Qantas adds more flights to Hong Kong & ManilaQantas will add more flights between Australia and Hong Kong and Manila as a result of increasing demand from travellers.From 26 October 2015*, Qantas will operate an additional four Sydney-Hong Kong services each week, on top of the current daily services available from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.Services from Sydney to Manila will increase from four to five per week between early December 2015 and late March 2016 to offer more capacity during the peak holiday season.Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans said the airline was pleased to offer customers more choice to Hong Kong, on a route that is experiencing strong demand from customers.“Customers travelling from Sydney will have the choice of double daily flights to Hong Kong on peak days of the week for business travel and we’ll look at expanding beyond that if the opportunity is available,” said Mr Evans.The four new Sydney-Hong Kong services will be operated by Qantas’ refurbished A330 aircraft with lie-flat seats in Business and new Economy seats, the first time customers travelling on this route will experience the airline’s latest international product.^“We’re pleased to add to the seasonal services we’re set to operate to Asia later this year, with the fifth weekly Manila flight again representing the dynamic nature of our network, which has the flexibility to offer our customers more flights during peak seasons,” said Mr Evans.The new services have been made possible by Qantas’ continued focus on more efficient use of aircraft across its fleet and follows an additional 140 international services recently announced to operate to Singapore, Jakarta and New Zealand over the upcoming summer holiday season.Flights for the new Hong Kong services are available via qantas.com and through Travel Agents from today.Launch fares for the new Sydney-Hong Kong flights (QF117/118) are available from $688 return until 11:59pm AEST Friday 11 September 2015, unless sold out prior. Selected travel dates apply.The new Manila services will be available for sale next week and Qantas will keep customers updated.Source = Qantas
Cairns, which is considered the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is a city in the tropical North Queensland. Once a sleepy sugar-milling town, it’s now a destination known for sailing, diving and snorkelling.Source: Expedia
09Mar Rep. Hughes reading to students in Muskegon Tags: #SB Categories: Hughes News,News Lawmaker kicks off March is Reading monthState Rep. Holly Hughes of Montague, kicked off March is Reading month by visiting several schools in Muskegon County where she shared her favorite childhood books with elementary students. Rep. Hughes interacted with the kids on a variety of topics, answering questions and sparking interesting discussion about the stories. Rep. Hughes toured the school facilities and met with staff and parents.
01Feb Rep. Iden encourages anglers to drop a line for free on Feb. 13 and 14 State Rep. Brandt Iden encourages anglers to get out to the nearest lake to participate in Free Fishing Weekend, which will take place on Feb. 13 and 14.Free Fishing Weekend is an event hosted twice each year by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources – once in February, and again in June. On Feb. 13 and 14, fishermen and women are not required to carry a license while fishing. As most Michigan lakes are frozen solid in February, the winter weekend event is traditionally used for ice fishing.“As an outdoorsman myself, I know firsthand how relaxing it can be to go fishing in one of Michigan’s many lakes,” said Rep. Iden, R-Oshtemo. “I hope many others in our community get the chance to take part in this event.”Because Michigan temperatures were generally mild until mid-January, Rep. Iden encourages anglers to take extra safety precautions when venturing out onto the ice.A full listing of current and upcoming Free Fishing Weekend activities can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.### Categories: Iden News,News
State Rep. Jason Sheppard of Temperance joined his Michigan House colleagues in approving a state budget plan that includes $100 more per student for the state’s K-12 public schools.“We are proposing record amounts of money for our local schools, and it is the right place to invest taxpayer money,” Sheppard said after this week’s vote. “Our schools are Michigan’s future.”Highlights of the House budget plan include:Allocating the highest funding in state history for K-12 schools with a proposed $14.3 billion, while improving access to jobs of the future with a focus on career and technical education.Making life better in communities across Michigan by adding money for road repairs, public safety, parks and other programs to improve our daily lives through a 5 percent increase in revenue sharing for local governments.Increasing funding for public safety by adding 100 more Michigan State Police troopers.Making health care more effective and efficient, with an enhanced focus on improving mental health care.Paying down school retiree debt and adding to state government’s main savings account for tough times, pushing that emergency fund above $1 billion.The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.####The school budget is House Bill 4313.The state budget is House Bill 4323. Categories: News,Sheppard News 03May Rep. Sheppard joins Michigan House in approving record funding for K-12 schools
