MD Health Benefit Exchange Board Recommendations to Governor & Legislature

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Exchange Report.pdf

2012 Letter From the Board.pdf

Mayor Gray Applauds the DC Council’s Passage of Health Benefits Exchange Legislation

December 21, 2011
Mayor Gray Applauds the DC Council’s Passage of Health Benefits Exchange Legislation
Mayor Vincent C. Gray today applauded the DC Council’s passage of the Health Benefits Authority Exchange legislation. The legislation gives final approval for the creation of the District’s health insurance exchange (HIX), an online marketplace for health benefits mandated by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“I am pleased that the DC Council moved swiftly to pass the measure that creates the District’s Health Benefits Exchange. This important legislation will serve as a catalyst for the implementation of health-care reform in the District,” Mayor Gray said. “The Mayor’s Health Reform Implementation Committee (HRIC) has been working non-stop in its efforts to create the foundation for the HIX. This new online marketplace for health insurance will provide a valuable tool to our residents as they seek affordable health-care coverage.”

When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014, individuals and small businesses will have access to affordable coverage through a new competitive private health insurance market – state-based Health Insurance Exchanges.

Health Insurance Exchanges

Health Insurance Exchanges will provide individuals and small businesses with a “one-stop shop” to find and compare affordable, quality private health insurance options. With these exchanges, Americans will no longer be on their own in trying to find comprehensive, affordable health coverage that is right for their needs. Health Insurance Exchanges will bring new transparency to the market so that consumers will be able to compare plans based on price and quality. By increasing competition between insurance companies and allowing individuals and small businesses to band together to purchase insurance, Health Insurance Exchanges will help lower costs.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s Health Reform Implementation Committee

In May 2011, Mayor Gray announced the creation of the Mayor’s Health Reform Implementation Committee. The committee was formed to advise and make recommendations to the Mayor’s office on the implementation of the sweeping health-insurance reform legislation passed by Congress in 2010. The panel is chaired by Department of Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage and co-chaired by Department of Health Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter and Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking Commissioner William White. It has three subcommittees: Eligibility and Medicaid Expansion; Insurance; and Health Delivery System. Additional committee members are from related agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Disability Services.

The committee submitted its recommendations to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services BB Otero so that her office could ensure interagency coordination in implementing the committee’s recommendations. For more information on the District’s Health Reform Implementation activities, please go to www.healthreform.dc.gov.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

First Source Bill aims to put more D.C. residents in jobs

Law aims to put more D.C. residents in jobs
Tom Howell Jr, Washington Times, December 21st

Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed a bill on Wednesday intended to ensure that city residents are hired to work on D.C.-funded projects as part of an “increasingly large arsenal” in the city’s fight against high unemployment.

The new law should give teeth to the District’s ability to track and enforce its First Source program — an initiative to ensure that companies receiving D.C. tax dollars hire city residents — by means of enhanced hiring and reporting requirements through the Department of Employment Services.

Spearheaded by council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, a Democrat, and council member Michael A. Brown, at-large independent, the law requires DOES to develop tougher reporting requirements within one year for projects receiving more than $5 million.

Companies receiving less than $5 million for government-assisted construction or non-construction projects must ensure that at least 51 percent of its new hires are D.C. residents.

“We are about to sign the largest jobs bill in this city’s history,” Michael A. Brown said. “It’s not going to be the silver bullet, it’s not going to change the world tomorrow, but it’s one additional step — a big step — toward making sure that we’re giving our folks who are out of work a chance to succeed.”

Mr. Gray and its council sponsors touted the measure as a “historic” effort to stem double-digit unemployment that is three times the national average in parts of the city east of the Anacostia River.

The District’s unemployment rate fell from 11 percent to 10.6 percent in November as part of a positive trend in 43 states yet it is still above the national average, which fell to 8.6 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We believe the tide is turning in this area,” Mr. Gray said.

