By Doug Porter
The Orlando Sentinel reported this week on lobbying efforts by Clarence Otis, CEO for Darden Restaurants (Oliver Garden, Red Lobster) in opposition to proposed California legislation that would penalize companies with more than 500 employees for cutting workers’ hours to avoid paying for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Assembly Bill 880 has national implications, as many states are expanding Medicaid eligibility in preparation for provisions of the Affordable Care Act that go into effect in 2014. Large companies doing business in California would have to pay fines for each employee working more than eight hours a week who is enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal.
In 2012, Darden was one of a number of companies that began experimenting with using more part-timers to keep potential health-care costs low. Following a public backlash, Darden later said it would not cut full-timers to part-time.
Organized labor has rallied supporters in California to urge legislators to pass AB 880, which seeking to close the so-called WalMart loophole, a provision of the ACA which does not impose a penalty on employers whose part-time workers enroll in Medi-Cal.
This loophole would allow large employers to shift the potential costs of their employees’ health care onto taxpayers. Potentially 400,000 workers could be affected if large employers like Darden and WalMart can use this loophole to circumvent the federal penalties they’d pay if their workers get health coverage through the insurance exchange.
Effectively this means that employers who pay low wages, reduce hours and fail to provide benefits are able to evade the ACA penalties and shift the cost of health coverage for their employees onto taxpayers.
Funds collected under the provisions of AB 880 will be put in a trust fund to pay for the state share of the Medi-Cal program, to increase reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal providers and to county health systems, community clinics and other safety net providers that provide care to the residually uninsured.
Darden has 2,074 restaurant locations in the US and more than 190,000 employees, making it the world’s largest full-service restaurant company. THe company does not franchise its properties in the US and Canada, which include 678 Red Lobster, 812 Olive Garden, 416 LongHorn Steakhouse, 48 The Capital Grille, 33 Bahama Breeze, 28 Seasons 52, 11 Eddie V’s restaurants, 43 Yard House locations, and five specialty restaurants. Over 120 of those restaurants are in California.
San Diego Taxis: Unsafe at Any Speed?
While other big cities around the country have limits on the mileage and/or age of vehicles driven for hire, it’s open season on safety in San Diego, where no such limitations exist.
“San Diego is, like, open, meaning that you’ll see that cars run about three, four, five [hundred thousand miles],” said Mikaiil Hussein, president of United Taxi Workers of San Diego. “I used to drive a 625,000-mile car, so safety conditions for the cars are very bad.”
Mikaiil said he was blacklisted as a driver after complaining to his company’s owner about the condition of his car.
A significant percentage of cab drivers surveyed as part of recent study by San Diego State University and the Center on Policy Initiativesreported paying for repairs on their leased vehicles because the owners refused to make needed repairs.
Local taxis are inspected on an annual basis by the Metropolitan Transit System. Those scheduled visits have a 95% pass rate. Surprise field inspections flunk 18% of vehicles checked.
The KPBS account mentions widespread reports of warning lights being hidden via tape placed there by owners on taxicab dashboards. A check by Speak City Heights on the titles for taxis operating in the city and found nearly 40 percent were 10 years or older. More than half of the taxis on the road have more than 200,000 miles on them, according to San Diego State and the Center on Policy Initiatives.
The City of San Diego is currently considering overhauling taxicab regulation and taking responsibility for enforcement away from MTS.
Charger’s Doc’s Resignation Story Continues to Evolve
USA Today is reporting that Chargers team doctor David Chao’s resignation was actually triggered by factors other than those previously reported in the local media:
The San Diego Chargers announced last week that team doctor David Chao was quitting to spend more time with his family and to nurse his ailing back. But records obtained by USA TODAY Sports claim that another factor led to the controversial doctor’s resignation.
Two San Diego hospitals decided not to allow him to perform surgeries there anymore — a move that recently was finalized and jeopardized his job with the team, according to a signed declaration submitted in San Diego Superior Court this week.
In recent years, officials at Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego conducted reviews of Chao’s quality of care and alcohol consumption, according to hospital letters obtained by USA TODAY Sports. Several former patients of Chao’s also had accused him of maiming them during surgeries or negligence, including one case that led Scripps Memorial Hospital to settle a case for $1.39 million.