Share1TweetShare1Email2 SharesJune 18, 2015; Washington PostLast year, in a Los Angeles courtroom, seventy-one-year-old Rodolfo Fernandez testified that he had a power wheelchair in his garage. He neither wanted it nor needed it. One day, a “recruiter” showed up at his door, asked him a few questions, and took him to a physician who prescribed a wheelchair for him. Medicare pays close to $5,000 for such assistive devices; they cost around $840. The recruiter received a finder’s fee of $800 and the physician involved pocketed the rest. One L.A. doctor collected more than $23 million for over 100 power wheelchairs and other equipment that patients did not need—and sometimes didn’t even receive. In 2011, a Miami healthcare executive was sentenced to 50 years in prison for submitting more than $205 million in such phony claims. The Washington Post published a startling expose on the Medicare scams last year. Criminals like these have gotten away with millions just by slipping past Medicare’s plethora of blind spots.As the national debate over Medicare’s future escalates, its detractors have argued that the healthcare bureaucracy is fraught with abuse and fraud. Adding fuel to their fire is the Justice Department’s recent arrest of 243 people accused of bilking $712 million in Medicare payments. The department’s investigation targeted doctors and nurses as well as providers of psychotherapy, home care, drugs, physical therapy, and medical equipment, many of whom were in collusion with unscrupulous characters. The charges include conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, violating the anti-kickback statute, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.The arrest is the latest and largest crackdown in an eight-year campaign against healthcare fraud. In 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force was created to root out cheaters of the system. Since that time, over 2,300 people have been charged with falsely billing Medicare for more than $7 billion.At a news conference announcing the bust, FBI Director James B. Comey said, “If you want to find criminals, you follow the money. In this case, we followed the money and found criminals who were attracted to doctor’s offices, to clinics, to hospitals to nursing homes in search of what they viewed as an ATM, an ATM that was a freebie to them but is actually filled with taxpayers’ money.”The aforementioned Washington Post article described the scope of the enormous problem. The agency processes approximately $4.9 million claims a day and is required to make payments in thirty days, relying on the honor system. Without adequate resources, only about three percent are reviewed.The nationwide scams have not been limited to wheelchairs. In Miami, the owners of a mental health treatment center have been accused of billing tens of millions worth of intensive therapy for patients, many of whom, because of severe dementia, could not even communicate. Actually, the patients were just being moved to different locations. In Michigan, a physician allegedly traded prescribed unnecessary narcotic painkillers for the use of patient IDs to generate additional false billings. His addicted patients were held hostage when the doctor threatened to cut off their medications.A big portion of the scammers has targeted the relatively new Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit program. Investigators are on the trail in a big way. HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson noted in Modern Healthcare that costs in Medicare Part D reached $121 billion last year. “Our focus on Medicare Part D continues because more than 41 million Americans depend on that program, and its integrity must be protected,” Levinson said.In the same Modern Healthcare article, Patrick Burns, co-director of the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, said that prosecuting fraud in Part D can sometimes be more difficult than in other areas of Medicare because Part D payments are capitated, rather than fee-for-service.While the arrests are significant, Burns is not as impressed as others over the crackdown, which targets small time “fraudsters” while ignoring big business. “Nobody goes to jail. Nobody loses their job. […] They hammer the little guys, which they should, but they give the thumbs up and the big wink to the biggest liars, cheats and thieves.”The biggest losers? Those who pay into Medicare, whether they like it or not.—G. Meredith BetzShare1TweetShare1Email2 Shares
Share2TweetShareEmail2 SharesMarch 23, 2016; Portland Press HeraldCommunity Health Options, one of the 23 nonprofit health insurance co-ops established under the Affordable Care Act, has had its troubles. After $7 million in profits in 2014 (its first year of operation), it lost $31 million in 2015 and has budgeted to lose at least $43 million in 2016. To address the losses, it initiated $11 million in administrative cuts, including rolling back part of the executive pay increases authorized after 2014’s profitable year.Maine’s Division of Insurance had reached an agreement with Community Health Options to place the nonprofit cooperative into receivership and help it restructure. However, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rejected the plan because it included terminating as many as 17,000 policies—15 to 20 percent of policies currently in force—violating the ACA’s “guaranteed issue” provisions that protect people with insurance from having their coverage terminated.Community Health Options’ problems stem, in part, from a key aspect of its success—selling more policies to people who need them. Unfortunately for the insurance cooperative, many of the newly insured needed more covered health services than expected, so premiums paid did not cover the costs of services. NPQ discussed similar issues of pricing insurance and “adverse selection” in the failure of Utah’s insurance cooperative.Eric Cioppa, Maine’s insurance superintendent, is frustrated by the federal action but is continuing to work with CMS and Community Health Options to find a way to address losses while maintaining coverage.Although not specifically mentioned in Maine’s case, one potential source of relief may be the class action lawsuit filed by Oregon’s cooperative, Health Republic Insurance Company.Whether through litigation or other remedies, Cioppa has a valid point when he wrote in a letter to federal officials: “Because CMS’s decision has precluded my ability to act as proposed, CMS now must share responsibility for the risk of an outcome we all very much hope to avoid.”In the worst-case scenario where Community Health Options’ “enhanced oversight” status and attempts to restructure fail, can CMS force an insolvent insurer to continue operating? If so, whose money would pay claims? If CMS attempts to force Maine’s state government to make good on policies and payments, expect more lawsuits and strife.—Michael WylandShare2TweetShareEmail2 Shares
