Author Archives: DCG

Rising Obamacare premiums anger those paying full price

We tried to warn you.


From CNN Money: Shela Bryan, 63, has been comparing prices for individual health insurance plans since May, and she can’t believe what she sees. “They cost a thousand, $1,200 [a month], and they have a deductible of $6,000,” she said. “I don’t know how they think anyone can afford that.”

Bryan, who lives in Hull, Georgia, a hamlet of about 200 residents near Athens, was on her husband Tony’s insurance plan for decades. When Tony died in 2013, she continued his workplace coverage through COBRA, and she had to pay almost the full price of the insurance — about $800 a month. That was high, but it was “the Cadillac of insurance,” Bryan said, with low copays, prescription drug coverage and a $500 deductible. That option will run out in a few months.

Obamacare Screw U

So she is turning to the individual insurance marketplace in what is shaping up to be the most expensive year for the 400,000 or so consumers in Georgia who buy individual policies but don’t purchase them on the Obamacare exchanges.

About 10 million Americans buy individual insurance coverage either on or off the exchanges and get no federal subsidies to help bring down the cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office. About the same number get the financial assistance for the plans they purchase on the exchanges.

“For those receiving subsidies, the subsidy protects them against the increase. If they’re not eligible, they’ll be paying a lot more. And the more premiums go up, the higher the cliff,” said William Custer, a health policy and insurance expert at Georgia State University.

In Georgia, consumers who don’t get insurance through their employers or don’t qualify for tax credits to help pay for policies they purchase are facing double-digit premium increases. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the only insurer offering plans throughout the state, received an increase of more than 21% from the state insurance commissioner. Humana was awarded a 67.5% hike.

Numbers like those are rattling other states too. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was granted a 62% rate hike, while state officials approved a 46% increase for Cigna. Florida authorities gave plans there an average 19% bump. And last week, Minnesota officials announced that premiums for the seven insurers on the individual market are rising 50% to 67%.

The insurers are now adjusting for some miscalculations, said Graham Thompson, executive director of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. “The prices are up this year, but our hope is that things will settle down after this year,” he said.

While consumers have faced sticker shock, the insurers have faced what might be called “sicker shock,” which has sent their prices spiraling. They are adjusting premiums after finding that the pool of clients buying plans on the individual market were sicker and more costly than expected when the health law was implemented.

Judge Judy shakes head rolls eyes

Almost two-thirds of Americans get their coverage from plans offered through their workplaces. But those who don’t can buy either on or outside the health law’s marketplaces, also called exchanges. Those with marketplace coverage who earn up to 400% of the federal poverty level — $47,520 for an individual — are entitled to a subsidy, and federal officials say most will pay less than $75 a month for insurance.

Policies sold off the marketplaces must still meet health law standards and the same prices as plans offered on the exchange, according to Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Federal and Georgia officials note that customers can change plans each year to find a better price, but that also can result in higher deductibles and may force a change in doctors to stay in network.

Bryan, a maintenance supervisor who makes just over the $47,520 limit for a subsidy, finds herself in that market now. She could end up paying as much as $14,000 in premiums for a pared-back policy the likes of which she had never imagined, she said, with no coverage for her asthma and high blood pressure medications. The cheapest policies amount to more than a quarter of her yearly income, or double her mortgage, she noted.  That total package would increase her premiums $4,400 over what she is paying for her COBRA plan and raise her deductibles by $5,800. And that was based on 2016 premium prices.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that as many as 2.5 million nationally may be eligible for a subsidy and not know it.

Bob Laszewski

Bob Laszewski

Bob Laszewski, a health policy strategist in Washington, D.C., said the Obama administration and health care advocates need to listen to the complaints of the those who do not receive assistance.

“These people are invisible,” Laszewski said. The ACA “is working very well for lower income people, but the Obamacare supporters missed the fact that if you’re raising a family of four on $100,000, you’re not rich. This is the … guy who remodeled your house, who drives a pickup truck and he’s wearing a Trump hat.”



