Delmarva Strikes Again, Will You Strike Back?

Energy Prices In Delaware: What You Need To Know, And What You Can Do

 

http://www.usfunds.com/

We struggle to get companies to come to Delaware, and we struggle even more to get companies to stay in Delaware. Repeatedly, the State has bent over backwards and handed over limited taxpayer dollars just to “stay competitive” with neighboring states. For this and other reasons, Delawareans cannot afford yet another rate hike by Delmarva Power, a highly profitable company. In 2015, Pepco Holdings, Delmarva Power’s parent company, made $1.74 billion dollars in profit (1). Now, to recoup normal business expenses and avoid dipping into their massive profits, Delmarva Power wants to raise utility bills an average of $120 per year for most consumers, according to Delaware Online (2). This is simply unacceptable.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BloomEnergy

This would be yet another rate hike from Delmarva Power, impacting struggling Delaware families and individuals. Delmarva Power increased electricity bills in 2014 as well (3). Further, taxpayers already will be paying for the failed job creator Bloom Energy through 2033, although the promised jobs intended to be created by this surcharge never panned out (4).

http://www.baltimoresun.com/

We cannot allow Delmarva Power to increase prices simply to cover the cost of regular maintenance. Companies make profits to cover operational costs. These rate hikes hurt Delawareans struggling the most, including seniors on a fixed income and low-income individuals and families. Additionally, these hikes actually impede our ability to create jobs. One of the factors employers use to determine where they will locate their businesses is the cost of utilities, since they contribute to overhead expenses. Furthermore, our small businesses and startups already struggle to maintain their current level of employment in the face of high healthcare and utilities costs. Another Delmarva Power rate hike represents one more strike against doing business in the First State–fewer opportunities for workers to earn a decent living, more roadblocks to increasing wages.

Additionally, on a State level, we need to invest in renewable energy to help ensure more affordable and sustainable utility rates.

http://artct.org/

European Union countries that have transitioned to relying more heavily on renewable energy have recorded more consistently affordable utility rates, even when oil prices increase (5). If we want to create jobs, help preserve our planet and our State, and ensure that people can afford to pay their bills, then we need to become serious about transitioning to renewable energy.

Please tell our legislators that these rate hikes should not be allowed to continue. There are three opportunities for public comment on these rate hikes, and we encourage everyone to attend at least one meeting. See below for details. As additional information becomes available, we will continue to post on this thread.

Monday              6:00pm (Electric Public Comment Session)

October 23, 2017           Gilliam Building

                                       Multipurpose Room

                                       77 Reads Way, New Castle, DE 19720

                            8:00pm (Gas Public Comment Session)

Tuesday              6:00pm Delaware Public Service Commission

October 24, 2017           861 Silver Lake Blvd. Dover, DE 19904        

Wednesday         6:00pm Indian River Senior Center

October 25, 2017           214 Irons Ave. Millsboro, DE 19966

 

Finally, to help transition to clean energy and possibly save ourselves some money, we can all consider changing our energy supplier–different than our utility company, which is always Delmarva Power–to a renewable energy supplier. Watch this video to learn how:

 

Sources:

1 https://amigobulls.com/stocks/POM/income-statement/annual

2http://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2017/08/31/delmarva-power-seeks-rate-hikes-gas-electric-bills/620841001/

3http://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2014/04/03/delmarva-power-gets-million-rate-case/7253837/#_=_

4http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2016/10/29/blooms-sweetheart-deal-del-keeps-givin/92667946/

5 Krozer, Y. (2013). Cost and benefit of renewable energy in the European Union. Renewable Energy: An International Journal, 5068-73. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2012.06.014

 

Medicaid For All? A Statewide Medicaid Buy-in Option

Introduction:

As we begin discussions about reducing the skyrocketing costs of our state’s Medicaid program, surely we will review options like tort reform, whether our state should continue to participate in Medicaid expansion, along with many other related issues. However, one thing we must consider is a Medicaid Buy-In program, or MBI. Other states have had Medicaid expansions in the past, via the federal 1115 Medicaid waivers, to include people who otherwise would be ineligible for the program. But thus far, only Nevada has tried to start an MBI program such as we are suggesting. This is a brief overview of our three-part series through which we examine the possibility of an MBI program.

Already on board with an MBI program in Delaware? Great! Sign our petition to show our governor, legislators, and insurance commissioner that you will fight for a public option in Delaware!


What Ails Us?

Picture From: http://navigatingchronicillness.com

Our healthcare system is failing. No American would argue the contrary. However, exactly why our system is failing is still a topic of debate. Certainly, the ACA did not solve the problems of our nation’s healthcare system. Primarily, the fact that it is a privately-run system devised around making profit. When a huge surge of policyholders came in from subsidies and an individual mandate, the industry corrected itself by raising prices. Then, as the influx of policies built, the number of participating companies dropped. From mega-mergers to companies’ being pulled out of the marketplace entirely, the supply of policies circled the drain in the years following ACA implementation. This lack of competition had a direct effect upon the price of Delaware’s policies. In a supply and demand system, if supply decreases and demand increases prices soar. (To read more about this, please see Part 1 of our MBI Series.) So if the private marketplace failed to such a degree, what would an MBI program look like? 

Let’s end the monopoly! Sign our petition today!


