rates for these 2014 plans range in price from 4.9 percent less to 14.6 percent more. The rates approved reflect the total cost of coverage for an employee that would be shared between the worker and business.

The rates approved by the insurance administration are, for the most part, fairly close to the rates insurance companies proposed. UnitedHealthcare is an outlier — rates for its small group exchange plans were set about 17 percent lower than the insurer requested.

Here are the average rates approved and how those rates compare with the insurers’ proposed rates:

  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic: $312, 0 percent
  • Aetna Health Inc.: $349, -6.8 percent
  • Coventry Health Care of Delaware Inc.: $347, -2.1 percent
  • Evergreen Health Cooperative: $368, -7.8 percent
  • Coventry Health and Life Co.: $388, 9.2 percent
  • UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic Inc.: $404, -17.1 percent
  • Aetna Life Insurance Co.: $405, 0.5 percent
  • CareFirst BlueChoice Inc.; $418, -1.6 percent
  • UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co.: $447, -17.1 percent
  • MAMSI Life and Health Insurance Co.: $451, -17.1 percent
  • Optimum Choice Inc.: $490, -17.1 percent
  • CareFirst of Maryland Inc.: $562, 1.4 percent
  • Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc.: $562, 1.4 percent

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

How to buy insurance under Obamacare if you live in the District

How to buy insurance under Obamacare if you live in the District

By Lena H. Sun, Washington Post, Published: September 16

The District will have one of the country’s smallest marketplaces — a distinction it shares with Vermont. It has among the fewest uninsured residents. The rollout of the District’s marketplace, DC Health Link, has been controversial at times because the D.C. Council voted in June to require that all small businesses buying policies in 2015 must go through the exchange. That was an effort to make the insurance pool as large as possible.

At least three categories of people will be targeted for enrollment. An estimated 42,000 people, or 7 percent of the District’s population, are uninsured. Nearly three-fourths live in Wards 1, 4, 5 and 7, according to the Urban Institute. Almost two-thirds are men and more than half are African American. A majority are younger than 35; most describe themselves as in good, very good or excellent health,

Another group — the estimated 25,000 people who buy insurance on their own, rather than getting it from employers — might use the exchange to try to find better deals, District officials said. The law also requires some congressional staff members to use the marketplaces, and that could produce an influx of young and healthy people in DC Health Link.

The District was one of the first jurisdictions to expand its Medicaid program in 2010, shortly after the Affordable Care Act was enacted. The expansion is the most generous in the region, covering adults up to twice the federal poverty level. That means an individual earning up to $22,980, or a family of four earning up to about $47,100, would be eligible.

Insurance plans

Three insurers — Aetna, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente — are offering 34 individual and family plans.

Unlike in Virginia and Maryland, insurers in the District will not charge higher rates for smokers.

Insurance officials gave these examples of potential premiums for District residents:

●A 27-year-old seeking to purchase the cheapest “bronze” policy could face a monthly premium of $124.05 for a CareFirst plan and up to $195.04 for an Aetna plan.

●A 55-year-old seeking to buy a “silver” policy could pay $423 for a CareFirst plan and up to $543 for an Aetna plan.

These estimates don’t include subsidies, which will cut the costs for many enrollees.

Businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees that do not currently provide insurance to their employees but want to do so next year will be required to buy through the marketplace. (Small businesses that now offer insurance can renew their policies or change plans in 2014 without going through DC Health Link.)

Consumer assistance

People who need help can go online to www.dchealthlink.com or contact the marketplace call center at 855-532-5465, which provides assistance in several languages, including Spanish, Amharic, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese. The call center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Starting Oct. 1, it will be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Health Link officials are teaming up with DC United, retailers and city recreation centers to encourage adults who don’t have insurance or have inadequate coverage to consider buying policies.

Almost three dozen community organizations were awarded $6.4 million in grants last month to train more than 150 guides to provide in-person help. The organizations include the DC Primary Care Association, La Clinica del Pueblo, Brown Memorial AME Church, Unity Healthcare, Whitman-Walker Clinic and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.

Barbara Lang to resign from D.C. Chamber

Sep 19, 2013, 10:14am EDT

Barbara Lang to resign from D.C. Chamber

Michael Neibauer

Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal

Barbara Lang, longtime president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, will resign after 11-plus years as the District’s leading advocate for business.

Coming off a huge victory — the D.C. Council’s failure Tuesday to override Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of the large retailer living wage bill — Lang, who’s in her “late 60s,” decided now is the time to go, she told the Washington Business Journal.

“I am a firm believer that no one should stay in the same job for more than 10 years and I’m beyond that,” Lang said.

Lang’s final day will not come for months, until a successor has been chosen. Korn/Ferry International has been chosen to undertake a national search.

Much more to come.

DISB/DC HBX: Know the Signs of Health Insurance Exchange Fraud

For Immediate Release
DISB and the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority

Sept. 19, 2013
Contacts: Kate Hartig (DISB), (202) 442-7753
kathryn.hartig@dc.gov
Richard Sorian (DCHBX), (202) 741-0903
richard.sorian

Know the Signs of Health Insurance Exchange Fraud

D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and D.C. Health Benefit Exchange warn would-be scammers “we will find you” and encourage residents to be informed and protect their personal information

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 19, 2013) – The District’s insurance regulator and exchange director today encourage residents to watch out for scam artists trying to take advantage of you while shopping for health insurance on the city’s new online marketplace, DC Health Link, opening Oct 1.

Since the passage of the 2010 federal health reform law, scam artists continue to look for ways to defraud consumers by stealing personal information or charging for fake services. The D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking and the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority are committed to protecting D.C. residents and small businesses from insurance fraud.

“We’re committed to seeing DC Health Link bring quality health insurance to people who have never been able to afford it before,” said William P. White, commissioner of the department. “We’re equally committed, in coordination with DC Health Link, to ensure none of these people are robbed while trying to provide insurance for themselves and their families. Our message to scam artists is: ‘We will find you.’”

“DC Health Link is committed to preventing scams, fraud and abuse,” said Mila Kofman, J.D., executive director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority. “We will work hand-in-hand with DISB, the Federal Trade Commission and appropriate law enforcement agencies to educate consumers and identify and help shut down scams.”

Your best defense against scams is to be informed and know the signs of a scam. The department advises you to protect your personal, financial or health information and hang up on unsolicited callers trying to sell you insurance.

Don’t be fooled by fake websites or offers to sign you up early. There is only one official website for DC Health Link, www.DCHealthLink.com. For individuals and families, open enrollment through DCHealthLink.com begins Oct. 1 and runs until Mar. 31, 2014.

To view more exchange fraud prevention tips, visit disb.dc.gov/exchangefraud.

In the District, the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking regulates insurance and compiles evidence to prosecute insurance fraud. Today, with the Kansas insurance department, the department will represent the states as chairs of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ anti-fraud committee at an important meeting convened by the Federal Trade Commission to coordinate the fight against fraud. Director Kofman will speak at this important national meeting to combat health insurance marketplace fraud.

If someone makes a suspicious overture to you about buying health insurance, please report it to the department’s consumer services division at (202) 727-8000, email disb or visit our website at disb.dc.gov to file a complaint.