California State government’s largest union is edging closer to a strike

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

From Sacramento Bee: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has called for a strike vote of the union’s 95,000 members beginning next week, according to a statement on the union website.

The union is trying to get a bigger raise than the 2.96 percent pay hike Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is offering. Brown’s proposal would raise SEIU salaries by 12 percent over four years, but also require its members to begin paying a contribution toward their retiree health care costs.  “We still believe the state can do better,” Walker wrote in a message to SEIU members.

SEIU represents workers in nine different bargaining units. Its contracts for nurses, administrative employees and information technology workers are among the 14 state labor agreements that expired this summer.

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

Walker wrote to union members that SEIU has been in negotiations with the state for the past six months. In July, union leadership voted to authorize a strike vote. The next step toward a strike would be a vote by union members. A vote to strike would not necessarily lead to workers walking off the job.

Before workers strike, the union likely would have to declare an impasse in negotiations and participate in mediation with the state. That process could take months. But surveying members on their willingness to strike could strengthen SEIU’s position at the bargaining table.

Last year, the California State University sweetened a contract offer for the union that represents its faculty after professors voted to strike. As a result, professors received a 10.5 percent pay raise over three years rather than 2 percent raises the state university had been offering.

The Brown administration has been offering raises of about 3 percent a year to most unions. The state’s correctional officers accepted that agreement. Other unions representing attorneys, engineers and scientists are getting bigger raises this year.

All of the new contracts call on state workers to begin to making contributions toward retiree health care. So far, most employees with new contracts are paying about 1.3 percent of their salaries toward retiree health care, with the portion rising to greater than 3 percent over time.

Walker has led the union since 2008. Her union and several others without contracts argue that they sacrificed during the recession to help the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations resolve budget gaps.

With a better economy, they contend, the state should reward its workforce. “Now that the state’s coffers have significantly improved, we strongly feel that state employees deserve a robust improvement from pre-recession cuts. But the situation has turned bleak and sluggish in contract negotiations,” four union leaders wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. Those unions include two AFSCME bargaining units, a group that represents operating engineers and one more that represents psychiatric technicians.

SEIU conducted a series of surveys recently that showed its members are worried about the rising costs of housing and child care. The union says 39 percent of its members could not afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in their communities.

CalHR spokesman Joe DeAnda said the Brown administration looks “forward to continued negotiations with SEIU, and hopes to secure an agreement that both reflects the contributions of our hard-working state employees and maintains the integrity of the state’s current budget stability.”


Feminists are Insufferable: ‘I Haven’t Had Sex in Weeks. I Blame Donald Trump.’


From Cosmopolitan Magazine: Have you heard? Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States, said he loves to grab women by the pussy. Not entirely unrelated: I’ve never been less horny in my entire life.

I haven’t had sex in weeks. After considering why and how this election is threatening to ruin my previously amicable (even enthusiastic) relationship with sex, I think the problem is twofold. On one hand, the thought of being touched by my husband, a man, after spending day-upon-neverending-day listening to Donald Trump’s sexually assaultive language, is not a pleasant one. On the other, we are both so obsessed with the election that our combined anxiety is killing our sex drives.

Instead of retiring to my boudoir to engage in a garden of sensual delights with my husband (quick missionary followed by a [bubblegum] cigarette), I stay up late into the night, refreshing FiveThirtyEight in hopes that my benevolent/merciless overlord Nate Silver will bring some rest for the weary (in the form of blue states).

“Did you see Trump gained on Hillary in Utah?” I say to my husband who is as far away from me as humanly possible on the other side of our king-size bed (read: almost falling off). I’m lying down and also sweating, probably because I’m about to have a stroke.

“Yeah, I read that on WaPo. Did you see Barron Trump was kicked out of 4H for cyberbullying a cow?”