The mayor signed the legislation in his ceremonial office at the John A. Wilson Building before presenting the pen to DOES Director Lisa Mallory as a symbolic gesture. He also wryly remarked that “unlike any other jurisdiction in America,” the bill will not become law until Congress has had 30 days to review it.

Mr. Brown, the council chairman, said the bill fulfills promises he made in his inaugural address to pass jobs legislation and a comprehensive ethics bill, which the council approved Tuesday.

The legislation follows a Summer Youth Employment Program that finished the season under budget and a pilot program to hire D.C. residents for school-modernization projects. It also dovetails to an extent with the One City, One Hire initiative designed to put 10,000 city residents to work in one year.

Unlike One City, One Hire, a mayoral initiative loosely based on a pilot program in Atlanta, the newly signed workforce law focuses on companies that receive city dollars. Also, Mr. Gray noted the legislation creates permanent changes, while One City, One Hire could disappear at some point.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

D.C. expecting $45 million surplus in 2012

D.C. expecting $45 million surplus in 2012
Washington Business Journal, Date: Thursday, December 22, 2011, 6:50am EST

D.C. is looking at a $45 million surplus for the current fiscal year before the numbers turn negative in the face of uncertainty over the federal budget, according to new revenue estimates generated by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi.

D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, chairman of the finance and revenue committee, said the welcome surplus for fiscal 2012 doesn’t last long. In fiscal 2013, Gandhi is projecting a $69 million deficit — and the budget hole grows to more than $100 million by 2015.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Poll: Adrian Fenty (Or Anthony Williams) Would Beat Vince Gray

Poll: Adrian Fenty (Or Anthony Williams) Would Beat Vince Gray
Posted by Mike Madden on Dec. 22, 2011 at 12:01 am, Washington City Paper

`The last time D.C. heard from Adrian Fenty in an official capacity, he was finishing 37th in the "elite male" category at the D.C. Triathlon in June. (Which, come to think of it, is more or less what he was up to for much of his term as mayor.) If a new poll by Clarus Research Group is right, though, Fenty nostalgia is in full swing in the District.

The poll, released Thursday, showed Fenty would beat Mayor Vince Gray easily if a rematch of their 2010 primary was held now; Fenty, who lost his bid for a nomination for another term by 53 percent to 46 percent, would beat Gray 48-33 among Democratic primary voters today. (Among all voters, which includes Republicans and independents, Fenty would win 51-30.) The racial dynamic that ran through last year’s election, though, persists: Gray would beat Fenty 45-31 among black voters, while Fenty would win 82-10 among whites.

But Fenty doesn’t actually seem interested in running again. "I’m not sure if personally I would have gotten more out of" winning another term, he told the Huffington Post in September. Which is why another question the Clarus Group asked was even more interesting.

Former Mayor Anthony Williams, whose name does occasionally come up as a potential candidate to return to office, would also beat Gray, by a 47-32 margin among Democrats, the poll found. Like Fenty, Williams is more popular among white voters than black voters; unlike Fenty, Williams’ hypothetical lead doesn’t increase quite as much if Republicans get rolled into the sample.

The bottom line in the survey’s findings, though, isn’t really news: Incumbent politicians in D.C. these days aren’t very popular.

The poll found Gray’s approval rating among Democrats was only 34 percent, which is actually up from the 31 percent he recorded in a March Clarus poll. But 53 percent of Democrats disapproved of Gray’s job performance, compared to 30 percent in March. At 48 percent, a plurality, but not a majority, of black voters—Gray’s base—approved of his job performance.

“The mayor has never defined his mayoralty,” said Clarus president Ron Faucheux. “News stories about cronyism and criminal investigations have framed his first year in office. His ratings, and those of the [D.C. Council], are suffering from a cloud of uneasiness that hangs over city politics.”

Only 30 percent of voters approved of the D.C. Council’s job performance, with 55 percent disapproving. Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown, meanwhile, the worst poll numbers of any politician the survey asked about, with 26 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving.

