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Avoid Water Damage: Inspect Plumbing Systems Now, Says IBHS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joseph King   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:28

Tampa, Fla. (October 9, 2012) – During National Kitchen and Bath Month, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges property owners to inspect interior plumbing components and complete preventive maintenance measures to reduce chances of interior water damage.

“Water damage in a kitchen or bathroom can lead to expensive repairs,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “Inspecting plumbing and making any necessary repairs before small leaks become big ones will help avoid costly plumbing system failures.”

IBHS conducted a study of closed water damage insurance claims, identified five leading causes of damage, and developed the solutions featured below. Look for additional home projects to reduce your risk of water damage throughout October on IBHS’ Facebook page.

1. PLUMBING SUPPLY SYSTEM FAILURE

The average cost of a plumbing supply system failure was more than $5,000 after the insurance deductible was paid, according to the IBHS study.

Ways to Reduce Damage

  • Potential indicators of a plumbing problem include an increased monthly water bill, banging pipes, rust stains, moisture in the walls or on floors, and signs of wet soil erosion near the foundation.
  • Setting the thermostat 60 degrees or higher in winter months, letting faucets drip and insulating pipes are all ways to reduce the risk of frozen pipes.
  • As a backup, install a house leak detection system.

2. TOILET FAILURE

Toilet failures in the IBHS study cost more than $5,500 per incident after the deductible was paid. One-third of all toilet failures in the study resulted from an overflowing or clogged toilet.

Ways to Reduce Damage

  • After you flush, wait for the valve to completely finish refilling the tank and bowl. If an overflow looks imminent, turn off the supply valve.
  • Twice a year, inspect a toilet’s components, such as the fill, supply and flush valves and the supply line.
  • Consider upgrading the toilet’s supply line to a sturdier braided steel hose.

3. WATER HEATER FAILURE

The most common causes of water heater failures in the IBHS study were a slow leak or a sudden burst in the tank, followed by supply line failures.

Ways to Reduce Damage

  • Check the life expectancy and warranty for the water heater and replace accordingly.
  • Proper maintenance, such as flushing sediments and inspecting the heater’s anode rod, can increase life expectancy.
  • Inspect valves to ensure proper operations, and use ball valves in place of gate valves whenever possible.

4. PLUMBING DRAIN SYSTEM FAILURE

The IBHS study found more than half of plumbing system failures were the result of sewer backups. The problem was more common in southern states and on average cost $4,000 per incident after the insurance deductible was paid.

Ways to Reduce Damage

  • If the home’s sewer system is connected to the city’s sewer system – a particular problem for older homes – or if you are located downhill or below street level, contact a plumbing professional to install a backflow prevention assembly into the home’s sewer system.
  • Plant trees away from lateral drain lines to prevent roots from damaging piping.
  • Never pour grease down the drain.

5. WASHING MACHINE FAILURE

More than half of the claims in the IBHS study were linked to washing machine hose failures. Washing machine claims in the study averaged more than $5,300 per incident after the deductible was paid.

Ways to Reduce Damage

  • One burst inlet hose, and your laundry room is flooded in a matter of minutes. Replace rubber hoses every three years and consider upgrading to sturdier braided steel hoses.
  • When leaving the house for an extended period of time, turn off the hot and cold water supply valve to reduce failure risks.
  • Don’t try to cut corners by overloading the machine, and use it only while someone is at home.

for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, big and small. Follow IBHS on Twitter at @DisasterSafety and on

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About IBHS
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.

 
How to Make Sure You're Better Off 4 Years from Now--Hint: It's Not About the Candidates PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dottie DeHart   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:24

The ONLY Way to Make Sure You’re Better Off Four Years from Now
There’s a lot of handwringing around the election. And while the outcome could have some impact on your finances, continuing to doggedly rely on the old college-job-401(k) paradigm will hurt you much more. Gregory Downing says entrepreneurship is the only thing that can save us—and he explains how to shift to a whole new way of thinking about work and wealth.

Lecanto, FL (October 2012)—The anxiety swirling around the upcoming election is almost palpable. People are agonizing over what the results might mean for job creation, Social Security, healthcare, college tuition, and other hot-button issues. Given the shaky state of the economy, some angst is surely understandable. But Greg Downing says it’s absurd to think that whoever occupies the White House for the next four years will seal your fate and make or break your future. “They” can’t save you. Only you can save you.