What Would A Medicaid Buy-In Program Like

As previously stated, so far, only Nevada has decided to consider an MBI program. If created, it could resemble the full Medicaid program, or be a mix of various aspects from Medicaid and private insurance. The largest determinant of what the program will look like is consumer cost. If an MBI program were started in Delaware today, it would carry quite a price tag—around $650 per month. However, this would include no deductibles or co-pays, and $3 pharmaceutical costs. Although, if the federal government commits to funding the MBI, as they fund traditional Medicaid, the cost would drop to about $240 per month. (Numbers based on information from https://ballotpedia.org/Medicaid_spending_in_Delaware and Delaware.gov)  Unfortunately, federal MBI funding is very unlikely, considering the current administration.

From: http://garnetnews.com/

Instead, to reduce costs, we have several options. First, we could include some characteristics of private insurance, but to a less significant degree—including lower deductibles, small co-payments, or slightly narrower coverage for certain services. Second, we could implement a progressive pricing system, through which your income determines your program costs. Such a pricing system could be achieved by allowing individuals in lower income brackets to use the government subsidies currently provided for private policies, for the MBI program instead. However, all of this boils down to whether or not the federal government will contribute toward the costs of an MBI program. If so, and we see a surge in policyholders buying into the program, costs spread around the risk pool and premiums drop. (To read more about what the program could look like, please see Part 2 of our MBI Series.)

Sound good? First step is to show the momentum to our representatives. That’s why we need you to sign our petition so we can hand deliver it to show that Delaware wants a public option, and that we cannot wait for the federal government to act!


What could be the possible benefits, and downfalls of a Medicaid Buy-In Program?

To examine the benefits of an MBI program, we can look at what our current system costs us—including economic implications in the job market; taxpayer costs to fund the current Medicaid program; the strain on state economies to cover the uncovered; and the lack of coverage options for consumers. An MBI program in Delaware would help save on all these costs.

From: http://www.ncsl.org/

In today’s employment marketplace, jobseekers flock to industries and companies offering healthcare as part of their benefit packages. Companies not offering healthcare are at a significant disadvantage. If there were an affordable option outside of employer-based healthcare systems, smaller businesses could more easily attract quality workers, even allowing them more room in wage negotiations. Furthermore, if employees received incentives to join the MBI program, such as employer-backed Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), enrollment numbers could jump even further.

From: http://www.healthcareplainandsimple.com/

       

Admittedly, sufficient enrollees is key to the success of any MBI program, distributing program costs across many enrollees must happen to remain solvent. Currently, Medicaid consumes about 20% of the Delaware budget, while healthcare in total constitutes about 30%. A successful MBI program must offset some of these costs. If implemented properly, by opening it up to younger and healthier people first, it would do just that. It’s worth noting that one of the biggest demographic coverage gaps between Medicaid expansion and the private insurance marketplace is, in fact, young adults over the age of 26.

Adding an MBI program would create a valuable alternative to the current monopoly found in the Delaware healthcare exchange. No more surefire way exists to guarantee exorbitant prices, than to place the full product demand on one privately-run company. By adding an MBI program, we ensure that Delawareans always have at least two choices. Republicans state that we cannot eliminate consumers’ choices, and they may be correct. Yet, when we talk about choosing healthcare, they often leave out the choice of a public option. Citizens who want the government to run their healthcare, at no expense to those who choose private insurance, should have that option.

What are the possible challenges of implementing a Delaware MBI program? We could see high initial costs as the government strives to correct for the number of program applicants. But, as previously stated, if we open the program to young and healthy people first, we mitigate some of those costs. Probably the biggest issue implementing an MBI program is the uncertainty surrounding federal funding. There is a risk that if we set up an MBI in program in Delaware, the federal government could revoke the waiver and shut down the program. Also, without any federal funding commitment, prices are difficult to gauge. (To read more about the possible benefits and challenges of implementing an MBI program, please see Part 3 of our MBI Series.

Delaware deserves the choice, please sign and share our petition today on Facebook, Twitter, and with your friends and family!


In Summation:

Soon, we have to decide if healthcare is a human right or a privilege. If we declare healthcare a human right, we must ensure coverage for everyone at an affordable rate, for both the consumer and the insurers. That will, of course, necessitate significant changes to our current system. One of those changes must be creating the option of buying into a public plan. Many Republicans state that a universal healthcare system eliminates consumer choice. So let’s expand consumer choices, and allow consumers the alternative of buying into a public option. If the federal government won’t step up to the plate, let the states do it. An MBI program is one obvious solution to rising Medicaid costs in Delaware, the large consumer insurance gap, and breaking up our state’s healthcare monopoly.

If you want to get involved in pushing for a Medicaid Buy-In program for Delaware, please attend the September 7th DHSS meeting and sign our petition to look into an MBI program for Delaware: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/please-support-a-medicaid-buy-in-program-for-delaware?source=direct_link

For More information about the meeting please visit: http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhcc/files/benchmarksummitfirst.pdf.

A Statewide Medicaid Buy-in Option, Part 3: The Benefits and Possible Downfalls

 


What could be the possible benefits, and downfalls of a Medicaid Buy-In Program?

       To look at the benefits of a Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) Program, first we have to examine the costs of private insurance for the state. Chief amongst these costs are: The economic implications in the job market due to the reliance on employer-based healthcare; the cost to the taxpayers to fund the current Medicaid program; the strain on the state economy to cover those left outside the realm of available subsidies; and the lack of coverage options for consumers. Each of these issues are areas we could find benefit, if we successfully implement an MBI program in Delaware. However, there are also areas where the MBI program could be construed in a negative light. Primarily, there could be a high initial cost as the system adjusts to the influx of new policies, the program could have issues in implementation, and the federal government could decide to step in and get involved.