The poll was taken Dec. 19-21 and sampled 500 self-identified registered voters. The margin of error was plus/minus 4.4 percent.

Complete ratings for a variety of local politicians are after the jump:

Mayor Vince Gray

  • Approve: 34
  • Disapprove: 53
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 13

D.C. Council

  • Approve: 30
  • Disapprove: 55
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 16

Council Chairman Kwame Brown

  • Approve: 23
  • Disapprove: 57
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 20

At-Large Councilmember David Catania

  • Approve: 37
  • Disapprove: 16
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 47

At-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown

  • Approve: 26
  • Disapprove: 27
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 47

At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange

  • Approve: 35
  • Disapprove: 27
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 38

At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson

  • Approve: 44
  • Disapprove: 13
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 43

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier

  • Approve: 78
  • Disapprove: 12
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 10

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton

  • Approve: 77
  • Disapprove: 15
  • No Opinion/Don’t Know: 9

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson

  • Approve: 51
  • Disapprove: 14

No Opinion/Don’t Know: 35

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Wash Post: New poll gives low marks to Gray, D.C. Council

Posted at 11:59 PM ET, 12/21/2011

New poll gives low marks to Gray, D.C. Council

By Tim Craig

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray continues to get low marks for his handling of the city and would be handily defeated for reelection by either the city’s two most recent former mayors, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by Clarus Research Group., shows more than half of District voters do not approve of the job Gray is doing. Although Gray’s standing has ticked up slightly since a Clarus survey in March, just 34 percent of voters approve of his performance.

The survey paints a bleak picture for both the first-year mayor and the D.C. Council as they battle several ethical controversies and federal investigations.

Only 30 percent of voters approve of the council while 55 percent have a negative view, a reversal of the body’s ratings since a previous Clarus survey in March.

A little more than a year ago, Gray handily defeated former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty after receiving nearly 60 percent of the vote in the September 2010 Democratic primary.

But if District Democrats today were asked to choose between Gray and Fenty, the former mayor would defeat the incumbent by 15 percentage points. Fenty’s 48 percent to 33 percent margin among Democrats grows to 21 percent when non Democrats are included in the survey, according to the poll.

“The mayor’s first year in office has been a political disaster,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus.

In the survey of 500 voters from Sunday through Wednesday, Clarus also pitted Gray against former mayor Anthony Williams (D).

Williams, who was in office from 1999 to 2007, would also defeat Gray by 15 points if an election was held today.

In both match-ups, Fenty or Williams would dominate among white voters, defeating Gray by more than 60 points. Gray maintains an edge among black voters, but his standing has declined dramatically among African-Americans since his 2010 race.

Gray leads Fenty among black voters by a margin of 45 to 31 percentage points. But Gray’s overall disapproval rating among all voters has increased by 13 points since the Clarus survey in March.

Heading into his second year in office, Gray remains stronger politically than D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and the rest of the city’s legislative body.

Only 23 percent of District voters approve of Brown’s job performance, compared to 57 who disapprove.

According to the survey, a few District public officials remain popular with voters.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who is up for reelection in 2012, has a 77 percent approval rating, nearly equal to Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s 78 percent rating.

About half of District voters also approve of Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, but about one in three have an unfavorable view of her.

By Tim Craig | 11:59 PM ET, 12/21/2011

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Wash Post: Drivers decry D.C. taxi system overhaul bill

Pre-New Year’s Resolutions Show DC Council Chairman Brown Priorities

SIMMONS: Pre-New Year’s resolutions show Brown priorities

By Deborah Simmons-

The Washington Times

Sunday, December 18, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown promised to get a comprehensive ethics-reform bill passed before the new year rolls in, and if things go as scheduled, he and his colleagues will place their imprimatur on a measure Tuesday.

