Hospitals Are Flouting — And Fighting — Price Transparency Rules

Link: https://www.levernews.com/hospitals-are-flouting-and-fighting-price-transparency-rules/

Excerpt:

The vast majority of U.S. hospitals are ignoring a new bipartisan federal law that requires the facilities to make their service prices available to the public, new research shows, and the Biden administration is facing growing criticism for not doing enough to enforce compliance with the landmark rule.

Now one state, Colorado, has taken matters into its own hands, passing an innovative law to bring its hospitals into compliance with the federal price transparency requirements — despite health care lobbyists’ efforts to sink the legislative effort.

….

Against the backdrop of limited federal enforcement, Colorado is leading the charge on creatively bringing hospitals into compliance, thanks to a new state law: House Bill 1285.

The law, recently signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) and effective starting this August, has dual goals of accelerating the timeline on which hospital systems must meet the federal mandate, and curbing the crippling medical debt that plagues more than 100 million Americans.

The measure adds a state-level enforcement mechanism by requiring that hospitals be in compliance with the federal pricing transparency act in order to send Coloradans to collections for medical bills.

David Silverstein, founder and chairman of patient advocacy organization Broken Healthcare, wrote the bill and spearheaded the effort to get it across the finish line.

Author(s): Aditi Ramaswami

Publication Date: 27 Jun 2022

Publication Site: The Lever

The Asininity of Inflation Expectations, Once Again By Powell and the Fed

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/the-asininity-of-inflation-expectations-once-again-by-powell-and-the-fed

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Excerpt:

Common sense and practical examples suggest that inflation expectations theory is ass backward.

So much of the CPI is nondiscretionary that it’s difficult to impossible for CPI expectations to matter. 

Yet, economists focus on expectations that don’t matter and ignore the expectations that do matter, namely asset prices!

I have written about this several times previously, two of them before I even found the Fed study supporting my view. 

…..

A BIS study concluded “Deflation may actually boost output. Lower prices increase real incomes and wealth. And they may also make export goods more competitive.

Indeed, that must be the case as more goods for less money by default improves standards of living.

The Fed was hell bent on reducing standards of living via inflation. Now they struggle to undo the inflation and asset bubble consequences they created. 

The Fed is the problem, not the solution.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 25 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk

Essential Terms of the Authority Crisis

Link: https://polimath.substack.com/p/essential-terms-of-the-authority

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Excerpt:

This last week, the CDC held their ACIP meeting to discuss whether or not they should recommend the COVID vaccines for children 6 months to 5 years old. While presenting on the danger of the virus for children, a slide was shown claiming that COVID presented as one of the leading causes of death for children.

Kelley, who runs covid-georgia.com, saw this slide and immediately knew it was false. She has been tracking COVID data in excruciating detail in Georgia since the beginning of the pandemic and has recently become an expert on the CDC’s pediatric death data simply because it was such a disaster and she wanted to get down to the truth of the matter.

This slide above is no small error. Not only did it count the wrong number for pediatric COVID deaths, it compared all pediatric COVID deaths in a 26-month period to annualized deaths from other causes. This is a massive data error, and yet it persisted through a supposedly rigorous data check from 11 authors and was selected by top-tier scientists for their landmark presentation to the most knowledgeable experts in the field.

Author(s): Matt Shapiro

Publication Date: 21 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Marginally Compelling at substack

AMENDMENT 1 WOULD GUARANTEE $2,100 PROPERTY TAX HIKE FOR TYPICAL ILLINOIS FAMILY

Link: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/amendment-1-would-guarantee-2100-property-tax-hike-for-typical-illinois-family/

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Excerpt:

Amendment 1 would grant government unions unprecedented bargaining powers as a “fundamental right,” including the power to override voters and state lawmakers. Proponents are selling it as a constitutional ban on passing right-to-work laws – laws that protect employees’ rights to keep their jobs without having to pay fees to a union. Illinois is not among the 28 states that currently have right-to-work laws, so that aspect has little meaning.

The amendment does include three other provisions that together would severely weaken taxpayers’ voices in state government and make it easier for government union bosses to make unaffordable demands in collective bargaining contracts. First, virtually anyone would have a fundamental right to collective bargaining if they could be considered an employee in any context, including even prisoners. Second, bargaining would be expanded beyond just wages, hours and working conditions to include broad new subjects covering public policy decisions or how to run a businesses. Third, the amendment prevents lawmakers from ever limiting or scaling back on these rights in any way.

