House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Department of Education released new waiver guidance:
Last week, the American people sent a message to Washington: End the gridlock and begin addressing the challenges facing our country. It’s looking more and more like the Obama administration has not gotten the message. Our K-12 education system is broken and we’ve learned over the last several years the president’s controversial waiver scheme is not the answer. Instead of changing course, the administration is delivering more arbitrary rules, more regulatory burdens, and more confusion.
What we need is for policymakers and stakeholders to work together in crafting a new law. We have an opportunity to enact bold reforms that will help all students access the quality education they need to succeed. The president must decide whether he is willing to seize that opportunity. The House has demonstrated time and again we are ready to get this done, and I am pleased we finally have partners in the Senate willing to join us. It’s time for the president to join us as well.
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Congressional Quarterly: Small Business Exchanges Find Few Customers So Far, Study Shows
November 13, 2014
By John Reichard
Only 76,000 people working for 12,000 small employers were covered through plans offered by the health law’s small business exchanges as of June, the Government Accountability Office reported Thursday.
That figure – reflecting 18 state-based small business exchanges – is vastly lower than Congressional Budget Office projections, said House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 2 million employees would enroll in so-called SHOP coverage this year, Graves said in a press release. The health law requires each state to have a Small Business Health Options Program that is administered either by the state or through the federal government.
The Obama administration still hasn’t released enrollment numbers for the “federally facilitated” SHOP exchanges it runs in 33 states. It says, however, that they are comparable to the numbers for SHOPs created on their own by 17 states and the District of Columbia.
The low enrollment figure gives Republicans another opening to attack the health law as they prepare for the next session of Congress and a new series of attacks on the overhaul.
“Obamacare’s SHOPs have been fraught with errors and high costs from the beginning,” Graves said.
GAO detailed the slower-than-scheduled startup of the SHOPs and the features they offer.
The exchanges were supposed to open in all states by Oct. 1, 2013. In all but four states, SHOPs were accepting enrollment applications by that date but important promised features were typically not ready, including online enrollment, and “employee choice” features.
Though insurer competition in the SHOPs was supposed to drive down premiums, the GAO found prices comparable to coverage outside of the exchanges.
The typical small business owner that provides coverage also picks the plan. The idea of SHOPs, in part, is to give their employees a menu of coverage options to choose from. Many state-created SHOPs offer this feature, but none of the federally facilitititated ones do, GAO found.
The same is true of online enrollment, which exists in most of the state-run SHOPs but not at all in the exchanges operated by the federal government, the report said.
What small business owners have gained, however, is the ability to see plan information such as premiums and benefits online on web sites in all of the states.
And federal officials are preparing to implement online enrollment for federally run SHOPs for 2015, GAO said. Employee choice will be available next year in 14 states with SHOPs operated by the federal government, though 18 states took up a government offer to delay that feature until 2016.
Enrollment figures for the federally run SHOPs will be made public early next year.
Most bosses are offering their workers a menu of coverage options in states where the option is available, the study found. “Exchange officials in Kentucky and Rhode Island said that approximately 65 and 61 percent of enrolled employers, respectively, decided to offer their employees a choice of plans,” GAO said.
The added features will bring many more customers to the SHOPs, exchange backers say. So too will more aggressive marketing, closer coordination with insurance agents and the fact that employers after 2016 won’t be able to renew coverage that doesn’t comply with the health law, which will make them more likely to start shopping at the small business exchanges.
Others predict the SHOPs won’t be a big draw because the tax credits they offer small businesses end after this year. The exchanges may not be able to charge lower premiums.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report, requested by House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), showing that enrollment for the state-operated Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), created by the Affordable Care Act, was significantly lower than expected. No data was released for the federally-operated SHOP, but CMS told GAO it anticipates similarly low enrollment numbers. This report’s release comes just days after the Obama administration predicted that overall enrollment for next year is expected to be 30% lower than expected.
The Committee has documented continued mismanagement with the SHOPs going back to the summer of 2013, when another GAO report requested by Graves, confirmed the administration was ill-equipped for its rollout, and cited potential for “implementation challenges going forward.” This year, Graves has repeatedly pressed the administration to provide data on the enrollment and updated compliance timeline of federal and state SHOPs, but the data has not been provided. During a September 18 Small Business Subcommittee hearing, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Director of State Exchange Group, Mayra Alvarez, was asked about SHOP enrollment data, yet the administration was still unable to provide the information. Today’s GAO report is the first federal government release of SHOP performance data.
“Obamacare’s SHOPs have been fraught with errors and high costs from the very beginning,” said Chairman Graves. “The administration touted the SHOP as a way for small companies and their employees to benefit from more health insurance competition and choice, and ultimately lower prices. Instead, we have seen that costs are increasing for nearly two-thirds of small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees and the majority of small business owners paid more per employee for health insurance in 2013 than in 2012.”