The council gave its initial blessing Dec. 6. Yet lawmakers are still wrangling over the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Establishment and the Comprehensive Ethics Reform Amendment Act, which would, among other things, spread a little sunshine on slush funds and create an independent ethics board.

In an interview Friday, Mr. Brown said that passing ethics-reform legislation and a measure honoring native Washingtonian and NFL Hall of Famer Willie Wood, who turns 75 on Friday, highlight his priorities as lawmakers officially wrap up their legislative calendar before the Christmas break.

"I am fully committed to making sure we get a comprehensive ethics-reform bill passed, [while] we may wait until January for emergency legislation to work out any issues," said Mr. Brown, a Democrat.

While the council already is united on putting its permanent stamp of approval on the Willie Wood Way Designation Act (an honor often bestowed upon notable D.C. natives only after the Lord has called them home), it’s unclear whether Mr. Brown’s No. 1 promise to residents and voters — fiscal responsibility — will be torn asunder if the ethics measure is passed Tuesday.

Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi alerted lawmakers nearly two weeks ago that there simply is no money in the budget or the financial plan to create an ethics board, whose costs would increase from $311,000 this year to nearly $2.9 million in 2015.

"Funds are not sufficient in the FY 2012 through FY 2015 budget and financial plan to implement the provisions of the proposed legislation," Mr. Gandhi said in his fiscal-impact statement to Mr. Brown on Dec. 6, the same day the council preliminarily approved the ethics bill.

In other words, stakeholders, the council will either look into robbing Peter to pay Paul (i.e., reprogramming funds) or buy into Mr. Brown’s promise that the city will live within its means and rethink its big-government liberalism.

Mr. Brown’s words: "Safeguarding our economy and our finances is the single most important action the council can take to ensure that the District has the continued ability to serve its residents and businesses."

My translation: The D.C. government should live within its means.

To be sure, $2.9 million for a new ethics board can be found in the city’s coffers over the course of the next few years. As Mr. Brown said, it’s up to the council to ensure that the public gets "full accountability and oversight" of city expenditures.

But therein lies the No. 1 rub.

The council wants stakeholder buy-in on three components of good-government policy — quality, value and convenience — when its ethics-reform package hinges only on convenience (and political convenience and expediency at that).

New beginnings

Mr. Brown also said a Costco coming to the District "is just the first of many exciting" economic development projects.

"Getting the ball across the finish line was overdue," said Mr. Brown, who became chairman of the council’s Committee on Economic Development after then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Council member Vincent B. Orange began trying to lure businesses and big-box retailers to the District.

Back in those days, the District was pound-foolish and hardly considered a business-friendly climate — wicked, liberal ways that led to frighteningly high unemployment and poverty rates.

City officials and developers announced last week that an agreement finally had been reached to build a Costco at the Shops at Dakota Crossing in Fort Lincoln, the mostly residential community at South Dakota Avenue and Bladensburg Road Northeast. Although a date for the groundbreaking will be announced any day, Mr. Brown said the council and the administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray worked closely as dealmakers. It also helped that Clint Jackson, who used to be on Mr. Gray’s team, is now working for Mr. Brown.

While the council-executive marriage appears to be a match made in City Hall when it comes to economic development, the city’s employment and poverty prospects remain gloomy.

Council member Michael A. Brown, an independent, needs to answer some tough questions, such as "Is the city getting the best bang for its buck on job-training programs, which are sneaking their hands into the till but failing to deliver surefire results?"

As chairman of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, Mr. Brown will have his feet held to the fire.

After all, income-tax revenues are a driving force when it comes to "safeguarding" the city’s finances, as Mr. Brown put it.

c Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

News from The Hill: Supreme Court schedules 3 days of arguments over healthcare law

thehilllogo.jpg

News from The Hill:

Supreme Court schedules 3 days of arguments over healthcare law
By Sam Baker

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Obama’s healthcare law over a three-day span in late March.

