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3 posts from October 2018


Status of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Will It Run Out of Funds, A Conversation with Michael Barasch (October 29th)

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Soon after the 9/11 attacks the Congress created the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).  Initially, the VCF was created to award moneys to 9/11 victims or their families.   Awards were made through 2004.  In 201o1 the Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named after a 34-year old NYC policeman who died in 2006 of 9/11 related illness, was created to compensate first responders and individuals who later developed 9/11-related health problems including numerous forms of cancer and PTSD.   The fund was re-authorized in 2015 by President Obama for five years (it will will sunset in December 2020).  Because of the ever-increasing number of 9/11-related illnesses the VCF Special Master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, recently noted the fund could run out of moneys before all claims are resolved.  Ms. Bhattacharyya recently posted a Federal Register notice soliciting comments asking the public how the remaining funds should be allocated.  

During this 28 minute interview, Mr. Barasch discusses his firms 9/11 experience.  Located at ground zero, half his employees have since succumbed to cancer or are currently battling the disease.  He provides an explanation why the EPA came to determine the air quality at ground zero was safe (it definitively was not), provides an overview of the VCF and the related World Trade Center Health Program, his firms work in representing 9/11 victims seeking VCF settlements, efforts to solicit the Congress to further fund the VCF and the prospects of a wrongful death civil suit filed against the Saudi Arabian government (15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudis).  

Michael Barasch is the Managing Partner of Barasch & McGarry, lawyers for the 9/11 community.  His firm has represented Michael Baraschover 11,000 victims of 9/11 in their pursuit of a VCF settlement.  Ms. Barasch is a graduate of Fordham Law School.  

For more on Barasch & McGarry go to: https://www.personalinjuryjustice.com/ 

Barasch and McGarry's VCF-related work can be found at: 911victimfund.com

The Department of Justice's VCF info is at: www.vcf.gov  & DOJ's VCF helpline is: 1.855.885.1555. 

Concerning the Federal Register notice "September 11th Victim Compensation Fund: Compensation of Claims" (comments due December 3), see:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/03/2018-21490/september-11th-victim-compensation-fund-compensation-of-claims 



Jessica Wolff Discusses Efforts to Reduce The Health Care Industry's Carbon Footprint (October 24th)

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Earlier this month the United Nation's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), the world's definitive body on the subject, concluded we have just 12 years, or until 2030, to avoid global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7F).  We've already warmed by 1C.   Among other consequences, if we warm to 2.0C (or 3.6F) we will lose 99 percent of our coral reefs.  We are presently on track to warm to 4C by the end of this century - that the Trump administration, via a National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) environmental impact stated, admitted in August.  This means we will have to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  (The US is historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and currently second behind China.  Worldwide, we currently dump 42 billion tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere annually and the amount has been again climbing since last year.)  As I noted in a November 13, 2017 3 Quarks Daily essay (a link to which was posted on this podcast that month), there is no climate analog for this century for at least the past 50 million years.  Should the atmosphere warm by 2C (the Paris Climate Accord goal was between 1.5 to 2), the earth as we know it will largely cease to exist.   Therefore, it is a particularly good time to examine what the health care industry, the second largest emitter of greenhouse pollution after the food industry, is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. 

During this 28 minute podcast Ms. Jessica Wolff discusses, in sum, efforts  by Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) to achieve reductions in the health care industry's carbon footprint.  She explains why HCWH was formed, provides an overview of its current mission is to reduce the industry's carbon footprint, discusses how specifically the industry is addressing the problem (via mitigation, resilience and leadership), highlights related initiatives, e.g., the recently formed California Health Care Climate Alliance, identifies leaders in the industry and what they are doing, e.g., Kaiser, and discusses opportunities the industry is and can take to influence and/or reform state and federal climate change policy.

Ms. Jessica Wolff is the US Director of Climate and Health for Health Care Without Harm (HCWH).   Prior to her current Wolffposition she was the Environmental Sustainability Adviser at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health.  Prior still she worked as a women's health nurse practitioner and as a health center director.  She holds an MBA from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a degree in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a Master's in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania.

For information on HCWH go to: https://noharm.org/.

The IPCC report is at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/.

On August 3 , 2017, I interviewed David Wallace Wells regarding his global warming article published in July 2017 in  New York Magazine.  It was titled, "The Uninhabitable Earth."  It is at: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html?gtm=bottom&gtm=top


150th Interview: Tim Gronniger Discusses the Current Proposed Medicare Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Rule (October 3rd)

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Currently, CMS is accepting public comment on a proposed Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), known more commonly as the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program, rule.  The MSSP, created under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, is Medicare's flagship pay or performance program currently providing care to over 10 million Medicare beneficiaries.  MSSP or ACO performance, or to the extent the program has reduced Medicare spending growth, has been widely debated largely because CMS has failed to evaluate the program  Under this administration the program has come under substantial criticism.  The proposed rule, published this past August 17 in the Federal Register, is this administration's effort to improve the program's performance moreover by reducing the number of years an provider can participate in the program, from six years to two, without taking financial risk or participate in what are termed upside only contracts.  The administration argues absent financial risk providers do not fully engage in practice reforms to reduce spending.  This assumption is also widely debated.  Absent other substantial payment innovations, the success of the MSSP or ACO program is vital to the Medicare program, now forcasted to go bankrupt in 2026. 

During this 30 minute conversation Mr. Gronniger begins with a a brief overview of Caravan's work, he discusses or explains what success the ACO program has achieved to date and the program's background.  He moves onto discussing numerous elements of the proposed rule including earned shared savings percents, risk adjustment, aspects of financial benchmarking, low and high revenue ACOs, and beneficiary engagement and incentives, among others.     

Mr. Tim Gronniger is currently the Senior Vice President of Development and Strategy at Caravan Health.  Previously, he Gronnigerserved as Chief of Staff and Director of Delivery System Reform at CMS.  Previous to that, Mr. Gronniger  was Senior Adviser for Health Care Policy for the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Before that he served as senior professional staff to the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, now retired).  Mr. Gronniger began his career in Washington, D.C. at the Congressional Budget Office where he studied or scored Medicare and Medicaid legislation.  Mr. Gronniger holds a Masters in Public Policy and Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan and a BA in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard. 

The proposed ACO rule is at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/08/17/2018-17101/medicare-program-medicare-shared-savings-program-accountable-care-organizations-pathways-to-success

For information concerning Caravan Health go to: https://caravanhealth.com/