Graves continued, “The lack of specific federal SHOP enrollment data confirms that CMS initially created no mechanism to monitor or measure its performance after enrollment began. It is apparent that the Obama administration didn’t prioritize the SHOP exchange in the law. Small businesses and taxpayers deserve better.”
GAO Report Highlights:
• As of June 1, 2014, enrollment for the SHOPs was significantly lower than expected, and, at its current pace, is unlikely to reach expectations by the end of 2014.
- State SHOPs – 76,000 individuals through 12,000 employers.
- Federal SHOP – data will not be available from CMS until next year, but CMS does not expect major differences between federal and state SHOP numbers.
- In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 2 million employees would enroll in coverage through the SHOPs in 2014, with the number of enrollees rising to 3 million in 2015 and leveling off at 4 million enrollees by 2017.
• Most state SHOPs had multiple plans available, but some states had counties with no plans. For example, in Washington state, SHOP plans were only available in a few counties, and the state had only 8 employers enrolled.
• The average number of employees per business enrolled in SHOPs is 3.7 employees.
• Many state SHOP features were delayed and enrollment was low as of June 2014 and key SHOP features, such as online enrollment and employee choice, were delayed for all federal SHOPs and some state SHOPS.
• The primary incentive for many small businesses to enroll in SHOPS was to utilize the small business health care tax credit. But the credit is so narrow, complex and temporary that it has been an insufficient incentive to enroll. Although the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and stakeholder groups initially estimated over 4 million small businesses would be eligible for the credit, a 2012 GAO report showed only a small fraction (170,300) actually claimed it.
If there is one thing we learned last week, it’s that the American people know we need to do better. They know we need education reform that empowers parents and places more control in the hands of teachers and local decision-makers. They know we need to provide employers certainty and flexibility so they can grow their businesses, create new jobs, and give workers the raise they’ve earned. They know we need to work together to help students pursue the dream of an advanced degree without living a nightmare of debt and unemployment. They know we need to continue investing in our classrooms and workplaces, but demand a better return on our investment. These are the priorities most Americans share ...They must be the priorities of Washington starting now.
To learn more about House efforts to strengthen America’s classrooms and workplaces, click here.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement after President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.
“I have repeatedly called on the FCC to use its full statutory authority to preserve a free and open Internet. Millions of Americans have urged the FCC to carry out its longstanding statutory obligation to protect consumers and competition. I join the ...
We all know her: A fellow woman entrepreneur who appears to have it all—and juggle it so effortlessly. She runs a growing, successful business and still manages to cook, play, date, work out, vacation, volunteer and more! It looks like she’s really got this work-life balance thing down. But does she?
On a recent call with some of our NAWBO leaders and partners, someone asked what I thought about the whole idea of work-life balance, and I had to be honest: While it looks different for every woman, for me, and for a lot of women entrepreneurs, it doesn’t exist. I run a successful small business, and some days I go to bed at night feeling like I’ve done really great on the business end, and other days, I feel like I’ve done really great in my personal life. It’s a day-to-day, constant struggle that frankly, I’ve had to learn to embrace.
It’s like Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, mother of two and outspoken advocate for women leaders famously said when she launched her Lean In movement: “So there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.”
I think one of the greatest contributors to this struggle for balance is how we, as women, approach our priorities. A woman with children might wake up in the morning and get her kids up, fed, dressed and out the door without stopping for even 5 minutes to have a cup of coffee. A man, on the other hand, might wake up, have coffee, read the paper and even work out before seeing what needs to happen to get the kids to school. Women feel a real need to take care of others first.
It’s the same thing in the workplace. As women, we tend to go and go without ever pausing to refresh. We’ll make time for extra projects, client lunches, calls or employees, but never for ourselves. And yet, we’d be better for it. During this time of year, many men gather together in break rooms to talk about their Fantasy Football picks. In this same spirit, we need to find ways to take short “mental pauses,” whether we just close our eyes and breathe, read an article, call a friend, stretch, etc.
We’re already in the month of November speeding toward the end of 2014. During this busiest time of the year, if you’re like me, any resemblance of work-life balance is out the window. So here’s my challenge to you (and to myself, too): Slow down whenever and wherever you can. Put yourself first sometimes. Ask for help from your partner and children or employees when you need it. Accept that work-life balance looks different for every woman entrepreneur, and for some of us, it will always be a struggle. Just do the best you can every day.
