Medicare Now Requires Hospitals To Post Standard Pricing Online

1 Jan 2019

Hospitals required to post all prices online beginning January 1 – WJLA Washington/AP, 2019/01/01

Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday.


Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the new requirement for online prices reflects the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to encourage patients to become better-educated decision makers in their own care.

“We are just beginning on price transparency,” said Verma. “We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”

Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

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Cabinet Update on Streamlining The Government

22 Jun 2018

More on the theme of re-structuring the government – this is a presentation made to President Trump on the progress of streamlining the agencies.


Opportunity Zones Program is Progressing… Offers Tax Incentives for Low Imcome Community Investment

22 Jun 2018

Zones for New Federal Tax Breaks Approved in All 50 States – Route Fifty, 2018/06/15

The selection process is now complete for the newly created Opportunity Zones program, which will offer federal tax incentives for investments in low-income communities.

On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced that they’d approved a final round of zone designations, and that areas have been tapped for the program in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Proponents say Opportunity Zones hold great promise for drawing new money into communities that have previously failed to attract investment. But there are skeptics, as well, including some who point to the limited effectiveness of similar programs in the past.

There have also been worries that governors would skew their zone selections toward gentrifying areas.


The Opportunity Zones program was created as part of the sweeping federal tax overhaul that Republicans pushed through late last year.


CBO Reports Significant Increase in Tax Receipts from Last Year

9 May 2018

Monthly Budget Review for April 2018 Congressional Budget Office, 2018/05/07

Receipts for the first seven months of fiscal year 2018 totaled $2,012 billion, CBO estimates—$83 billion more than the amount during the same period last year.

Receipts collected in April were $30 billion to $40 billion larger than CBO expected when it prepared the estimates reported in The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028, which it issued on April 9. The bulk of that difference stems from larger-than-anticipated payments of individual income taxes. Those payments were mostly related to economic activity in 2017 and may reflect stronger-than-expected income growth in that year. Part of the strength in receipts also may reflect larger-than-anticipated payments for economic activity in 2018. The reasons for the added revenues will be better understood as more detailed information becomes available later this year.


The federal government realized a surplus of $218 billion in April 2018, CBO estimates—$35 billion larger than the surplus in April 2017.

CBO estimates that receipts in April 2018 totaled $515 billion—$59 billion (or 13 percent) more than those in the same month last year.

 

Translation… the tax cuts are working as intended.


The Origin of the EPA and Secret Science

21 Mar 2018

Where did “Secret Science” start? Is this just Scott Pruitt doing the work of corporations? Is he just some outlaw who is unilaterally dismantling the EPA?

First of all – this is not solely a Scott Pruitt production. He is not some renegade outlaw who is here just overturning stuff to please corporations.

The House passed a bill on this Secret Science in 2015, that the Democrat Senate sat on.

Why did this get traction in the House? There was a Senate investigation done that resulted in a report.

Have you heard of John Beale? He was an EPA guy who falsely claimed to be a CIA agent… not just once – he faked the whole persona. He got thrown in prison for 32 months.

EPA’s fake spy gets prison sentence – Politico, 2013/12/18

John C. Beale, the former EPA official who convinced his bosses, friends and even his wife that he was a CIA spy, was sentenced to 32 months in prison Wednesday for defrauding the agency out of nearly $900,000 in unearned pay and bonuses.


At the hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday, Beale described his compulsion to lie as “something like an addiction,” but he added that he didn’t want it to sound like an excuse.

Why do I bring this guy up?

Because he is the one who spear-headed the effort of the legislation mentioned in the article that I just previously posted.  It mentions how costly the regulations are with regards to Ozone and Particulate Matter.

Here is the Senate Report.

EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science – U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 2014/03/19

Some of the findings in the report…

Brenner’s decision to hire Beale was based solely on their personal relationship and not on Beale’s qualifications. Beale himself admitted that he had no environmental experience. In the critical area of federal legislative experience, Beale’s supposed qualification was an unpaid undergraduate internship for Senator John Tunney (D-CA).