From: http://www.ncsl.org/

       Currently, we are in the process of discussing ways that we can help foster economic growth in our state. One of the ways in which we can do that is to make it easier for businesses to start up, employ workers, and remain competitive in the employment marketplace. Healthcare ties into all of those areas. In today’s employment marketplace, job seekers are flocking to industries and companies that can offer a benefit package that includes health care. To the point that companies who do not offer healthcare benefits are at a significant disadvantage. If there were an affordable option for people, outside of the employer based health care system, then smaller businesses could have a better chance attracting the best workers. This would also give them more room to negotiate wages. Many people forget the fact that even though you only pay out $50-$75 a paycheck for healthcare, insurance companies are still charging the full premium. Your employer picks up the rest of the bill each month. Benefit packages are one of the more costly aspects of being an employer, and is a large contributor of stagnant wages in the US. Furthermore, if employers offer an incentive to join the MBI program, such as an employer backed Health Savings Account to cover the cost of your deductible, we could see the enrollment numbers jump significantly.

        The number of enrollees is key to the success of the program. Distributing the costs of the program across many enrollees is crucial for the program to remain solvent. If only a few people sign up for the program, and they happen to be predominantly unhealthy or elderly, then the cost will outweigh the revenue generated. One of the largest benefits for this program is the revenue it can generate for the state. The current cost of the Medicaid program is a huge portion of our state budget, around 20%. Healthcare in total is even higher. In order for an MBI program to succeed it actually has to offset some of the costs for our current program. If we implement the program correctly, it is highly likely that this will happen.

From: http://www.healthcareplainandsimple.com/

        Current debate over the possibility of a public option centers around the idea of implementing it by expanding programs for the elderly population first. However, that will never work in Delaware. One reason our healthcare costs are already so high is due to our higher elderly population. In order to spread the costs across the program, we have to bring in the younger generation who tend to rely less on their insurance policies. Additionally, with a greater number of enrollees the MBI the state will have the ability to negotiate prices and leverage a large pool of policyholders to make sure that their clients are being treated by all service providers. In order to do that though, the costs have to be low enough to attract consumers.

        One of the biggest demographics of the coverage gap between the Medicaid expansion and the private insurance marketplace is young adults over the age of 26. This demographic was able to stay on their parent’s policies thanks to the ACA, and most have never paid for insurance. In fact, the demographic who saw the largest gain under the ACA where the young adults who were able to stay on their parent’s policies. However, after the age of 26, the uninsured rate jumps to the highest of any demographic. Unfortunately, this demographic likely doesn’t see the benefit of paying for a product which they do not use, especially when the fine is usually cheaper. Closing this coverage gap first and foremost is actually one of the ways we can ensure the solvency of an MBI program. By bringing in this younger, healthier demographic we can spread out the costs.

From: http://www.adaaction.org/

       Finally, adding the ability to gain access to an MBI program would create a valuable alternative to the current monopoly found in the Delaware health care exchange. As of 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield is the last remaining insurer on the Delaware Health Care Exchange. That means that all the demand flowing into the exchange is being met by only one supplier. There is no more surefire way to cause prices to skyrocket than to place the full demand of a product on one privately ran company to supply. By adding an MBI program, Delaware will always have at least two companies to choose from. Republicans state that we cannot eliminate choices for the consumer, and they are right. But, when we talk about being able to choose our health care provider, we often leave out the choice of a public option. If citizens desire the ability to choose that the government run their healthcare, at no expense to those who choose private insurance, why should anything stand in the way of that.


        So, what are the possible downfalls of an MBI program being set up in Delaware? Again, without the system already taking hold in another state, it is pure speculation as to what could go wrong. However, theories have been floating around about a national public option for years, and the consequences remain just as probable for a state-run program as they do for a national program. One of the main problems could be the high initial costs as the government strives to correct for the incoming number of people applying for the program. With an increased number of policyholders coming into the system, more administrators will be needed to handle the volume of claims and applications. This will create an immediate need for expansion of current operations in the state, and that means more money. That is why it is so important that the program be implemented correctly. If we do as many have suggested, and open the program in reverse order by age (the elderly generation first), the costs will be compounded by an influx of people who routinely use their insurance policies. If however, we open the program in ascending order by age (younger generation first), then we will introduce a demographic that ordinarily does not take advantage of their insurance, but is eager for a public system. Thus, we can mitigate some of the initial costs that theorists have subscribed to starting such a program.

         Lastly,  the biggest problem with the implementation of an MBI program is the uncertainty surrounding the commitment from the federal government. If we set up an MBI program in Delaware, and the federal government decides that they do not approve, they could revoke the waiver away and shut down the program. Moreover, without any commitment as to whether they will cover their portion of the costs for MBI policy holders, it is hard to dictate what the prices will be. Surely, as other states look towards this option, the government will feel increasing pressure to make their position clear. Until then, we have to assume that they will not chip in their portion, and set the price at the full amount. In the worse-case scenario, they do end up putting up their normal amount of funding, and the state gets to use the surplus to help bring down the cost of the program.


From: http://www.visualistan.com/

 

      The time is coming where we have to make a choice: Is healthcare a human right, or is it a privilege. If we decide it is a human right, then we must make it so everyone is covered at an affordable rate, for both the consumer and the insurers. Will that include multiple changes in our current system? Absolutely. However, one of those changes has to be the creation of at least the option of buying into a public plan. Many on the far-right state that a universal system eliminates choice, but what happened to the consumer being able to choose to buy into a state-run program? If we have to keep the freedom of choice, then the choices need to include a public option, and if the federal government is not willing to step up to that plate, then they should allow the states to do so. A Medicaid Buy-In program is the obvious solution to our rising Medicaid costs in Delaware, closing the large insurance gap for consumers, and breaking up the monopoly on health care in our state.

