Uninsured can shop for health care plans
by Susan Abram
Californians can now view a list of health plans that are competing to provide policies to the millions of uninsured residents who need health care coverage to meet the Affordable Care Act's deadline, state officials announced Thursday.
Covered California, a five-member board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators that operates the exchange, unveiled the 13 health insurers who have agreed to be part of the marketplace, including the state's largest health insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente.
Consumers can go on to CoveredCA.com and compare plans under tiered policies that include Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum - each providing different levels of out-of-pocket costs, based on income. The plans listed are for individual coverage. Small business owners will view different rates which will be available in June. All who qualify can begin purchasing insurance in October.
The rates, however, are still subject to review by the Department of Managed Health Care and other regulators, Covered California officials said.
"Californians should be proud of how not only health plans in this state, but doctors, medical groups and hospitals have stepped up, creating a market that will allow millions of consumers to enroll in affordable priced products " said Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California. "Because of that, we will be able to deliver exceptional value, low rates, access to health care in every region of the state, and a solid platform to achieve the dream of providing quality health care for all Californians."
In addition, no patient can be turned away for pre-existing conditions and the maximum out-of-pocket cost comes to $6,350 annually, said Lee "which will dramatically reduce the chance of someone going bankrupt because of medical bills not covered by insurance."
At least 5.3 million Californians could be eligible for coverage under Covered California. Of those, at least 2.6 million may be eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for health care coverage. Those subsidies will be available for individuals earning up to $46,000 and for families with incomes of up to $94,200. Although consumers can purchase insurance directly from brokers, only those who go through the exchange are eligible for the subsidies.
In Los Angeles County, for example, an estimated 779,000 are eligible for subsidies through the exchange. In San Bernardino, at least 341,000 people qualify.
For those who don't qualify for subsidies, Covered California provides a rate chart so that those who live in Southern Los Angeles County, who are 40, for example, can consider a range of plans, offered by Health Net, Anthem, Molina Healthcare, L.A. Care, Blue Shield, and Kaiser Permanente.
At the platinum level, a consumer can pay a range from $311 to $429 a month. Under the bronze level, the range would be $204 to $301. The platinum level provides the lowest deductible and co-pays, but it comes with higher premiums. In contrast, the Bronze plan includes a higher deductible but a significantly lower premium. All plans cover the 10 basic health benefits, ambulatory care, hospitalization, prescription drugs, laboratory services and pediatric care.
While several state groups praised Covered California for releasing the information, some cautioned that the changes come with trade-offs and in some cases could impact physician availability.
The California Medical Association, for example, said a loophole within the Affordable Care Act, could leave those physicians who are contracted through the exchange to foot the bill for services provided to patients who have failed to pay their insurance premium.
"The law allows for a three-month 'grace period' for nonpayment of premiums, but only requires insurers to pay the claims through the first month of nonpayment," according to the association.
The contract drawn up for the exchange does include a provision that requires 15 days advance notice to physicians when a patient has entered the second month of the grace period, "but still leaves the burden of 60 days worth of unpaid claims on the physician and the patient."
"The notification requirement is certainly a step in the right direction," Dr. Paul R. Phinney, president of the CMA said in a statement. "That said, the remaining risk is still large enough that some physicians could be put out of business if left on the hook for tens or thousands of dollars. It is imperative for access to be more than an empty promise of an insurance card, that physicians are not deterred from participating in Covered California."
Patrick Johnston, president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans also praised the group and participating insurers for releasing the charts on Thursday, but added that while many people are going to see a lower premium and help with subsidies, there will be some people who will see some increases, especially younger people who don't see a doctor. They offset the costs from older patients who need healthcare more.
"The Affordable Care Act is a balancing act, seeking to spread costs by enrolling the young and old, sick and healthy, lower and higher income earners," Johnston said in a statement. "The subsidies will also enable many Californians to pay less for more extensive coverage than they had before."
California is among seven states that received the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to operate its own health insurance exchange, one of the provisions under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Those participating include:
Alameda Alliance for Health
Anthem Blue Cross of California
Blue Shield of California
Chinese Community Health Plan
Contra Costa Health Services
L.A. Care Health Plan
Sharp Health Plan
Valley Health Plan
Ventura County Health Care Plan
Western Health Advantage
War on terror' redefined
by Jessica Taylor
President Obama said Thursday that the United States has reached a crossroads' in its fight against terrorism and that it is time to redefine and recalibrate a war that eventually will end, the Washington Post reports.
Far from repudiating the controversial use of drones against terrorist targets, Obama defended the tactic as effective, legal and life-saving.
But he acknowledged that threat levels have fallen to levels not seen since before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, requiring new criteria for the use of lethal force.
New evidence in Zimmerman case: Trayvon texted about fighting, smoking marijuana
by Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner
The evidence that George Zimmerman's attorneys have uncovered on Trayvon Martin's cellphone paints a troubling picture of the Miami Gardens teenager: He sent text messages about being a fighter, smoking marijuana and being ordered to move out of his home by his mother.
And photos from that phone offer more of the same: healthy green plants what appear to be marijuana growing in pots and a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.
