Education reconciliation provisions increase college affordability


Washington, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement detailing the benefits Iowans stand to gain from the comprehensive health reform bill passed earlier this week: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and The Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act, passed today by the U.S. Senate.  Once the reconciliation piece is approved by the U.S. House and signed into law by the President, Iowans will see a number of benefits illustrated below.  Earlier this week, the President signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.  Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"The legislation passed by Congress this week looks to the future and means big things for Iowa's working families," said Harkin. "Comprehensive health reform eliminates the practice of denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, lets kids stay on their parents insurance until age 26, provides tax relief for small businesses and provides a historic investment in prevention and wellness to change our current 'sick care system' into genuine health care.

"The second proposal, passed today by the Senate, builds on the strength of comprehensive reform and includes provisions that boost college affordability.  For Middle Class families, one of the biggest challenges comes when their children reach college age.  The questions around the kitchen table are:  How do we pay for college?  And, in a couple years, our child will be too old to stay on the family's health insurance plan; what are we going to do?" continued Harkin. "This bill addresses these challenges head-on.  It allows adult children to stay on their parents' health insurance plan until age 26.  And it increases the maximum Pell Grant for college students from $5,550 in 2010 to $5,975 by 2017.  Starting in 2013, the grant will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index for five years.  Make no mistake, there is a lot at stake for America's Middle Class families in this reconciliation bill - both in terms of health care security, and in terms of access to an affordable college education."

Key Benefits for Iowa in the Health Reform Legislation

  • Provide tax credits for up to 48,600 Iowa small businesses to help make coverage more affordable.
  • Health reform will ensure that the 302,000 uninsured Iowans and 171,000 Iowans who purchase health insurance through the individual market have access to affordable health insurance options through state-based health insurance exchanges.
  • Prohibit insurance companies from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions for the 713,155 children in Iowa, starting this year.
  • Close the "donut hole" and improve other Medicare benefits for 505,000 Iowa seniors.
  • Each year, 89,700 Iowa seniors hit the Medicare Part D "donut hole."  Starting this year, seniors who hit this gap in their prescription drug coverage will receive a $250 check, and the "donut hole" will be completely closed by 2020.
  • Reduce family health insurance premiums by $1,350 - $1,930 for the same benefits, as compared to what they would be without health reform by 2016.
  • Starting this year, 300,466 young adults in Iowa will be able to remain covered by their parent's insurance policy until age 26.
  • Create 5,600 - 9,000 jobs by reducing health care costs for employers.
  • Provide more federal funding for 83 Community Health Centers in Iowa.
  • Health reform will provide immediate access to quality, affordable health insurance for as many as 33,497 uninsured Iowans who are unable to obtain health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

Described by the Washington Post as folk music's "Rustic Renaissance Man," John McCutcheon will perform Saturday, April 24, 2010, at 7 p.m. at Davenport's RiverCenter in the Mississippi Hall. General admission tickets for "An Evening With John McCutcheon" are $20 for adults; $12 for children, age 5 though high school; and $60 for a four-pack for people of any age. (Lap-children are free and welcome to sit in a special kids' seating area on a carpet, with their adults.) Purchase tickets by calling 1-800-745-3000 or on-line at www.ticketmaster.com, from Ticketmaster outlets or the Adler Theatre box office.

McCutcheon, a master of over a dozen instruments, including the hammered dulcimer, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and piano, will perform both traditional and original music. A prolific composer, storyteller and activist, McCutcheon writes about life - from a child's haircut to freedom, from baseball to human dignity. He writes songs about our nation's heritage and heroes both known and unknown. His lyrics may be inspired by the latest news story or the words of great writers like Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Barry and Pablo Neruda.

With over 30 albums to his credit, he has been nominated for seven Grammy awards and has won Parents' Choice awards for his children's music.  McCutcheon's latest release, a double CD set of songs and storytelling titled "Untold" and "Unsung," features a duet with, Aledo native, Suzy Bogguss called "Old People in Love" and another new song, "Streets of Sarajevo," with accompaniment by Vedran Smailovic, the "Cellist of Sarajevo". For more information see www.folkmusic.com.

Even before graduating summa cum laude from Minnesota's St. John's University, this Wisconsin native literally "headed for the hills" forgoing a college lecture hall for the classroom of the eastern Kentucky coal camps, union halls, country churches and square dance halls. In the past few years, he has headlined over a dozen different festivals in North America including the National Storytelling Festival, toured Australia and Chile, appeared in a Woody Guthrie tribute concert in New York City and gave a featured concert at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

This is McCutcheon's first concert in the Quad-City area. Adults and children of all ages are invited to attend: "Giving children the opportunity to see McCutcheon is akin to bringing them to a Pete Seeger or Peter, Paul, and Mary concert," says Julie Ross, coordinator for the concert.