“Never has the phrase ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me’ been more appropriate,” asserts Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time (Legacy Unleashed Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-938047-06-0, $29.95, www.GregoryDowning.com) as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “The blunt truth is that no American can afford to wait on salvation from any politician—or, for that matter, any employer or any teacher in any traditional school.

“The old formula that allowed people to build a comfy middle-class life is gone,” he adds. “Instead of obsessing over what you can’t control—like who’s in the Oval Office, for instance—it’s time to focus on what you can control. It’s time to make an about-face and learn how to think about work and wealth in a whole new way.”

Downing is referring to entrepreneurship. He knows firsthand how dramatically it can transform your life. Once a car dealership manager working grueling 80-hour weeks, he is now a millionaire many times over who takes four months of vacation a year. He made his wealth as a real estate investment business owner and motivational speaker, and he says regardless of the field you choose, entrepreneurship is the only logical path to financial freedom in a global economy where half of all college grads are moving back home jobless and saddled with debt.

First, let’s be clear: The entrepreneurship he espouses is NOT the “open your own restaurant and bust your butt working there seven days a week” variety. Rather, it centers on generating multiple streams of income (earned, passive, and portfolio) so that the money you make is not directly connected to the time you spend. (“Time is more valuable than money” is one of Downing’s favorite mantras.)

“A single paycheck, even two paychecks added together, is no longer enough to allow a family to live comfortably and provide for the future,” he states. “If you’re lucky enough to get a good job—and that’s a big if—you might be able to scrape by, but you’ll work yourself into an early grave. And, of course, if the job goes away, the money stops. It’s no way to live—and it’s no way to teach your children to live.”

Anyone can make the leap to entrepreneurship, and, subsequently, financial freedom, insists Downing. Sure, you may have to learn new practical skills—but mostly it’s a matter of changing your mindset. Once you break free of what he calls “middle-class programming,” half the battle is won. Here are some of his insights on how to do it:

Commit to changing your life—and don’t break that commitment. Most of us do keep our word to others, or at least try to. And of course being trustworthy is critical to your success. (How else will we find investors and get return customers and referrals?) But what about the promises and pacts you make with yourself? Downing says most people are far more likely to break agreements with themselves than they are with others. Yet since becoming an entrepreneur requires a dramatic change in both mindset and habits, you won’t get far if you keep letting yourself off the hook.

“It’s easy to justify breaking an agreement with yourself because no one will ever know,” he points out. “Sometimes we even do it unconsciously. But make no mistake: Your private decision has consequences for both your future and your family’s future.

“Breaking any kind of commitment—even those that may seem insignificant—hurts us because our subconscious gets accustomed to our ‘crying wolf,’” he adds. “Then, when we want to make a big change in our lives, our subconscious simply doesn’t believe us. It will actually work against our success. So when you don’t do what you say you are going to do, you are actually giving yourself permission to falter, to quit, and to fail.”

Take action now. Don’t wait. I’d like to build my wealth. I want to start my own business. It would be great to be in firm control of my financial future. These are nice, positive thoughts, but when they’re not paired with action, they are nothing but daydreams. Only action—not plans, not goals, and not ambition—gets results. Every day that you don’t take a concrete step forward is another day of the status quo, another day of accepting a mediocre, hum-drum life.

Downing teaches his students to take action toward their dreams each and every day. Even if it’s an imperfect action—even if it’s later revealed to be an out-and-out mistake—it’s still better than letting fear keep you stuck in an unsatisfying life.

“Life rewards action,” he asserts. “And yet, most people just keep going through their daily motions, procrastinating, thinking their ideas to death, and never moving forward on them. Every morning, ask yourself, What action can I take today to move toward my dream of financial independence and self-reliance? Then do it, for your own sake and for the sake of your family. Otherwise, one day you’ll look back at your life and realize that while you had good intentions, you did not create results.”

Remove all unconscious, negative, and scarcity-based programming. Downing says the middle class has been “programmed” with belief systems that weren’t designed to help us attain wealth and that, indeed, barely work at all anymore. But because everyone around us is buying into the formula, we assume it’s the “right” way. We all have an inner “sheep” that is afraid to go against the herd, that fears it will be punished if it goes against cultural norms. And that’s a shame, because while we’re staring at the hindquarters of the sheep in front of us, we’re ignoring a huge world filled with riches for the taking.