If you want to get involved in pushing for a Medicaid Buy-In program for Delaware, please attend the September 7th DHSS meeting and sign our petition to look into an MBI program for Delaware.

 

For More information about the meeting please visit: http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhcc/files/benchmarksummitfirst.pdf.

 

A Statewide Medicaid Buy-in Option, Part 2: What Would It Look Like?


What would a Medicaid-For-All Program Look Like in Delaware?

 

From: www.reviewjournal.com

As we stated in Part One, one other state has started pushing towards a Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) Program, Nevada. However, in Nevada, they are merely in the, “can we agree that this should happen” stage. As such, they have not decided on exactly what the plan would look like. They have only decided on two things. One, it would be ran by the same division of the state government that currently administers the Medicaid program; and two, that those who were granted subsidies under the ACA could use said subsidies as a means to offset some of the costs of joining the MBI program. This will allow an initial boost in people interested in joining the new program, while simultaneously putting most of the weight of paying for it on the back of the federal government. It’s possible that the MBI program in Nevada would be mostly identical to the standard Medicaid program. However, representatives have already stated that they are open to looking at alternative plans. For more information on the Nevada plan, please follow this link. Delaware could take the same route and open it up to negotiations, but first we need the task force to decide that this is an avenue worth pursuing. But for now, let’s speculate on what a Medicaid Public Option would look like.

From: http://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/

The largest determinant of what the MBI program would look like, specifically in terms of co-payments, deductibles, services and coverages is what the cost for the consumer has to be to attract enough people. If the program was started today, the premium would likely be the full cost of the average Medicaid policy holder for both the state and federal government. This is due to the fact that the federal government, particularly with the Trump administration, will unlikely cover any additional costs for the state. As it stands right now, they are threatening to actually pull billions of dollars out of the federal portion of the health care funding for Medicaid being offered to the state. It must be noted that some of that was already set into place when the original ACA was enacted–more on that here. The full cost of Medicaid per enrollee per month is around $656. A rather high premium by most accounts. However, it’s important to take in the benefits that come along with this premium. There is zero deductible, zero co-payments for services, and no more than a $5 charge for most medications, some of which are actually free of charge. A policy of that magnitude in the private market would be far over the cost of Medicaid. However, that does not negate the fact that, even with subsidies for lower income individuals over the Medicaid cut-off, this is a price that is far too high. Now, if we find a way to retain the federal government’s portion on the MBI program, the premium would only be around $248. That’s for full benefits as described above! But that is not likely to happen.

       In order to bring down this cost to what could be competitive with the private marketplace, several aspects of traditional private insurance would have to be explored. Namely deductibles, co-payments, and coverages. All the things that we have come to hate about traditional insurance. However, the reason that most people hate these out-of-pocket costs is due to the fact that they are unreasonably high, and often unachievable barring some catastrophic incident. Even after they have been reached, they still have to pay the extremely high co-payments. In the case of the MBI program, if we can bring down the cost by including a low deductible, and then add in a small co-payment for all drugs and services–just for MBI plans–you have effectively bring down the overall cost and the premiums. However, that is not the only option for bringing down the costs. One other option to explore could be a progressive pricing system. In this type of scenario, if you opt-in to the MBI program, premiums would be based off of your AGI and would come out of your paycheck pre-tax.  Finally, the last way to bring down costs is to change the services covered under the plan. Currently, under the state Medicaid plan, most services are covered at 100%. This is due to the economic status of those on Medicaid. However, for the MBI program, there are several alternatives to 100% coverage for all services, and private insurance uses these alternatives to offer a variety of premium options.

It is vital to note that this is not a government mandated single-payer program, it is a public option run by the state. No one is having additional taxes levied except the people buying into the program.

From: www.lynda.com

The next question would be one of the most important, and unfortunately there is no way to answer it definitively at this time. Will the federal government pick up any portion of the tab for this state-run MBI program? The likely answer is no. However, the answer to this question would in effect change everything as it relates to costs to the consumer. If the federal government decides to maintain their commitment to the program in full, even for the MBI policyholders, the costs of the program would drop. Now, this may sound like a good thing, but remember that those are your tax dollars as well. The upside is that the Medicaid program is not a private for-profit program, so the government has no incentive to raise prices as you do in a supply and demand driven, private corporation. However, it is still going to take federal tax dollars to contribute if the federal government elects to do so.

In summation, the prospects over what exactly a MBI program would look like in Delaware is anyone’s guess. It could be a costly version of the current Medicaid system that thousands use every day, with great satisfaction ratings. Or, it could be a low cost version of a traditional insurance plan, with the added benefit that you are contributing to your state, instead of a CEO or investors deep pockets. Regardless of what it resembles, however, it truly could be the answer to many of the problems that plague our state’s health care situation. To find out exactly what the benefits, and even some of the downfalls could be if we implemented a MBI program in Delaware, read part three of this series.

Sign our petition to look into an MBI program for Delaware.

A Statewide Medicaid Buy-in Option, Part 1: What Ails Us?


