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Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

That bag of frozen cauliflower sitting inside your freezer likely sprang to life in a vast field north of Salinas, Calif. A crew of men and women here use a machine to drop seedlings into the black soil. Another group follows behind, stooped over, tapping each new plant.

It is backbreaking, repetitive work. Ten-hour days start in the cold, dark mornings and end in the searing afternoon heat.

More than 90 percent of California’s crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers’ compensation and health insurance.

“The slowdown is happening,” said Brent McKinsey, a third-generation farmer and one of the owners of Mission Ranches in Salinas. “You start to see your production drop, but it’s difficult to manage because there aren’t the younger people wanting to come in and work in this industry.”

After a long day hunched over, cutting and bunching mustard leaves, Gonzalo Picazo Lopez, a farmworker, said the pain shooting down his leg is acting up. Lopez has been working in the fields since the 1970s, when he crossed over from Mexico. At 67 years old, he looks timeworn, with silver hair and a white beard. Deep lines mark his face.

As Lopez described how he carefully picks the leaves with his right hand and bunches with his left, he opened and closed his fingers with difficulty.

“In 2015 my left hand started to hurt,” said Lopez. “I went into work one morning and my hand was cold — ice cold.”

Lopez is a U.S. citizen and has Medicare. He hopes to work for almost another decade, until his wife, who is 61 and picks broccoli, can collect her Social Security.

Chronic pain is a common complaint at Clinica de Salud in Salinas. Nearly all of the patients at this community clinic are farmworkers. Many don’t have health insurance and pay what they can for medical care. Those who have immigration papers, rely on Medicaid.

Oralia Marquez, a physician’s assistant at the clinic, said older farmworkers often develop arthritis, back pain, foot infections and breathing problems from pesticides.

Many of her patients, like Amalia Buitron Deaguilera also struggle with diabetes. Deaguilera is 63. She has Medicaid for insurance, but she’s losing her vision from the disease.

“When I was working in fields,” said Deaguilera, “I never had time to take care of myself and my health.”

Workers in the fields who have diabetes often cannot take their insulin because they have no place to refrigerate it, said Marquez. And they miss doctors’ appointments during the busy harvesting seasons because many don’t get paid when they don’t work.

“Most of our patients want just something to relieve the pain and to continue working,” she said. “Most of the time they don’t ask for disability. They don’t ask for days off. They say they don’t have time to miss days.”

Field laborers often delay health care, and that can lead to serious medical problems. Compared to older whites, older Latino farmworkers are much more likely to end up in the hospital, according to researchers at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University, Fresno.

Faced with an aging and dwindling workforce, Mission Ranches’ McKinsey says farmers are trying to mechanize planting and harvesting to reduce their labor needs.

But machines can only do so much, McKinsey said. You can replace the human hand in a factory, perhaps. But out here, the fields are bumpy and the winds are strong and you need people to bring the plants to life.


KHN’s coverage of these topics is supported by
John A. Hartford Foundation
and
The SCAN Foundation

Related Topics

Aging Insurance Public Health


Farmerworkers’ Health Problems Increase As Workforce Gets Older …

6a02d_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Farmerworkers' Health Problems Increase As Workforce Gets Older ...

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

That bag of frozen cauliflower sitting inside your freezer likely sprang to life in a vast field north of Salinas, Calif. A crew of men and women here use a machine to drop seedlings into the black soil. Another group follows behind, stooped over, tapping each new plant.

It is backbreaking, repetitive work. Ten-hour days start in the cold, dark mornings and end in the searing afternoon heat.

More than 90 percent of California’s crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

6a02d_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Farmerworkers' Health Problems Increase As Workforce Gets Older ...

As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers’ compensation and health insurance.

“The slowdown is happening,” says Brent McKinsey, a third-generation farmer and one of the owners of Mission Ranches in Salinas. “You start to see your production drop, but it’s difficult to manage because there aren’t the younger people wanting to come in and work in this industry.”

After a long day hunched over, cutting and bunching mustard leaves, Gonzalo Picazo Lopez, a farmworker, says the pain shooting down his leg is acting up. Lopez has been working in the fields since the 1970s, when he crossed over from Mexico. At 67 years old, he looks timeworn, with silver hair and a white beard. Deep lines mark his face.

As Lopez describes how he carefully picks the leaves with his right hand and bunches with his left, he opens and closes his fingers with difficulty.

“In 2015 my left hand started to hurt,” says Lopez. “I went into work one morning and my hand was cold — ice cold.”

Lopez is a U.S. citizen and has Medicare. He hopes to work for almost another decade, until his wife, who is 61 and picks broccoli, can collect her Social Security.

Chronic pain is a common complaint at Clinica de Salud in Salinas. Nearly all of the patients at this community clinic are farmworkers. Many don’t have health insurance and pay what they can for medical care. Those fortunate enough to have immigration papers, rely on Medicaid.

6a02d_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Farmerworkers' Health Problems Increase As Workforce Gets Older ...

Oralia Marquez, a physician’s assistant at the clinic, says older farmworkers often develop arthritis, back pain, foot infections and breathing problems from pesticides.

Many of her patients, like Amalia Buitron Deaguilera are also struggling with diabetes. Deaguilera is 63. She has Medicaid for insurance, but she’s losing her vision from the disease.

“When I was working in fields,” says Deaguilera, “I never had time to take care of myself and my health.”

Workers in the fields who have diabetes often cannot take their insulin because they have no place to refrigerate it, says Marquez. And they miss doctors’ appointments during the busy harvesting seasons because many don’t get paid when they don’t work.

“Most of our patients want just something to relieve the pain and to continue working,” she says. “Most of the time they don’t ask for disability. They don’t ask for days off. They say they don’t have time to miss days.”

6a02d_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Farmerworkers' Health Problems Increase As Workforce Gets Older ...

Field laborers often delay health care, and that can lead to serious medical problems. Compared to older whites, older Latino farmworkers are much more likely to end up in the hospital, according to researchers at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University, Fresno.

Faced with an aging and dwindling workforce, Mission Ranches’ McKinsey says farmers are trying to mechanize planting and harvesting to reduce their labor needs.

But machines can only do so much, McKinsey says. You can replace the human hand in a factory, perhaps. But out here, the fields are bumpy and the winds are strong and you need people to bring the plants to life.

Sarah Varney is a senior national correspondent at Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

11edc_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

That bag of frozen cauliflower sitting inside your freezer likely sprang to life in a vast field north of Salinas, Calif. A crew of men and women here use a machine to drop seedlings into the black soil. Another group follows behind, stooped over, tapping each new plant.