“Today and every day, consciously evaluate and reconsider what works for you as you strive toward a life of wealth and abundance,” instructs Downing. “First, think critically about risk and reward, and determine how to effectively balance the two. This involves looking closely at your emotions, your willingness to take action, and your desire to move forward when an opportunity to build wealth arises.

“Often, you’ll find that fear, not a rational reason, is holding you back,” he adds. “Through this process of evaluation, you’ll gradually reprogram your beliefs about the fear of investing, the availability of money, and the lack-mentality that is so common in our society. And as you begin to experience greater rewards, you’ll confirm the beliefs and actions that create wealth.”

Assume 100 percent responsibility for the results in your life. It’s easy to blame disappointments and failures on everything other than ourselves. For instance: “I could be a lot wealthier if the economy hadn’t tanked.” Or, “How was I supposed to know that there would be a storm and I’d have to clean out my savings to replace my roof?” While it’s true that you can’t always foresee or control what happens in your life, you can choose how you respond to those circumstances.

“I get it—life has a way of kicking in the door and derailing your plans,” admits Downing. “There are bills to pay, problems to solve, and circumstances that need attention. You need to deal with these issues, but you cannot allow them to stop you. Every day, you must make time to move toward the life of your dreams, no matter how small that step is. If you aren’t taking steps to change your reality, you forfeit the right to complain about it.”

Invest in a financial education program. For decades, American schools have taught (and are still teaching) students that they’ll need to give the best years of their lives to employers so that they can retire on 40 percent of their working salary. (That’s assuming they can get a good job at all in today’s economy, of course.) It stands to reason that if you want more out of life, you’ll need to seek some non-traditional education that will help you cultivate the skills that will enable you to generate multiple streams of income.

What those skills are specifically, of course, depends on the field you want to play on. Most likely they’ll have to do with acquiring credit, using debt wisely, seeking (and persuading) investors, and marketing your products or services to buyers. Downing’s main point is that you shouldn’t be afraid to pay for the expertise you need.

“Building wealth takes work, dedication, commitment, and an increased level of knowledge,” confirms Downing. “Unless you win the lottery, there is no such thing as getting rich quickly, without any effort, and without spending any money. This doesn’t mean getting your MBA. It does mean investing in a real-world education from others who have succeeded in doing what you want to do.”

Remain coachable. The annals of history are filled with the tragic downfalls of leaders who got “too big for their britches,” refused to consider the advice and expertise of others, and ran their organizations and empires into the ground. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are go-against-the-grain types. It’s easy for them to assume they know best and disregard good advice from those who’ve been there. Don’t fall into this trap. Not only should you carefully consider advice, you should actively seek it out.

“The greatest athletes in the world have coaches, and the president of the United States has advisors,” points out Downing. “Why would you or I be any different? Other people have done what you want to do and know things you probably haven’t even considered. If you seek those individuals out and actively learn from them, you’ll minimize mistakes while growing your business as effectively as possible.

“Keep in mind, though, that a true mentor won’t just tell you what you want to hear—he or she will tell you what you need to hear,” he adds. “Sometimes it’ll be uncomfortable, and you’ll be tempted to disregard the advice. Don’t. Leave your pride at the door and always remain open to learning new ways to approach business problems.”

Stop doing minimum wage activities. Our culture puts hard work on a pedestal. From sayings like “If you want the job done right, do it yourself” to the belief that the longer you stay at the office, the better employee you are, it’s clear that Americans think that spilling one’s blood, sweat, and tears is a noble calling. Not so, counters Downing. If you don’t separate yourself from the mundane and the nitty-gritty, you might just micromanage your business away from success.

“You must stop telling yourself to work harder, and learn to work smarter,” he says. “It’s crucial to understand that the work of an entrepreneur is the work of the mind: thinking, planning, creating, leading, and providing oversight. If you want to reach the highest level possible, you have to leave tasks that can be accomplished by others to those with the knowledge and skills to do them.”

Remember that time is more valuable than money. Chances are, you grew up being taught that the way to support yourself and to get ahead in life was to trade your time for money. In other words, if you spend 40 or more hours a week doing what your employer wants, you’ll be paid for 40 or more hours. But once those 40 hours are gone, they’re gone forever. You’ll never get back the time you could have spent playing with your kids or hiking in the woods or volunteering for your favorite charity.

Linking time and earning potential is middle-class thinking, asserts Downing. Of course, you probably can’t quit your job tomorrow. You will have to put in some long hours up-front. But eventually you’ll have systems set up that allow you to profit from time put in by others and to reinvest your earnings so that you can generate even more income.

