PPACA at 1

Thursday, March 24, 2011
March 23, 2011

It has been a full year since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law. A lot has changed in the last year. Were any of those changes good for you?

In the last twelve months:
* Insurance Rates have increased.
* Changed and new policies now cover preventive care without copays or coinsurance.
* Children, Only policies were taken off the market.
* People who have significant preexisting conditions and who have been uninsured for over six months can purchase coverage.
* The Democrats lost the House of Representatives and a large number of state houses.

Confusion and uncertainty have dominated the last year. Polls show that a majority of Americans dislike the PPACA, but a majority also dislikes the Republican’s plan to repeal the law. Much like Iraq, the public doesn’t want to be here, but is afraid to leave without a plan.

A Plan. The government doesn’t have any idea how to reform the payment and delivery of healthcare. The people in charge do not appear to be up to the task. And, do all of our so-called leaders have clean hands? Are we being provided an accurate view of the problem and the possible solution?

Vice-President Biden sent an email today to me and millions of other Democrats. He was eager to celebrate this anniversary. The bulk of the email was the story of a young child born with significant health problems. According to our VP, the family is no longer worried about the child’s future due to the passage of this legislation.

I am glad this child’s parents are no longer worried. Of course, if the child is really that disabled, he would qualify for SSI benefits and his health would be covered by the government or the parent’s policy. Nothing changed.

Only in government is over-promising and under-delivering a given.

It has been a year. The Doc-Fix and the 1099 Problem are still unresolved. The Individual Mandate might not be constitutional. The Democrats and the President are stalling in the hope that the PPACA will become accepted, if not loved. The Republicans made a faint attempt at repeal and then returned to their #1 focus, abortion. Regulations and rules are now in the hands of the bureaucrats. The final result may be as clean and organized as the tax code.

The PPACA link in today’s blog is the current amended version of the legislation as of December 10, 2010. Millions have been squandered by insurance companies and major employers attempting to comply with the ever-changing regulations. Those costs will be passed along to you in higher prices for insurance, food, and other necessities.

We can only hope that there will be more clarity and an actual plan by this time next year.

DAVE

www.bcandb.com

Download the federal government's forfeiture complaint against the St. Louis Art Museum from the News and Events box located at the link below

Friday, March 18, 2011
http://www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

US Attorney Takes the Offensive in SLAM Litigation by Seeking Forfeiture of Egyptian Mask

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Last month the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) sued the US government to claim ownnership of the ancient mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer. The US government yesterday sued to forfeit the mask.

Fearing that federal authorities could seize the Egyptian mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, SLAM filed a preemptive complaint on February 15 to have a federal district court declare that the mask is the museum’s property. US Attorney Richard Callahan responded on March 16 by initiating a lawsuit against the mummy mask.

In a complaint titled United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, Callahan petitions a Missouri federal court for forfeiture of the ancient object pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1595a. That statute permits officials to seize and forfeit items that have been illegally stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported into the United States. Callahan also asks that a restraining order be placed on the mask so that it remains available while the court case progresses.

In its petition for declaratory judgment, SLAM argues the following points:
• The museum conducted thorough due diligence before purchasing the mask on April 3, 1998.

• “The Museum’s investigation revealed no evidence that the Mask was owned by Egypt under applicable Egyptian law at the time of excavation, that the Mask was stolen from Egypt, or that the Mask had unlawfully entered the United States.”

• “The United States government cannot show probable cause the Mask was ‘stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced’ into the United States.’” Therefore, the mask cannot be seized or forfeited under 19 U.S.C. § 1595a.

• If the mask was stolen, the United States government is barred by the statute of limitations from seizing or forfeiting it because federal authorities had information more than five years ago “sufficient to discover the alleged theft of the Mask from Egypt.”

It should be noted that SLAM’s court complaint is hesitant to admit that the mask is stolen property. At best SLAM remarks that the mask may have been “allegedly stolen.”