What’s Wrong With Our System

 

Photo From: https://healthquoteinfo.com/5-state-single-payer-medicaid-buy/

     Our healthcare system is failing and there is not a single person in America who would argue the contrary. However, exactly why our system is failing is still a topic of debate. Some have concluded that it is due to greed. While others have decided that it’s all Obama’s fault and a direct result of the ACA. Bad news is, they are both partially right; except that it actually wasn’t Obama, but rather the insurance lobbyists involved in writing the ACA. The ACA did not solve the underlying problem in our nation’s healthcare system: It’s a private system devised around making a profit. Anytime profits and stakeholders are involved, the main goal of that industry is to make more money. As such, anything that cuts into that profit–say spending it on covering sick people’s medical bills–goes against your business model and you have to charge more to recoup those losses.

    Past that, it’s simply economics. The ACA mandated that all individuals hold some basic level of health care in an effort to lower costs that result from uninsured patients placing a strain on the system, and to get more young people into the market. This would bring down costs by spreading them out over a greater number of policyholders. Additionally, the program brought in even more patients through a massive subsidy program for those not covered in the Medicaid expansion. These people were predominately lower income, who tend to have higher medical bills directly in proportion to their socioeconomic status. As more people joined the

Part of the website for HealthCare.gov as photographed in Washington. (Jon Elswick/AP)

marketplace with subsidized care and the demand for policies increased, supply actually decreased. The industry shrank both from mergers, and from insurance companies being pulled out of the market for sub-par coverage that didn’t meet the ACA standards of care. The ones that were left had a sudden surge in clients, and as such had to up the price of coverage to make it worth it to them to expand operations to meet that new level of demand; again, because it’s a private industry. That is one of the tenets of supply and demand. So, even though the subsidies were meant to help low-income people access the marketplace, it’s still a private industry which has to make a certain level of profit to stay solvent and appealing to investors, so they raised prices to maintain that level.

     Many people believe that all there is today is for-profit health care, however that is not the case. An important distinction to note about for-profit vs not-for-profit health care is that both of them actually can make a profit. However, in the for-profit model most of the excess money—called “profit” in this model— usually goes to the shareholders in the form of dividends or bonuses, and only some of it is reinvested into the company to help bring down costs or create a better product. In a not-for-profit health care system, almost all of the excess—called “surplus” in this model—is reinvested back into the company to create a better product, or to lower costs. However, not-for-profits can operate on a surplus, and most of them do. Some view that as profit, but the biggest difference is who makes the money; shareholders and investors, or those working within the business and the policyholders (in the form of a better product). However, in both cases these companies are private industries with the model of making money, no matter what you call the excess.

     One of the biggest problems plaguing the Delaware health insurance marketplace is the lack of competition, as is the case in many industries within Delaware. Due to the fact that insurance companies are not set up to sell policies across state lines, and because many are leaving the marketplace or merging together, the supply of insurance policies shrank. In larger states, this could be mitigated to some degree because of another aspect of insurance called the risk pool. The risk pool is a representation of the quantity and quality of the policy holders in an area. Two of the most important qualities are its size, and its risk-factor rating. In Delaware, we have a small risk pool, meaning a low number of policyholders compared to other states. We also have a high-risk rating, meaning we have a lot of people at risk of producing claims. For comparison, let’s look at another state like Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the average health care policy is priced far lower than the same policy being sold here in Delaware. That is partially due to the fact that they have a much larger population which allows them to spread out the cost. Or, in other words, they have a larger risk pool. Our risk pool is predominantly elderly people and low-income families, both of whom tend to cost more to insure. Combine that with not having enough people to spread the costs out, and up goes the prices.

Picture From: http://navigatingchronicillness.com

     All of these issues have come together to create a situation that has crippled the Delaware health care exchange, and left little in the way of options for most Delawareans. At this point, you either pay the skyrocketing costs of private insurance, or pay the fine at the end of the year. While our state did take advantage of the Medicaid expansion to offer coverage to more lower-to-middle income families, we also inadvertently set our spending on a path to increase exponentially as the federal government pulls its funding. This leaves us with a vital problem to solve: How can we bring down the rising costs of our Medicaid program, without kicking people off or chopping services, while simultaneously offering insurance to more people who are left in the Medicaid-Private Insurance gap?

Read about more about the Medicaid Buy-In Program in Part 2 Here.

 

Sign our petition to look into an MBI program for Delaware.

Say No to Drilling and Yes to Renewable Energy

Say No to Drilling and Yes to Renewable Energy

 

Governor Carney signs House Bill 190 to modernize the Coastal Zone Act.

Needless to say, this is going to be a touchy subject to those environmental groups that opposed HB 190. Just two days ago now, Governor John Carney made a statement that he will refuse any proposal to drill off for oil off the coast of Delaware. A quote from Delaware Public Media states, “Carney said he’s worried about the potential impact that drilling and seismic surveys in the Atlantic could have on Delaware. He noted the state relies on its coastal areas for nearly $7 billion in economic activity and more than 60,000 jobs.” (See the full statement and a link to the letter at the end of this post.) Now, many people have already noted that it has only been a few weeks since Governor Carney signed into law HB 190, otherwise coined the “Coastal Zone Modernization Act.” They have said that if the Governor is so worried about the coastal zone, that he should not have campaigned on, pushed for, and signed this law. However, they agree that drilling off the coast, exploratory or not, is unacceptable.

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana.

Exploratory drilling can be just as disruptive as full-scale drilling regard its impact on wildlife. We all know what happened with the BP exploratory drilling with the DeepWater Horizon in the Gulf Coast. Drilling for oil, no matter the level, location, or goal, is dangerous and has inherent risks. Governor Carney was absolutely justified in standing up and saying that this will not be tolerated on our coast. But what about the coasts around us? Will other states along the Eastern Shore also stand up and declare that our planet and our health is just not worth the risks? Further, what can we do to transition away from these fossil fuels and how can that transition benefit us right here in Delaware?

 

(Photo from Siemens AG)

Delaware is a prime location for that transition to benefit its citizens. Since we have so much coastline, we are a prime spot for several alternative energy industries, all of which will produce employment opportunities. Several years ago, Delaware was poised to be one of the major East Coast producers of energy from offshore wind. Sadly, it didn’t happen, due to survey issues and a stall on the project from a fall in finances needed to complete the project. Just recently, however, two companies have bought out the lease to the area previously claimed by Bluewater off the coast of Delaware, and plan to start building wind turbines relatively soon. There is still communication taking place between legislators and state officials and the companies in question, as to which state will benefit the most. Delaware will certainly not benefit as much in this deal as it would have with Bluewater’s original deal. However, if we start exploratory drilling off the coast, this could disrupt the safety of these types of deals in the future, and further place our area in the grips of the fossil fuel industry.

source: energizedelaware.org

Another way in which our state could benefit is from advancements in solar technology. We have acres of unused land that could be dedicated to solar farms, and thousands of dollars in untapped resources via federal and state grants to expand the use of solar panels on established businesses. The solar industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in today’s economy, and Delaware “missing out” on hundreds–maybe thousands–of jobs in the solar field which are going to MD & NJ. Mostly due to the fact that their policies better support and incentivize solar production, implementation and competition when compared to ours. If we give subsidies and grants to any industry, it should be one that is an industry of the future and that will benefit as many citizens of our state as possible, not big corporations already taking in record profits. Giving grants and tax breaks to alternative/renewable energy companies (real ones, not Bloom Energy) would benefit all Delawareans by creating jobs, expanding our Renewable Energy Portfolio, and improving our local and global environment. Governor Carney should go one step further than stating that he will not support offshore drilling projects. He should push the state further in divesting in fossil fuel subsidizing and investments, and move that money into grants and funding for truly renewable energy projects.


Carney’s Full Statement and Letter:

I sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stating that I oppose drilling for oil and gas in federal waters…

Posted by Governor John Carney on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

 


Sources:

http://delawarepublic.org/post/gov-carney-says-delaware-opposed-offshore-drilling

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/0001/01/01/exploration-and-development-risks

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2017/05/24/delaware-loses-offshore-wind-farms-to-maryland/

Written by: Dustyn Thompson

With editing by: Eric Morrison

With input and coordination of the Delaware United Steering Committee

The Importance of Civic Engagement

The Importance of Civic Engagement

Co-authored by: Jordyn Pusey and Dustyn Thompson

 

 

Civic engagement is, by definition, working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means protecting the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes by using individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.

There are many ways to positively affect your community. One way is by simply joining your local civic association and regularly attending their meetings and social events. Communities that exhibit a strong collaboration between neighbors and maintain open lines of communication tend to have a greater response from their elected officials. This is due to the fact that they possess a sense of awareness of the problems facing their communities, are actively working on solutions and are constantly in contact with those in positions to address various concerns.  As the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. This remains true of issues regarding crime, code complaints, land use planning, park maintenance, transportation planning, and road maintenance; all of which civic associations can help address.

We all have the same hopes for our communities. Hopes like feeling safe in our homes; to know that future generations will have clean parks and open spaces to explore; that our schools can properly educate our children; that our property values will stay constant; that our tax dollars are being spent responsibly; that we are not exposed to toxic contaminants in our groundwater and soil; and that any development surrounding our neighborhoods will improve, not diminish, our quality of life. We also expect certain things from our elected officials. We expect that they are to remain accessible, that they will continually work to address our concerns, and do so with both transparency and openness, and that they continually uphold their oaths of office.

Source: DelawareFreeNews.org

Unfortunately, for many communities this is simply not the case. Their concerns are ignored. They do not have the organizational strength to advocate for their own interests. They cannot find people willing to serve them in a way that will meet their needs. In today’s political scene it is clear that not all politicians are created equally. There are far too many who tend to grandstand, and who are much more interested in their own upward mobility rather than serving their constituency. When there are no strong civic leaders present to take them to task, we all suffer from our government being all the weaker. We suffer while laws are implemented which do not reflect the will of the people, but rather the will of the special interests. Our health suffers with a lack of accountability. Our commutes get longer from deteriorating infrastructure. Crime continues to go unaddressed. In these seemingly forgotten communities many have come to expect that these are the conditions with which they must live with, but this should not and cannot continue to be the case.  

To maintaining a strong community requires constant diligence. It means sending emails, making phone calls, attending meetings, and joining a civic association board, or a civic umbrella group. It means setting up neighborhood crime watches. It means fighting the good fight over and over again, not because it is easy or politically sound, but because it is the right thing to do. We must protect our quality of life and remember the value of ground level advocacy.

It takes up time and effort and for some of us, and that sometimes comes at a personal toll. Yes, we may have less time with our families and less time to relax and just breathe. But I can assure you, it is worth it. Our communities are worth it. Our lives are worth it. Our futures are worth it.