“A true entrepreneur understands time is a precious commodity and must be used wisely and efficiently,” he explains. “You can and must devote your time to creating wealth, planning and building business systems, and leading your team. Once you have this foundation firmly in place, you’ll find you’re free of the obligation to work nine to five.”

Maintain a credit score of 760 or higher. Your credit score is the gate standing between you and the success you dream of. That’s because lenders use credit score ratings to control the amount of money in the marketplace. If they want to increase the flow, they lower qualifying scores. And if they want to decrease the flow, they raise those scores. As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial for you to be able to borrow money whenever you need it—regardless of what the market is doing.

“In 2011, the scoring for ‘A’ credit was raised to 730,” shares Downing. “Therefore, you should choose to have A+ credit with a score of 760 or higher. Not only will this score allow you to borrow money any time, it also means that you’ll qualify for lower interest rates. Overall, make it a priority to become a master at understanding, evaluating, and controlling your credit score and credit availability so that you’ll never find the gate to the resources you need closed and locked.”

Stop viewing debt as negative. We’ve all heard the horror stories: families so sunk in consumer debt they were forced to declare bankruptcy and individuals whose educational debt haunted them for the rest of their lives. In part because of these cautionary tales, we’ve been programmed to believe the only route to financial freedom is becoming debt-free. Downing says it’s time to reprogram that belief.

“It’s not that debt itself is bad—it’s that the way the average American uses it is destructive,” he clarifies. “From this day forward, commit to using debt to invest and build your wealth. Yes, debt can be financial quicksand. But used wisely, it can also give you leverage and make you rich.”

Seek to fulfill the unmet needs of others. You may love French pastries and open up a bakery, but if no one in your area craves croissants, your shop will flop. Yes, it’s a simplistic example, but the principle behind it holds true: If your business doesn’t address and fulfill an unmet need, it’s not going to be successful. Period. And in today’s highly competitive world with a business on every corner, it’s critical to identify what others aren’t doing (or aren’t willing to do!) so that you can compete and win customers.

“Unmet needs aren’t always readily apparent or visible,” points out Downing. “To identify them, you need to ask yourself questions like, What problems are keeping my potential customers awake at night? What do they want that they aren’t getting? What would make their lives easier? When you have some answers, work on creating a unique approach to delivering that product or service.”

Become a master at creating systems and processes. This is all about building a business that runs—and can continue to run—effectively and efficiently. Why? Because you don’t want to have to spend your oh-so-valuable time reinventing the wheel and micromanaging others.

“Becoming a master at creating duplicable systems and processes means that you’ll need to understand the steps that lead to success, clearly define them, write them down, and explain them to your team,” says Downing. “But once you’ve done all this work up-front, you’ll no longer have to run your day-to-day operations. You’ll be free!”

Build the right relationships with the right power team members. If you’re truly working toward creating wealth, you’re not going to be building one small business that you personally operate and run. Instead, you’ll be creating multiple, duplicable small businesses that are constantly creating new streams of income for you. You’ll need to be able to hand off tasks and duties to others. And that means you’ll need a strong team of the right people doing the hard work for you.

“Your power team is the power behind your skill as an entrepreneur,” explains Downing. “That’s why it’s critical to evaluate these people personally and make sure they’re right for the job.

“This is also why it’s so important to be respectful and helpful to everyone you meet,” he adds. “You never know when you’ll be making a connection that can benefit you next week, or next month, or next year. They may become power team members and they may also refer customers your way.”

Make it a family affair. As you’re transforming yourself into an entrepreneur, be sure to instill the same mindset and skills in your kids. This is actually not as hard as you might think. Not only can you narrate what it means to own a business—talking through issues like finding opportunity, understanding revenue and profits, differentiating yourself from competitors, and so forth—your kids can also learn from the best teacher: experience.

“I always advise parents to help their children take typical ‘kid jobs’ to the next level,” explains Downing. “Instead of just being a babysitter or a tutor, for example, kids might start a franchise where they hire out jobs to a database of subcontractors. Or they might invest in some gumball machines. The idea is to let them cut their teeth on critical business principles and see firsthand how they can make money that isn’t directly connected to their time.

“Teaching your kids to think about wealth-building in this way is the greatest gift you can give them,” he notes. “I believe entrepreneurship is the best way to live. But even if your kids grow up to work for someone else or enter a profession, employers will expect them to work and think like entrepreneurs. It’s just the way the world is headed.”