“That was The Onion. OMG we’ve become those people who share Clickhole articles haha I want to die in a fire,” I respond with a forced laugh. Then we both pop extra Ambien and blessedly slip into darkness, clutching our phones, fully clothed and barricaded by pillows — another night of restlessness and absolutely no sexual congress.

The sex-deprived author, Laura Beck

The sex-deprived author, Laura Beck

Vanessa Marin, a San Francisco-based psychotherapist specializing in sex therapy, says this part of what I’m experiencing — the lack of boning via election/impending apocalypse anxiety — isn’t uncommon. “A lot of people are simply sick to their stomachs about the current political climate in the US,” she says. “It’s hard to feel desire when you’re feeling disgusted, scared, nervous, frustrated, or angry.”

While I can’t find a term for this phenomenon, I’m pretty sure the phrase is “I’m-Stuck-in-Hell-So-I-Can’t-Get-It-Up.” It’s the thing that happens to people on shows like Survivor where their nether regions basically shut down because they’re so stressed out by the challenges. That’s me! Even though Hillary is polling ahead right now, I’m plagued by the thought that that sneaky loose cannon could make some weird comeback — he’s been doing it his whole life! Did you see the Frontline documentary?! (You really should; it’s great. Watch it tonight instead of having sex.) And don’t get me started on the down-ballot races! (That’s a phrase I never used before September of this year!) (I know, I’m part of the problem.) I’m so stressed out about making it to the November 8 finish line that I’ve forgotten what an orgasm feels like. There’s no room in my brain for that delicious memory now that it’s filled with statistics of Hillary’s victory margin.


I’m not alone. Friends and family members alike (OK, just friends; I don’t talk to my family about sex) told me they also feel the stress of this election cycle building a wall down the middle of their bed. One lady friend in a long-term relationship said that she wasn’t necessarily opposed to sex, but that she just didn’t have the time between refreshing David Fahrenthold’s Twitter and worrying about all the ways in which we’re all gonna be screwed if Trump wins. Spoiler: It’s not the orgasmic way.

Still others tell me they suffer from another kind of election-related sexual paralysis — one I’ve also experienced: Being so repulsed by Trump’s comments that a self-generated protective cobweb is forming over my vagina.

“Every time I try to get in the mood, I just picture Donald Trump’s face over my boyfriend’s and I want to Hulk smash,” said one friend who was happily married before this election cycle began. A currently single pal shared that she felt her vagina glue itself closed when she read Trump’s comments about Mexicans being rapists; she hasn’t had the time or inclination to DIY-it back open yet. Another married friend said, “When you’re watching Donald Trump say ‘grab them by the pussy’ on repeat, it doesn’t exactly put you in the mood.”

It can be fun to joke about this terrifying election but mainly because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Maybe forever. In reaction to the infamous pussy-grabbing comment and the multiple women who’ve come forward claiming that Donald Trump sexually assaulted them, Kelly Oxford shared her story of sexual assault on Twitter and invited others to do the same. The response she received was overwhelming and devastating.

To be really real for a minute, as a woman, all of this cheering on of sexual violation makes me think about every boy who grabbed me in middle school, every predatory subway fondler, every guy who’s yelled, “nice ass!” before following it up with, “Like I’d ever touch you anyway, fatty!” when I told them to back off. It makes me think of the time I was 18 and so excited to go to a club, and within minutes of being on the dance floor, had a man stuff his fingers in my vagina. I didn’t know what to do and so I just ran away. I love my husband very much and he is truly one of the most decent humans I’ve ever met, but sometimes I look at him during this election, and I want to say, “I love you, but please stay away from me right now.”

It’s not just women who are scared sexless (h/t Carrie Bradshaw, probably). Marin says, in her experience, men are affected too. “A lot of people might stereotypically believe that women are more ‘sensitive’ in general,” she says, “but I haven’t found that to be the case with this particular election. Men’s libidos can be just as sensitive as women’s.

I asked some male friends if their experiences backed up Marin’s assertions. One married man told me that he and his husband had to institute a “no MSNBC after 9 p.m.” rule in order to save their sex lives. They are stronger than I.