The US Attorney’s complaint, by contrast, argues a more forceful claim, detailing why the mask is known to have been stolen. An excerpt from the government’s complaint is reproduced below:

“In 1952, Egyptian archaeologist Mohamed Zakaria Goneim, working for the Egyptian Antiquities Service, excavated the mat burial of a 19th Dynasty noblewoman named Ka-Nafer-Nafer inside the funerary enclosure of the 3rd Dynasty king Sekhemket at Saqqara. The Mask was placed in storage in the Sekhemkhet magazine, also located at Saqqara, where it was registered as the property of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and where it remained until 1959. In July of 1959, the Mask and four other items from Saqqara were packed for shipping to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in preparation for an exhibit in Tokyo. The packing list identified the Mask as registration number 6119 and packed in box number six. The Mask was received by police guards at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on July 28, 1959. Ultimately, the Mask did not travel to Tokyo for the exhibit. The Mask remained in Cairo, Egypt until 1962 at which time the Mask was transferred back to Saqqara. In 1966, the Mask and other objects from the same burial assemblage were removed from packaging in Saqqara and given to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization Restoration Lab located in Cairo in preparation for future display. The Mask traveled to Cairo from Saqqara in box number fifty-four. This was the last documented location of the Mask in Egypt. In 1973, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo took an inventory of all the objects that traveled in 1966 from Saqqara to Cairo in box number fifty-four. It was discovered at that time that the Mask was missing. The register did not document that the Mask was sold or given to a private party during the time frame of 1966 to 1973. In or around 2006, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities became aware that the Mask was accessioned by the Saint Louis Art Museum located in Saint Louis, Missouri for approximately $500,000.00 in 1998. Subsequently, the Secretary General for the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities sent letters and documentation to the Saint Louis Art Museum detailing the history of the Mask and requesting its return to Egypt. To date, the Saint Louis Art Museum has refused to return the Mask.”


The US Attorney’s office describes the mask’s source of discovery and its subsequent provenance. Should these claims be proven by the government, SLAM may find it difficult to maintain its dual and nuanced positions that either the mask may not have been stolen, or that the museum's investigation “revealed no evidence that the Mask was owned by Egypt under applicable Egyptian law at the time of excavation, that the Mask was stolen from Egypt, or that the Mask had unlawfully entered the United States.”

If evidence of the mask’s stolen character is proven by the government, SLAM might also have to revisit its February 14, 2006 position, reproduced in the museum’s legal complaint, “expressing its willingness to return the Mask to Egyptian authorities upon verifiable proof the Mask was stolen.” Any thought about returning the mask may have vanished, however, now that SLAM has argued that the statute of limitations forbids authorities from seizing or forfeiting the mask.

Knowing the statute of limitations claim asserted by SLAM, the US Attorney’s recent legal action does not address the issue at all. SLAM’s court petition points to episodes where federal officials directly or indirectly possessed knowledge to take action to investigate the possible illicit provenance of the mask. It remains to be seen how the federal government will take on this argument when SLAM inevitably raises the claim in its response to the government’s forfeiture action.

A Clean Bill Of Health

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Before we begin this next installment of Health Insurance Issues With Dave, we must briefly mention New Hampshire State Representative Martin Harty. When confronted by constituent Sharon Ormond about planned cuts in local mental health, Representative Harty opined that “there are too many defective people”. He went on to express his wish that we could ship the disabled, the retarded, and people with physical disabilities to Siberia.

Yes, Representative Harty is a fershimmeled 91 year old. Yes, he will serve one, and only one, term. I bring this up to again note that the moment health care is placed into the hands of politicians; the good, the bad and the Harty’s, medical treatment is politicized.

***

I had my annual physical this week. I ran in Tuesday morning and had my blood drawn. On Wednesday I spent over a half an hour with Dr. Ken Goodman who performed a thorough exam and an EKG. Let me brag for a second. The results were excellent. The costs for all of this, however, may surprise you.

I haven’t seen this year’s bills yet, but I have last year’s. Last year the Cleveland Clinic billed me and Medical Mutual of Ohio $802.78. MMO has a contract with the Clinic, so they only paid $417.13. I was left with a bill of $32. That is my policy. Technically, preventive care exams are completely covered on my policy, but the Cleveland Clinic always runs a blood test that isn’t part of the package. So I am always left with a small charge.

Many of my clients have similar coverage. Many, but not all. The new law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has changed that. All non-grandfathered health insurance policies now cover preventive care completely. How will that impact your policy?

In the simplest of terms, we are adding $417 to $803 of claims and the cost to process the paperwork to your policy. That is up to $67 per month. You and I understand that that will have an impact on your premium. It is true that only a fraction of Americans will take advantage of their free physicals. So you can get yours and hope that all of your friends skip theirs.

The federal government operates in a parallel universe. Their numbers are far different. The Department of the Treasury released interim final rules and regulations on July 19, 2010. This link takes you to thirty plus pages of the Federal Register. Section 5 details Costs and Transfers.

The government determined that individuals with employer-sponsored insurance have, on average, $264 in covered preventive care services. Of that, $240 was paid by insurance and $24 was paid by the patient as a copayment. Making this change, mandating that the exam is totally free, will only result in a $24 shortfall.