Downing acknowledges that some of these tips may seem deceptively simple. But it’s their very simplicity that gives them their power.

“Life is really just a series of choices,” he says. “We decide whether to watch TV after work or spend an hour on our action plan, whether to take the class or not take the class, whether to hold the cards or place the bet. Most people take the path of least resistance and go with the herd. Those who don’t are the ones who will create rich, full lives that are truly worth living.”

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About the Author:
Gregory S. Downing has dedicated his life to teaching his students that every family can truly control its financial future and create a generational legacy with profound, yet straightforward advice and guidance. As a nationally and highly respected author, speaker, family expert, and organizational consultant, his advice has been sought and put into practice by thousands of people from all walks of life. With over 20 years of experience in management, leadership, training, and business ownership, he has proven that his principles of legacy parenting, business promotion, entrepreneurship, and real estate investing both work and create bonds of relationship that go beyond the ordinary.

Prior to his writing and public speaking career, he served for 12 years as the general manager of four Chevrolet and Dodge Chrysler dealerships, managing over 130 employees and increasing production and sales without sacrificing quality and customer service while there. It was during his tenure in this position that he became increasingly aware that his gifts and talents were in motivating and leading others to achieve their goals and dreams. He made the transition to motivational and investment training so he could touch more lives and influence others to build wealth and prosperity for themselves and for their families.

To learn more, please visit www.GregoryDowning.com.

About the Book:
Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time (Legacy Unleashed Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-938047-06-0, $29.95, www.GregoryDowning.com) is available at bookstores nationwide and from all major online booksellers.

 
Gold – the Hot Commodity of 2012 and 500 B.C. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 08 October 2012 15:33
With Interest in the Precious Metal High,
Art Expert Examines Its Past

If ever gold was precious, it’s now.

“Gold has remained at or near record high prices, even while the value of other commodities falls,” notes art expert Terry Stanfill, author of Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance (realmsofgoldthenovel.blogspot.com), a book that blends factual ancient art and history with modern, fictional romance.

“This past summer, we were all about the gold – our athletes’ gold medals, which, by the way, had the highest value of any Olympic gold medals in history at $708.”

More than two-thirds of the world’s gold demand is for jewelry, she says, of which the United States is the third-largest consumer, behind India and China.

But Stanfill, who studies ancient gold artifacts and weaves them into her newest novel, says we are hardly the first to become enamored of the rare yellow metal.

“The first discoverers of gold were prehistoric, well before the civilizations of the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Sumerians,” she says.  But gold soon attracted the admiration of the rich and royal, and since then, kings and emperors, explorers, pirates, and thieves.

“Gold figures prominently in the art and currency of the ancient European civilizations I research. It’s one of the most enduring metals, by every definition of the word,” Stanfill says. “Because of that, the gold jewelry, shoes, vessels and other artifacts unearthed by archaeologistscontinue to tell their stories centuries later.”

Stanfill shares some other precious golden nuggets:

• Jason and the Golden Fleece, myth or reality? Roman historian, Strabo(1st century B.C.) wrote about villages by the Kuban River in the Ukraine, where gold collectors used sheepskins to trap the fine gold particles in the rivers and streams flowing from the Caucasus Mountains. The skins could then be dried and beaten to shake out the gold dust. This practice continued well into the 20th century. It’s very possible Jason and the Argonauts sailed to Colchis, a kingdom on the Black Sea, searching for gold. They most likely heard about this wondrous process from other seafarers and traders.

• Why so popular for so long? One of the reasons gold has been valued since prehistoric times is, frankly, its beauty. The gleaming yellow metal has a color and brilliance unmatched in the mineral world. Another reason is that the world has precious little of it. In all of history, just less than 364 million pounds have been mined. Only 5.5 million pounds a year are mined now.

• The stuff of classic fashion. Evidence of ancient art in contemporary architecture, sculpture and other designs is all around us. But nowhere is it as surprising to see as in modern jewelry. Choker-style necklaces made of rigid metal, so populartoday, date back to the 8th century B.C. They were a multi-cultural phenomenon, worn in some societies by men and in others by women. For the Celts, they were a symbol of strength and power, and ancient Celts were often identified by the torques they wore not only around their necks but around their waists and wrists (bracelets!)

