06-20-2018  7:34 pm      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

AG Rosenblum Seeks Info from Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General seeks information on children separated from families at border ...

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

Forum will focus on public safety and examine mental health and addiction issues ...

King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

The Metropolitan King County Council recognizes a true 'freedom day' in the United States ...

Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

Community is invited to gather at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 6 p.m. on World Refugee Day ...

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

Oregon gun-storage proposal won't make November ballot

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregonians will not be voting this fall on a proposal to require safe gun storage.Supporters of the initiative petition said Wednesday there isn't enough time to obtain the more than 88,000 valid signatures necessary to get the item on the November ballot.They had until...

Oregon Senator sues governor, state revenue department

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon state senator has filed a lawsuit against top lawmakers and the governor, saying the passage of a controversial March tax measure violated the state constitution.Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, Oregon, filed the suit Tuesday in state tax court, naming...

Suspect arrested in 1986 killing of 12-year-old Tacoma girl

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Tacoma police have arrested a man suspected of killing a 12-year-old girl more than three decades ago.The News Tribune reports 66-year-old Gary Hartman was booked into Pierce County Jail Wednesday afternoon on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of Michella...

Trudeau: Canada to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17

TORONTO (AP) — Marijuana will be legal nationwide in Canada starting Oct. 17 in a move that should take market share away from organized crime and protect the country's youth, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.The Senate gave final passage to the bill to legalize cannabis on...

OPINION

How Washington’s 'School Achievement Index' Became School Spending Index

New assessment categorizes schools not by quality of education, but level of funding officials believe they should receive ...

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly plans to improve access to culturally-competent care with the MOMMA Act ...

Hey, Elected Officials: No More Chicken Dinners...We Need Policy

Jeffrey Boney says many elected officials who visit the Black community only during the election season get a pass for doing nothing ...

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

AP Explains: US has split up families throughout its history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some critics of the forced separation of Latino children from their migrant parents say the practice is unprecedented. But it's not the first time the U.S. government has split up families, detained children or allowed others to do so .Throughout American history,...

The Latest: Messi gets a chance to save face against Croatia

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Wednesday at the World Cup (all times local):12:16 a.m.Lionel Messi is going to have a hard time keeping up with Cristiano Ronaldo at this year's World Cup.Ronaldo has all of Portugal's goals, a tournament-leading four so far, and has been getting in digs at Messi...

Ex-NAACP chief who posed as black pleads not guilty to fraud

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A former NAACP leader in Washington state whose life unraveled after she was exposed as a white woman pretending to be black pleaded not guilty to welfare fraud on Wednesday.Nkechi Diallo, formerly known as Rachel Dolezal, made a brief appearance in Spokane County...

ENTERTAINMENT

Jimmy Fallon reveals personal pain following Trump fallout

NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Fallon is opening up about the personal anguish he felt following the backlash to his now-infamous hair mussing appearance with Donald Trump.The host of "The Tonight Show" tells The Hollywood Reporter he "made a mistake" and apologized "if I made anyone mad." He adds...

After 4,000 episodes, a halt for Jerry Springer's show

NEW YORK (AP) — Somehow it doesn't seem right for Jerry Springer to exit quietly.There should be one last thrown chair or a bleep-filled tirade, at the very least. Instead, it was announced with no fanfare this week that he will stop making new episodes of his memorably raucous talk show,...

Peter Fonda apologizes for 'vulgar' Barron Trump tweet

NEW YORK (AP) — Peter Fonda apologized Wednesday for a late-night Twitter rant in which he suggested 12-year-old Barron Trump should be ripped from "his mother's arms and put in a cage with pedophiles."The all-capitals tweet in the wee hours went on to call President Donald Trump an...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

GOP senator defends EPA chief, calls ethics allegations lies

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator who had expressed concerns about Environmental Protection Agency...

AP Explains: US has split up families throughout its history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some critics of the forced separation of Latino children from their migrant...

Trump supporters steadfast despite the immigration uproar

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati resident Andrew Pappas supported President Trump's decision to separate...

Burger King says sorry for Russian World Cup pregnancy ad

MOSCOW (AP) — Burger King has apologized for offering a lifetime supply of Whoppers to Russian women who...

Volgograd provides the proper perspective at World Cup

VOLGOGRAD, Russia (AP) — Nearly 60 years since it changed its name to Volgograd, the Russian city once...

Live animals, meat, ivory, wood seized in trafficking stings

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of live animals along with tons of meat, ivory, pangolin scales and timber were...