Share3TweetShare13Email16 SharesApril 10, 2017; WCIA-TVChampaign County, Illinois, has been struggling to determine the future of the county-owned Champaign County Nursing Home. As NPQ reported in February, local officials and community members were weighing options including a property tax increase to support the nursing home and sale to a for-profit entity. A consultant’s report recommended that the county enter into partnership with a consortium of existing nonprofit healthcare organizations.The county’s voters rejected the property tax increase and voted to have the county sell or dispose of the nursing home in an April 4th election. In the wake of the vote, there are still many hurdles to overcome.There are continuing concerns in the community about the quality and local orientation of the nursing home and its care, especially should it be sold to a large regional provider. Opponents of the county vote rallied under a slogan of “Our Seniors: Not for Sale.”The county board must still vote to sell or transfer the property, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass. One board member cites the difficulty in finding a buyer, especially without the rejected property tax proceeds as a contribution to a public-private partnership. Board member Josh Hartke said, “It’s extraordinarily hard for me to believe that were going to find a [nonprofit] to pay us 12 million dollars for that building and do something that does what that building does.”Even with the public vote supporting a sale, it’s not clear that the county has the legal authority to sell the nursing home, much less find a willing buyer who would be able to sustain the nursing home’s operations as well as the county has done. Why the legality of the sale has not been determined is not addressed in news reports, though it would seem to be an obvious question for a county government and its administration to ask. The county board plans to put together a group – they weren’t even sure what to call the group—with a mission to “research the nonprofit option” and check with the state’s attorney to determine the legalities associated with a potential sale.Long-term care facilities and the organizations that own and operate them are working in an increasingly challenging environment, facing difficulties including increasing demand, shrinking financial margins from reimbursements for Medicaid-paid residents, a shortage of workers in direct care positions, and state regulation that places limits on the location and number of nursing home beds. It’s not surprising that Champaign County is seeking to divest itself of its nursing home. The county is also learning how difficult it can be to accomplish that divestiture even after a public vote and the apparent commitment of county leaders to accomplish the task. In the meantime, the nursing home stays open and its residents, and the county’s residents, wait for the next chapter to be outlined.—Michael WylandShare3TweetShare13Email16 Shares
Share53TweetShare9Email62 SharesBy Jzhang17 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia CommonsJuly 24, 2017; The InterceptAs Trump has recently realized, captured simply when he spoke with the New York Times, “Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.” He’s referring, of course, to the sense that, in the U.S., many of us are getting attached to the idea of having access to adequate healthcare. The Intercept recently reported that a new Associated Press poll found that 62 percent of people in the U.S. “now agree the federal government has a responsibility to provide health coverage to all Americans, up from 52 percent in March.”Though it may not come from political leadership at the federal level any time soon, the states, as we’ve seen with other important issues, are taking the lead in giving the people what they want. One state in particular, Maryland, is primed to make some headway in universal health coverage. As Dan Morhaim, a House of Delegates member and physician, said, “I think the political system would be willing to take that on if the person who argued for it won the election.”Luckily, there is a “prominent gubernatorial candidate” in Maryland’s upcoming election who may fit the bill: former NAACP president Ben Jealous, who has “ardently endorsed single-payer.” In a recent event where Jealous received an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, the candidate said, “We have the opportunity in this state to make sure that we don’t have any more neighbors burying loved ones because they didn’t have access to health care.”If elected, Jealous would have a lot on his side in establishing a single-payer health system.Maryland’s legislature has a robust Democratic supermajority.It has no two-thirds requirement to raise taxes.It has no budgeting rules mandating state spending.While states need federal waivers to incorporate programs like Medicare into a state-run program, Maryland is the only state to already have one.The federal waiver