It is backbreaking, repetitive work. Ten-hour days start in the cold, dark mornings and end in the searing afternoon heat.

More than 90 percent of California’s crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

11edc_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers’ compensation and health insurance.

“The slowdown is happening,” says Brent McKinsey, a third-generation farmer and one of the owners of Mission Ranches in Salinas. “You start to see your production drop, but it’s difficult to manage because there aren’t the younger people wanting to come in and work in this industry.”

After a long day hunched over, cutting and bunching mustard leaves, Gonzalo Picazo Lopez, a farmworker, says the pain shooting down his leg is acting up. Lopez has been working in the fields since the 1970s, when he crossed over from Mexico. At 67 years old, he looks timeworn, with silver hair and a white beard. Deep lines mark his face.

As Lopez describes how he carefully picks the leaves with his right hand and bunches with his left, he opens and closes his fingers with difficulty.

“In 2015 my left hand started to hurt,” says Lopez. “I went into work one morning and my hand was cold — ice cold.”

Lopez is a U.S. citizen and has Medicare. He hopes to work for almost another decade, until his wife, who is 61 and picks broccoli, can collect her Social Security.

Chronic pain is a common complaint at Clinica de Salud in Salinas. Nearly all of the patients at this community clinic are farmworkers. Many don’t have health insurance and pay what they can for medical care. Those fortunate enough to have immigration papers, rely on Medicaid.

11edc_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Oralia Marquez, a physician’s assistant at the clinic, says older farmworkers often develop arthritis, back pain, foot infections and breathing problems from pesticides.

Many of her patients, like Amalia Buitron Deaguilera are also struggling with diabetes. Deaguilera is 63. She has Medicaid for insurance, but she’s losing her vision from the disease.

“When I was working in fields,” says Deaguilera, “I never had time to take care of myself and my health.”

Workers in the fields who have diabetes often cannot take their insulin because they have no place to refrigerate it, says Marquez. And they miss doctors’ appointments during the busy harvesting seasons because many don’t get paid when they don’t work.

“Most of our patients want just something to relieve the pain and to continue working,” she says. “Most of the time they don’t ask for disability. They don’t ask for days off. They say they don’t have time to miss days.”

11edc_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Field laborers often delay health care, and that can lead to serious medical problems. Compared to older whites, older Latino farmworkers are much more likely to end up in the hospital, according to researchers at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University, Fresno.

Faced with an aging and dwindling workforce, Mission Ranches’ McKinsey says farmers are trying to mechanize planting and harvesting to reduce their labor needs.

But machines can only do so much, McKinsey says. You can replace the human hand in a factory, perhaps. But out here, the fields are bumpy and the winds are strong and you need people to bring the plants to life.

Sarah Varney is a senior national correspondent at Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

b1ac2_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers point to a number of causes for dwindling farmworkers: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

That bag of frozen cauliflower sitting inside your freezer likely sprang to life in a vast field north of Salinas, Calif. A crew of men and women here use a machine to drop seedlings into the black soil. Another group follows behind, stooped over, tapping each new plant.

It is backbreaking, repetitive work. Ten-hour days start in the cold, dark mornings and end in the searing afternoon heat.

More than 90 percent of California’s crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.

b1ac2_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers’ compensation and health insurance.

“The slowdown is happening,” says Brent McKinsey, a third-generation farmer and one of the owners of Mission Ranches in Salinas. “You start to see your production drop, but it’s difficult to manage because there aren’t the younger people wanting to come in and work in this industry.”

After a long day hunched over, cutting and bunching mustard leaves, Gonzalo Picazo Lopez, a farmworker, says the pain shooting down his leg is acting up. Lopez has been working in the fields since the 1970s, when he crossed over from Mexico. At 67 years old, he looks timeworn, with silver hair and a white beard. Deep lines mark his face.

As Lopez describes how he carefully picks the leaves with his right hand and bunches with his left, he opens and closes his fingers with difficulty.

“In 2015 my left hand started to hurt,” says Lopez. “I went into work one morning and my hand was cold — ice cold.”

Lopez is a U.S. citizen and has Medicare. He hopes to work for almost another decade, until his wife, who is 61 and picks broccoli, can collect her Social Security.

Chronic pain is a common complaint at Clinica de Salud in Salinas. Nearly all of the patients at this community clinic are farmworkers. Many don’t have health insurance and pay what they can for medical care. Those fortunate enough to have immigration papers, rely on Medicaid.

b1ac2_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Oralia Marquez, a physician’s assistant at the clinic, says older farmworkers often develop arthritis, back pain, foot infections and breathing problems from pesticides.

Many of her patients, like Amalia Buitron Deaguilera are also struggling with diabetes. Deaguilera is 63. She has Medicaid for insurance, but she’s losing her vision from the disease.

“When I was working in fields,” says Deaguilera, “I never had time to take care of myself and my health.”

Workers in the fields who have diabetes often cannot take their insulin because they have no place to refrigerate it, says Marquez. And they miss doctors’ appointments during the busy harvesting seasons because many don’t get paid when they don’t work.

“Most of our patients want just something to relieve the pain and to continue working,” she says. “Most of the time they don’t ask for disability. They don’t ask for days off. They say they don’t have time to miss days.”

b1ac2_farm_workers_health-1_wide-cac7a51b5ecbfffd1b29b8c763d4742913a2065d-s1100-c15 Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages

Field laborers often delay health care, and that can lead to serious medical problems. Compared to older whites, older Latino farmworkers are much more likely to end up in the hospital, according to researchers at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University, Fresno.

Faced with an aging and dwindling workforce, Mission Ranches’ McKinsey says farmers are trying to mechanize planting and harvesting to reduce their labor needs.

But machines can only do so much, McKinsey says. You can replace the human hand in a factory, perhaps. But out here, the fields are bumpy and the winds are strong and you need people to bring the plants to life.

Sarah Varney is a senior national correspondent at Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

UW-Extension: Gratitude can increase health and personal well-being

As we have enjoyed another Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it fitting to explore what research tells us about gratitude. More than a time of year, Thanksgiving is shown to be a key component to personal well-being and a hearty sense of connection to community.

I found a journal article from the Journal of Psychological Inquiry titled “Savoring Life, Past and Present” that suggests cognitive habits have a lot to do with gratitude —and hopefulness for that matter. Indeed, gratitude constructs can produce measures of health and well-being, and so, these are worthy of a little extra consideration.