Beginning in 1995, Beale and Brenner took the lead on EPA’s internal process to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM). The duo set in motion “EPA’s Playbook,” a strategy to game the system by compressing the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) review via a friendly sue-and-settle arrangement, relying on secret science, and inflating benefits while underestimating costs.


With these standards, EPA sought to regulate fine particulates (PM2.5) in addition to larger particles (PM10) for the first time under the NAAQS, despite a distinct lack of scientific understanding of the integrity of the underlying data.


The two studies EPA relied upon, known as the Harvard “Six Cities” and American Cancer Society (ACS II) studies, were and remain controversial. EPA’s own scientific advisors warned EPA that the Six Cities study was “not in the peer-reviewed literature” and emphasized that there were significant uncertainties with the data, meaning EPA’s decision to proceed with the standards was a pure “policy call.”


Both Administrator Carol Browner and AA Mary Nichols admitted that neither of them had actually read the studies. Rather, it appears that Browner and Nichols deferred to the “expertise” of EPA’s career staff — Beale and Brenner — to make this “policy call.”


Beale led EPA’s effort to suppress interagency criticism of the standards and issued the “Beale Memo,” threatening OIRA officials who dared to criticize EPA in a letter to Congress. EPA tried to hide the existence of the Beale Memo from Congress, but was undermined by a conscientious whistleblower who surreptitiously turned over the memo to Congressional staff.

 

So you have a confessed addicted liar with no environmental experience in the EPA making policy based on science that was questionable by the EPA’s own experts.

This is how the Secret Science got started.

This removal of hiding the science behind the regulation is about shining light on an agency that affects how private business operates. There is nothing wrong with that. Transparency is good.


EPA Chief Pruitt to End Use of “Secret Science”

21 Mar 2018

Scott Pruitt Will End EPA’s Use of ‘Secret Science’ to Justify Regulations – The Stream, 2018/03/20

Pruitt will reverse long-standing EPA policy allowing regulators to rely on non-public scientific data in crafting rules. Such studies have been used to justify tens of billions of dollars worth of regulations.

EPA regulators would only be allowed to consider scientific studies that make their data available for public scrutiny under Pruitt’s new policy. Also, EPA-funded studies would need to make all their data public.


Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith pushed legislation to end the use of what he calls “secret science” at EPA. Pruitt instituted another policy in 2017 backed by Smith against EPA-funded scientists serving on agency advisory boards.

“If we use a third party to engage in scientific review or inquiry, and that’s the basis of rulemaking, you and every American citizen across the country deserve to know what’s the data, what’s the methodology that was used to reach that conclusion that was the underpinning of what — rules that were adopted by this agency,” Pruitt explained.


Democrats and environmentalists have largely opposed attempts to require EPA rely on transparent scientific data. Said data would restrict the amount of studies EPA can use, but a major objection is making data public would reveal confidential patient data, opponents argue.

“A lot of the data that EPA uses to protect public health and ensure that we have clean air and clean water relies on data that cannot be publicly released,” Union of Concerned Scientists representative Yogin Kothari told E&E News.

“It really hamstrings the ability of the EPA to do anything, to fulfill its mission,” Kothari said.

I don’t see how this hamstrings anything. No one is asking for private data, but the methodology should be available for all – especially since government spending and private company compliance costs come into play with the EPA.


Why Dodd-Frank Needs To Be Fixed

16 Mar 2018

This is an in depth article explaining the enormous monstrosity that is Dodd-Frank. Initial compliance costs runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars ($400M – $600M for Chase). Smaller banks could not keep up with those costs.

Another issue is that much of Dodd-Frank still has a bunch of regulations that need to be determined. It was estimated to be 12-18 months to complete everything. It probably hasn’t been done. But what that does is this… because there is a bunch of legislation that is yet to be determined – it enriches the politicians. Why? Banks will spend money lobbying politicians as the various undetermined rules are determined. That’s in the article below as well.

Too big not to fail – The Economist, 2012/02/18

Over-regulated America – The Economist, 2012/02/18