WBEZ | Massachusetts http://www.wbez.org/tags/massachusetts Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Health exchanges: A 'one-stop-shop for the uninsured and unemployed to find health insurance' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/health-exchanges-one-stop-shop-uninsured-and-unemployed-find-health-insurance <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/6935923607_02a5ba5a4b_z.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 188px; " title="Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown announced in February that all 46 acute care hospitals in the state now share information thru the state-wide Health Information Exchange program. (Flickr/Maryland Government)" />The Illinois legislature had a lot to tackle this legislative session, so perhaps it&rsquo;s no surprise they put off a vote on the creation of a state health exchange. Even though President Barack Obama&rsquo;s Affordable Care Act requires states to establish them by 2013, Illinois lawmakers aren&rsquo;t the only ones to drag their feet.</p><p>With the future of the ACA uncertain, many states are waiting on the Supreme Court ruling expected later this month. This late in the game, Governor Pat Quinn would almost certainly have to use an executive order to meet federal deadlines.</p><p>While the specifics can vary considerably, all health exchanges would essentially establish a one-stop-shop for the uninsured and unemployed to find health insurance. Leemore Dafny, a professor at Northwestern&rsquo;s Kellogg School of management who studies health care economics, compares them to Orbitz or Kayak. &ldquo;You plug in the parameters, and it tells you what&rsquo;s available,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>With all the information in one place, proponents argue consumers are better equipped to make informed decisions about their options.</p><p>Coupled with the individual mandate, which forces healthier people into the system, exchanges could bring down the cost of care.</p><p>The numbers suggest that&rsquo;s been the case with the Massachusetts exchange, better known these days as Romneycare. Currently, 96 percent of the state has coverage, and premiums haven&rsquo;t risen as quickly as elsewhere in the country.</p><p>Ironically, the states with the most established exchanges -- Massachusetts and Utah -- got their systems up-and-running long before the ACA became law.</p><p>Other states (like New Mexico) moved forward but then reversed course.</p><p>Soon after Obama passed the ACA, the state&rsquo;s then-governor used an executive order to create an office tasked with creating an exchange.</p><p>Daniel Derksen, a family physician with policy experience, headed the effort. He claims New Mexico was set to meet deadlines required to receive federal funding, but a newly-elected governor pulled the plug.</p><p>The state, which has the second-highest percentage of uninsured in the country, &ldquo;missed an unprecedented opportunity,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>On Friday, Dafny and Derksen join <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to discuss how health exchanges work and whether they actually bring down the cost of insurance.</p></p> Fri, 01 Jun 2012 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/health-exchanges-one-stop-shop-uninsured-and-unemployed-find-health-insurance County starts freeing inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/county-starts-freeing-inmates-wanted-ice-91808 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-09/Cook county jail Ted S. Warren-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new Cook County ordinance that touches the hot-button issue of immigration is allowing inmates out of the county’s jail and making waves in other parts of the country.</p><p>The ordinance, approved Wednesday by the County Board, halts compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests that certain inmates stay in jail up to two business days beyond what their criminal cases require. The requests, known as detainers, give ICE time to pick up the inmates for possible deportation.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says by Friday afternoon the jail had freed 11 jail inmates named in ICE detainers.</p><p>ICE took custody of 721 Cook County inmates on detainers this year and 1,665 last year, according to Dart’s office. “I guess that’s it,” spokesman Steve Patterson says.</p><p>The ordinance requires the jail to free such inmates unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement. ICE says the feds don’t reimburse any local jurisdiction in the country for those costs.</p><p>“It’s like a godsend,” says Carlos Torres, 29, of North Lawndale.</p><div class="inset"><p><span style="color: rgb(165, 42, 42);"><span style="font-size: 24px;"><em><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">‘You have many localities and state legislatures trying to do immigration policy. We’re not best equipped to do this.</span></em></span></span><span style="color: rgb(165, 42, 42);"><span style="font-size: 24px;"><em><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;">’</span></em></span></span></p></div><p>Torres says Chicago police last month arrested his father after finding narcotics in a car in which he was a passenger. Torres says his father, a Mexico native, has an expired green card and that his U.S. record includes a burglary conviction. “So that would make him more likely to get deported,” Torres says.</p><p>ICE found out Torres’s father was in the jail and put a detainer on him. But the ordinance gives the inmate a better chance of walking free after a court appearance Tuesday. “I’m relieved,” Torres says.</p><p>Jesús García, D-Chicago, and other commissioners who backed the measure say detainers violate inmates’ due-process rights and erode community trust in local cops.</p><p>“You have many localities and state legislatures trying to do immigration policy,” García says. “We’re not best equipped to do this.”</p><p>García says local governments are stuck with the job until Congress overhauls the nation’s immigration laws.</p><p>Those localities have some cover from a federal court ruling in Indiana this summer. The ruling says compliance with ICE detainers is voluntary.