—Darla Beggs, 2014-2015 NAWBO National Chair
Want to get more perspective on work-life balance? Here are several links to good reads:
House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) released the following statement in response to the President’s comments regarding net neutrality and regulating the Internet:
“The Internet was born and bred from American ingenuity and innovation and has been one of, if not the most, successful drivers of economic growth here and abroad for the past 20 years. Small businesses have come to depend on and utilize the Internet in ways not even imagined two decades ago, allowing them to compete across town and across the globe. In that time, the Internet has remained free of burdensome regulations that had the potential to curb its growth or limit its role in our economy. I was troubled by President Obama’s announcement supporting regulation of the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Doing so has the real potential to stifle economic growth, hurt small businesses and the jobs they have created.”
In September, the Committee held a hearing with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler on telecommunications issues that are important to small firms, including net neutrality, broadband deployment, Universal Service Fund reform efforts, and wireless spectrum availability.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which is quite appropriate being that most sugar is eaten between October 31st and January 1st!
I receive an informative newsletter monthly from Healthwatch I’d like to share with you:
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2014 report, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes. Read that again…over 29 MILLION people!! Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million have been diagnosed and 8.1 million people have not yet been diagnosed.
In the over 20 years of age population, 15.5 million men have diabetes and 13.4 million women have diabetes.
The country is in the midst of a diabetes epidemic, which has contributed to our national deficit, not to mention shortening millions of lives!
Here’s the good news… Diabetes need not be your destiny if you take charge of your blood sugar. The benefits of optimal glucose control are many: fat loss, increased lifespan, better memory and cognitive function, healthier blood pressure, reduced risk of heart attack, increased mental and physical energy, and possible reversal of diabetes.
People who have diabetes know the importance of keeping their blood sugar (glucose) level in a healthy range. Glucose levels that are too high damage blood vessels and can lead to many complications, including heart disease, dementia, blindness and amputation. Those of us who are not diabetic should also be cognizant of glucose levels. We don’t go from healthy to diabetes overnight. Glucose levels tend to rise with age, increasing the possibility of a diabetes diagnosis. Furthermore, studies show that even high-normal glucose levels increase the risk of heart attack.
Excessive sugar and starch consumption along with a sedentary lifestyle leads to risky pre-diabetes glucose levels. Pre-diabetes can also be identified (as a gauge) by abdominal obesity. A waist circumference over 39 inches for men, 34 for women, is a red flag, especially if you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides or low HDLs (good cholesterol). This group of symptoms is known as Metabolic Syndrome and indicates insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition. Like the term implies, insulin resistance means cells develop resistance to the effects of the body’s own insulin, the hormone that lowers glucose. Insulin is necessary to allow glucose to enter cells and be burned for energy. When cells become resistant, both glucose and insulin levels remain dangerously high.
If you didn’t know…you can take Charge of Your Blood Sugar! YOU are in control.
The good news is that you can take control of your glucose level by practicing good eating habits. Overconsumption of calories, especially refined carbs (i.e. white flour, rice flour, sugar and even wheat flour), can acutely spike blood glucose. For this reason, it’s best to divide daily calories into several smaller meals with a lot of fiber and lean, unsaturated proteins. Limit your intake of flour products and go for black rice in moderation, unprocessed oats, and beans with a primary focus on vegetables…especially green ones. Increasing water (up to over a gallon) while limiting juices and sodas is a great place to take a complete U turn. Supplement with a multivitamin-mineral that includes chromium, which stimulates glucose uptake. Following a healthy routine of diet and exercise will help keep blood glucose in a healthy range.
This is good information we hear over and over, yet so many of us ignore the strong facts. If you are ready to make some changes, consider joining me (and about 50 others) on my “no desserts challenge” and “activity challenge” now through the Holidays. If you cheat…you can donate money to the American Diabetes Association or the Alzheimer’s Foundation. It’s a big commitment…but one you will be so proud you dove into. Email me for more information if you are interested.
Between the open houses, client meetings, driving the kids to soccer practice, and grocery shopping I think it’s safe to say, every now and then we need a break. A quiet moment, a quick power nap, a short walk, maybe even a long breath makes a huge difference in our ability to perform at our best. That simple little break allows us to come back stronger, re-energized and re-focused. To help you weed through the chaos of your normal life and find those quite moments, we’re bringing you calm, the app that gives you just a little bit of just that, calm.
It’s a super simple (visit their website and you’ll see just how simple it is). From the moment you open the app on your phone, be ready to go to a calming place. A babbling brook, a beautiful beach, or maybe a relaxing rain storm. Then let the relaxing begin. You’re guided through how to fully take advantage of your quiet time, then a short mediation gives you the chance to take your thoughts inward for just a few moments.
The free version offers access to a calm meditation or the timer allowing you to step away for just a few moments to relax while listening to the soothing background sounds offered. With premium access (available as a monthly, 6 month or year subscription) you have a wealth of meditation programs at your fingertips. Choose from programs for gratitude, focus or even energy. Let your mood decide.
So the next time you need a break from the stress of everyday life, remember calm. Your escape from the chaos.