Goal-Orientation

Whereas some people typically appraise goal pursuits—even very arduous ones—as challenges that are accompanied by optimism, others people appraise these as threats that are accompanied by an unpleasant direness. Grateful people not only seem to enjoy the psychosocial benefits that come from their increased likelihood of obtaining their goals, but they also seem to enjoy the very act of striving for goals to be realized in the future much more than not-so-grateful folks. The author is led to think that grateful people may be particularly attentive to the fact that the very pursuit of goals in itself brings meaning and purpose to their lives, and that these pursuits themselves — independent of whether the goals themselves are reached — can be savored rather than simply endured.

Being a Beneficiary

There is also something to be said for the cognitive-affective response to the recognition that one has been the beneficiary of someone else’s goodwill. In fact, one of the key psychological processes governing gratitude may be an awareness of how one’s very life is held together through the benevolent actions of other people. We can train ourselves to appreciate that we live in a society in which we benefit from many services, innovations, institutions, arts and culture that people whom we have never even met have made available for us to use and enjoy. Grateful people attend to the benefits in their lives, and are mindful that these benefits did not come out of nowhere.

Connectedness

Gratitude also correlates highly with nonconventional measures of what we can call spirituality, including measures that assess our sense of connectedness to nature, other people and the universe as a whole. The author thinks these correlations are important because they point to the ability of grateful people to pay attention to the ways in which their lives are connected to other events and activities occurring in the social, natural and (for some people) supernatural world. What matters to me is that our sense of community can actually be enhanced when we see our basic connection to — and reliance on — others.

Putting it all together:

Maybe I’m making this harder than it needs to be, or maybe this is a healthy reminder. If indeed gratitude is correlated positively with many measures of psychological well-being including vitality, satisfaction with life and a heightened sense of community, let’s share the love and share the leftovers. 

UW-Extension: Gratitude can increase health and personal well-being

As we have enjoyed another Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it fitting to explore what research tells us about gratitude. More than a time of year, Thanksgiving is shown to be a key component to personal well-being and a hearty sense of connection to community.

I found a journal article from the Journal of Psychological Inquiry titled “Savoring Life, Past and Present” that suggests cognitive habits have a lot to do with gratitude —and hopefulness for that matter. Indeed, gratitude constructs can produce measures of health and well-being, and so, these are worthy of a little extra consideration.

Goal-Orientation

Whereas some people typically appraise goal pursuits—even very arduous ones—as challenges that are accompanied by optimism, others people appraise these as threats that are accompanied by an unpleasant direness. Grateful people not only seem to enjoy the psychosocial benefits that come from their increased likelihood of obtaining their goals, but they also seem to enjoy the very act of striving for goals to be realized in the future much more than not-so-grateful folks. The author is led to think that grateful people may be particularly attentive to the fact that the very pursuit of goals in itself brings meaning and purpose to their lives, and that these pursuits themselves — independent of whether the goals themselves are reached — can be savored rather than simply endured.

Being a Beneficiary

There is also something to be said for the cognitive-affective response to the recognition that one has been the beneficiary of someone else’s goodwill. In fact, one of the key psychological processes governing gratitude may be an awareness of how one’s very life is held together through the benevolent actions of other people. We can train ourselves to appreciate that we live in a society in which we benefit from many services, innovations, institutions, arts and culture that people whom we have never even met have made available for us to use and enjoy. Grateful people attend to the benefits in their lives, and are mindful that these benefits did not come out of nowhere.

Connectedness

Gratitude also correlates highly with nonconventional measures of what we can call spirituality, including measures that assess our sense of connectedness to nature, other people and the universe as a whole. The author thinks these correlations are important because they point to the ability of grateful people to pay attention to the ways in which their lives are connected to other events and activities occurring in the social, natural and (for some people) supernatural world. What matters to me is that our sense of community can actually be enhanced when we see our basic connection to — and reliance on — others.

Putting it all together:

Maybe I’m making this harder than it needs to be, or maybe this is a healthy reminder. If indeed gratitude is correlated positively with many measures of psychological well-being including vitality, satisfaction with life and a heightened sense of community, let’s share the love and share the leftovers. 

ASLMU proposes increase in mental health programs

LMU’s student government organization, ASLMU, recently proposed a resolution addressing the need for an increase in peer-driven mental health programs. The resolution was drafted by James Krzyminski, founder of Lions for Recovery and Agape Service Club. Lions for Recovery is a community for students in recovery — working to change the stigma of addiction, and Agape is a service organization for students that work to support those living with mental illnesses.

The resolution was also drafted by ASLMU Senator-at-Large Katie Porter. “The goal of the resolution authored by ASLMU Senator-at-Large, Katie Porter, is to establish a peer counseling program on LMU’s campus,” said Hayden Tanabe ASLMU president. He expressed his pride in Katie, explaining that she has consistently and whole-heartedly advocated for mental health reform. He added that she works hard to break the stigma surrounding mental health on college campuses.

In the resolution, ASLMU recognized the growing problem of mental health in what they called a “national epidemic to which LMU is not excluded.” They propose a program that would allow trained and qualified peer counselors to provide one-on-one confidential support to fellow students. The student counselors would be trained on a variety of topics to better assist those in need.

“I am extremely proud of ASLMU for acknowledging that our students need more support with mental health issues. I really hope this is the beginning of a new chapter for the administration,” said James Krzyminski, co-founder of the resolution. He adds that he hopes that proper care and consideration for mental health will someday lead to everyone living happy and healthy lives. “No one should ever have to feel that they are alone in the world, especially not in a place as loving as ASLMU full of students who want to help others,” Krzyminski said

The resolution addressed the problem with existing support programs provided to students at LMU through Student Psychological Services by stating that while helpful they are “short-term with limited availability.” They acknowledged that many students are forced to seek outside resources, and as a result now face financial burdens.

The resolution stated that many students have to wait 2 or more weeks for an appointment with Student Psychological Services (SPS), all the while forcing them to battle their symptoms alone. ASLMU proposes that the implementing of their program could provide assistance to these students right away.

“I would just like to say that this peer counseling program is very much needed at LMU. I am tired of watching tragedies due to mental illness occur at our school and others, and it’s time that changes,” Porter. She emphasized that LMU has a responsibility to teach us the most effective ways to be there for each other — she believes it is one of the most valuable skills you can learn.

The resolution appealed to LMU’s core values such as its devotion to social justice in order to justify their role in developing a program such as this one. They also discussed the program’s role in reinforcing LMU’s mission; which includes “to be with and for others,” explaining that this program would teach empathy and provide aid to those around them.

The resolution explains that overall, this program would cause LMU to be a more global school if it were to be implemented. LMU would join top schools around the country that have already incorporated peer mentorship programs, which includes Yale, Columbia, UCLA and Harvard — to name a few. ASLMU stressed the importance of being an ally and continued to justify the necessity of this program’s development at LMU.

“With mental health becoming something that is so widely talked about, it has the attention of many people; this resolution capitalizes on that and urges the university, specifically Student Psychological Services, to implement this program in order to deepen their existing commitment to the well being of all students,” said Tanabe.

Comcast Increase Internet Speeds in its Greater Chicago Region

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2017 5:00 am

Comcast Increase Internet Speeds in its Greater Chicago Region


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La PORTE COUNTY — Comcast has announced it will increase speeds of some of its popular Internet tiers over the next several weeks. 

Download speeds for the company’s Xfinity Blast! tier will jump from 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while Performance tier speeds will more than double from 25Mbps to 60Mbps. Performance Starter tier customers will see a similarly sized boost, from 10Mbps to 25Mbps.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017 5:00 am.

Who Really Gets a Tax Increase if the Individual Mandate Goes Away?

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On government tables, it looks as if it’s low-income people. But the real losers would be higher up the income scale.

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Senator Orrin Hatch on Tuesday at the meeting of the Senate Finance Committee to address the tax overhaul.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

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Nov. 17, 2017

If Obamacare’s requirement to have health insurance is revoked by Congress, some people will choose to go without it, and the government will save money because it won’t have to pay to subsidize their plans.

Almost everyone agrees on that. But precisely how much the individual mandate matters, and who would really be worse off without it, are trickier questions.

New estimates show that the mandate’s repeal would give low-income Americans a big tax increase. But Republicans say that’s not true. And they have a point. Meanwhile, left out of the tax tables is the fact that some higher earners, who look as if they are getting more of a tax cut, will get hit with higher insurance premiums if the mandate is repealed.

The Congressional Budget Office currently estimates that eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate will cause 13 million more people to become uninsured, and save the government $338 billion over 10 years. Most Republican lawmakers don’t really believe dropping the mandate would so severely lower the number of insured, a point they argued loudly when they were hoping to repeal Obamacare earlier this year.

After long resisting that idea, the budget office recently signaled that it agrees, and it plans to lower its estimates next year. But for now, Republicans have seized on the unadjusted estimates, because fewer people with government-subsidized insurance means more money to help them finance other parts of their tax overhaul bill.

It looks as if the tax bill rises for some people who drop coverage.

Here’s why: The subsidies Obamacare offers to low- and middle-income Americans who buy their own insurance take the form of refundable tax credits, a kind of government-issued gift card that can be used only to buy health insurance. But if fewer people who qualify for these gift cards choose to buy insurance, the government spends less in tax money for the population that qualifies. The tax scorekeepers count this reduction in tax credits as an increase in tax liability for the group. Individuals would not actually pay more in taxes.

If they don’t buy insurance and don’t get the gift card, is that really the same thing as paying more in taxes? Republicans say it is not.

“Nothing in our mark will impact the availability of premium subsidy credits,” said Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, on Thursday, using a technical term for draft legislation. “This is the result of an assumption about economic behavior that is 100 percent voluntary.”

Mr. Hatch has a point. The subsidies may count, technically, as tax benefits, but they are relatively unusual in the tax code, because they can be used only to buy health insurance. People who get insurance can get a gift card. People who don’t get nothing. But if someone chooses not to buy insurance, does that mean they’ve lost out financially?

Some analysts consider those losses real losses, because it appears that some people are spurred to investigate their insurance options because of the mandate, then learn they qualify for free insurance. Without a mandate, they might remain uninsured. (And even some of those who don’t qualify for free insurance might end up better off buying it — people who contract an expensive disease, or get in a serious accident.)

“In my view, those people are definitely better off with coverage than without coverage,” said Aviva Aron-Dine, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “They’re protected from financial catastrophe. They can get primary and preventive care. And the mandate gave them a nudge.”

But others say that if customers valued health insurance, they would buy it.

“Since the credits go exclusively to pay the premium, it’s a little weird,” said Len Burman, an institute fellow at the Tax Policy Center, a research group that evaluates tax laws.

Another weird thing that Mr. Burman noted is that the more expensive health insurance gets, the bigger a tax increase the change appears to be in the government estimates. Under the Affordable Care Act, people below a certain income cap can’t pay more than a percentage of their income to buy health insurance, so as prices go up, so do their subsidies. Economists think that lifting a requirement for healthy people to buy insurance will tend to make the resulting pool of customers sicker, driving up insurance premiums. But the actual cost of insurance for that group wouldn’t increase.

“The credits look more valuable, because the proposal sabotages the health market, and premiums go up,” he said.

Others will have a tax cut but face much higher premiums.

But if the low-income people who won’t get tax credits aren’t clearly worse off financially — after all, they could claim them again if they choose to buy insurance — there’s another group that is certain to suffer if the mandate goes away. Higher-income people, who don’t qualify for government gift cards, have to pay the full price of health insurance. Single people earning more than about $48,000, or families of four earning more than around $98,000, earn too much to qualify for any insurance subsidies.

The budget office estimates that eliminating the mandate would drive up premiums an average of 10 percent every year beyond their normal rate of increase. Based on this year’s prices, that would mean a price increase of more than $50 a month for a 40-year-old single customer in large sections of Nebraska and North Carolina, even for the very cheapest high-deductible plans on the market. Unsubsidized 40-year-old customers in Alaska, who qualify for credits at slightly higher rates of income, would face increases of more than $70 a month for the least-expensive plan. In the cheapest markets in the country, in Indiana and Texas, premiums would rise for single 40-year-olds by about $19 a month.

Such a premium increase could largely cancel out the tax benefits of the reform bill for many people in that income range who buy their own insurance. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the first draft of the Senate tax bill found that the average family earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would save around $750 on their taxes. Compare that with the $600 premium increase a single customer in Nebraska might face.

Both Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republican senators whose votes may be needed to pass the tax bill, have expressed some concern about the premium increases for this group as a kind of hidden middle-class tax increase. Those changes may not show up as increases on a government table the way the missing tax credits appear for their lower-income neighbors. But the effect on their bottom line may be more significant.

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NI budget reveals health spend increase

0861d__98684961_stormont NI budget reveals health spend increase

Image caption

A lack of devolution at Stormont means the budget will be passed into law using Westminister legislation

Northern Ireland’s budget for 2017/18 has been published and shows an increase in health spending of 5.4%.

It will be passed into law at Westminster later this week after 10 months without a devolved executive at Stormont.

NI Secretary James Brokenshire said that public services would begin to run out of money if a budget was not in place by the end of November.

The budget numbers were recently shared with the local parties.

It comes after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin failed to reach a deal in political talks.

Overall, the amount of money available for day-to-day spending is up by 3.2%, meaning no real increase when inflation is considered.


Analysis: Julian O’Neill, BBC News NI business correspondent

Better late than never, Northern Ireland finally has a budget for the 2017-18 financial year.

It means a cliff-edge of running out of cash has been avoided.

Civil servants have been controlling the finances since the executive collapsed before a budget was set.

Overall, the allocation for day-to-day spending is up by 3.2%, or about £330m, on 2016-17.

However, because of inflation, the budget has really flat-lined in real terms.

The budget does not include any of the £1bn windfall that the DUP extracted for propping up the Conservative government; that is to come separately.


In April, indicative figures suggested the education budget would be cut, causing an outcry from teachers and parents.

Image copyright
Getty Images

However, the education budget is up by 1.5% compared to last year, the justice budget is down by 0.4% and the agriculture and environment budget is down by 3%.

Health economists usually estimate that health service spending needs to rise by an annual rate of 3% – 5% to cope with rising demand.

The Department of Finance has cautioned that the budget is not fully comparable to the 2016/17 budget due to timing differences.

The 2016/17 budget was published before the start of the financial year while this budget comes mid-year and includes in-year reallocations.


Analysis: Mark Devenport, BBC News NI political editor

Is this direct rule or not direct rule? It depends who you talk to.

The SDLP says it is direct rule, and blames the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The Alliance party says it is a “slippery slope” towards direct rule, but both James Brokenshire and Theresa May dismiss that.

Mr Brokenshire is fearful of “full-fat” direct rule because it would be very hard to get back out of it.

He might, therefore, try and get away with this halfway house solution, at least until the end of the year.


DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds welcomed the budget bill move as the “right thing” to do in the absence of a deal to restore devolution.

He said the decision by the secretary of state is “not full blown direct rule”.

The North Belfast MP also said that if a deal is not forthcoming to restore devolution, direct rule ministers of “some ilk will have to be appointed”.

He said the failure to restore power sharing rests with Sinn Féin and that the DUP and other parties were ready to set up an executive “in the morning”.

He added that the £1bn promised by the government for Northern Ireland as part of the Tory-DUP confidence and supply arrangement would be “detailed in the coming days”.

Image copyright
Press Eye

Image caption

NI Secretary James Brokenshire said a budget is needed in the absence of a devolved government

However, Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader said the reason for the budget was “the DUP opposition to a rights-based society”.

Michelle O’Neill said that the UK government had been “complicit in this, backing the DUP’s refusal to honour the commitments previously made and blocking the delivery of equality.”

She also said her party had told Prime Minister Theresa May that direct rule was “not an option”.

“These issues aren’t going away. It is now the responsibility of the two governments to look to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference to meet as soon as possible.

“We have sought urgent meetings with both the taoiseach and the British prime minister.

“The way forward now is for the two governments to fulfil their responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, to honour outstanding commitments, and to deliver rights enjoyed by everyone else on these islands to people here.”

Mr Brokenshire has said he would be willing to withdraw the budget bill if an executive is formed before December.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was a “significant day” with “decisions being taken in London which should have been taken in Belfast”.

Mr Eastwood said Mr Brokenshire would be delivering the Stormont budget prepared by former Sinn Féin finance minister Mairtín Ó Muilleoir.

Skip Twitter post by @ianpaisleymp

End of Twitter post by @ianpaisleymp

In a call to the DUP and Sinn Féin on Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May told the parties that Monday’s budget bill was “absolutely not an indication of direct rule”.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he told the prime minister that direct rule was not an option and called for the establishment of an intergovernmental conference involving London and Dublin.

NI budget reveals health spend increase

e84ca__98684961_stormont NI budget reveals health spend increase

Image caption

A lack of devolution at Stormont means the budget will be passed into law using Westminister legislation

Northern Ireland’s budget for 2017/18 has been published and shows an increase in health spending of 5.4%.

It will be passed into law at Westminster later this week after 10 months without a devolved executive at Stormont.

NI Secretary James Brokenshire said that public services would begin to run out of money if a budget was not in place by the end of November.

The budget numbers were recently shared with the local parties.

It comes after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin failed to reach a deal in political talks.

Overall, the amount of money available for day-to-day spending is up by 3.2%, meaning no real increase when inflation is considered.


Analysis: Julian O’Neill, BBC News NI business correspondent

Better late than never, Northern Ireland finally has a budget for the 2017-18 financial year.

It means a cliff-edge of running out of cash has been avoided.

Civil servants have been controlling the finances since the executive collapsed before a budget was set.

Overall, the allocation for day-to-day spending is up by 3.2%, or about £330m, on 2016-17.

However, because of inflation, the budget has really flat-lined in real terms.

The budget does not include any of the £1bn windfall that the DUP extracted for propping up the Conservative government; that is to come separately.


In April, indicative figures suggested the education budget would be cut, causing an outcry from teachers and parents.

Image copyright
Getty Images

However, the education budget is up by 1.5% compared to last year, the justice budget is down by 0.4% and the agriculture and environment budget is down by 3%.

Health economists usually estimate that health service spending needs to rise by an annual rate of 3% – 5% to cope with rising demand.

The Department of Finance has cautioned that the budget is not fully comparable to the 2016/17 budget due to timing differences.

The 2016/17 budget was published before the start of the financial year while this budget comes mid-year and includes in-year reallocations.


Analysis: Mark Devenport, BBC News NI political editor

Is this direct rule or not direct rule? It depends who you talk to.

The SDLP says it is direct rule, and blames the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The Alliance party says it is a “slippery slope” towards direct rule, but both James Brokenshire and Theresa May dismiss that.

Mr Brokenshire is fearful of “full-fat” direct rule because it would be very hard to get back out of it.

He might, therefore, try and get away with this halfway house solution, at least until the end of the year.


DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds welcomed the budget bill move as the “right thing” to do in the absence of a deal to restore devolution.

He said the decision by the secretary of state is “not full blown direct rule”.

The North Belfast MP also said that if a deal is not forthcoming to restore devolution, direct rule ministers of “some ilk will have to be appointed”.

He said the failure to restore power sharing rests with Sinn Féin and that the DUP and other parties were ready to set up an executive “in the morning”.

He added that the £1bn promised by the government for Northern Ireland as part of the Tory-DUP confidence and supply arrangement would be “detailed in the coming days”.

Image copyright
Press Eye

Image caption

NI Secretary James Brokenshire said a budget is needed in the absence of a devolved government

However, Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader said the reason for the budget was “the DUP opposition to a rights-based society”.

Michelle O’Neill said that the UK government had been “complicit in this, backing the DUP’s refusal to honour the commitments previously made and blocking the delivery of equality.”

She also said her party had told Prime Minister Theresa May that direct rule was “not an option”.

“These issues aren’t going away. It is now the responsibility of the two governments to look to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference to meet as soon as possible.

“We have sought urgent meetings with both the taoiseach and the British prime minister.

“The way forward now is for the two governments to fulfil their responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, to honour outstanding commitments, and to deliver rights enjoyed by everyone else on these islands to people here.”

Mr Brokenshire has said he would be willing to withdraw the budget bill if an executive is formed before December.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was a “significant day” with “decisions being taken in London which should have been taken in Belfast”.

Mr Eastwood said Mr Brokenshire would be delivering the Stormont budget prepared by former Sinn Féin finance minister Mairtín Ó Muilleoir.

Skip Twitter post by @ianpaisleymp

End of Twitter post by @ianpaisleymp

In a call to the DUP and Sinn Féin on Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May told the parties that Monday’s budget bill was “absolutely not an indication of direct rule”.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he told the prime minister that direct rule was not an option and called for the establishment of an intergovernmental conference involving London and Dublin.

Increase In Uptake of Computer Science Challenges Universities

The current surge in undergraduate enrollments in Computer Science courses and degree programs is straining resources at many U.S. colleges and universities according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The newly published report, Assessing and Responding to the Growth of Computer Science Undergraduate Enrollments, provides ample evidence of a trend that we have repeatedly commented on – that of the marked increase in the number of US university and college undergraduates opting for computer science.

Its headline finding is that the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded nationally in computer and information science has increased by 74 percent since 2009, compared to a 16 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees produced overall. Moreover, as this chart based on data from the CRA Taulbee Survey indicates, the statistics suggest that the number of students attaining computer science bachelor’s degrees is likely to continue to rise for at least the next several years.

Interest in the CS courses has also grown dramatically among non-majors:

One interesting point in this chart is that the number of non-majors in courses intended for CS majors is increasing at a rate equal to or higher that that for majors. The report states:

Between 2010 and 2015, introductory CS course enrollment increased by an average of 158 percent for majors and 169 percent for non-majors; enrollment in the mid-level course increased by 148 percent for majors and 248 percent for non-majors; enrollment in the upper-level course increased by135 percent for majors and 144 percent for non-majors.

In our previous reports noting Students Flocking to Computer Science, we have seen the increase in the popularity of CS degrees as being a positive, commenting, for example:

The fact that the number of Computer Science concentrators at Harvard has increased each year for the past five years, from 86 in 2008 to 153 in 2013 shows that the message that gaining a CS degree is good for your employment prospects is being taken notice of.

As we reported earlier this month with reference to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, possession of CS degree is acknowledged to open the way to well-paid jobs in industry and while this is good for students, and has led to more of them choosing to study it, it is a problem for educational institutions.

According to the report:

The most common challenges cited by departments include increased faculty workload; too few faculty, instructors, or teaching assistants; greater need for academic undergraduate advisers and administrative support; and increased need for classroom, lab, and office space. In recent years over half of new Ph.D.s in computer science have taken jobs in industry, posing challenges to finding faculty.


Data indicate that from 2006 to 2015, the average increase in tenure-track computer science faculty at research institutions was only about one-tenth of the increase in the number of computer science majors.

 


 

 

The report sets out a range of alternative strategies for addressing the problem, one of which is to:

“seriously consider increasing the number of academic-rank teaching faculty.”

Among the option discussed is that of limiting the number of students allowed to study Computer Science. With regard to this the National Academies’ Press Release states:

While some institutions may view imposing limits on enrollment in computer science programs and courses as desirable or inevitable, they should carefully consider the consequences before doing so, the report says. Such limits may cut students off from their true passion, and they may introduce an environment of real or perceived competition among students who desire to enter a program, which could discourage participation among underrepresented groups.

So here’s the situation.

Over the past 5 years or more we’ve seen successive initiatives to promote Computer Science as a topic to be included throughout the school curriculum and also be promoted outside the classroom. Starting from modest beginnings with CS Education Week, the idea snowballed when Code.org’s Hour of Code was promoted not only by tech industry leaders such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg but also by role models from the worlds of sport and entertainment and was enthusiastically endorsed by then-President Barak Obama. In his final State of the Union Address in January 2016 Obama introduced his “Computer Science for All” initiative, which included $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts to increase access to K-12 computer science education by training teachers and expanding access to instructional materials.

Since then we’ve seen CS become an official STEM subject and the launch of  K-12 Computer Science Framework drawn up by Code.org together with the ACM and other partners in collaboration with states and districts and the expansion of and encouragement of participation in AP Computer Science. On theme common to all these initiatives is to encourage participation of “underrepresented groups“, namely girls and Hispanic/Latino, African-American and American Indian/ Alaska Native students.

While it revealed that the longstanding under-representation of women and some minority groups among computer science bachelor’s degree recipients had not improved significantly as of 2015, the last year for which national data are available, the report found some evidence that representation may be improving among students currently majoring in or interested in majoring in computer science and stressed the importance of supporting diversity and

should leverage the growing interest as an opportunity to recruit and retain more women and underrepresented minorities into the field.

The report makes recommendations for attracting and retaining sufficient faculty including:

Increasing the number and enhancing the role of academic-rank teaching faculty should be give serious consideration.

Another approach could be interpreted as a move to emulate MOOCs, which have had a significant impact in widening access to computer science not just in the US but globally. The recommendation is:

Institutions should pursue innovative strategies for using technology to deliver high-quality instruction at scale to large numbers of students.

It goes on to suggest that the National Science Foundation, which last year awarded grants to look at the impact of pre-college CS computing could support research on how best to use technology in teaching large classes. There already is a lot of evidence for the effectiveness of MOOCs and MOOCs are already in a position to bolster on-campus Computer Science. Take, for example, the edX MOOC Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python from MIT. It can now count as 3 credit hours towards a degree courtesy of edX partner Charter Oak State College, Connecticut’s public online college, and transferable to other educational establishments. Expanding such transferable credit schemes could take pressure off institutions that didn’t have the resources to teach Computer Science and still offer it to non-majors while those with the best CS courses could share their expertise more widely.