enables a unique system known as all-payer rate setting.Maryland is the only state where all hospitals must charge the same rate for services to patients, regardless of insurance.Maryland has been setting hospital reimbursement rates for 40 years through its Health Services Cost Review Commission.So far, its system has created the lowest rate of growth in hospital costs in the U.S.In 2014, Maryland added global budgeting, where every hospital gets a total revenue number for the year, which incentivizes hospitals on better outcomes, or keeping people healthy rather than treating illnesses.According to a January Health Affairs study, the state is “meeting or exceeding” its goals.All-payer rate setting, wherein “all third parties pay the same for hospital services,” has served as the basis of universal health care in several industrialized nations, including France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. They have found that it controls costs “far better than America’s fragmented system.” All-payer reduces overhead for hospitals and insurers, and the Affordable Care Act caps the profits insurers can make; both lower hospital costs, which results in lower premiums.Joshua Sharfstein, a Maryland physician and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, “I think you can combine alternative payment approaches with single payer, but you don’t hear about that much…In some ways, it’s more radical [than single payer] if you’re able to get the incentives right.”Shelly Hettleman, a member of the House of Delegates from Baltimore, said, “I am not hearing a groundswell of support for a single-payer system or radically redoing what we currently do. My constituents want to fix the system rather than totally reinvent it.”However, that’s exactly what Maryland could potentially do: “reinvent health care outcomes by merely tweaking the system.”This may be that rare strategy that crosses party lines. Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, whose opposition to the federal health bill effectively killed it, said, “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”The Intercept reports that “even Vincent DeMarco, who flat-out rejected the notion of state-level single payer, agreed. ‘If we can do that, we can achieve the same goals in a way that’s doable,’ DeMarco said.”Further, a recent Baltimore Sun op-ed by Morhaim on decoupling health insurance from employment “got a wider response than he’s ever seen. ‘My email box flooded,’ Morhaim said.”Other states are already looking at Maryland as a model: “Pennsylvania has adopted global budgeting for rural hospitals” and “Vermont moved to an all-payer accountable care organization, where providers are paid based on health outcomes for the population.” But, as The Intercept concluded, “the true test of Maryland-style all payer is whether it can support universal coverage for every resident.” However, Maryland already has a low number of uninsured—6.7 percent in 2015.Jealous would be expected “to put single payer at the top of his agenda,” and he’s an experienced and successful politician, having “helped legalize same-sex marriage, abolish the death penalty, and pass a state version of the DREAM Act.” In fact, Democratic primary opponents are already moving in his direction. Alec Ross, a Hillary Clinton adviser, supports a public, state-based option, and State Senator Rich Madaleno said he would treat healthcare as a human right.”—Cyndi SuarezShare53TweetShare9Email62 Shares
Share11Tweet7ShareEmail18 SharesPhoto: Elvert BarnesMarch 13, 2018; WFYI IndianapolisFor nearly six months since declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, President Trump and his administration have done little but fan the flames of public outrage over the ever mounting death toll. Notably, after declaring a public health emergency, Trump did not even request any federal funding to address the issue. Making matters worse, an Obama-era law that designated a billion dollars in state opioid crisis assistance runs out this year, and there has been no sign that Trump will ask Congress to renew this funding. As time goes on and more Americans fall victim to the opioid epidemic, advocates are left wondering what the Trump administration is doing to address this health crisis.While pouring resources into solving the crisis would make sense, the president’s 2018 budget proposed to cut funding from key agencies, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which works to address opioid addiction, specifically in programs related to substance abuse prevention and mental health treatment. Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor of psychiatry and Obama-era policy advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), says, “The administration’s impulse seems to be not to spend more—in fact, to spend less.”Humphreys goes on to say, “It’s very hard to make sense of. I mean, it’s like closing a fire station in the middle of a wildfire.”The Trump administration has made some tiny attempts to salvage the situation. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a policy change shortly after the emergency was declared to broaden Medicaid eligibility for coverage of residential drug treatment through a state Medicaid waiver. With this waiver, states can request CMS to pay for residential drug treatment at facilities with over 16 beds. In states without a waiver, residential treatment is only Medicaid-eligible at facilities with less than 16 beds. As Medicaid waivers must be budget-neutral, this is a way to increase the number of beds available to low-income residents in need of substance abuse treatment without increasing expenditure on the part of the federal government. President Trump also signed the Interdict Act, which gave border agents more tools for detecting synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which make up a growing proportion of opioid use.While treatment for those addicted to opioids is sorely needed, President Trump seems more focused on penalties for who he calls the “pushers and drug dealers,” even suggesting the death penalty for drug dealers during the recently held White House Opioid Summit. The Trump administration is pushing a public awareness and education campaign to prevent people from using opioids in the first place. Some sources say this campaign will not be led by the experts at the ONDCP, but rather Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway.President Trump also suggested an interest in the federal government pursuing lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids, saying, “A lot of states are doing it, but I keep saying, if the states are doing it, why isn’t the federal government doing it? So that will happen.” As NPQ has covered, states, localities, and American Indian nations have already filed over 200 lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for damages caused by the opioid epidemic. Causes of action include creating a public nuisance, deceptive marketing, lax monitoring of highly suspicious opioid orders by pharmacies, and unjust enrichment through unfair business practices. Federal participation in these efforts would likely be welcomed by participating plaintiffs.Other steps by the Trump administration, though, are headed in the wrong direction, particularly those that focus on criminalization and fear. Years of data show that tougher penalties for drug dealers and “Just Say No” campaigns do not work. In fact, the D.A.R.E. campaign famously resulted in an increase of drug use. NPQ has covered the downfall of this program as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempts to resurrect this failed program.Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management, argues a penalty-based system is not the solution.We have done the experiment with extreme mass incarceration to shrink the drug market and it failed. Between 1980 and today, the number of drug dealers behind bars has gone up by a factor of 30 and the prices of heroin and cocaine have fallen more than 90 percent. So, the problem with putting drug dealers in prison is there is another drug dealer in there to take his place.The only penalty that might work is litigation against manufacturers of opioids. NPQ has covered in detail the growing number of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma—and potentially the Sackler family itself—among other opioid manufacturers. While civil suits absolutely paved the way for litigation, they were ultimately not very successful. However, as NPQ’s Steve Dubb indicated, if a “class” can be defined to bring a class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, like the litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s, then government suits have a good chance of enforcing penalties and gaining funds that could be used to pay for treatment.Although President Trump’s statements appear to miss the mark when it comes to solving the crisis, the plans laid out by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the White House Opioid Summit focused heavily on increasing access to treatment and providing community support, as well as research into non-addictive painkillers. This seems to be supported by funding, which is great news for advocates and those working on the frontlines of opioid treatment. As NPQ has previously reported, resources are critically needed not only for treatment but also for exhausted frontline staff and volunteers to continue their important work with opioid victims.In an NPR interview, Surgeon General Jerome Adams gives communities a glimmer of hope, indicating that funding will not only be restored but increased to federal agencies such as SAMHSA in fiscal year 2019: “The Trump administration is supporting increasing funding for drug courts. The Trump administration has also tripled the amount of funding going to SAMHSA for treatment from just under $500 million to $1.5 billion. The president has requested and Congress is moving through the largest allocation for opioid treatment and response in the history of the United States—$6 billion.”Surgeon General Adams goes on to say, “Communities need to be talking about how best to spend that money and making sure on a state and local level they are asking for and getting that money from SAMHSA and through Medicaid waivers and through all the different mechanisms that we have to funnel that money down to communities.”—Sheela NimishakaviShare11Tweet7ShareEmail18 Shares
Share6TweetShareEmail6 SharesPAUL FARMER / Poverty can be Eradicated BillboardNovember 16, 2018; New York TimesWhile the Trump administration and Theresa May argue over trade policies, they do agree on an approach to fighting poverty.Over the decades, Great Britain has approached the needs of those at the bottom of the economic ladder with a consistent vision that mirrors that of President Trump and other US conservative policymakers. In the UK, government funding has been reduced in order to spur self-support, encourage work, and decrease reliance on outside assistance. As public and nonprofit leaders in the US keep up their often-heated debate about what our policy should be, the case study of the UK’s experience should prove instructive.After years of reduced public funding, and with increased reliance on the nonprofit sector to patch a frayed safety net, what are the results? According to Philip Alston, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, for Britain’s poor, things are bad and heading in the wrong direction. Following a 12-day visit, Alston concluded that poverty has gotten worse and current policy is failing.In the United Kingdom, 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50 percent below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford essentials. After years of progress, poverty is rising again…in the fifth-richest country in the world, this is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity.[…]Government policies have inflicted great misery unnecessarily, especially on the working poor, on single mothers struggling against mighty odds, on people with disabilities who are already marginalized, and on millions of children who are locked into a cycle of poverty from which many will have great difficulty escaping.The New York Times summarized some changes in the UK in just the past 8 years:“Since 2010, the Conservative government has announced…nearly $40 billion…in cuts to welfare payments, housing subsidies and social services.”“Although overall poverty levels have remained fairly constant under the Conservative government, most measures show that poverty has risen among children and working families.”“The use of food banks almost doubled between 2013 and 2017. Families that receive benefits are now over $2,600 worse off every year, according to an analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group, an advocacy group.”With funding reduced for local governments, those services for which they had been responsible have had to be sharply reduced, with people in poverty feeling the harshest impact. The burden for softening that impact has fallen on Britain’s nonprofit sector which, as NPQ has previously reported, has struggled to fill the resource gap. “The number of nonprofit organizations working alongside government has decreased sharply as their funding declines…a thousand children’s centers have closed, leaving families trying to navigate a complex system without a map.”According to Alston, “I was told time and again about important public services being pared down, the loss of institutions that would have previously protected vulnerable people, social care services that are at a breaking point, and local government and devolved administrations stretched far too thin.…The voluntary sector has done an admirable job of picking up the slack for those government functions, but that work does not relieve the government of its obligations.”One focus of Britain’s efforts that is being replicated by conservatives in the US is an increased use of technology to streamline systems and cut overhead costs. Eligibility for government supports depends on the ability to continuously document eligibility requirements using online systems. Alston found this approach creates “an online barrier between people with poor digital literacy and their legal entitlements…the ‘test and learn’ approach to the rollout treats claimants like guinea pigs and can wreak havoc in real peoples’ lives.” This mirrors what the Washington Post found when it looked at Medicaid reforms in Arkansas, which similarly demanded ongoing electronic certification and put people’s health at risk.The British government, naturally, disagrees with Alston’s findings. According to an emailed response to the Times, the UK Department of Work and Pensions says, “With this government’s changes, household incomes have never been higher, income inequality has fallen, the number of children living in workless households is at a record low and there are now one million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared with 2010.”Poverty in Britain remains very real. Those within the nonprofit sector see the impact of austerity-based public policies up close and personal on those who fall between the cracks. They struggle for funding as the need for help rises. Great Britain’s experience can help American policymakers—the ones who can break out of their political silos—prevent human pain and suffering. The question is whether there are enough who are ready.—Martin LevineShare6TweetShareEmail6 Shares
Irish public broadcaster RTÉ could look to develop pay services and international services as it seeks to develop catch-up and video-on-demand, according to Muirne Laffan, managing director, RTÉ Digital.Speaking at the IP&TV World Forum yesterday, Laffan said there “may be an opportunity for a pay model” on some platforms as well as opportunities to develop international services. “It is difficult [to develop services] in a market of our size, which is about one and half million homes,” she said.Laffan said that the lack of standardisation and the need to develop new versions so its existing RTÉ Player online service for different platforms was a major challenge in a small market like Ireland. RTÉ is currently developing versions of its player for Samsung, LG and Philips. But even if manufacturers covered some of the cost there was still a significant internal development cost for broadcasters, she said. Laffan said that it made no sense to develop a platform for 50,000 viewers.Laffan said RTÉ has launched a plus one channel and a news channel originally developed for mobile, as well as its two linear and four radio services, on the country’s digital-terrestrial platform, Saorview. “It’s our objective to make sure we deliver our services wherever the audience wants them,” she said. “We need to bring VOD to DTT.”She said that RTÉ Player, which is currently available to enable online viewing, should be launched on DTT, but RTÉ needed other broadcaster to launch their services on the platform to make it viable. Only about 20% of viewers use the terrestrial platform to receive services, while the remainder receive services via satellite or cable.Laffan said that for DTT to be a success, it had to embrace “more innovative services such as VOD”.Laffan said that the player would be launched on UPC’s cable service in May. A version of the player is available on PlayStation games consoles.