</p><p>Still, a few Cook County commissioners have qualms about ignoring them. “Under this ordinance, gang bangers and people involved in drug dealing, sex trafficking and criminal sexual assault will be released back into our communities,” Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, said during Wednesday’s County Board meeting. “This is clearly our Willie Horton moment.”</p><p>A Massachusetts prison released Horton, a convicted felon, as part of a weekend furlough program in 1986. He did not return and committed violent crimes that came back to haunt Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign.</p><p>ICE sounds a similar alarm. “ICE has not sought to compel compliance through legal proceedings [but] jurisdictions that ignore detainers bear the risk of possible public safety risks,” the agency said in a statement about the Cook County vote.</p><p>Asked whether ICE will take the county to court to compel compliance, the agency did not answer.</p><p>The ordinance, meanwhile, is reverberating beyond the county. “For a long time we felt like we were in this alone,” says Juniper Downs, lead deputy counsel for Santa Clara County, California. “Cook County’s bold policy may affect the direction of the policy we develop.”</p><p>At least three other counties — Taos and San Miguel, both in New Mexico, and San Francisco in California — have limited the sorts of inmates they’re holding on ICE detainers. None has gone as far as Cook County, which is ignoring the detainers altogether.</p></p> Fri, 09 Sep 2011 23:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/county-starts-freeing-inmates-wanted-ice-91808 Quinn hits back against immigration checks http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/deportation protest_flickr_presenteorg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to throw another wrench into a key immigration-enforcement program of President Obama’s administration, saying it ensnares too many people and erodes trust in local police.<br> <br> An <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Quinn_office_to_Morton.pdf">August 18 letter</a> from the governor’s office to John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hints about a possible legal challenge and asks the federal agency to contact all 26 Illinois counties that have agreed to participate in the program, called Secure Communities, to confirm they still want to take part.<br> <br> “This is the least that ICE can do,” says the letter, signed by John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel. “These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program” ICE first presented.</p><p>The Obama administration says the program helps focus immigration enforcement on repeat immigration violators and dangerous criminals, such as murderers and kidnappers.</p><p>ICE reports that Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 86,000 convicted criminals. Data from the agency show that about half of those immigrants were convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.<br> <br> The program has led to the deportation of another 34,000 people not convicted of any crime. Voicing concerns about them, Quinn withdrew Illinois from Secure Communities in May. New York and Massachusetts followed with similar steps.<br> <br> But an August 5 letter from Morton to governors says states no longer have any choice and that Secure Communities will extend to all local law-enforcement jurisdictions in the United States by 2013. An addendum to the letter describes changes in the program. Those include the elimination of a state role in conveying data for the fingerprints.</p><div><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><blockquote><p><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><span style="font-size: 26px; "><em>"These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program"&nbsp;</em></span></span></p></blockquote><p><em>--John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel</em></p><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><p>Mark Fleming, an attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, says ICE could end up in court if Secure Communities lacks the consent of the local jurisdictions. “The governor’s office may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge,” Fleming says.</p></div><p>Fleming points to 1990s rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that the 10th Amendment bars Congress from compelling state and local governments to administer federal regulations.<br> <br> Asked whether Illinois officials are cooking up a lawsuit, a Quinn spokeswoman refers to Schomberg’s letter, which says the governor’s office “will continue to monitor and evaluate” Secure Communities and “consider all of the state’s options.”<br> <br> ICE representatives did not respond to WBEZ requests for comment on whether Secure Communities violates the 10th Amendment.<br> <br> The Obama administration lately has downplayed agreements through which it first brought state and local governments into the federal initiative. “We wanted to work with the locals and let them know about the program,” says Jon Gurule, an ICE official who helped set up Secure Communities.<br> <br> “But, from the operational side, it’s federal information sharing between two federal agencies,” Gurule adds, referring to ICE and the FBI. “And it’s congressionally mandated.”<br> <br> If ICE checks in with the Illinois counties, as the Illinois letter asks, the federal agency would find some with second thoughts about joining Secure Communities. “If they honor the governor’s request, I would not want to partake in it,” says Patrick Perez, sheriff of west suburban Kane County, part of the program since 2009.<br> <br> “The program has not turned out to be what it was supposed to be,” Perez says, pointing to the deportation of non-criminals. “People in the Hispanic community have become very reticent to contact police if they’re victims of crime because they’re fearful that . . . they will be deported.”<br> <br> The federal initiative also has defenders. “My life has been destroyed by all of this cheap, foreign scab labor,” says a 56-year-old network engineer in Chicago, blaming immigrants for his unemployment and asking that his name not be published because he’s job hunting. “Whether it’s illegal aliens or foreign legal workers, they’re hurting American citizens.”<br> <br> “Secure Communities removes the criminals,” he says, “and that’s a start.”</p></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 22:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065