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Medicare's payment system, the unseen but vital network that handles 100 million monthly claims, could freeze up if President Barack Obama's health care law is summarily overturned, the administration has quietly informed the courts.

Although Obama's overhaul made significant cuts to providers and improved prescription and preventive benefits, Medicare was overlooked in Supreme Court arguments that focused on the law's controversial requirement that individuals carry health insurance.

Yet havoc for Medicare could have repercussions as both parties avidly court seniors in this election year and as hospitals and doctors increasingly complain the program doesn't pay enough.

In papers filed with the Supreme Court, administration lawyers have warned of "extraordinary disruption" if Medicare is forced to unwind countless transactions that are based on payment changes required by more than 20 separate sections of the Affordable Care Act.

Opponents say the whole law must go. The administration counters that even if it strikes down the insurance mandate, the court should preserve most of the rest of the legislation. That would leave in place its changes to Medicare as well as a major expansion of Medicaid coverage.

Last year, in a lower court filing on the case, Justice Department lawyers said reversing the Medicare payment changes "would impose staggering administrative burdens" on the government and "could cause major delays and errors" in claims payment.

Former program administrators disagree on the potential for major disruptions, while some private industry executives predict an avalanche of litigation unless Congress intervenes.

AARP says it's concerned. If doctors became embroiled in a legal battle over payments, then "a general concern would be that physicians would cease to take on new Medicare patients, as well as potentially have issues seeing their current patients," said Ariel Gonzalez, top health care lobbyist for the organization.

Medicare payment policies are set through a time-consuming process that begins with legislation passed by Congress. Even if the law were completely overturned, the government still would have authority under previous legislation to pay hospitals, doctors, insurance plans, nursing homes and other providers.

"There is an independent legal basis to pay providers if the Supreme Court strikes down the entire law," said Thomas Barker, a former Health and Human Services general counsel in the George W. Bush administration.

But reversing the new law's payment changes from one day to the next would be a huge legal and logistical challenge, raising many questions. How would Medicare treat payments made over the last two years, when the overhaul has been the law of the land? Would providers who have received cuts subsequently have a right to refunds?

"Medicare cannot turn on a dime," said former administrator Don Berwick, Obama's first Medicare chief. "I would not be surprised if there are delays and problems with payment flow. Medicare has dealt with sudden changes in payment before, but it is not easy."

It's not just reimbursement levels that would get scrambled, Berwick said. The law's new philosophy of paying hospitals and doctors for quality results, rather than for sheer volume of tests and procedures, has been incorporated in some payment policies.

Tom Scully, who ran Medicare during former President George W. Bush's first term, does not foresee major problems, although he acknowledges it would be a "nightmare" for agency bureaucrats.

"It is highly unlikely in the short term that any health plan or provider would suffer," said Scully. "They're probably likely to get paid more going forward. If you look at the way the law was (financed), it was a combination of higher taxes and lower (Medicare) payments. That's what you would be rolling back."

The White House declined to comment.

Administration officials say they are confident the entire law will be upheld by the Supreme Court, and there's no contingency planning to address whether all or parts of it are struck down. Sharp questioning by the court's conservative justices during public arguments has led many to speculate that at least some parts of the law will be struck down.

Opponents of the law argue that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by requiring most Americans to have health insurance, starting in 2014. The administration says the mandate is permissible because it serves to regulate interstate commerce, underpinning another provision of the law that requires insurance companies to accept people in poor health. A decision is expected by early summer.

Former officials say it's likely that some form of high-level assessment and planning is going on within the administration. It has happened in the recent past.

Last year, when the GOP-led House threatened to block funding for carrying out Obama's law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to Congress outlining potential consequences. She said the administration might have to suspend payments to Medicare Advantage plans, popular private insurance alternatives that cover about one-fourth of all beneficiaries. That would have sent millions of seniors back into traditional Medicare, scrambling to find new doctors and coping with higher out-of-pocket costs.

Scully dismissed the notion that private Medicare plans would be jeopardized if the Supreme Court throws out the law.

"The idea that Medicare Advantage plans would shut down and patients would be thrown into the street is just people making up arguments to stir the pot," he said.

Repeal of the law would also mean that seniors would lose some new benefits, including the closing of the prescription coverage gap called the "doughnut hole," and no-charge preventive services such as an annual wellness physical.

"There is no doubt that striking down (the) Medicare provisions would be enormously disruptive for patients, physicians, hospitals and countless other providers and suppliers," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the program.

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