Even as modern society hoards gold as a hedge against the volatile world economy and watches as the price per ounce rises and dips, Stanfill says the true value, for her, is in its history.

“Some of mankind’s most beautiful artwork – his very best efforts – were created from gold, and they endure today,” she says. “Without gold, we might not know the status of people found in ancient tombs, and we would not have the vast collection of centuries old artworks that we do today.

“The value of gold that never changes is in how it allows the ancients to communicate with us.”

About Terry Stanfill

Terry Stanfill holds a degree in English literature with a minor in medieval history. She is an Overseer of the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. An enthusiastic preservationist, she was decorated by the president of Italy with the Ordine al Merito, Cavaliere della RepubblicaItaliana, and more recently as Commendatore, for her fundraising efforts for the restoration of San Pietro di Castello, the ancient cathedral of Venice. She is a former international representative for Christie’s auction house and former director of Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif. Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance is her third novel and it has received glowing praise; Kirkus Reviews described it as, “An erudite thriller that recalls Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series—only smarter.” Stanfill is married to Dennis Stanfill, former CEO of 20th Century Fox and MGM Studios.

 
"Help America's Farmers Grow Communities" Support Local Firefighters during Fire Prevention Month PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kevin Stillman   
Monday, 08 October 2012 15:32

Monsanto Fund-sponsored program gives back to Iowa fire departments  

 

ST. LOUIS, MO. (Oct. 7, 2012) – Rural communities have a fire death rate twice the national average, according to the U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association.  Firefighters in these communities are also often less likely to have the necessary firefighting equipment and training. To help combat these challenges, the Monsanto Fund is investing in rural fire departments and helping to keep farming communities safer through America’s Farmers Grow CommunitiesSM.

Grow Communities gives eligible farmers the chance to win a $2,500 donation for their favorite local nonprofit organization. Last year, the largest percentage of Grow Communities funding was directed to local fire departments. The Monsanto Fund invested a total of $612,500in 245 rural fire departments across the country.

Mark Schoening, Fire Chief for Oak Township in Mills County Iowa, knows firsthand how impactful being selected as the winning recipient for Grow Communities for the county can be.

“This donation allows us to buy six air tanks, which will give us triple the amount of time we can be fighting fires indoors,” Schoening said.

For the third consecutive year, Grow Communities is gearing up to distribute $2,500 donations in 1,271 eligible counties across the country. Now through Nov. 30, 2012, farmers can apply online at www.growcommunities.com or call 1-877-267-3332 to apply by phone. To date, more than $7 million has been invested in rural America through Grow Communities.

“Supporting rural America is our priority,” said Deborah Patterson, Monsanto Fund president. “We understand that the safety of these rural communities depends so much on the strength of its local fire department. We are proud and honored to give back to firefighters, and I am delighted to see so many farmers directing donations this way.”

New this year, community members can suggest a fire department or other nonprofit organization that is in need of funding on the Grow Communities website. Farmers can review “planted ideas” and consider them in their application. To submit a nonprofit project idea that needs funding in your community, visit GrowCommunities.com by Nov. 30.

As a result of the worst drought in 50 years, more than 700 of the 1,271 Grow Communities counties have been declared natural disaster areas by the USDA. Winning farmers from these counties will have the opportunity to direct an additional $2,500 donation to a second nonprofit of their choosing to assist with community needs that have surfaced due to the drought. The Monsanto Fund will select one winner at random from each of the eligible counties and announce winning farmers and recipient nonprofits in January 2013.

America’s Farmers Grow Communities highlights the important contributions farmers make every day to our society and helps them positively impact their communities. This program is part of the Monsanto Fund’s overall effort to support rural America.
For more information about this program and to view the official rules, visit www.growcommunities.com.

 

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SIDEBAR

28 Iowa fire departments received  a total of $70,000 from America’s Farmers Grow Communities in 2012, including:

·         Griswold (Cass County)

·         Tipton (Cedar County)

·         Quimby (Cherokee County)

·         Woodburn (Clarke County)

·         Webb (Clay County)

·         Welton (Clinton County)

·         Weldon (Decatur County)

·         Terrill (Dickinson County)

·         Worthington (Dubuque County)

·         Rockford (Floyd County)

·         Stratford (Hamilton County)

·         Holstein (Ida County)

·         Packwood (Jefferson County)

·         Olin (Jones)

·         Des Moines Township (Lee County)

·         Martell  (Linn County)