Another guy I quizzed about his election-related sex life (I’m fun at parties!) told me that, no, the election hadn’t affected his bedroom dalliances. But, lo and behold, later that night I awoke to a text from him that read:

“I had a sex dream and then it morphed into one in which trump was screaming ’for our country’ and beheading people. Thanks.”

The men affected by this election...

The men whose libido are affected by this election…

Read the rest of the poor womyn’s story here.


Hollyweird actress worth $40 million whines about pay inequality

Note to Swank: Many women in the real world negotiate their own salaries. Negotiating is a skill you learn. Maybe you should hire an agent who can negotiate on your behalf by playing some hardball. Or maybe add that critical talent to your repertoire.

Poor rich womyn....

Poor rich womyn….

From Daily Mail: A lot of actresses talk about how they have been affected by pay inequality in Hollywood. But Hilary Swank had some specific details to offer as she stopped by the Netflix series Chelsea.

While at a dinner party with director Ava DuVernay, actress Connie Britton and Miss USA Deshauna Barber, the 42-year-old beauty revealed she was offered $500,000 to star in a film where her male counterpart was getting a hefty $10 million.

Hilary would not name the film or the male actor, but she did let slide she already had two Oscars under her belt at the time, which means this took place after 2005.

When she asked why she was getting so much less, Swank was told it was because the actor was ‘hot.’ Hilary said: ‘The male hadn’t had any kind of critical success but he had been in a movie where he was “hot.” She added: ‘So, I said “no,” and then they went and found a newcomer who did it for $50,000. ‘So they made a savings of $450,000 to probably give the guy his bonuses.’

Talk of pay inequality for women was given a huge push when Patricia Arquette broached the subject while on stage as she received her Best Actress win at the Academy Awards this winter for her turn in Boyhood opposite Ethan Hawke.

‘To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,’ Arquette said at the time. ‘It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.’ Since then Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone have also touched on the subject.

During her Chelsea talk, Swank also talked about how she went without health insurance even after she won an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry in 2000. She was 24-years-old at the time and was only paid $3,000 for the film. She had to have earned at least $5,000 to qualify for health insurance. ‘I had an Academy Award, no health insurance,’ Swank said.

small violin


Oklahoma HS teacher tells class: ‘To be white is to be racist’


From Fox News: A high school student in Norman, Oklahoma, said she used her cell phone to record a teacher saying, “To be white is to be racist,” during a lecture on “how to heal the racial divide.”

The unidentified student used her cell phone to record the lesson, reported. The student said she was offended by the teacher’s remarks and “felt like he was encouraging people to kind of pick on people for being white.”

The news station reached out to the teacher—who was teaching an elective philosophy course– but did not receive an immediate response.

The lecture reportedly started with a video on the “Mistreatment of Native Americans.” The teacher went on to say, “Am I racist? And I say, yeah. And I don’t want to be. It’s not like choose to be racist.”

The video shows a man using a bottle of white correction fluid to cover a country on a globe. “He was basically comparing what he had done to the globe to what we did to America,” the student said.

Superintendent of Norman Public Schools

Superintendent of Norman Public Schools

Dr. Joe Siano, the superintendent of Norman Public Schools, issued a statement identifying racism as “an important topic.”

The superintendent continued, “We regret that the discussion was poorly handled. When the district was notified of this concern it was immediately addressed. We are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.”

From NewsChannel 4: Norman Public Schools released the following statement regarding the issue:

“Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools. While discussing a variety of philosophical perspectives on culture, race and ethics, a teacher was attempting to convey to students in an elective philosophy course a perspective that had been shared at a university lecture he had attended. We regret that the discussion was poorly handled. When the district was notified of this concern it was immediately addressed. We are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.” – Dr. Joe Siano, superintendent of Norman Public Schools

“You start telling someone something over and over again that’s an opinion, and they start taking it as fact,” the student said. “So, I wanted him to apologize and make it obvious and apparent to everyone that was his opinion.”