Even without these provisions, powerful government unions helped public sector wages grow 60% faster than the private sector in Illinois from 1998 to 2019.

Peer-reviewed research shows stronger government worker unions cause the cost of government to increase, with powerful unions putting even more upward pressure on benefits than on wages. Government worker retirement benefits, which flow mostly to government union workers, have left Illinois local governments with $75 billion in pension debt and are already the primary cause of rising property taxes. Government unions helped Illinois politicians build the state and local pension crisis by supporting both unaffordable benefits as well as irresponsible funding games that pushed costs into the future.

Nationwide data from 2010 to 2019 show a significant statistical association between the percentage of government workers who are members of a government worker union and each state’s average effective property tax rate.

Author(s): Adam Schuster

Publication Date: 15 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute

A chance to enter a new era of financial transparency and awareness for public pension plans

Link: https://reason.org/commentary/a-chance-to-enter-a-new-era-of-financial-transparency-and-awareness-for-public-pension-plans/

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Excerpt:

On Feb. 11, the Actuarial Standards Board issued a revised Actuarial Standard of Practice No. 4, effective February 15, 2023. The rollout has been low-key. The announcement says:

“Notable changes made to the existing 2013 version include expanding the scope to clarify the application of the standard when the actuary selects an output smoothing method and when an assumption or method is not selected by the actuary.”

But this description obscures a significant new required disclosure, one which follows years of controversy and acrimony within and among actuaries and the public pension plan community at large.  The requirement was the overwhelming focus during the drafting and comment period.     

The new required disclosure reflects economic reality better than any currently required number.

Author(s): Larry Pollack

Publication Date: 25 Mar 2022

Publication Site: Reason

Wall Street Is Fleecing a Bunch of Teachers

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/04/katie-muth-pennpsers-pensions-retirement-fund-teachers-sec-pennsylvania

Excerpt:

A new era in the decade-long battle by retirees and whistleblowers to halt massive transfers of wealth out of retirement funds and into Wall Street firms could be at hand, thanks to the case of Katie Muth.

Muth, a Democratic Pennsylvania state senator, is one of fifteen trustees who oversees Pennsylvania’s largest public pension fund, the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PennPSERS). Not long after her February 2021 appointment to the board, Muth began questioning the fund’s investments in areas like private equity, hedge funds, and real estate.

Over the past thirty years, public pension funds have moved $1.4 trillion of retiree savings into such high-risk, high-fee “alternative investments,” enriching finance industry moguls like Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group and Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies while often shortchanging retired public employees and teachers.

But Muth says that when she asked the fund’s investment staff for more information about its high-risk investments, she was rebuffed — so in June 2021, she sued the fund for basic information about its investments.

Author(s):MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK

Publication Date: 6 April 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

Deutsche Bank raided by authorities over ESG ‘greenwashing’ claims: ‘We’ve found evidence that that could support allegations of prospectus fraud’

Link: https://fortune.com/2022/05/31/deutsche-bank-dws-esg-greenwashing-raid-evidence-seized-whistleblower-fixler/

Excerpt:

German law enforcement officials raided the offices of Deutsche Bank on suspicion of the fraudulent advertising of sustainable investment funds at its DWS unit, dealing yet another setback to CEO Christian Sewing’s attempts to move on from years of corruption scandals.

The investigation revolves around allegations—leveled by a former DWS manager—that the retail money management business engaged in “greenwashing,” in which environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments are sold under false claims.

Roughly 50 officials from the Frankfurt public prosecutor, German securities regulator BaFin, and the federal criminal police office BKA were deployed to the headquarters of the two financial institutions to seize evidence on Tuesday.

“The allegations are that DWS has been advertising so-called ESG financial products for sale as being particularly green and sustainable when they actually weren’t,” a spokesman for the public prosecutor told Fortune, which has been looking into the claims since January. “In the course of our investigations we’ve found evidence that could support allegations of prospectus fraud.”

Author(s): CHRISTIAAN HETZNER

Publication Date: 31 May 2022

Publication Site: Fortune

Where Does CalSavers Stand?

Link: https://www.asppa-net.org/news/where-does-calsavers-stand

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Excerpt:

CalSavers, the state-provided retirement plan for employees whose employers do not provide one, was launched on July 1, 2019. Now, more than two and a half years later, where does it stand? 

Registration

Registration was set to take place in three waves: 

  • Wave 1: Employers with more than 100 employees had to register by Sept. 30, 2020. 
  • Wave 2: Employers with 51-100 or more employers had to register by June 30, 2021.
  • Wave 3: Employers with five or more employees must register by June 30, 2022. 

