Don’t take food away, House panel told

Don’t take food away, House panel told

Changes to the federal food assistance program could make it more difficult for people to get fruits and vegetables, members of a nutrition panel are told.
Democratic members of the House subcommittee on nutrition said they’re anxious about Republican leaders’ talk of separating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the 2018 Farm Bill, like they tried in 2013, or creating unrealistic work requirements for eligibility.
Recipients get between $1.40 and $1.90 per person per meal, which is probably inadequate for a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables in most areas, said Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Both the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and the full Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the SNAP program belongs in the next Farm Bill.
It was ultimately restored when the Senate made clear the bill wouldn’t move without it.
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., who represents the salad bowl of the Salinas Valley, asked witnesses how to get the farm workers in his district access to the vegetables they pick.
The program once known as food stamps is now 100 percent electronic.
Much talk involved work requirements and job and skills training for able-bodied adults without dependents.
Under current law, these individuals can get SNAP benefits for only three months in a three-year period unless they are exempt from the work requirement.
In her written testimony, she said a quarter of the able-bodied childless adults haven’t graduated from high school and many have criminal records.

Florida House passes workers comp reform bill

Florida House passes workers comp reform bill

Florida House passes workers comp reform bill.
The Florida House of Representatives approved a workers compensation reform bill Wednesday that extends temporary total and partial disability benefits and addresses attorney fees in comp cases.
House Bill 7085, which passed 82–37, increases the duration of temporary total disability and temporary partial disability benefits to 260 weeks from 104 weeks, addressing a gap that exists when workers comp disability benefits end but an injured worker has not reached maximum medical improvement or been declared permanently impaired.
The bill also addresses attorney fees in workers comp cases by allowing a Judge of Compensation Claims to award an hourly fee different from the statutory percentage-based attorney fee schedule.
Both measures are responses to Florida Supreme Court decisions last year that deemed parts of the state’s workers comp rules unconstitutional.
If enacted, the bill would be effective July 1.
The bill, which also addresses TTD/TPD caps and attorney fees, cleared the state Senate Banking and Insurance committee on April 3 and the state Senate Appropriations committee on April 13.
The bill is now before the full Senate.
Workers comp cost increases stemming from the Bradley Westphal vs. City of St. Petersburg and Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Co. et al. rulings last year prompted the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. to file for a 19.6% workers comp rate hike in Florida.
NCCI said in November that the Castellanos decision has caused workers comp attorney fees to increase 22% in the state, while an earlier NCCI estimate said that both court rulings could cause overall comp costs to increase as much as 38%.

Raid targets millionaire on food stamps

Raid targets millionaire on food stamps

For two years, the family was handed about $300 a month in government food stamps.
While getting welfare, prosecutors say Mahvi had millions in the bank.
Detectives are now looking at Mahvi’s myriad bank accounts, trying to piece together his family’s total worth as they investigate potential theft as well as Medicaid and welfare fraud charges. “I can borrow a hundred million dollars from friends and still get food stamps.”
Records show the family received two personal loans — one in 2014 and another in February — totaling $25,400.
But according to the affidavit compiled by Geauga County investigators, the family has at least 14 bank accounts with a combined value of more than $4.2 million.
Mahvi did not deny the household expenses, but said his lifestyle is relative to others.
Investigators say that while the Mahvis were receiving government assistance, their bank records show the family’s monthly net income ranged from at least $3,200 to more than $8,500.
Mahvi said the money came as loans or donations from friends and cannot be counted as income, according to food stamp rules.
During the investigation, detectives say they uncovered what appears to be “structuring” bank transactions by the family.

Proactive steps to monitor opioid prescriptions may help injured workers

Proactive steps to monitor opioid prescriptions may help injured workers

Proactive steps to monitor opioid prescriptions may help injured workers.
Reprints Louise Esola PHILADELPHIA — Without waiting for regulations to kick in to tell payers and providers when to monitor prescription medications and when to cut back, experts say companies can be successful in keeping injured workers off opioids and dangerous drug combinations by better keeping tabs on pills.
That’s what is working for Lake Buena Vista, Florida-based Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., a representative with its pharmacy benefits management program and its claims manager told attendees at the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“(The industry is) starting to understand that we need to help with (opioid prescribing) from an employer standpoint,” said Brigette Nelson, Scottsdale, Arizona-based senior vice president of workers compensation clinical management at Express Scripts Holding Co. Barry Dillard, director of claims management of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., told attendees the key is to be proactive at the onset of an injury.
He mentioned “compassion” and “triage” as important first steps.
Disney refers to its 70,000 employees who work in all the facets of the resort’s operations—from beverage management and acting to merchandise and theme park operations—as “cast members.” The company operates on-site clinics for injured workers, a step in ensuring the company has a grasp on the worker’s care at the onset, said Mr. Dillard of the company’s self-administered and self-insured workers compensation program.
A key to Disney’s handling of injured workers is its pharmacy program’s clinical oversight, which includes a pharmacy task force to look at trends and outliers among injured workers.
Ms. Nelson, who works with Disney, said as a result, “opioids aren’t a problem with (Disney).” “(Their program) helps us understand what is happening with those injured cast members,” she added.
She said that such a program, put in place before regulations began putting opioid prescribing under the microscope, gave Disney an early edge.
“It’s really the outreach from the nursing case managers and the medical director that makes the difference,” she said.

Will Republicans Finally Repeal Obamacare? It’s Up To Moderates Now

Will Republicans Finally Repeal Obamacare? It’s Up To Moderates Now

It’s Up To Moderates Now.
After moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey proposed an amendment to satisfy conservatives, the Freedom Caucus announced on Wednesday it would support the bill.
At issue is whether moderates Republicans — already loathe to support an Obamacare repeal that would increase the number of uninsured by 24 million — can vote for an unpopular bill many view as even more conservative than before.
If the new Obamacare repeal effort fails, it’ll be moderate Republicans who could face the blame — or the applause.
“I’m not happy with it, but life’s not always fair.” The new amendment was negotiated between Rep. Mark Meadows, the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and MacArthur, who is a a co-chair of the moderate House Tuesday Group.
Tuesday Group members had said they did not want one of their co-chairs negotiating on their behalf and wanted the bill to be worked through the appropriate committees, Ways and Means and Commerce.
They didn’t like it,” Dent said of the Freedom Caucus.
“My sense is that those who are opposed to the bill are not going to change their votes over this,” he said.
Our work will continue until we fully repeal Obamacare.” Now as Republicans tally the votes and with the Freedom Caucus on board, all eyes are on the moderates.
Collins, the Tuesday Group member, said his own moderate caucus won’t face the heat that Freedom Caucus members faced three weeks ago.

How might fast-food lover Trump change the nation’s diet?

How might fast-food lover Trump change the nation’s diet?

The Obama administration has made healthier, safer and better labeled food a priority in the last eight years, significantly raising the profile of food policy and sometimes drawing the ire of Republicans, farmers and the food industry.
In addition to the healthier school meal rules, the administration ushered a sweeping food safety law through Congress, pushed through several new food labeling regulations, started to phase out trans fats, added calorie labels to menus and suggested new limits on sodium in packaged foods.
The White House has also fended off efforts in the Republican Congress to trim the nation’s food stamp program.
Trump himself hasn’t weighed in on school meal regulations.
While many students have now gotten used to the healthier foods, some schools still complain that they are costly and that it’s difficult to meet the standards.
“I would be very surprised if we don’t see some major changes on the school lunch program” and some other food issues, said Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees Agriculture Department spending.
Michael Taylor, former FDA deputy commissioner for foods who oversaw the food safety rules, says it wouldn’t be popular with consumers to roll them back.
But they won’t have the backing of a Democratic White House.
“Unwinding things is really hard, especially when most of them have been implemented and industry has moved on,” Kass says.
“The public is more interested than ever in nutrition and will continue to press companies,” she says.

Congress Scrambles to Make a Budget Deal and Avoid a Government Shutdown

Congress Scrambles to Make a Budget Deal and Avoid a Government Shutdown

(WASHINGTON) — Bipartisan bargainers are making progress toward a budget deal to prevent a partial federal shutdown this weekend, a major hurdle overcome when President Donald Trump signaled he would put off his demand that the measure include money to build his border wall with Mexico.
Republicans hope to avoid the ignominy of a government shutdown while their party controls Congress and the White House.
In a conference call with reporters aimed at criticizing Trump’s first 100 days as ineffective, party leaders said the biggest shutdown threat was from Trump’s demand that the spending bill include funds for the barricade along the Mexican border.
Two people in the room described his comments to The Associated Press.
Both Democratic leaders had criticized Trump earlier Monday.
Separately, the White House and congressional Republicans are gauging whether a plan to revise the GOP’s stalled health care bill would garner enough converts to rekindle hopes for House passage of the legislation.
GOP leaders avoided a planned House vote last month, which would have failed due to opposition from GOP moderates and conservatives alike.
The proposed changes would retain several requirements imposed by Obama’s 2010 statute, including obliging insurers to cover seriously ill customers.
Supporters say the proposal is significant because it would retain guaranteed coverage for people with costly illnesses.
Those waivers may not help win moderate support.

Iowa Is Close to Cutting Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

Iowa Is Close to Cutting Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood

Iowa Is Close to Cutting Medicaid Funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Iowa Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, voted on Thursday to cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, Reuters reported.
The bill would replace Iowa’s Medicaid family planning network waiver with a new family planning services plan run through the state, which would not provide funding to any organizations that perform or maintain facilities that perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood, which is the state’s largest abortion provider, would lose funding if the legislation were to go into effect — even though the organization already can’t allocate federal funding to abortions.
The bill needs to pass the Republican-controlled House and get the approval of Governor Terry Branstad, who said he supports the bill, according to Reuters.
“This change will allow Iowa to restrict government funding to family planning services away from organizations that perform abortions that are not medically necessary,” said State Senator Amy Sinclair, one of the bill’s sponsor, according to Reuters.
“This bill does nothing to advance their extremist agenda to limit access to abortion.
Instead, it blocks access to crucial family planning services for thousands of Iowans – the very services that most effectively prevent abortion,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said in a statement, according to Reuters.
“It’s a self-serving, misleading and dangerous political game.” In December, Texas politicians said they were finalizing a plan to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program.
And, House Speaker Paul Ryan said last month that Planned Parenthood would lose taxpayer money if the Republican party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is successful.

Texas Is Close to Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding

Texas Is Close to Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding

It will now be much harder for low-income women to get health services from Planned Parenthood in Texas.
The Texas Tribune reported that the state is finalizing plans to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program in 30 days, meaning that the organization will no longer receive $3.1 million in funding.
The move could affect up to 11,000 patients, and because the Hyde Amendment blocks federal funding from being used to perform abortions except in certain cases, most of that money is used to provide other healthcare services, including cancer screenings and birth control, for women in the state.
“Texans expect that when taxpayer dollars are granted to health care providers, it is only to those who demonstrate that the health and safety of their patients come before a profit motive that puts women at greater risk,” Governor Greg Abbott, who is anti-abortion, said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
The funding cut-off can be delayed if Planned Parenthood requests a hearing with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in the next 15 days.
But according to the Tribune, the women’s health organization will instead fight the move in court.
“Planned Parenthood continues to serve Medicaid patients and will seek a preliminary injunction in an ongoing lawsuit filed in November 2015, following the state’s original threats to take action against Planned Parenthood’s patients,” Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, told the Tribune.
This isn’t the first time Texas has tried to slash funding to Planned Parenthood.
The move will likely face a legal challenge.
In 2015, a federal judge in Louisiana blocked a similar plan, saying it would cause Planned Parenthood and its patients “irreparable harm.”