The Obama administration moved Thursday to protect some of the sickest patients in the country from the possibility that they would lose health insurance on New Year’s Day.
Medically needy patients enrolled in temporary high-risk pools now have an extra month to sign up for new coverage because of early enrollment struggles in Obamacare nationwide, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced. The extension seems to be the Obama administration’s first tacit acknowledgement that it can’t guarantee that everybody who wants to obtain coverage starting Jan. 1 will be able to do so.
The federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP, which has provided coverage to about 135,000 people previously shut out of coverage, was to sunset at the end of the year, but it instead has been extended through January for those in the program who haven’t yet gotten new coverage.
“Today, as part of our efforts to smooth the transition to the Marketplaces for those seeking coverage that begins in January, we are taking steps to ensure that Americans enrolled in the federal PCIP insurance plan will not face a lapse when the new year begins,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in a statement. “We are committed to providing consumers additional flexibilities while they evaluate and select a quality, affordable, health plan that meets their needs.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly blasted the announcement as a “clear admission” that the health care law is failing people with pre-existing conditions.
“Millions of people were tossed off of the plans they already had, but only a fraction of that number have been able to sign up on the Obamacare exchanges,” McConnell said in a statement to POLITICO. “How many extensions and waivers is it going to take for the administration to admit the consequences of Obamacare that are hitting millions of Americans they promised it would help?”
The PCIP program was included in the Affordable Care Act as a temporary bridge to 2014, when insurers can no longer deny coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions or charge them more based on health status. The individuals at risk here may be fighting cancer or dealing with chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma.
A number of states running high-risk pools that predate the Affordable Care Act are also slated to close them at the end of December. Others, including Indiana and Texas, have already extended their high-risk pools, which are separate from the federal program.
The national association representing state high-risk pools had recently called for a three-month PCIP extension, but it labeled Thursday’s announcement “acceptable” and cautioned the administration to be flexible if enrollment problems continue.
The administration “must constantly assess the situation, and if problems persist, a longer extension should be considered,” said Tanya Case, chairwoman of the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans.
Enrollment in PCIP was shut off months ago to stretch the Affordable Care Act’s $5 billion appropriation for the program until the end of the year. CMS said Thursday that it has enough funding to cover expected costs in January. It didn’t specify how many PCIP participants have found new coverage since the Oct. 1 start of Obamacare enrollment.
Kirsten Sloan, a senior policy director for the American Cancer Society’s advocacy arm, said cancer advocates are “pleased” with the extension. “It gives a person with cancer a little more time to select a plan and more important, it makes sure there is no interruption in their coverage for someone going through treatment,” Sloan said.
Asked if she’s confident that everyone who wants coverage by New Year’s Day can have it, Sloan said: “We’re watching that, along with everyone else. But we’re hopeful.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/obamacare-extension-101096.html#ixzz2nIcpOSKP
For many people who try to buy a home, especially first time homebuyers, getting a loan can prove difficult. Buyers need to be able to provide a sizable down payment and have a good credit score to qualify for most conventional loans. Not all hopeful homebuyers meet these qualifications, and that’s where FHA loans come in to save the day. However some critics are calling this type of loan abusive.
FHA loans are mortgage loans that are approved by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and because of their lax qualifications (low down payments and easy-to-meet credit score requirements). They are some of the easiest loans to qualify for.
Compared to most loans that require a 20% down payment, the FHA’s requirement of a 3.5% down payment seems like nothing, and makes FHA loans attractive for those with lower incomes and, in particular, first-time home buyers.
So FHA loans sound like a good deal, right? The answer, according to Edward J. Pinto, a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is a resounding no. Pinto claims that FHA loans are “predatory” and “abusive”.
In order to decide if Pinto is correct in his claims about FHA loans, first we must look at the definition of a “predatory” loan.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Inspector General: “Predatory lending typically involves imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers, often through aggressive sales tactics; taking advantage of borrowers’ lack of understanding of complicated transactions; and outright deception.”
Based on this definition, FHA loans may qualify as predatory.
For one, lower-risk borrowers are severely overcharged by FHA mortgage insurance pricing. According to AEI, in 2013, homebuyers that purchased homes with FHA loans lost $4,000 individually, and $710 million between the combined 200,000 homebuyers receiving FHA loans.