·         Oak Township (Marshall County)

·         St. Ansgar Rescue Squad (Mitchell County)

·         Sanborn (O’Brien County)

·         May City (Osceola County)

·         Deep River Poweshiek County)

·         Eldridge (Scott County)

·         Panama (Shelby County)

·         Cambridge (Story County)

·         Gladbrook (Tama County)

·         Sharpsburg (Taylor County)

 

About the Monsanto Fund

The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the farm communities where farmers and Monsanto Company employees live and work. Visit the Monsanto Fund at www.monsantofund.org

 

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Fraud, Waste, and Abuse In Government-Run Medical Programs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Lawrence Huntoon, M.D., Ph.D.   
Monday, 08 October 2012 15:24

Contributor & author:  Lawrence Huntoon, M.D., Ph.D. (from the Buffalo, NY area) is a board-certified neurologist who runs a third-party-free practice in Derby, New York. Dr. Huntoon is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, and has written and lectured extensively on medical care issues and the importance of the patient-physician relationship.

Interview - Contact Dr. Huntoon directly at   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , (716) 627-7759 (reporters and journalists welcome!)

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Preview:  Politicians, who have promised more than taxpayers can pay for, often point to those who provide medical care as the main source of fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. However, a report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) provides conclusive evidence of overbilling fraud on a massive scale committed by government itself. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fraud, Waste, and Abuse In Government-Run Medical Programs                      

By Author/Contributor: Lawrence R. Huntoon, M.D., Ph.D.

There is a lot of talk these days about fraud, waste and abuse in government-run medical programs. Politicians, who have promised more than taxpayers can pay for, often point to those who provide medical care as the main source of fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.

However, a report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) provides conclusive evidence of overbilling fraud on a massive scale committed by government itself.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform estimates that New York State overbilled the federal government by $15 billion over the past 20 years for Medicaid costs for developmentally disabled patients, an amount that exceeded the entire Medicaid budgets of 14 states! The committee reported: “The failure…suggests an institutional failure and a pattern of irresponsible actions that have cost taxpayers billions.”

What’s worse is that the federal government was complicit in this fraud. HHS officials, who are responsible for oversight of Medicare and Medicaid, acknowledged that they were aware of this massive overbilling by New York State since 2007, yet took no effective action to stop it. The deputy director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services described the overbilling as “excessive and inappropriate.”

The OIG report details how New York State took advantage of rate-setting methodology instituted by the federal government, which significantly inflated the Medicaid daily rate paid to Developmental Centers caring for disabled patients. The CMS admitted that this rate setting formula was based on “apparently incorrect” assumptions about costs.

The complex rate-setting methodology involves a federal waiver that allows New York State to bill for “total reimbursable costs” as opposed to “actual costs.” In a gross understatement, the OIG report acknowledged that “total reimbursable operating costs do not reflect the State’s actual costs.” The federal government allows New York State to bill 64% of its prior reimbursement for a patient even after the patient is discharged from the care facility. And, if a patient is transferred to another facility financed by Medicaid, the taxpayers end up paying twice for the same patient.

The OIG report revealed that Medicaid reimbursement per patient in a developmental center in New York State went from $195 per day in 1985 to $4,116 per day in 2009, which for 2009 translated to $1.5 million per year per Medicaid patient. Actual costs were 63% less than reimbursable costs paid. In 2011, taxpayers were charged a whopping $5,118 per day per patient in a New York State developmental care facility. One could likely rent a lavish resort on an island for that extraordinary sum.

The report also revealed that State-owned developmental centers were reimbursed at ten times the rate of privately owned intermediate care facilities providing comparable services in the same region.

Incredibly, instead of punishing the perpetrators of this overbilling scheme, the federal government actually rewarded New York State between 2009 and 2011 by increasing Medicaid payment rates by 8%. This was done as part of a 2009 Stimulus Package designed to boost the economy.

The OIG report concluded that “CMS’s efforts did not prevent the rate from increasing to its current level, which might not be consistent with efficiency and economy.” That’s a little like telling the victim of an armed robbery that the thief’s actions were not consistent with the victim’s economic goals and efficient use of his money.

In 2004, we learned of indisputable evidence that Medicare is an incompetence-based bureaucracy, which according to the government’s own GAO study provides the wrong answer 90% of the time in response to questions about how to properly bill the Medicare program. Now we have indisputable evidence that government itself is a major source of fraud in government-run medical programs.

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