 

More Information

Colleges and Universities Should Take Action to Address Surge of Enrollments in Computer Science

Assessing and Responding to the Growth of Computer Science Undergraduate Enrollments (2017)

K-12 Computer Science Framework

 

dcbe5_newsbig Increase In Uptake of Computer Science Challenges Universities

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Internet shutdowns on the increase worldwide

According to data provided by digital rights platform accessnow.org, internet access has been curbed 116 times in 30 countries since January 2016.

India is far in the lead with 54 shutdowns, followed by neighboring Pakistan that had 10 digital blackouts.

By definition, an internet shutdown happens when someone, usually a government, disrupts the internet or mobile apps.

This article and chart originally appeared on the blog of the data firm Statista, and is republished here with permission.

Comcast Internet speeds set to increase soon

PEORIA — Internet speeds for many Comcast customers throughout the Peoria area will increase substantially over the next several weeks through a system overhaul that will affect hundreds of thousands of customers in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

The change in download speeds differs across tiers of Internet service, more than doubling for some customers. The cable and Internet provider will alert customers to the specific changes to their accounts through letters in the mail and some email notifications.

“Comcast already provides the nation’s fastest, most reliable internet and in-home Wi-Fi speeds,” said John Crowley, Comcast Greater Chicago Region Senior Vice President.  “Our goal is to keep pushing the envelope for our customers to deliver more value and provide a great online experience.”

Comcast customers may need to reset their modems to access the higher speeds when they become available. Modems can be reset manually or through the Xfinity My Account app. Directions on how to reset modems will be included in notifications to customers.

Some modems provided by Comcast, however, will not be compatible with the upgraded system and must be replaced. The company will alert those customers and provide new compatible hardware, according to a Comcast representative.

The roll out of the upgraded service is expected to be complete by mid-December.

Educators Gather at UML on a Mission to Increase K–12 Computer Science Literacy

11/07/2017


By

Edwin L. Aguirre

Photo by Edwin L. Aguirre
Steve Vinter, Google’s executive coach and tech leadership development adviser, discusses innovative ways to teach computer science to students.

The conference featured sessions and panel discussions covering topics such as how to develop engaging lesson plans for students and incorporate computer science to fashion, art, engineering and robotics, as well as internships, cybersecurity and ethics. Anne DeMallie, computer science and STEM integration specialist at the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, led a presentation on the statewide teacher licensure process, while the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network, or MassCAN, led by James Stanton of the Education Development Center Inc., released its K–12 Computer Science Curriculum Guide, a resource for the state’s school superintendents. It is a detailed index to more than 30 nationally recognized K–12 computer science curricula, including the “Middle School Pathways in Computer Science” program that Martin developed in collaboration with the Everett and Medford school districts.

Photo by Edwin L. Aguirre
Computer science Prof. Fred Martin, far left, poses with Peyser, CSTA Greater Boston Chapter Co-presidents David Petty and Padmaja Bandaru, and Vinter.

Employers Manage to Cap Increase in Health Care Costs at 2.6%

The 2017 Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found that employers have been able to contain the rise in health care costs this year to 2.6%, essentially on par with the 2.4% increase in 2016.

Between 2013 and 2017, the rise in health care costs has averaged 3.3%, and between 2007 and 2013, it averaged 6.2%, Mercer says.

Mercer notes that employers were able to contain these costs without enrolling more employees into high-deductible plans. They have achieved this by offering such things as a “transparency pool,” an online resource to help people compare the prices of different healthcare providers.

Telemedicine services, whereby someone can speak with a health care professional via the telephone, televideo or web portal, average $50 a visit, compared to the $125 a typical office visit costs, Mercer says. In 2017, 71% of employers with 500 or more employees offered some form of telemedicine to their employee base, up considerably from 59% in 2016.

Another method by which employers have been able to contain costs for drugs is by steering employees to a specialty pharmacy that can instruct them on how to administer the drugs at home rather than in a hospital or doctor’s office. Specialty pharmacies also use what is known as “step therapy,” whereby a patient is started off on a less expensive drug.

“The high cost of health care poses major challenges to employers and their employees,” says Sharon Cunninghis, the leader of Mercer’s U.S. health business. “We’re helping employers gain ground on some of their biggest cost drivers by such means as addressing chronic conditions with enhanced care management and targeting double-digit spending growth on specialty drugs with a suite of pharmacy solutions.”

Mercer’s report is based on a survey of 2,481 employers in both the public and private sectors. Mercer says it will publish the full report on the survey this coming March.

Comcast set to increase its Internet speeds in Atlanta

Comcast announced on Nov. 3 it will increase speeds of some of its most popular Internet tiers over the next several weeks.

Download speeds for the company’s Xfinity Blast! tier will jump from 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while Performance tier speeds will more than double from 25Mbps to 60Mbps. Customers of the Performance Starter tier will see a similarly sized boost, from 10Mbps to 25Mbps.

Rollouts of the new speeds will begin in early November and continue through mid-December, and will be available across metro Atlanta.

“Comcast already provides the nation’s fastest, most reliable internet and in-home Wi-Fi speeds,” said Doug Guthrie, Comcast regional senior vice president. “Our goal is to keep pushing the envelope for our customers to deliver more value and provide a great online experience — whether that’s by boosting speeds, building out our Wi-Fi and fiber networks, or introducing bold innovations like xFi and Xfinity Gigabit.”

To get the new speeds, customers may need to re-start their modems, which can be done manually or through the Xfinity My Account app. Comcast will notify customers and provide instructions before the changes take effect.

The news follows a number of moves the company has made to enhance its high-speed Internet offerings, including an expansion of its national Wi-Fi network, which now includes 18 million hotspots; doubling its network capacity every 18 to 24 months; introducing xFi, a free platform that lets customers personalize, manage and control their home Wi-Fi experience, and launching two-gigabit and one-gigabit per second home Internet services. Comcast has increased speeds 17 times in the past 16 years.

Other recent moves that capitalize on Comcast’s growing internet and wireless presence include the April 2017 launch of Xfinity Mobile, which combines the nation’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network with the largest Wi-Fi network. It’s available to all Xfinity Internet customers, and includes up to five lines with unlimited nationwide talk and text, no line access fees, and 100 MB of shared data.

In September, the company announced it is trialing Instant TV, a new service that lets customers purchase tailored video bundles for in-home or on-the-go streaming without the need for a set top box.

For more information, visit www.comcastcorporation.com.