Pinto further explained, “The consumer who has the very-low-risk loan doesn’t even know he might be better off going through the private sector. They may assume that the government is protecting their interests.”
In addition, Pinto believes that FHA relies on a borrower’s lack of understanding of how the insurance process works. Most borrowers believe that the FHA wouldn’t encourage them to partake in financially unfavorable situations, but unfortunately, are still being charged excessively for the mortgage insurance. The FHA’s mortgage insurance rate is 1.35% per year, which is significantly higher than traditional rates, and therefore ends up costing homeowners thousands of dollars more than other loan options.
David Stevens, the president of the Mortgage Bankers Association who also served as FHA commissioner from 2009-2001, disagrees with Pinto’s accusations of FHA being predatory. He does not believe that FHA preys on the poor, and believes that the recent restructuring of the agency’s standards has improved the fairness of the loans and their overall lending system.
Stevens said, “The data clearly shows that the loans being made today by FHA are the highest-quality loans in its history, with extremely low default rates.”
However, Stevens does agree with Pinto in that borrowers are better off choosing a Fannie Mae-backed loan if they can meet the qualifications: 5% down and a minimum FICO score of 740.
Mark Clayton Hand, Oxford SBS Seed Fund co-founder, recently concluded a three-piece series on Latino startups, tracking some hurdles and high points that startups face as they move toward success. The firstpost questioned where Latino startups were; referring to both Latino-owned and Latino-focused endeavors. Thesecond post explored challenges that Latino startups face, such as failing to find proper funding; and, the third and finalpost on the subject regards Latino startups that consumers and proprietors should keep their eyes on in the new year.
Startup companies come in all forms, and are generally businesses that deal in intellectual property, as opposed to material property. Successful startups tend to be more scalable than established businesses, therefore attractive to many investors; they tend to utilize internal cash flow and keep overhead costs low. In addition, they are high risk and high reward. Latino startups (Latino-owned, Latino-focused; high growth, small business) tend to face difficulties when it comes to finding funders, networking with venture capital investors, and securing high-risk capital.
The $1.3 trillion dollar U.S. Hispanic consumer market has been tapped by major corporations such as Best Buy, Yahoo, and The Home Depot, but Latino startups have still been able to capture a piece of the mounting market, despite challenges. New Futuro's Peter Wilkins found very few investors when he looked to raise venture capital earlier this year, targeting the U.S. Hispanic community, feeling that there weren't many doing the same. Capitol investors looked elsewhere, as tend they to seek vetted startups with wealthy backdrops, and they rarely seek out-of-network ventures and ideas. That, however, didn't slow down New Futuro. New Futuro continued to offer its client base -college hopefuls- educational advice, materials, events, resources and an online community in English and Spanish. Their resources reach millions of Hispanics annually.
HolaDoctor, Xoom, Progreso Financiero, New Futuro and Consorte Media lead the Latino market startup brigade, becoming some of the few startups to build teams, raise funds, and capitalize in the Latino market. Latino startups with a focus on financial services, education, and immigration usually lead in this sphere, financial services being the most active sector. There are a number growing startups that are Latino-owned and/or focused, that have will be of great assistance to Latino families:
Edrizio de la Cruz, Wharton MBA and Echoing Green Fellow, heads Regalii, which is a startup that allows for families to spend remittances in any way that they deem necessary. Bucks Bill Pay is an enterprise which allows customers to pay their bills in cash at designated stations, use for those who don't have checking accounts or credit. And, a product that motivates Latinos to be more fiscally responsible and will help them track their own expenditures via SMS, Juntos Finanzas, is product that was born at Stanford University.
Education-focused startups are on the rise as education becomes increasingly important in Latino American homes. 500 Mexico City, the Mexico City extension of 500 Startups funds YogoMe, an educational application that will soon branch into language learning. This business draws in resources from both sides of the border in order to ensure its success. Last month, 500 Mexico City selected its latest batch of startups to support, 17 were chosen. Plaza Familia is a bilingual math and language skill tutoring site that's aimed at assisting educators and parents. The comprehensive education site was founded by social media veteran Ana Roca Casto. Another education startup is Sleek-geek, which developed three tablet apps for teachers.