My exam, which doesn’t cover all of the stuff that falls under the new law, was a lot more than $264. Yours will be, too. That’s a gap of at least $153. If your current plan covered less than $264 of preventive care, or even no preventive care at all, your gap is much higher. Who will be charged for your free physical? You, of course, will be funding your free exam through higher health insurance premiums.

I believe in the value of routine physical exams. I have been poked and prodded annually for over twenty years. I also believe in routine auto maintenance and oil changes for my cars, but I don’t expect State Farm to cover them. I made a conscious decision to purchase a health insurance policy that includes preventive care. I chose to pay extra.

I believe that you are smart enough to make your own decisions, too. But, the government believes that the benefits of an annual exam, especially the opportunity to have a doctor educate you on the dangers of smoking and obesity, are too important to leave to chance. OK. Sell that.

It is time for the government to explain to the American people how much this program is going to cost us. The answer is not $24. If this really is beneficial, if it is truly warranted, the facts will win out. I believe in the American people. I trust our judgment. We will spend money if we understand why it is in our best interest. But the PPACA has been sold to us as a way to lower our costs and premiums.

That is clearly not true.

My numbers were great. Blood Pressure – 107/74! Resting heart rate of 65. No medications. Anticipated bill - $35. I hope your numbers are just as good, if not better. Diet and exercise can help to control your blood pressure. There may be no way to control that last number, the cost, under the new legislation.

DAVE

www.bcandb.com

This blog post is now appearing on my website in a word press format. Those of you who use a reader might prefer that format. http://bcandb.com/cunix/?p=80 Please let me know what you think.

Changing Course: Enhancing Homeland Security's Policy of Seizure and Repatriation with Investigation and Prosecution

Saturday, March 12, 2011
Illegal antiquities trafficking is a global business, linked to major transnational crimes such as money laundering. Additionally, cultural property crimes target humanity’s heritage and spirit. In order to successfully tackle crimes against cultural heritage, federal officials must pursue a strategy of investigation and prosecution.

The current policy of seizure and return does not go far enough. To seize a stolen or smuggled artifact at the American border and return it to its country of origin only serves to repatriate the object. Its confiscation and return does little to deter antiquities trafficking since there is minimal consequence to the perpetrators or accomplices. Building legal cases that lead to arrests and prosecutions would provide both specific deterrence and general deterrence.

The seize and return policy maintained by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently came into public view when Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and DHS investigators seized two Chinese artifacts illegally crossing America's border at Newark Liberty International Airport around March 3. Eight days later DHS announced the return of fourteen cultural objects to China, many obtained as a result of an enforcement initiative titled Operation Great Wall. The objects repatriated apparently included one of the artifacts seized at Newark Airport, specifically a Tang Dynasty horse. At least four other Chinese cultural objects that were seized in the New York metropolitan area over the past year were returned to China as well.

Typically when law enforcement officials seize the fruits of a crime or contraband they secure the evidence in anticipation of a prosecution. The return of the Tang Dynasty horse sculpture only a few days after federal officials seized it illustrates how smuggled cultural objects are not treated as criminal case evidence. That is to be expected when the primary mission of DHS is to seize and return, not to investigate and prosecute.

US Customs Director Robert Perez articulated this seize and return policy, declaring that federal authorities are "dedicated to intercepting [cultural] items and ensuring their safe return to their rightful owners." DHS’s news release about the repatriation of Chinese artifacts supports this view, highlighting that “2,300 artifacts have been returned to 18 countries since 2007.” While DHS touts the number of seizures and returns of cultural property, its press statement does not boast of any prosecutions or convictions against looters, smugglers, fences, or receivers of illegally stolen or trafficked cultural heritage.

Combating crimes against cultural heritage requires authorities to investigate and prosecute trafficking rings. Effective law enforcement is characterized by thoughtful investigation, careful handling of physical evidence, and assembly of evidence for review and use by prosecutors. While seizing and repatriating illegally smuggled artifacts serves some purpose to curb antiquities trafficking, federal officials cannot be credited with performing a thorough job if this remains the sole accomplishment.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement investigators and Customs and Border Protection agents are skilled law enforcement officers who are capable of combating antiquities trafficking effectively. We need to call on DHS policymakers to directly engage illegal antiquities networks by adopting a policy of investigation and prosecution that enhances the existing policy of seizure and repatriation.

Sources:
www.ice.gov/news/releases/1103/110311washingtondc.htm

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-03/justice/new.jersey.artifacts.seized_1_newark-airport-antiquities-chinese-government?_s=PM:CRIME