CalSavers has reported that the number of registered employers more than tripled in 2021

Author(s): JOHN IEKEL

Publication Date: 24 Feb 2022

Publication Site: ASPPA

New York pension fund wants to remove Twitter’s entire board

Link: https://www.protocol.com/bulletins/new-york-pension-twitter-removal

Excerpt:

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the nation’s largest pension funds, announced that it will vote to remove all of Twitter’s directors at this week’s annual shareholder meeting. The vote against the directors is unlikely to result in change, but it shows mounting institutional pressure for Twitter to resist Elon Musk’s vision for relaxed content moderation policies.

Thomas DiNapoli, the New York state comptroller and trustee to the estimated $279.7 billion fund, said the Twitter board of directors had repeatedly failed to enforce the company’s own content moderation policies.

“Allowing this content on social media platforms facilitates the radicalization of individuals through repeated exposure to violent rhetoric, hate speech and examples of previous violence,” DiNapoli wrote in the public letter to Twitter’s directors. DiNapoli placed particular emphasis on Twitter’s failure to remove footage from a livestreamed mass shooting that took place in Buffalo, New York, last weekend. The alleged shooter espoused white supremacy ideology and pointed to social media sites including 4chan as the source of his radicalization.

Author(s): Hirsh Chitkara

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: protocol

Pensions watchdog warns about climate risk in rebuke of HSBC banker who downplayed danger

Link: https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pensions-regulator-says-pension-schemes-should-not-ignore-climate-change-2022-05-23/

Excerpt:

UK pension schemes should not ignore climate change, a senior executive at The Pensions Regulator said on Monday, the first watchdog to weigh in after a top HSBC banker was suspended after playing down the financial risks of climate change.

Regulators across the world have been putting pressure on the financial services industry to take climate change into account when calculating risks to their business models.

Stuart Kirk, a senior HSBC banker in charge of sustainable investments, had said at an industry event last week that central bank policymakers and other global authorities were exaggerating the financial risks of climate change. read more

The bank has since suspended him pending an internal investigation, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: Reuters

Ohio Teachers Pension Touts Past Transparency Awards, Fails To Disclose Special Investigation By State Auditor

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2022/05/23/ohio-teachers-pension-touts-past–transparency-awards-fails-to-disclose-special-investigation-by-state-auditor/

Excerpt:

The nearly $100 billion State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio never tires of telling its members of past transparency awards it has received from Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber. The fact that Faber’s office is currently conducting a special investigation into the pension’s transparency practices, prompted by public records lawsuits and numerous member complaints—the results of which could, says the auditor, affect the retirement system’s rating in the future—is not disclosed by the pension.

In April 2022 Board News under the heading, “STRS Ohio earns auditor of state’s top rating from transparency for second year,” the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio’s website boasts:

…..

Perhaps not surprising, this self-professed paragon of transparency is not touting the following ugly facts provided to me by the auditor’s office in a recent email:

“In October 2021, Auditor of State Keith Faber informed STRS that his office was launching a special audit after receiving numerous complaints, following the release of a report issued by Benchmark Financial Services Inc. titled “The High Cost of Secrecy: Preliminary Findings of Forensic Investigation of State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio,” commissioned by Ohio Retired Teachers Association.

….

In other words, it appears the Auditor of State’s transparency rating system merely asks whether a public agency has policies and procedures addressing transparency, not whether the agency is, in fact, being transparent in its dealings with the public in compliance with applicable laws. Such a rating system is of limited value to stakeholders, in my opinion, and presents the very real risk of being misinterpreted, as well as unduly relied upon, by the public.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: Forbes

The ECB Has a Huge Dilemma: Price stability or Bail Out Nations

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/the-ecb-has-a-huge-dilemma-price-stability-or-bail-out-nations

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Excerpt:

The spreads between German government bonds and those of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) have skyrocketed in recent weeks. 

This comes while Eurozone inflation is at a record high 8.1 percent. 

….

On June 16, Bloomberg reported Lagarde Tells Ministers ECB Plans for Limit on Bond Spreads

….

There is no single interest rate that makes any sense for Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. 

The Fed is struggling to find the neutral rate, and I believe will overshoot, but at least there is a neutral rate. 

Lagarde is on Mission Impossible with 19 countries in the Eurozone, all with a different neutral. 

In theory, the sovereign bonds of Germany and Greece are the same. Default risks are the same.

In practice this is total nonsense, and for the third time the idea is being tested. 

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 20 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk