Dark Waters is a must see

On Friday, I went to see the movie “Dark Waters” about a long uphill battle some West Virginia families had against Dupont. Mark Ruffalo stars and co-produces the film, playing the attorney, Rob Bilott, who fought so long and hard as a favor to his grandmother. The movie also stars Anne Hathaway as his wife, Tim Robbins as his managing partner and Bill Pullman and is directed by Todd Haynes. Some of the families impacted by Dupont and involved in the court cases show up in cameos throughout the movie.

The movie is a must see. Your emotions will flow with Bilott’s throughout the movie. You will be inspired by his courage and tenacity and that of the first client a farmer named Wilbur Tennant, ably played by Bill Camp. You will also be saddened by how a company could cover-up for decades they were harming their employees, community and the buying public. Yes, we too, are also impacted by this story. Not to spoil the plot any further, but the word “Teflon” plays a key role.

Like “Erin Brockovich” before it, these movies should not have to be made. Companies need to do the right thing. Yet, when government agencies ask the companies and industry to police themselves, short cuts are made and information is hidden. Think Boeing for a recent example. Dupont is not very happy this movie was made. They should not be as it paints them many times over in a very poor light. They had many opportunities to do the right thing, but did not until their hand was forced. Even then, it had to be reinforced.

I will stop short here. Please go see it. Make sure the kids see it, as well. This is why our voices matter.

Not a witch hunt

The following is an updated brief letter I sent to the editor of my newspaper. It has a 150 word limit. Please feel free to adapt and use.
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This independent and former GOP voter is troubled by members of my former party ignoring an obvious national security risk who resides in the White House. I watched a parade of honorable, dutiful and courageous public servants testify under oath at great risk. We must be concerned by a president seeking personal gain at the expense of national security.

We are already less trusted because our president is untrustworthy, but looking for personal gain with shadow diplomacy is wrong on so many levels. I support the impeachment hearings. So, should Republicans.
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If someone tells you the impeachment is a witch hunt, a funny response is if it is, then then president needs to get off his broom.

May the Force be with you – don’t click

Black Friday turned into hefty cyber sales. Today, is officially Cyber Monday, so the expectation is high for even more sales. However, a key financial lesson is if you don’t buy, you save even more money. So, use the Force to not click.

I realize I am not telling anyone anything new. But. people want your money, so they will make it easier to get it. I think there has been a trend toward more personal purchases from holiday gifts. It is clear the car commercials have gone down that path to lower year-end inventory. If you must buy a car, your best savings will be at the end of December not the beginnning.

Yet, resist the urge as much as you can. I tell people you can go broke saving 1/2 off if it leads to more purchases. The other reason to resist is the hyper-commercialization of Christmas. This is a key reason I am frustrated with the infringement on my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving.

So, use the Force. Resist the urge. Don’t click on Submit or click far less. Black Friday and Cyber Monday lead to Red Debt.

These Alaskans moved their village due to climate change

Climate change is no longer a futuristic concern. People, governments and businesses are responding to issues today whether it is sunny day flooding in coastal cities, increased magnitude and frequency of forest fires or stalled weather patterns causing more flooding or droughts.

Venice is an important face of rising sea levels, but Miami is the most at risk major city in the world say climate scientists. Yet, a town in Alaska has been forced to plan and move their town inland today.

An NPR story by Greg Kim earlier this month was entitled, “Residents Of An Eroded Alaskan Village Are Pioneering A New One, In Phases.”

“It’s finally moving day in Newtok, Alaska, the village where erosion has already claimed several homes and the river is banging on more doors. Newtok is sending a third of its residents across the Ninglick River this year, to its replacement village, Mertarvik. Decades of planning have built up to this moment.”

An earlier story from September noted, “In mid-October, Newtok will move one-third of its roughly 350 residents to a new village currently under construction on higher ground 9 miles away. The move will mark a sober milestone: Newtok residents will be the first Americans to be relocated because of the effects of climate change.”

Two things stand out. The Newtok citizens have been planning this move for over 25 years. While that may surprise some folks, we have known about climate change and rising sea levels for some time. Exxon Mobil is in court for misepresenting the impact of climate change to shareholders, but much of the prosecutor’s data comes from suppressed data from Exxon Mobil scientists. These scientists used to speak to groups about climate change concerns until management told them to stop. Shell Oil even produced an educational video on climate change concerns in the 1990s.

While these firms have moved to a naysaying strategy fueled by a Public Relations firm, they know the hard truths. And, if they forget, their shareholders voted that management tell them.

Newtok will not be the last US town or city which may need to move. Please remember the term sunny day flooding, as it represents days when sea water leave standing water in the streets of these cities.

Former Arkansas surgeon general brags on Medicaid expansion

I have written often about the Affordable Care Act not being fully implemented since 15 states have not expanded Medicaid. Rather than repeat my arguments, let me reference the attached editorial written by Dr. Joe Thompson, the former Surgeon General of Arkansas, which I read in Friday’s The Charlotte Observer. The reason for their interest is North Carolina has a Democrat governor working with a Republican majority General Assembly and the issue of Medicaid expansion is of importance. The editorial is entitled “Medicaid expansion works in deep red Arkansas. It would work in North Carolina too.”

“My home state of Arkansas is unusual among Southern states in having adopted Medicaid expansion early and in our own fashion.

I was Arkansas’ surgeon general in 2013 when the state first faced the question of whether to expand Medicaid. Like North Carolina now, Arkansas then had a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. Fortunately, we avoided an impasse; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together to approve an innovative alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion that provides private health insurance coverage to about 250,000 people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

The effect on Arkansas’ uninsured rate was swift and dramatic. A 2015 Gallup report showed that since Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program took effect in January 2014, the state’s uninsured rate had been cut roughly in half, dropping from 22.5% to 11.4% ― the biggest reduction in the nation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arkansas’ uninsured rate was 8.2% in 2018. North Carolina’s was 10.7%, the ninth-highest rate in the nation. Arkansas’ reduced uninsured rate led to a 55% reduction in uncompensated-care losses at hospitals. This has been especially important for rural hospitals, which treat many low-income patients.

Since January 2010, only one rural Arkansas hospital has closed for financial reasons. In the five neighboring states that have not expanded Medicaid, more than 50 rural hospitals have closed, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Expanding Medicaid also has helped stabilize Arkansas’ health insurance market, improve competition and control premiums. Since 2014, at least three insurers have offered plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace in each county in the state. The competition encourages low rates: In 2014, 38 states had marketplace premiums lower than Arkansas’; today, only six states have lower premiums.Medicaid expansion has brought billions of new federal dollars into Arkansas’ economy: $1.7 billion between January 2014 and June 2015 alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Arkansas also is saving money because some individuals previously covered under traditional Medicaid, which in Arkansas is 30% state and 70% federally funded, are now covered under Medicaid expansion.

The federal government currently is paying 93% of Medicaid expansion costs and will pay 90% in 2020 and thereafter. A consultant told a legislative task force in 2016 that Medicaid expansion would save Arkansas $757 million between 2017 and 2021.Thirty-six states have now decided to accept Medicaid expansion.

Arkansas has become a firmly red state, but it has reauthorized its Medicaid expansion program with a supermajority vote every year because of the demonstrated benefits to the working poor, the economy and the health care infrastructure. Last year, Arkansas added a work and community engagement requirement that currently is blocked by a federal judge’s order, but however that issue ultimately is resolved, it is clear that Medicaid expansion has had tangible, positive results. There’s a reason the number of states rejecting it continues to shrink each year.

Joe Thompson, MD, MPH, is president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. He was Arkansas’ surgeon general under Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.”

In spite of efforts to naysay it, hobble it and kill it, the Affordable Care Act is stabilizing some. It needs more stability and Medicaid expansion would help in the remaining 15 states. I have also advocated the US government paying back the money they withheld from insurers causing some to leave the market, inviting those companies back to the market. I have also advocated the reduction of the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to age 62 or even 60. And, where options don’t exist, Medicare could be offered as an option for younger adults.

What frustrates this retired benefits manager, consultant and actuary is the fact people getting harmed by decisions to harm the ACA is not a major factor. There is too much focus on winning an argument that people getting screwed does not seem to matter. Please help make it matter. Even as we speak, the eating away at the edges of the ACA could lead the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional. If this occurs it would be a damn shame.

Two rising sea stories from today

In my newspaper today, two articles caught my eye about the impact of rising seas. The first is an editorial entitled “Rising seas eroding coastal property values,” written by Orrin Pilkey, the co-author of a study of this subject.

The other is an article called “Highest tide in 50 years swamps Venice,” by Elisabetta Povoledo of The New York Times. Beginning with the sensational, per Povoledo, “The Mayor of Venice, who said that the city ‘was on its knees’ has called for a state of emergency and the closing of all schools after the Italian city was submerged under…an exceptionally high tode – the highest in 50 years.”

At six-feet, the rising sea level in Venice waa the most since 1966. Yet, per the article, “Last year, as severe weather in Italy killed 11 people, ferocious winds drove the high tide in Venice to more than five feet above average sea level.”

In Pilkey’s editorial, the study was reported in his book with Keith Pilkey called “Sea level rise: a slow Tsunami on America’s shores.” “The First Foundation, a non-profit research group with flood risk, analyzed 13.3 million real estate transactions, and compared the results to 25.6 million properties along the east coast and Gulf coast of the US. They concluded that there was a $15.8 billion loss in home value appreciation between Maine and Texas from 2015 to 2017.”

Pilkey made reference to increasing “sunny day flooding.” They note the sunny day flooding will increase even more until it becomes more permanent. In essence the sea water comes up through the storm drains in the street leaving standing water. A key quote toward the end of the article is a warning. “I know that if my family were living in or near a sunny day flooding area, I would urge them to sell and leave.”

Low lying coastal cities are at great risk. Global climate scientists have long said the City of Miami is the most at risk city in the world. Miami Beach is already seeing many more days of sunny day flooding. The state that had the most property loss in value is Florida. I would hope the leaders of that state would be banging the drum the loudest. As for Venice, they rely so much on tourism. Yet, that future looks to be at grave risk given its low sea level status.

Note: Below are two links to these articles:

https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article237245139.html

Note further: A famous climate change “denier” in words does not match his rhetoric with his actions. Per a Politico article in May, 2016 entitled “Trump acknowledges climate change — at his golf course:”

“The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland, in County Clare. A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.” These actions support the concerns of the Pilkey study of property values being at risk due to sea level rise.

Wednesday walkabout on a cold November day

Stay warm everyone in the northern hemisphere! A cold spell has blown in from Siberia here on the North American continent. Brr.

So, bundle up for today’s walkabout with a few topics wandering around in mind.

A 17 year-old vaper had a double lung transplant. Read that statement again. Ironically, I watched a tongue-in-cheek movie about a smoking lobbyist called “Thank you for smoking.” The punchline is if you don’t like the debate, change the argument. Eventually the argument was lost when a whistleblower noted the tobacco industry knew nicotine was addictive dating back to 1964. Now, we are at a deja vu moment with vaping.

Today the House impeachment hearings begin with several credible witnesses who have already raised concerns under oath. I want people to remember the “under oath” part as the accused tweets away. The president testified under oath once when deposed and the attorney got him to admit to over 30 lies. There is a reason White House attorneys did not want Robert Mueller to depose Trump.

The timing of the impeachment hearing is unfortunate as it takes the spotlight away from the Roger Stone trial. Stone is a self-proclaimed dirty-trickster, which speaks volumes in and of itself.

The hearings also overshadow the news out of New York where Donald J. Trump admitted to using his charity as his personal piggy bank. He agreed to repay the charity $2 million and his kids on the Board have to go to Board training. It should be noted Trump’s CFO was on the Board and did not know it. This is a microcosm of how the boss operates.

Finally, I predict three things. The House will impeach the president, but not enough GOP senators will convict him. Rudy Guiliani and Mick Mulvaney will serve as scapegoats for the Teflon Don. Each tribe will claim victory, but American democracy will lose as our guardrails of governance with this ungovernable incumbent will collapse.