Monday, September 12, 2011

Patt Morrison for Tuesday, September 13, 2011




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1-3 p.m.



1:06 – 1:39 OPEN


1:41:30 – 1:58:30

The public option is not dead: but will Californians vote for it?
Jamie Court, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, plans to put an initiative to add a health care public option on California’s 2012 ballot. He writes, “By 2014, all of us will be required to buy health insurance or face tax penalties. The problem is that health insurance companies can charge whatever they like and raise premiums at will in California. This is the same scenario that drivers faced in 1988 when mandatory auto insurance laws forced drivers to pay for policies many couldn’t afford. Voters then required auto insurers to pay drivers a 20% refund and to get permission before they ever raised rates again. Just like in 1988, insurance stalwarts in the statehouse are now holding insurance premium regulation hostage. The companies have given the politicians millions so they can make billions overcharging you. And, as in 1988, the California Supreme Court has issued several rulings taking away the right of policyholders to hold insurance companies accountable.”

Just as it did in 1988 against auto insurance companies, Consumer Watchdog faces a tough fight against health insurance companies with its effort to pass an initiative for a public health care option in California. The Santa Monica-based consumer advocacy group plans to spend roughly $6 million on its largely direct-mail campaign to get the 700,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot. The effort will go up against nearly $100 million to be spent by insurance companies seeking to halt the initiative. Still, Court remains optimistic that his group can pull off what it did in 1988 with the help of angry Californians demanding lower rates. In opposition, Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council, and others, say rising rates reflect rising health care costs and extended life spans, and the government should let competition keep rates down. Opponents also say there is no evidence that a public option would be cheaper. At a time when California is strapped for cash, will voters decide that short-term public health care option costs will reap long-term savings? Or do Californians think government-run health care is a bad idea in general? If the initiative makes the ballot, how will you vote?


Jamie Court, executive director, Consumer Watchdog, Santa Monica-based consumer advocacy group responsible for Proposition 103, which established regulatory and cost oversight of state auto insurance rates; author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell

Micah Weinberg, senior policy advisor, Bay Area Council


2:06 – 2:30

When available skills don’t match the jobs demand: unemployment conundrum

Unemployment in California is at 12 percent, a situation that is mirrored around the country. As a general rule the recession, the sub-prime mortgage debacle and employer skittishness to invest are blamed for the negative jobs picture. However, researchers at the Brookings Institution have found another fundamental issue impacting the employment picture. People who need jobs may not have the education that some jobs require. And the cities that are struggling aren’t always the ones with the least-educated work force. Instead, they are the places where the skills of those looking for work don’t match the skills needed to fill the available jobs. This education gap doesn’t bode well for an information economy that relies on workers with the latest skills. But the researchers caution that closing the gap will probably not solve the problem alone; strategic public investment and regional economic diversification could help, but is there a magic bullet?



Jonathan Rothwell, senior research analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution; co-author of the study


2:30 – 2:58:30

Vet sticker shock: how much is too much to pay for your four-legged friend?

Have you ever taken your pet to the vet for what you expect will be a simple procedure only to be hit with an astronomical bill on your way out? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that pet owners can expect to shell out between $9,400 and $14,000 over their pet’s 15-year life span for health care.  But a recent survey indicates that most Americans are reluctant to pay more than $500 for veterinary care and as the bill creeps closer to $1000, owners draw the line. You love your pet, but what do you do when the cost of caring for it exceeds the amount in your bank account? Consumer Reports suggests being proactive—if you think your vet charges too much, shop around and don’t rely on your vet for medication, you may be able to find less expensive options other places. They’ve also analyzed whether pet insurance is cost effective and recommend scaling back on the doggy treats—obesity in dogs and cats can lead to a range of health related issues like arthritis and diabetes. 



Jeff Blyskal, senior editor, Consumer Reports



The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)



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