Ziggo has launched a new on-demand platform to showcase professional content that hasn’t got a distribution deal in place.The EU1 on-demand service will offer content that has been made by professional film and TV programme makers to the Dutch cable operator’s customers.EU1 started as an online initiative that sees all rights to content being retained by the maker. Everyone that works on a EU1 project shares the profits of any money earned from it. From the profits made, 90% goes to the makers while EU1 receives a reimbursement of 10%.“Ziggo is always searching for content that offers emotion and inspiration to the customer. What’s more, customers really want to share that experience and those emotions. EU1 gives customers the opportunity to do this and that is why Ziggo supports this initiative. EU1 is available, without extra costs, for every Ziggo customer with an interactive receiver,” Ziggo said.
SES is adding music channel Deluxe Music HD to its German HD platform HD Plus.When the channel launches on December 17, it will be the 15th free channel to launch on the platform. Deluxe Music, which has been available in Germany since 2005, will be available to over 2.8 million HD Plus users.
Pay TV subscribers in Spain and Italy declined last year, but overall numbers for Western Europe were up, spurred by strong growth in Germany, according to new research.The Digital TV Research numbers contrast with those from Informa Telecoms & Media, which recently reported that cumulative pay TV subs fell in Western Europe for the first time ever in 2012.Informa reported that there were 92.6 million subs in the region while Digital TV puts the number at 94.1 million.The latter said that the growth it reports comes as Germany added 689,000 pay subs in 2012 and France 347,000. It estimates an overall 1 million subscriber increase in Western Europe last year and adds there will be a similar increase in 2013.Italy was down 428,000 over the year and Spain by 350,000 and report author Simon Murray said both will suffer further subscriber reverses this year and next before returning to growth in 2015.Region-wide, there will be 6.9% growth in pay TV subs between 2012 and 2018, taking the total north of 100 million for the first time ever. That will take pay TV penetration to 57% in Western Europe although there will be wide disparities by territory with, for example, almost full penetration in the Netherlands and just 24% in Spain.By platform digital cable will grow by 14.7 million subs and IPTV by 6.5 million across that timeframe. Pay DTH subs will increase by 2.5 million and pay DTT subscriptions will fall by 187,000 to 7.4 million.Simon Murray, report author, said that despite the growth overall pay TV revenues will remain flat: “The main reason for this is that ARPU is falling in most countries and on most platforms. The pay TV arena is becoming more competitive as new platforms launch and as cable operators upgrade their networks to offer bundles and advanced services such as HD channels and DVRs.”
Video solutions and content delivery firm Elemental Technologies is set to stage what it claims will be the world’s first public demonstration of live 4K HEVC encoding in Japan this weekend. Japanese telco K-Opticom Corporation will use Elemental video processing platform to power real-time video streaming of the Osaka Marathon Sunday in live 4K Ultra HD high-efficiency video coding (H.265/HEVC).The footage will be recorded on Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K cameras located at the midpoint and finish line of the racecourse. Each camera will be mounted with an AJA Ki-Pro Quad, which will send source content to Elemental systems via live 3G-SDI interfaces.Elemental Live will encode the footage and stream it over K-Opticom (K-OPT) optical fibre networks to an NTT Docomo decoder. Final rendering will take place on an 84-inch Sony 4K Bravia TV, with the public able to view the 4K coverage in a special K-OPT exhibit at the International Exhibition Centre Building in Osaka, said Elemental.“With resolution four times that of HD, demand for 4K content on high-quality, large-format screens is increasing. The advanced K-OPT optical fibre network combined with the power and flexibility of Elemental’s software-based architecture is vital to meeting this demand and to enabling this unprecedented experimental transmission,” said Takao Fujino, President of K-Opticom – a subsidiary of the Kansai Electric Power Company that provides fibre optic services for the Kansai Region of Japan.Keith Wymbs, VP of marketing for Elemental added: “The stunning images and high quality of 4K are best showcased at a world-class sporting event like the Osaka marathon. Elemental’s award-winning H.265 codec makes it possible to smoothly transmit 4K images across wideband networks provided by operators like K-Opticom.”
Sky Italia is launching a number of new features to enhance its service in the run-up to the holiday season.The 21st Century Fox-owned pay TV operator is launching a restart service, allowing viewers with a My Sky HD box connected to the internet to restart a programme that has already started. The service will initially be available for content in the Sky Cinema package.Sky is also launching Sky Link, a small device to connect My Sky HD set-tops wirelessly to the internet.Other new features on the platform include Mosaic for Kids, a dedicated interactive user interface that will enable viewers to see what is on air on all 27 kids services on Sky Italia, and a range of new features for the Sky Go mobile TV service.Sky Go users will now be able to limit the use of bandwidth and data traffic over 3G by choosing between three options – standard, reduced – providing lower video quality – and only audio, which provides the soundtrack to shows only. Sky will also provide a dual-audio function that enables users to choose to view linear and on-demand content either in Italian or in the programme’s original language.
US sports network ESPN is mulling a plan to provide access to US Major League Soccer coverage over the web without the usual requirement for viewers to prove they have an existing pay TV subscription with an established distributor.In comments reported by Reuters, ESPN president and Disney Media Networks co-chairman John Skipper told an event in Bristol, Connecticut that the company was considering the launch of a direct-to-consumer offering, but that plans were still at an early stage.Skipper said that any new offering would be centred on content that is not specifically offered as part of the programmer’s existing pay TV deals with US distributors, and he cited Major League Soccer as a possible candidate.Earlier this month, ESPN, Fox and Univision signed a new eight-year deal with the Soccer United Marketing, which controls the rights, giving the sports network access to English-language rights to up to 10 matches of the US national teams’ World Cup qualifiying matches, with ESPN2 to air 34 regular season matches, six playoff matches, the MLS All Star game and the MLS Cup in alternating seasons. The 34 regular matches will also run on ESPN Deportes with Spanish commentary.As part of the deal, ESPN3 will have the rights to carry a number of MLS matches outside the teams home markets, and it is to this package that ESPN has secured additional digital rights.ESPN said at the time of the deal that it “may explore alternative distribution models for the out-of-home package” and Skipper highlighted that the package included “enhanced digital rights” that “will benefit all our platforms”.In his remarks at the Connecticut event, Skipper said that ESPN remained committed to its current authenticated business model, meaning that subscribers have to sign up to a pay TV subscription for access to the group’s channels and Watch ESPN app, but said that the company is also thinking about new ways to deliver additional revenue.According to a source cited by Reuters, ESPN may make US soccer available through its ESPN3 app.
Russian cable operator Akado has named Yevgenia Shteglova as director of legal affairs.Shteglova will be charged with ensuring compliance with local and national regulations, assessing legal risks and implementing business processes and procedures for the company’s activities in Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.She replaces Konstantina Kokurina, who has left the company.
AMC Networks International is rebranding its Spanish movie channel CTK to Sundance Channel.The shift to Sundance will take effect from the start of next month and the programming line-up will be tweaked accordingly. The channel will exclusively show AMC’s original US series Rectify on the new channel, starting on October 9.Bruce Tuchman, president of AMC Global and Sundance Channel Global, said: “Spain continues to be one of our biggest priority expansion markets in Western Europe. We’re looking forward to offering an exclusive selection of distinctive independent-minded programming to local audiences throughout Spain.”The rebrand comes as AMC Networks International preps the rollout of AMC in Europe, Latin America and Asia. That process will start next month and continue through to the end of the year, with the existing MGM channels taking on the AMC brand and original content from the US AMC channel feeding through to the new service. AMC took control of the MGM channels aspart of its US$1 billion deal for Chellomedia.The MGM and CTK rebrands will see channels in the AMC stable take on new branding, but Ed Carroll, AMC Networks COO, told TBI there will not be wholesale rebadging of the Chellomedia services it has acquired.“For many years we were owned by Cablevision, which was a pioneer in local news, programming and channels so we know the value of local and pan-regional services – our plan is to keep that balance.”He added that while the MGM-AMC rebrand was a specific opportunity, the Chellomedia channels in the fold are unlikely to be widely rebadged. “We will not be fast to substitute domestic with global brands, we like the legacies of the local channels andwill build these brands,” Carroll said.