The California state medical board fined David Chao for misconduct in 2002 and issued a public reprimand against him in June 2012 for failing to disclose a drunken-driving conviction.
The NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters during Super Bowl week that Chao should be removed from his job with the Chargers, “The fact is that despite having previous malpractice liability (awards) against him, neither the Chargers nor the NFL initiated an inquiry or provided any oversight of the doctor the team selected to provide care for our players.”
Team management has backed Chao despite the turmoil, going so far as to hire an independent panel of three doctors to review Chao’s treatment of players. The panel found no basis for the union’s complaint against Chao, according to USA Today sports.
For the Chargers to allow this doctor considered by most players as drinking buddy with a prescription pad to operate on their players for 15 years is astounding. Who knows whose career has been cut short or ruined due to his obviously questionable medical practices. I just hope the attorney general continues to pursue this case, because I wouldn’t want a doctor with so many question marks surrounding him taking my temperature, let alone performing surgery.
I hear, however, that Dr. Chao was kept on despite the controversies because of the high degree of trust Chargers players had in his abilities. So I don’t think this is the end of the story. Stay tuned for more fireworks.
A Big Part of Pray the Gay Away is Going Away
As the media waits anxiously to report on expected Supreme Court rulings on California’s ban on same-sex marriages and the Defense of Marriage Act, the Huffington Post is reporting on one anti-gay outfit going out of business:
Exodus International, a large Christian ministry that claimed to offer a “cure” for homosexuality, plans to shut down. In a press release posted on the ministry’s website Wednesday night, the board of directors announced the decision to close after nearly four decades…
…The closure comes less than a day after Exodus released a statement apologizing to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for years of undue judgment, by the organization and from the Christian Church as a whole.
“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism. For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical,” said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus.
Record temperatures in Sarah Palin’s home state might explain her recent decision to return (at a reduced rate of pay) to Fox News. Fairbanks and other areas in northern Alaska have been seeing record temps, going into the high 80s and even the low 90s over the past week, compared to normal maximum temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s..
From Discover Magazine:
Alaska’s heat wave isn’t simply a one-off, freak event. Since the mid-20th Century, the average temperature of the Earth has increased by about 0.6°C (1.1°F), driven in large measure by our emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But the warming hasn’t been uniform. In fact, the far north has been warming faster than anywhere else, with the Arctic heating up twice as fast as the global average.
This map shows how temperatures around the globe varied from the long-term mean between 2000 and 2009:
One Armed Voters (Right Arm Only) Might Favor GOP in UT-San Diego Poll
The Daily Fishwrap came out yesterday with yet another of its infamous polls, this one purporting to inform us that Congressman Scott Peters is trailing former City Councilman Carl DeMaio by nine percent among registered voters in the 52nd Congressional District.
There was no indication if the poll excluded government employees, as a previous poll conducted under the auspices of UT-San Diego during last fall’s mayor contest did. DeMaio led by a similar margin over current Mayor Bob Filner in that poll.
Best Ever Story About the NSA Spy Business
From James Risen and Nick Wingfield at the New York Times comes some spot-on reporting about the very thin line between the Big Technology and Big Brother:
When Max Kelly, the chief security officer for Facebook, left the social media company in 2010, he did not go to Google, Twitter or a similar Silicon Valley concern. Instead the man who was responsible for protecting the personal information of Facebook’s more than one billion users from outside attacks went to work for another giant institution that manages and analyzes large pools of data: the National Security Agency.
Mr. Kelly’s move to the spy agency, which has not previously been reported, underscores the increasingly deep connections betweenSilicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyze and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans.
The only difference is that the N.S.A. does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.
Do read the story. And while you’re at it read Tim Shorrock’s 2008 book Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, an amazingly predictive and well documented study of the revolving door between industry and government in the spy world.
On This Day: 1793 – Eli Whitney applied for a cotton gin patent. 1967 – Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted. The Supreme Court later overturned the conviction. 1969 – Jimi Hendrix earned the largest paycheck (to that time) for a single show when he earned $125,000 for a single set at the Newport Jazz Festival.
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