The schedule further confirms the universal expectation that the court will issue a ruling on the healthcare law next June, at the height of the 2012 campaign.

Read the story here.

The Search for the God Particle

Intriguing piece on the vexing but wondrous intersection of faith and science…

The search for the God particle goes beyond mere physics

By Michael Gerson, Published: December 15

The God particle — really the Higgs boson — still resists confirmation, though scientists at the Large Hadron Collider recently reported “tantalizing hints” of its existence. They also reject the notion that their search has anything to do with God, which is only technically true.

Modern physics can explain just about everything, except why anything has mass. The Standard Model of physics, which emerged four decades ago, employs an elegant mathematical formula to account for most of the elemental forces in the universe. It correctly predicted the discovery of various leptons and quarks in the laboratory.

But the equation doesn’t explain gravity. So the Standard Model requires the existence of some other force that seized the massless particles produced by the Big Bang and sucked them into physicality. The detection of Higgs bosons would confirm this theory — which is why scientists are smashing protons into one another in a 17-mile round particle accelerator and picking through the subatomic wreckage.

It will take a few more years for definitive results. But most scientists don’t seem to appreciate the glorious improbability — and philosophic implications — of the entire enterprise.

In 1928, theoretical physicist Paul Dirac combined the mathematical formulas for relativity and quantum mechanics into a single equation and predicted the existence of antimatter. Antimatter was duly discovered in 1932. But why should a mathematical equation — the product of brain chemistry — describe physical reality? It is not self-evident that there should be any correspondence between mathematical formulas and the laws of the universe. Modern physics does not consist of measured phenomena summarized in elegant equations; it consists of elegant equations that predict measured phenomena. This has been called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” However unreasonable, it led to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider along the border of France and Switzerland, the largest machine ever built by human beings.

Dr. Ard Louis, a young physicist teaching at the University of Oxford, recalls his first encounter with Dirac’s equation. “How can mathematics demand something so fantastical from nature? I was sure it couldn’t be true and spent many hours trying to find a way out. When I finally gave up and saw that there was no way around Dirac’s result, it gave me goose bumps. I remember thinking that even if I never used my years of physics training again, it would have been worth it just to see something so spectacularly beautiful.”

Louis describes a cumulative case for wonder. Not only does the universe unexpectedly correspond to mathematical theories, it is self-organizing — from biology to astrophysics — in unlikely ways. The physical constants of the universe seem finely tuned for the emergence of complexity and life. Slightly modify the strength of gravity, or the chemistry of carbon, or the ratio of the mass of protons and electrons, and biological systems become impossible. The universe-ending Big Crunch comes too soon, or carbon isn’t produced, or suns explode.

The wild improbability of a universe that allows us to be aware of it seems to demand some explanation. This does not require theism. Some physicists favor the theory of the multiverse, in which every possible universe exists simultaneously. If everything happens, it is not surprising that anything happens. But this is not a theory that can be scientifically tested. Other universes, by definition, are not accessible. The multiverse is metaphysics — just as subject to the scientific method as the existence of heaven.

One reasonable alternative — the one advocated by Louis — is theism. It explains a universe finely tuned for life and accessible to human reason. It accounts for the cosmic coincidences. And a theistic universe, unlike the alternatives, also makes sense of free will and moral responsibility.

This is not proof for the existence of God. But the conflict here is not between faith and science; it is between the competing faiths of theism and materialism, neither of which can claim to be proved by science. Modern physics has accelerated smack into the limits of the scientific method. It raises questions it cannot answer but that human beings cannot avoid — matters of meaning and purpose. This is not a failure of science, just a recognition that measurement is not the only source of meaning.

Our response to nature’s astounding symmetries is not only rational but aesthetic. Some, like Louis, feel goose bumps and thankfulness. Others are angered by such sentimentalism. Yet this would be a sad epitaph for modern science: It revealed wonders but was numb to wonder.

michaelgerson

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

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