LexSpot, a startup that functions in the realms of immigration services, offering price quotes from immigration attorneys, rose $750,000 since its inception. The venture also collects client data and compiles relevant documents so that lawyers spend less time handling paperwork. YaSabe is bilingual, local search engine, which is another 500 Startup company. AssuredLabor is a $5.5 million company that's based in New York, and has outlets in Brazil and Mexico.
National Latino organizations engaged in voter education and registration efforts today reported how the 113th Congress—including every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate—has dealt with the issue of immigration so far. The mid-term report card gives a “green checkmark” to the U.S. Senate for passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation earlier this year. However, the House of Representatives receives only an “I” for incomplete because it has not acted on reform except for a spending vote to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which would result in the deportation of all DREAMers. Therefore, the only vote allowed on the House floor to date was one to kill an overwhelmingly popular initiative among Latino and many other voters.
The mid-term report puts Congress on notice that these organizations will be “scoring” all upcoming votes related to immigration in 2014 and providing this information to the Hispanic community. In the meantime, the groups are delivering a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, signed by over 200 Latino organizations, urging action on immigration reform. They will also distribute pledge cards to individual members of the House asking them to commit to advancing reform.
The organizations include the Hispanic Federation, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Voto Latino. Each of these organizations is active in civic engagement campaigns that include citizenship drives, voter registration and mobilization and immigration advocacy. There were 1.5 million more Latino voters in 2012 than in 2008, compared with a decrease of two million voters among non-Hispanic Whites during this time. The Latino electorate will continue growing at a fast pace, with an average of 880,000 Latino citizens turning 18 every year for the next 15 years.
“Today’s progress report essentially means we are calling in the House leadership for a parent-teacher conference. The ‘caution mark’ means the House still has time to redeem itself on immigration, but needs to turn around their performance and show immediate progress in order for individual House members to make the grade with Latino voters and with the nation,” said Bertha Alisia Guerrero, Director of National Advocacy, Hispanic Federation. “In the short run, individual members can improve their standing by co-sponsoring H.R. 15 or signing a pledge stating their support for reform and publicly committing to move it forward, but the final grade will be based on whether reform is achieved.”
“How Congress handles immigration during the next dozen months will go a long way toward determining national politics for the next dozen years,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, Director of Civic Engagement and Immigration, NCLR. “Every serious political and media observer saw that the Hispanic vote and immigration were decisive, game-changing factors in the 2012 national election outcome. So far, only one chamber has reacted to the new electoral reality and taken action to fix our immigration system in a bipartisan and politically popular manner. Today’s progress report reminds Congress that we are monitoring their actions, or lack thereof, and will issue a formal evaluation of how they address one of the greatest concerns in our community.”
“The Latino community’s commitment to immigration reform has only grown stronger since the 2012 election. Last week, Cristian Avila, a Mi Familia Vota team member from Arizona and a DREAMer, ended 22 days of fasting—as others stepped in—to put a human face on the immorality of the current immigration system and Congress’s inaction. During 2013, our groups have continued building the Latino electorate through citizenship workshops, voter registration, education and mobilization campaigns. We have rallied, marched and pressed members of Congress for reform. We will grow even stronger next year, and if members do not want F’s on their report cards that we deliver to the community, they need to deliver quickly and responsibly on comprehensive immigration reform," said Ben Monterroso, Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.
“Latino voters accounted for 8.4 percent of all voters in the 2012 election, making a decisive impact in the race for the White House and other state and municipal contests,” said Max Sevillia, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, NALEO Educational Fund. “In the lead-up to Election Day, the Latino community’s political influence will continue to grow, with the eligible Latino electorate set to reach 25.2 million. Immigration is a deeply personal issue for Latino voters, and our growing electorate will be closely monitoring legislative movement on this issue in Congress in the coming months.”
“For Latinos, immigration is personal,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, President and CEO of Voto Latino. “We work with Latino millennials, who are fueling the accelerated growth of our community’s electorate with an average of 880,000 young Latinos turning 18 every year and know that the choices Congress makes today have a powerful effect on shaping these new and future voters’ political map. These young voters are engaged and are seeing their family and friends suffer the consequences of inaction, even though the votes exist to end our nation’s immigration crisis. How Congress handles the immigration issue now will have a huge impact on political elections for years to come.”
