05 24 2016
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  • The judge concluded Officer Edward Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn't responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in  
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  • Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.Prosecutors had declined to charge the comedian-actor over the 2005 complaint, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public. In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Andrea Constand at his home. They knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team. Bill Cosby's wife refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who say the comedian branded them liars after they accused him of sexually assaulting them, according to a transcript released Friday. Camille Cosby was subjected to intense questioning by the women's lawyer, who repeatedly pressed her to say whether she believes her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. The lawyer also asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." Camille Cosby didn't answer those questions and many others after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal protection given to communications between spouses. She repeatedly said she had "no opinion" when pressed on whether she viewed her husband's behavior as dishonest and a violation of their marriage vows. About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them decades ago. Cosby has denied the allegations. He faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania, where prosecutors have charged him with sexually violating a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. Camille Cosby answered questions in the deposition Feb. 22 and again April 19 after her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop it. A judge ruled she would have to give a deposition but said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. Camille Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, repeatedly cited that privilege and advised her not to answer many questions asked by the women's lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. The exchanges between Cammarata and Cosby became testy at times, and she admonished him: "Don't lecture me. Just keep going with the questions." Using a transcript of a deposition Bill Cosby gave in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005 and a transcript of an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Cammarata asked Camille Cosby about extramarital affairs her husband had. "Were you aware of your husband setting up trusts for the benefit of women that he had a sexual relationship with?" Cammarata asked. She didn't answer after her lawyer cited marital privilege. Cammarata asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. "Was it a big deal when this came up in the 1970s that your husband had — big deal to you that your husband had an extramarital affair and potentially had a daughter from that extramarital affair?" Cammarata asked. "It was a big deal then, yes," Camille Cosby replied. She said she had "no opinion" on whether her husband's admission he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex violated their marriage vows. Her lawyer objected and instructed her not to answer when Cammarata asked her if she ever suspected she had been given any type of drug to alter her state of consciousness when she had sex with her husband. A spokesman for the Cosbys declined to comment on her deposition. The Cosbys have a home in Shelburne Falls, an hour's drive from Springfield, where the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.   The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse, but the women accusing Cosby have come forward to tell their stories.___AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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  • Some hope killing will bring peace in Afghanistan     
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Health Care ProtestSAN DIEGO, Calif. – Like most severely mentally ill patients, 23-year-old Daniel Padilla doesn't see himself as that.

The insurance companies that cover him – Medi-Cal (California's name for Medicaid, the federal-state-funded insurance for low-income and disabled people) and United Health Insurance -- don't see the schizophrenia he was diagnosed with at age 19, as deserving the same benefits as someone with a medical condition.

His father, Benito, must go after the insurers month after month to get them to pay Padilla's psychiatrist to keep his schizophrenia under control.

"The insurers approve three visits and then they put you through hell," asserted San Diego-based psychiatrist Dr. Rodrigo A. Muñoz, who has been treating Padilla all along.

"Insurers discriminate against people who are mentally ill," Muñoz said.

But that's all going to change soon. When the historic Affordable Care Act fully unrolls on Jan. 1, 2014, it will require insurers to offer mental health care benefits equal to physical health benefits. In other words, a disorder in the brain will be treated no differently than one in the kidney, Muñoz said.

Not just people with mental disorders, but those with substance use disorders have encountered penny-pinching annual and lifetime caps on coverage, higher deductibles, or simply no coverage at all.

Federal Parity Law

The blatantly discriminatory practices by health insurance companies prompted Congress in 2008 to pass the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), which mandated that psychiatric illness be covered just the same as other medical illnesses. It required insurers to offer the same annual and lifetime dollar limits for mental health care as for medical and surgical care.

But the law applies only to larger employers – those with 50 or more workers – that offered a health plan that covered mental health and substance abuse. Smaller employers, as well as people who buy their own insurance, are excluded from the benefits of the law.

"Smaller employers have resisted changing the law, saying they will go broke" if they had to include mental health coverage in their health care plans, Muñoz pointed out.

The ACA has extended the MHPAEA provisions to state insurance exchanges, known as Covered California in this state. This would require policies purchased by smaller employers and individuals through the exchange, as well as those purchased outside of it, to be MHPAEA-compliant.

Had the MHPAEA mandated universal psychiatric benefits when it was created, insurers like Padilla's would not have been able to discriminate between the treatment of psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical illnesses, he said.

Only a Fraction of the Mentally Ill Get Treatment

Dr. Clayton Chau, who practices psychiatry in Orange County, Calif., said that because of the discrimination factor, poor access to care and inadequate insurance coverage, only a fraction of those with mental illness get treatment.

A report by the Surgeon General indicates that one in four Americans has a diagnosable mental illness at any given time. National and international studies show that 1 percent of the general population has schizophrenia, an illness that is treatable, though not curable. Surveys, including those done by the National Institutes of Mental Health, show that only about 50 percent of Americans seek psychiatric treatment.

According to Randall Hagar, director of government relations with the California Psychiatric Association, a state mental health parity bill signed by Gov. Davis in 2000 required insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of a range of mental illnesses under "the same terms and conditions applied to other medical conditions." The intent of the law was to eliminate the disparity in co-pays and higher deductibles.

In the opinion of many advocates, Hagar observed, the law is "routinely violated by plans and insurers, and enforcement is generally weak."

That prompted Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell, to try five times to give more teeth to federal and state mental health parity laws. Beall's first four bills were vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and his most recent bill (SB22) didn't even make it out of committee.

What the Health Care Law Will Do

Under the ACA, aka Obamacare, health insurers are forbidden from excluding people with pre-existing illness from medical coverage. By definition, Americans with a mental illness have a pre-existing disorder, and up until now, private health insurers have denied with impunity coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

California has added a mental health component to its expanded Medi-Cal program, under ACA, to ensure that its Medi-Cal population with mental disabilities receives more comprehensive mental health benefits, starting Jan. 1, 2014.

The current mental health component of Medi-Cal "is limited in terms of the number of providers and the number of services" it offers, Chau said.

Older people with mental illness will also benefit from the ACA because the law will close the notorious "donut hole," allowing the Medicare population to not have a break in medication.

Padilla, who's currently working for his GED, has been able to stay on his father's insurance because of his age. A provision in the ACA allows children under 26 to remain on a parent's insurance plan.

Muñoz is relieved that the ACA will help patients like Padilla access the care they so badly need. The removal of lifetime caps by insurance companies will enable mentally ill patients to access care before turning to suicidal thoughts, becoming violent or ending up homeless, he said.

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