Pension reform: Lawmakers might rethink plan to increase health care costs for retirees – The Courier

CLOSE

Hoover talks about Kentucky legislators moving forward on the pension issue.
Tom Loftus/CJ/USA Today Network

FRANKFORT, Ky. – It appears the most likely change House members will make to gather sufficient support of the pension reform bill is to soften the provision that all current teachers and public employees pay 3 percent more for retiree health benefits.

Even Bevin administration Budget Director John Chilton mentioned a fairness issue with the proposal on Thursday in testimony before the state’s Public Pension Oversight Board.

Both House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said earlier this week the provision to deduct 3 percent more from all teacher and state and local government paychecks for their retiree health benefits was perhaps the one part of the Republican reform plan raising the most questions and concerns.

Eliminating it, or reducing it, may be particularly important in the House, where majority Republicans are struggling to make changes to the bill to secure sufficient votes to pass it.

Pension plan: Public employees would pay 3 percent more for retiree health care benefits

Thayer, who says the plan has sufficient votes in the House, said Friday morning, “A couple adjustments could be made to the bill to address the concerns of wavering House Republicans. The 3 percent provision is one of those. I don’t see that being eliminated, but some adjustment could be made there.”

The provision was initially explained as one needed to shore up the separate retiree health funds, separate from retiree pension funds.

But under the bill released a week ago, the health funds would be no better off because while more money would pour in from teachers and employees, there would be a reduction of an equivalent amount in what state and local governments put in. 

Kentucky’s pension crisis: Here’s the latest

Chilton told the oversight board on Thursday that the health plans are underfunded to the tune of about $6 billion.

But he acknowledged one problem with having all public employees and paying the 3 percent. “The dilemma arises because not everybody has the same benefits upon retirement,” Chilton said.

Benefits of state and local government employees differ depending upon when they were hired. When pension reforms were passed in 2008 and 2013 health benefits were lowered for future workers. And Chilton noted that current state workers hired since 2008 “have much less” of a retiree health benefit than those hired in years before.

Thayer warned on Wednesday that it will be difficult to make a significant change to eliminate this provision because it saves state government a lot of money – savings badly needed to help balance the state’s next budget that will require huge additional amounts for the pension plans.

He said the savings within the proposed pension bill will “minimize budget cuts” to priorities like education when lawmakers take up the budget at the regular legislative session in January.

More: Jeff Hoover sexual harassment report will complicate pension reform talks, lawmakers say

‘A pension is a promise’: Hundreds rally against proposed pension reform plan

Close schools for pension protests? Bevin says no, but some parents say yes

CLOSE

Hundreds protest as part of Fund Our Pension rally in Frankfort
Marty Pearl, Special to Courier Journal

 

How Blockchain Technology Can Help Increase Your Internet Privacy

Living in the age of the internet has come with a lot of advantages, but with those benefits also come certain dangers.  Most, if not everyone, has used their personal information online.  Whether that was to create a Facebook page or to make a shopping purchase, that information is still floating around on the internet.

A recent study conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research showed that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.  Hackers love to take advantage of the vast amount of data that is relatively easily accessible online.

With the amount of money being stolen only increasing every year, it has now become critical to find some way to keep personal information private.  Thankfully, there is a new technology that is becoming increasingly popular that may change both how we interact on the internet as well as how information is stored.

Blockchain for Safety

Blockchain technology, which is characterized by decentralization, is taking the internet by storm.  Its popularity primarily stems from the growth and success of the online currency, Bitcoin. Each block of information has a history connected to it and no transaction can occur without being recorded in the system.  It functions as a shared form of record keeping.

Because all the information is interconnected and the transactions are transparent, it becomes nearly impossible for hackers to break into the system and steal data, due to the fact that they are unable to add or remove from the blockchain without the activity being recorded.

The benefit of blockchain technology comes from the fact that it functions on a decentralized network.  There is no centralized location where all the information is stored because the information is spread across the entire network.  This distribution allows the encrypted information to be processed and stored privately, allowing access only to the parties who are involved.

Protecting Identity

One company is taking advantage of this technology and is seeking to increase the privacy of the user’s online identity.  SelfKey is an identity management ecosystem that puts the customer in full control of their own data.

Through blockchain technology, the company is able to issue token “keys” to customers.  These keys are encrypted through blockchain and it is up to the user to decide who they want to share their information with.  Because users never overshare data, this leads to increased online privacy.

Users only share what is absolutely necessary to make the purchase or complete an application. Information is only stored on the user’s device and not in a cloud or database and is therefore inaccessible in the absence of user permission.  Due to the transparency of blockchain technology, SelfKey can verify transactions and confirm the legitimacy of sources, while also protecting the individual.

The company promotes efficient and maximum privacy due to the decentralized nature of blockchain.   SelfKey acts as a virtual wallet, with multiple applications, including managing bitcoin accounts, applying for a new bank account and investing in real estate, among others.

Ecosystem Functions

One way that startup companies are utilizing blockchain is through ICO’s, or “Initial Coin Offerings.”  ICO’s are basically unregulated crowdfunding for millennials.  Investors will buy into the company in exchange for cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin or other virtual funds, all of which employ blockchain technology.

By buying in, they will either own a part of the company, or will receive some sort of product related benefit.  Probably the most popular ICO service is “Ethereum.”  By using Ethereum, you are buying and selling blockchain tokens that companies produce: “Etherum wants to create an ecosystem where everything works together seamlessly as part of its vision for a ‘world computer’ – and that includes the tokens required to power it.” 

SelfKey is currently in alpha testing, with their public ERC-20 token sale to be announced soon.  In a time where your internet identity is constantly at risk, SelfKey is proving their worth as they seek to become the leading identity validation blockchain platform.

9dc32_avw How Blockchain Technology Can Help Increase Your Internet Privacy

Comcast to increase internet speeds in Chicago area – Chicago Sun

Comcast will increase internet speeds for most of its customers in the Chicago region.

The new speeds will be rolled out through mid-December and will be available to existing and new customers in region comprising Illinois, Northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan, the company announced Wednesday.

“Our goal is to keep pushing the envelope for our customers to deliver more value and provide a great online experience — whether that’s by boosting speeds, building out our Wi-Fi and fiber networks or introducing bold innovations like xFi and Xfinity Gigabit,” said John Crowley, a Comcast senior vice president.

The company is increasing the download speed of its Xfinity Blast! service from 75 Mbps to 100 Mbps. The Performance service will increase from 25 Mbps to 60 Mbps, while the Performace Starter service will increase from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps.

The changes affect about 80 percent of Comcast’s internet customers.




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