“Immigration reform is clearly a morally and politically defining issue for Latinos, but the benefits go way beyond politics,” said Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of LULAC. “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated immigration reform would reduce the deficit by $200 billion and increase GDP by $700 billion in the first decade, while inaction is depriving the nation of these economic benefits. As Congress continues budget negotiations the politicians must understand how immediate action on immigration reform can help build our economy and create jobs.”
“It is time to act,” said Hector Sanchez, Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “We know the votes exist in the House to get this done, and the time for obstruction is over. There is no way to avoid this issue because labor, faith and community groups are united, and we and our allies across the political spectrum are bringing the voice and action of our communities and constituents to the doorstep of Congress. Nobody is off the hook and even with a bill passed in the Senate, nobody is unfurling a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner for any party or politician. The damage caused by our broken immigration system is too high—every single day—to keep wasting time on the road to reform.”
“I support immigration reform that includes a clear road map to earned citizenship for hardworking, tax-paying immigrants; keeps families together; promotes the full integration of newcomers into American society; and creates an internal and border law enforcement regimen that focuses on preventing criminals, drug cartels and other bad actors from entering the U.S. or engaging in criminal activities. I also call on House leadership to schedule a vote on immigration reform.”
In addition to acting (and occasionally riling the nerves of Republican politicians), Eva Longoria is busy financing academic studies as well these days. A study recently released by UCLA on the academic effects which can serve as markers for success among young Latinas was funded by the Eva Longoria Foundation.
"Making Education Work for Latinas in the US" looks at various factors that contribute to the success of Latinas as they make their way through the educational system. The report was authored by Patricia Gandara and presented by UCLA's "Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles," which was founded in 1996.
Longoria, who is known for getting involved in civic causes, saw the study as an opportunity to identify factors to success for young Hispanic women, so that perhaps the positive effects could be replicated for others.
"We were frustrated to primarily find analysis of what does not work for Latinas, and we wanted to find out what does," Longoria said to the UCLA Newsroom. "The findings from this study will help us fine-tune our education work, and we hope others will use this research to support Latina achievement."
Gandara said that the report was focused on female students because "although they perform somewhat better than Latinos academically (females now perform better across all ethnic groups), Latinas are faring much more poorly than their white and Asian counterparts and their progress has been extremely slow."
Two primary factors that stood out from the study were the effects of extracurricular activities and the presence of Latino/Latina role models during the educational experience. The high performing participants in the case studies all had access to both during their high school years.
"Although we had noted how extracurricular activities showed up as important both in the prior literature as well as in our data analyses, we were nonetheless surprised by just how important these activities had been for the young women we interviewed," the study noted. "Virtually all had participated in sports and/or other significant activities such as music. It was interesting as well to hear about the various ways that these activities had supported their academic performance."
Having role models that mirrored themselves was also important to the successful students interviewed for the study.
"Our data analyses showed that having a Latina/o teacher increased Latina students' chances of going on to college," the report reads. "We could not say if it also increased their chances of completing high school, but all of the young women we interviewed had a great deal to say about the Latino/a teachers and counselors they had."
While having a Latino or Latina teacher and/or counselor available to them might provide an extra incentive to students, the study also noted that there might be an extra reason that students in that academic dynamic do well.
"Some research has shown that minority teachers may be more likely to identify talents in students from their own racial or ethnic group and to recommend them for GATE programs than teachers from the majority group," the study said.
Also found to be an advantage for Latinas was cross-cultural exposure. Many students said that being around white kids, and more highly advantaged students was key to picking up information, skills or habits that led to making college more accessible to them.
The study found that being bilingual was also an indicator of success, and one advantage that Latinas in particular will be able to exploit.
Obstacles that are regularly faced include economic disadvantage, early pregnancy and undocumented status, though all of these obstacles had been overcome by participants in the group study.
In summation, Gandara sees the improvement of academic and life opportunities for young Hispanic women as a key to overall success in the US.
"Latinas are the linchpin of the next generation - how a child fares in school is highly correlated with their mother's education," Gandara said to the UCLA Newsroom. "If the cycle of under-education is to be broken for the Latino population, it will depend to a large extent on changing the fortunes of young women."