October 3, 2014

How Privatizing Medical Records Will Harm You
Imagine you’re a doctor at a clinic in New York City. You have a patient come in who’s in New York City on business. Their normal doctor is hundreds of miles away in California. In order to treat the patient, you need access to their medical files from their doctor in California. But, you learn that those files are stored in a digital program that your clinic doesn’t use, making it next to impossible to get access to them, and to treat your patient. This isn’t just some hypothetical situation. It’s a scenario that’s playing out all across America today thanks to the conservative ideology that says our public spaces, our commons, which should include our healthcare system, should instead be in the hands of for-profit companies. All across the country, doctors and healthcare workers are finding it increasingly hard to treat patients, because of electronic health record systems that don’t share information with competing systems. The systems, which were installed to help reduce costs and improve patient care, have, in many cases, made patient care a nightmare. thomhartmann.com

A New Argument for Vouchers
Now, the new siren song is that they save money! Politico reports “the fiscal case for vouchers:” “The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice touts vouchers as an ideal way to shake up the “government monopoly” on public education. Now the foundation aims to prove that vouchers make good financial sense, too. A report out today calculates that voucher programs in six states plus D.C. saved taxpayers $1.7 billion between 1990 and 2011. (States typically spend less on a voucher for private school tuition than educating a student in public school.) “Parents are already demanding school choice. Taxpayers should be, too,” said Robert Enlow, the foundation’s president and CEO. The report does not look at the quality of education in voucher schools, under fire in many states. Nor does it look at tax-credit scholarships, which allow individuals and corporations to cut state tax bills by donating to private school scholarship funds. Just think: abolish public education and save hundreds of billions! I thought the point was better education, not cheaper and worse education. DianeRavitch’s Blog

Kansas Is a Portent of Republican Medicare Privatization Disaster. . . In January 2013, Brownback promised that transferring the care of 380,000 Medicaid recipients to three private companies would not sacrifice their level of care, and the number of people on Medicaid’s waiting list would be reduced. He also promised the wholesale privatization of Medicaid under KanCare would save $1 billion, and yet a year-and-a-half later Kansas is so starved of revenue bankruptcy is in sight, schools are in crisis, courts face closure, children’s’ homeless shelters close for lack of $100,000, and ratings agencies are downgrading the state’s credit at regular intervals. What Brownback has not campaigned on, and Democrats across the nation are obviously unaware of, is that the only possible way three private managed-care organizations could realize cost savings is by cutting Medicaid services. PoliticusUSA

IN: INDOT Concerned About Toll Road Plaza Conditions
The Indiana Department of Transportation says it’s concerned about the deteriorating condition of the state’s Toll Road plazas. Last week, South Bend Representative David Niezgodski of South Bend wrote a letter to INDOT, calling the dirty bathrooms he encountered while traveling along the Toll Road embarrassing and unacceptable. INDOT responded this week, saying it agrees with Niezgodski’s assessment. In June, the Indiana Finance Authority sent a letter to the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, saying they’d received several complaints about dirty and unsanitary bathrooms. Indiana Public Media

IN: Commentary: Going private keeps taking its toll
The money from the Indianapolis water-sewer utility sale is gone, and rates are going up, as the city told us would happen, sale or no sale. The money from the Indianapolis parking meter sale is gone, and rates have risen and billable hours have lengthened, with the collections flowing past city coffers to an outfit in Texas. The money from the Indiana Toll Road lease is gone, and now the foreign consortium running it has declared bankruptcy, ominously struggling against low use combined with raised tolls and much-criticized service.The spectacular failure of IBM’s takeover of welfare eligibility determination, a fiasco that wrought untold suffering upon the poor, disabled and elderly, has the state before the Indiana Supreme Court trying to scratch back tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Could you please tell us again, Mitch Daniels and Grover Norquist and the rest of you libertarian luminaries, how privatization of basic government functions beats letting the government handle the work and control the revenue stream? The Statehouse File

TX: Private Wylie-to-Greenville Toll Road Will Displace Disabled Children on Horses
. . . “The property is just absolutely gorgeous, with rolling hills and running water,” Bricker says. No longer will the disabled children and veterans who compose Equest’s clientele be relegated to riding in tight circles, as space constraints in Wylie dictate. In Rowlett, they will have the space to explore a network of trailsEverything seemed perfect, save for one minor detail. Equest’s pristine 238 acres lies directly in the path of a planned Wylie-to-Greenville toll road. You’ve probably already heard about this road. It’s the one being built by the Texas Turnpike Corp., a private company that for some poorly conceived reason has the power of eminent domain. The one that thousands of otherwise mild-mannered suburbanites are angrily shouting down by the thousands.. The one the toll-enamored North Texas Council of Governments is desperately making up numbers to justify. Dallas Observer (blog)

MI: Aramark Workers Run Amok in Michigan Prisons
Last December, Aramark (ARMK) began running Michigan’s prison kitchens under a three-year, $145 million contract. The deal, which eliminated about 370 union jobs, was supposed to make food service more efficient while saving the cash-strapped state millions. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. More than 100 Aramark employees have been fired for alleged misconduct that included sneaking cell phones into prisons, distributing drugs, and having sexual contact with inmates. On Sept. 23 an Aramark worker at an Ionia prison was fired on suspicion that he’d tried to pay one prisoner to beat up another. The next day a worker at a maximum-security prison, also in Ionia, lost her job after corrections officers found a 65-page love letter she wrote to an inmate with whom she was allegedly having an affair. Two days later the Detroit Free Press reported that a former Aramark worker at a prison in the Upper Peninsula was suspected of asking an inmate to help have a prisoner at another facility killed. Businessweek

NY: Bid to privatize auditing may pit county against CSEA
The Erie County comptroller’s plan to privatize some of its internal audit functions could pit the county against its largest collective bargaining unit. In a letter to the Legislature this week, Interim Labor Relations Director Mary Thomas Scott expressed concern over Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw’s proposal. Without the consent of the Civil Service Employees Association, Scott said the plan would violate the state’s Public Employee’s Fair Employment Act and could prompt the union to file an improper labor charge. “Replacing the bargaining unit positions with an outsourced provider is ill-advised and not in the county’s best interest,” Scott advised lawmakers in her letter.  Buffalo News           

OH: Bankrupt Traffic Camera Company Sends Ohio Town To Collections
Cities that sign up for speed cameras and red light cameras sometimes wind up with greater expenses than they bargained for. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) sued the city of Houston, Texas and won a $4.8 million settlement two years ago, an amount the 4th largest city in America could readily pay. The $638,093 judgment defunct traffic camera company Nestor Traffic Systems won on Wednesday against East Cleveland, Ohio, on the other hand, represents about three-quarters of the cash-strapped town’s entire property tax revenue for the year. Nestor Traffic Systems went bankrupt in 2009, and its contracts were acquired by ATS. A bankruptcy judge appointed Jonathan N. Savage to manage the assets of the failed entity. After reviewing the books, Savage realized East Cleveland failed to pay Nestor’s bills between October 2007 and 2009. He decided to file a lawsuit to collect. TheNewspaper.com

CA: Privatization of Public Resources Confronted with Sit-In at UC Berkeley
Uniting students, workers, community members, and veterans of the Free Speech Movement, CPC led a surprise sit-in at Capital Projects following the rally for the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the Free Speech Movement. Capital Projects is the real estate arm of the University of California Berkeley that is actively privatizing public resources, such as in their proposed commercial development of the historic Gill Tract Farm. . . The sit-in lasted through 6 hours of negotiation amidst speeches and chants that could be heard across central campus. The Bay Area Indymedia