Defense attorneys on Thursday gave formal notice to prosecutors that they intend to use those and other reputation-damaging pieces of evidence about Trayvon once Zimmerman's second-degree-murder trial begins June 10.
Prosecutors say they're not relevant and should be barred.
Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson must decide. Those issues may come up at a hearing Tuesday in Sanford.
Overall, the evidence made public Thursday by Zimmerman's attorneys portray Trayvon as a wannabe gangster who couldn't stay out of trouble.
The high-school junior had no arrest record, but he had been suspended from school more than once.
The evidence packet contains more than two dozen photos, including one that shows Trayvon with gold teeth and two of him making an obscene gesture. Those have been widely circulated online since shortly after the shooting, and it's not clear where defense attorneys found them, but as of Thursday, they officially became part of Zimmerman's criminal case.
The text messages that Trayvon wrote about fighting may be the most damaging to the state.
In October, the judge said any history of violence on his part might be relevant. And violent and aggressive is how Zimmerman, a former Neighborhood Watch volunteer, described Trayvon's actions the day he shot the teenager in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012.
Zimmerman told police that after the two exchanged words, Trayvon punched him, breaking his nose and knocking him to the ground, then climbed on top and began hammering his head on a sidewalk. The defendant told police he fired in self-defense.
One eyewitness initially described Trayvon as standing over Zimmerman and fighting "MMA-style," a reference to mixed-martial-arts fighting.
The text messages released Thursday were heavily redacted but made no reference to "MMA fighting." They did, however, include references to Trayvon being in fights.
On Nov. 22, 2011, three months before the shooting, Trayvon wrote about being involved in a fight. His unnamed opponent, he wrote, "got mo hits cause in da 1 st round he had me on da ground an I couldn't do ntn."
Six weeks earlier he wrote a text message about problems at school involving a fight: "I was watcn a fight nd a teacher say I hit em."
He also exchanged text messages with friends about smoking marijuana.
Defense attorneys are expected to argue the marijuana use is relevant because in a phone call to police a few minutes before the shooting, Zimmerman described Trayvonas acting as if he were on drugs.
In texts on Feb. . 20, 2012, Trayvon wrote about hiding his "weed," and tells someone he is going to the Orlando area for several days.
That appears to be a reference to his being suspended from school for 10 . days after being found with an empty marijuana baggie in his backpack.
On Feb. 13, he sent a text to a friend, acknowledging that 10-day suspension: "I got in sum trouble 2day."
The friend responded, "Ok so wen u comin bck 2 skool."
Trayvon's response: "Da 29 th ."
The defense evidence packet also includes other information from Trayvon's school records, among them five videos from a Miami-Dade schools police investigation that turned up several pieces of women's jewelry in Trayvon's backpack and a screwdriver, what authorities there described as a burglary tool.
Those records were not made public because of student-privacy laws.
In a prepared statement, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon's family, described the new pieces of evidence as "irrelevant red herrings" and "a desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool."
He predicted the judge would find them irrelevant and ban them at trial.
After Zimmerman's attorneys released the text messages and photos, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda filed a new motion asking for a gag order that would prohibit attorneys from discussing the case with reporters.
That's his third such request. The judge is expected to take up the issue Tuesday.
And late Thursday, Zimmerman's attorneys filed paperwork asking the judge to delay the start of his trial for six weeks.
His attorneys said last week they would ask for a delay because they need more time to hire an audio expert to counter the testimony of a state witness expected to testify that the voice heard screaming for help in the background of a 911 call was Trayvon's.
Dearborn Police Department trains and hosts all female Iraqi police delegation
DEARBORN The Dearborn Police Department was selected by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as one of 23 American law enforcement agencies to provide leadership, tactical, and field training to Iraqi Police Officials.
The Dearborn Police Department hosted 10 female Iraqi Police Officers from the 12th to the 19th of May, 2013. This all female Iraqi police delegation marks the first time female officers have participated in police training in the U.S. While with the Dearborn Police Department, the Iraqi Police observed field training officers and techniques, were embedded with patrol officers and specialized units, met with command staff, street officers and detention officials, and were also exposed to American police training techniques and curriculum.
The Dearborn Police Department is proud to have provided training to this group of Iraqi female Police Officers. We valued this training experience and believe it serves to better safeguard the world from violent extremism, said Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad.
The Iraqi police officers are participating in the Iraq Police Education Program (IPEP), a program managed by the IACP and its partner police departments and funded under a grant awarded to IACP by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) grant. INL manages development programs aimed at building effective rule of law systems in over 100 countries around the world. The IPEP is a five-year, $8 million grant and has facilitated training for more than 100 Iraqi police officers since the program's inception in 2010. Among the goals of IPEP is to enhance the participants professional development and introduce them to an American policing culture.
The Dearborn Police Department was chosen for its excellence in Community Policing and for its ability to assist with the integration of the Iraqi police officials to the democratic, community oriented, and evidence-based culture of American policing. According to the Department of State, this effort will also seek to establish solid, long-term relationships as Iraqis work alongside U.S. police officers for a unique on-the-job experience.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police is the world's oldest and largest association of law enforcement executives. Founded in 1893, the IACP has more than 20,000 members in over 100 countries.