NewsChannel 4 reached out to the teacher by email.


Elections board won’t stop sending dead man’s family absentee ballots


From NY Post: Queens resident Michelle Dimino has a simple request for the city’s Board of Elections: Please remove my late dad from the voter rolls. Dimino’s father, Anthony Baldomir, died on Oct. 4, 2012. But according to the board’s records, he could vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The agency has mailed absentee ballots to Baldomir, a registered Democrat, for each of the past four years, for primary and general elections. “In 2013, 2014, 2015 and again this year, I received absentee ballots for my father. I could have fraudulently voted with those ballots, but I shredded them instead,” an exasperated Dimino told The Post.

But this year, she got fed up and decided to go public.

Baldomir was ill and receiving medical care when he requested an absentee ballot in 2012 to continue exercising his civic duty from his Middle Village address.

What’s upsetting, Dimino said, is that she called the elections board shortly after her father’s death to ask that he be purged from the rolls.  She said election workers insisted she would have to show up in person at an agency office with a death certificate to confirm her dad was no longer alive.

Dimino, 48, told the workers she’s been on dialysis and asked if she could mail in her father’s death certificate to put the issue to rest. She says she was told she couldn’t.

“I called the Social Security Administration. They took my father off the Social Security rolls the next day,” Dimino said.

BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez confirmed that Baldomir, who hadn’t voted since 2011, was still on its “permanent absentee-ballot list.”

She said the agency never received notification of his passing. The agency did receive a change-of-address notification from the post office in 2013 that Baldomir’s mail was being sent to his daughter’s residence in nearby Glendale.

Vazquez, disputing Dimino’s claim, said BOE policy allows family members to mail in a death certificate to remove a relative from the voter rolls. “You don’t have to do it in person,” Vazquez said.


Indian Actress Apologizes for “Refugee” T-Shirt Magazine Cover Shoot


From MSN: Priyanka Chopra has apologized for posing for a magazine cover in a T-shirt that caused a Twitter backlash, with people accusing her of being insensitive toward refugees.

The Quantico star was featured on the cover of the Indian edition of Conde Nast Traveler magazine, or Conde Nast Traveller in the British spelling used in India.

The cover showed Chopra wearing a white T-shirt, which had the words “refugee,” “immigrant” and “outsider” crossed out, leaving only the word “traveller.” The 34-year-old actress soon found herself at the center of a social media storm.


“Extremely insensitive in midst of biggest #refugeecrises. All other options listed [on theT-shirt] are forced on people, not chosen,” tweeted Savita Pawnday. “Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that being a refugee is a matter of choice… What were you thinking?!” posted Anum R Chagani. And another Twitter user, HannanMust, echoed the sentiment, saying: “I’m quite upset. Really stupid thing to do to just grab attention u don’t need. Wise up.”

In an interview that aired Monday on Indian news network NDTV, Chopra said the magazine’s publisher “specially got this [T-shirt] made and implored me to wear it. They said they were addressing xenophobia, which is a big issue that is happening.”

She added that it was the magazine’s idea, “and I bought into it, I guess.” Continued Chopra: “And I am really, really apologetic about the fact that sentiments were hurt.… The point the magazine wanted to make was actually something good.” Chopra also said that she was “really affected [by the backlash], I felt really horrible.”

Conde Nast posted a statement on its website, explaining the intended message behind the cover.

It’s about how our labeling of people as immigrants, refugees and outsiders is creating a culture of xenophobia.… It’s about how we are allowing some powerful leaders to build barriers that make it more difficult for bright, motivated and hardworking people to see more of the world, learn from it and make it better for us all.”

The statement concluded that the cover was not about Chopra “being a refugee or immigrant or outsider; it’s about her, like us, recognizing the power of travel, and joining us in asking everyone to do better for each other.”

Chopra can currently be seen in the second season of Quantico. She will make her Hollywood feature debut in next summer’s Baywatch.