 

*****Jordyn Pusey is the President of the Civic League for New Castle County. Their next meeting is on September 18th from 7-9pm, at the Christina Presbyterian Church and all are welcome.*****

Their website is http://www.civicleagueforncc.org/

Charter Schools Still Able To Discriminate

Governor Carney Vetoes Bill;

Steps Into The Fight To End 5-Mile Radius Preference

 

Map of all the schools in the Christina School District

The amended version of HB 85 was going to very likely lead to lawsuits, and rightfully so. The bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Kim Williams, said that originally she wanted the bill to get rid of the 5-mile preference for applicants for all charter schools. She stated that it is both a racially and economically discriminatory practice that is seen amongst most charter school enrollment processes. However, there was no path to the Governor’s desk through the State Senate Education Committee, with Senator Dave Sokola from the 8th SD vocally opposing the bill prior to the amendment, citing specifically that executing it would create issues for the Newark Charter School (NCS), which is in his district. NCS is one of the main charter schools in the state that would have been directly affected by this legislation, due to the fact that it is in the Christina School District. Christina School District is the only non-geographically contiguous district in the state. Most of it is well outside the city of Wilmington, but there is a small section of it within city limits. So, by passing the original HB85, without the amendment that caused the Governor to veto it, NCS would have had to allow kids in the city of Wilmington to receive equal consideration, geographically speaking.

 

Some opponents of the un-amended bill stated that HB 85 had costly economic implications for the charter schools, especially for NCS. But if you have followed our previous postings, then you know that these charter schools have been able to keep extra transportation money for years, when public schools could not. So, clearly, there is money in the transportation budget for charters, specifically NCS, that has not been used, and could have been used for this purpose. Other opponents of the original bill, such as Senator Sokola, state that the charters are trying to create the feeling of a neighborhood school and that eliminating the 5-mile radius provision would undo that effort. Meanwhile, supporters of the legislation state that the practice of the charter schools’ basing their enrollment on geographical location leaves many children in less affluent areas out of consideration. Furthermore, many have rebuked this amendment and stated that it is a continuation of a blatantly racist practice that keeps African-American kids from Wilmington out of a predominately white school in Newark. By eliminating the 5-mile radius preference, Representative Williams was looking to even the playing field and allow all students whose families are paying taxes that benefit the charters in their district to be able to go to those schools. Representative Williams stated that although she knows that this bill with the amendment would not officially end the 5-mile radius preference for all schools, she felt that progress for many people affected by this issue was better than simply not doing anything for anyone.

However, due to a lack of support in the Senate from both Republicans and some Democrats, there was no way to get this through to the Governor unless they attached House Amendment 1 (HA 1). HA 1 stated that no non-geographically contiguous district would be affected by HB 85. Thus, NCS would still be allowed to use the 5-mile radius as a preference when selecting from their list of applicants. A source close to this bill stated that Governor Carney was contacted in the beginning stages of this bill, and was kept abreast of the situation, including the amendment that would exclude NCS. Yet, Governor Carney chose to remain on the sidelines and silent throughout the process. The source went on to say, “We should not be playing these kinds of political games with our children.” The amendment that led to the NCS exclusion was what caused Governor Carney to veto the legislation, stating:

“At-risk students across our state, but especially in the City of Wilmington, are not getting the education that they deserve. I believe that the sponsors of HS 1 for HB 85 wanted to expand options for students and increase diversity at Delaware charter schools by eliminating the five-mile radius as an enrollment preference. These are goals that I share.

“Despite those efforts, this legislation unfairly excludes some of our most vulnerable students. It does not simply remove the five-mile radius preference. The legislation creates a new standard that uniquely limits options for at-risk students in the Christina School District portion of the City of Wilmington – many of the kids who need our help the most – and that is something I cannot support.”

If this statement is emotionally authentic, then we have every expectation that Governor Carney will be helping do the hard work to get the next piece of legislation to combat this issue through the legislature without these types of racially-charged amendments. Governor Carney has now publicly recognized that the children of Wilmington are being discriminated against, and that the 5-mile radius is not a fair yardstick to use when choosing which students are to be allowed to attend schools. After finally recognizing the problem, Governor Carney has thrown his hat into the ring and said that this matter is important to him. Now, it’s time for him to help do the work in Dover and put an end to this practice.


You can read the full bill Here

 


You can read Governor Carney’s full statement on the veto here:

Where Are DE Priorities?

Where are our priorities in Delaware?!?

 

After cutting tens of millions of dollars from education and over $7.5 million from senior citizen services (See Here For Details), we may hand out $2.2 million in corporate welfare to a very profitable corporation (Sallie Mae Giveaway). Sallie Mae does not need our money to remain solvent in Delaware, or to expand their current operations. They want the money so they do not have to cut into their profits, which are in the billions of dollars annually (Sallie Mae Profit Reports). We already have given millions of dollars to this company, and now they want even more when we can least afford it. (For some perspective, this Sallie Mae hand-out is for $2.2 million. Delaware recently killed its state prescription assistance program–on which thousands of elderly Delawareans relied for prescription cost and Medicare Part D premium payment assistance. That program cost $2.5 million per year.)

Over the years, Delaware has given billions of dollars in grants to corporations promising to create jobs here in the First State. However, plaguing these hand-outs is a lack of clawback clauses, which force corporations to return grant money if they fail to meet their obligations under the grant, like bringing a certain number of jobs to the area. Perhaps most notorious in Delaware history is the deal that the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO)–which managed and approved corporate hand-outs before Governor Carney created the Division of Small Business, Development, and Tourism–created with Fisker Automotive. Delaware gave Fisker a $21.5 million grant, with no clawback if they went belly-up or failed to create promised jobs. Taxpayers saw nothing for their $21.5 million, and even covered the company’s electric bills at over $400,000.

During recent State budget negotiations, we repeatedly called for a halt on all cuts affecting education and seniors, until there were cuts and regulations in place for the DEDO Strategic Fund used to funnel money to corporations. However, Governor Carney ignored us and created a shiny new council called the Division of Small Business, Development, and Tourism. Reportedly, this council will assume DEDO’s previous functions, with the benefit of being a public-private partnership relying on a 2:1 (public:private) ratio for funding. The State boasts that this partnership will bring a new perspective to expanding economic opportunities in Delaware. However, with this Sallie Mae deal, it seems little has changed, and although Delaware has little money for our schools and our aged, we always have money for corporate welfare.

 

Updates Contained: Our Lady of Grace Orphanage Debate Heats Up

*******UPDATE*******

Within the past 24 hours, several updates have rolled in from sources within this project. Further, with this update, we hope to make sure to give full weight to all sides of the story and each party involved. To that effect, it is important to know that the developers on which we and many in the media have focused are only one of the groups making offers on this property. There are reports that the number could be as high as three or four other groups that have previously made offers, in addition to the County-State offer. Also, many of these previous bids were reportedly higher than the appraisal of $5.95 million that County Executive Matt Meyer has quoted in interviews with media outlets. Sources involved in the project state that the previous bids from other developers have ranged anywhere from $6 million to just under $7 million. Whether or not these offers are accepted is solely up to the Sisters who own the Our Lady of Grace property. They are more than happy to sell the property to the State and have a positive impact on the community, but the offer needs to be competitive compared to the offers being made by the developers. The end goal for the Sisterhood is to obtain funding for missionary projects throughout the State, and to serve their communities as best as they can.

As we explained this morning, during the late evening hours last night, County Executive Matt Meyer sent an offer of the original appraisal value of $5.95 million. That deal would spread payments from the County and State over a few years, cementing the County’s ability to build a new park in an area with no real outdoor recreation immediately available. However, because the offer is significantly lower than previous offers from developers, it is highly unlikely that the Sisters can afford to accept it without further negotiations. It is common to enter negotiations with a lower offer and work up to an acceptable offer, but that requires flexibility from both parties. With how much is at stake, and the speed at which some of these deals can move once offers have been presented, it is imperative that the County Executive remain flexible and accommodating throughout the negotiating process. These deals can be very sensitive, and projects can be scrapped if temperatures at the negotiating table get too high.

Finally, as we said before, it is important that all sides are represented fairly. To be clear, the County Council will vote for or against this park only once an offer has been accepted by the Sisters and a proposal has been presented to them. If negotiations fall through between the County Executive and the Sisters, that failure does not reflect solely upon County Council, but upon all the parties involved and is the reality surrounding these types of negotiations. If the developers keep raising their offer, the County-State partnership could be outbid. Conversely, the developers could walk away from or backpedal on their offer, and the County-State partnership could secure an even better deal. Right now, it is all on the table, and we are counting on our elected officials to work together for the best deal for their constituents.

Please continue to make telephone calls in favor of this project, but please be courteous and respectful.. Support our County Executive and State officials in the negotiating process, and ask that they continue to fight for this deal and remain diligent and flexible during the process.


A heated debate is occurring about the Our Lady of Grace Orphanage property off of West Chestnut Hill Drive in Newark. New Castle County (NCC) Government and State officials, specifically NCC Executive Matt Meyer and Senator Bryan Townsend, have been working on a deal to fund the purchase of the land to build a park, rather than developing it for mid-range-priced single-family homes. However, the land comes at quite a cost, with a price tag of about $6 million.

Currently, money is tight and expenses are high for both the State and the County since the passage of the 2017 Budget. Therefore, some people say that we cannot afford to purchase this land from under the private developers. Some NCC Council members say that even if money were no issue, the County should not get into the habit of buying land whenever developers try to build housing. Additionally, environmental groups claim that flooding risks have not been addressed or mitigated by the developers. Furthermore, the environmentalist groups add, the land is home to some endangered species of frogs and turtles, whose existence could be jeopardized further by the proposed development. It is worth noting here that in the current development deal, regardless of whether the land is purchased by either the State-County partnership or the developers, over 140 acres of the property are already protected by DNREC, and will remain as Open Space.

However, support for a park being built instead of housing is massive in the affected community, and online support is growing rapidly now that the deal is in jeopardy. Some people are upset that the County has not yet proposed a deal to the county and the Sisters, and want to know if and when this will happen. So far, the State has already promised $1.25M this year, and Senator Townsend is committed to requesting the State funds necessary for a State-County 50/50 match. Right now, it is up to the County to come up with their share, or more likely, have them negotiate a future repayment deal with the Sisters in the form of a contract. In either case, the County must act quickly or there will be no deal and all this work will be for not.

The Sisters are very open to selling the land to the State, but a deal needs to be proposed immediately. The developers’ offer has been made already, and the Council has approved their plans. Originally, the space was not allocated to the State, so the Council had little choice but to approve the plans since they are within the zoning abilities for the area. However, if a counter-deal had been proposed by the County and State, from the NCC Executive Office, the Council would have had more of a choice.

Meyer has cited both financial issues and a lack of County Council support for the proposal’s delay. However, he is hopeful that with renewed pressure in favor of the County-State buy-out, the Council will vote affirmatively if he finds the funding and makes a proposal. We hope that NCC Executive Matt Meyer will come forward with his plan very soon.While canvassing in the area last year, Delaware United members heard frequently from residents that further housing development in the area will do little to help raise the local standard of living or property values, but that a park will.

One thing is certain. Further finger-pointing and circular debate will not help the area’s residents. Instead, it will only compound divisiveness in our local government and disappoint Delawareans.

If you would like the County and State to come together to make this deal happen, please call your New Castle County Councilperson and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and let them know that you support this purchase for a new park.