An Evening With John McCutcheon is sponsored by the Prairie Star District of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Church, Davenport with generous support from the Riverboat Development Authority. More information about Davenport's Unitarian Church is available on its website, http://www.qcuu.org. Conference registration information is available at http://www.psduua.org.
The Moline Kiwanis Club invites everyone to a "Community Celebration" to observe its 90th Anniversary. There are three events, all open to the public:

* May 6 -- A golf outing at 1 p.m. at Arsenal Golf Course; team preferred-ball format; $55 entry fee includes cart.

* May 6 -- An open reception at 6 p.m. at Arsenal Golf Club; $20 fee includes a 7-item hors d'oeuvres buffet with pork loin carving station, entertainment by The Gamblers band, and the golf awards presentation.

* May 7 -- Dinner at the i wireless Center with cocktails at 6 p.m., serving at 7 p.m.; $25 fee includes three entree choices, main address by Kiwanis International President Paul Palazzolo, and entertainment by The Manny Lopez Quartet.

To receive a printed invitation reply form or more information, please contact Russ Scott (for golf and Arsenal reception), 309-752-9681, russ@luckydogpoker.com; or Bill Barrett (for i wireless dinner), 309-792-1985, billb@ibloom.com.

Rivermont Collegiate is pleased to announce the following students have been recognized on the Third Quarter Honor Roll:

Upper School Honor Roll (9th - 12th) 

3rd Quarter 2009-10

Headmaster's List (3.85-4.00)

Roshan Babu

Vivek Bobba

Pavane Gorrepati

Alejandra Martinez

Christine Mbakwe

Matthew Newsome

Meghana Pagadala

Kelsey Qu

Darsani Reddy

Asha Tadepalli

Distinction (3.50-3.84)

Vishal Bobba

Souriyo Dishak

Chloe Hall

Basilia Koster

Christopher Mbakwe

Victor Mbakwe

Ramya Prabhu

Darcy Ryan

Joann Weeks

Chi Ieong Wong

Merit (3.00-3.49)

Manas Chimpidi

Archana Chintalapani

Rebecca Cupp

Tristan O'Harrow

Jacob Petre

James Weeks

Middle School Honor Roll (6th - 8th)

3rd Quarter 2009-10

High Honors

(All grades B+ or higher or B or higher for courses designated as Upper School level)

Helena Barber

Katherine Beltz

Madeline Bowman

Sarah Bowman

Adam Dada

Brandon Eckhardt

Christian Elliott

Colin Fly

Michael Garneau

Hannah Hansen

Neha Haque

Summer Lawrence

Victoria Mbakwe

Amanda McVey

Grace Moran

Hayley Moran

Michal Porubcin

Shravya Pothula

Harrison Qu

Suhas Seshadri

Marta Storl-Desmond

Loring Telleen

Honors

(All grades B- or higher or C+ or higher for courses designated as Upper School level)

Jay Dolan

Thatalia Garcia

Karanveer Gill

Abhishek Gowda

Collin Hunt

Lee Meier

Michael Moskaluk

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org

Rivermont Collegiate is the Quad Cities' only private, independent, non-sectarian, PS-12 college preparatory school, ranked #1 on Iowa's AP Index.

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate tonight rejected an amendment offered by Senator Chuck Grassley to apply the new health care law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and the congressional staff who drafted the proposal.

"As a result, President Obama will not have to live under the Obama health care reforms, and neither will the congressional staff who helped to write the overhaul," Grassley said.  "The message to the people at the grassroots is that it's good enough for you, but not for us."

Grassley said congressional leaders have had other opportunities to fix the double standard but have repeatedly opted not to do so.

The health care reform that was enacted on Tuesday includes an amendment Grassley sponsored and got adopted by the Finance Committee, last September, to have members of Congress and their staffs get their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available.  During subsequent closed-door work on a Senate health care bill, Senate committee and leadership staffs were removed from this requirement.

In December, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn attempted to offer a floor amendment to restore the requirement, but the Senate Majority Leader would not let their amendment come up for a vote.  In addition to Senate committee and leadership staff, the amendment Grassley and Coburn filed during the Senate debate would have made the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members all get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges.  It would not have applied to federal employees in the civil service.

Even after the issue was raised through the month of December, Senator Harry Reid's final manager's amendment to the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on Christ Eve still did not restore Grassley's original language, which the Finance Committee approved unanimously.

Grassley said, "It's only fair and logical that administration leaders and congressional staff, who fought so hard to overhaul of America's health care system, experience it themselves.  If the reforms are as good as promised, then they'll know it first-hand.  If there are problems, public officials will be in a position to really understand the problems, as they should."

Grassley said the motivation for his amendments is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.  He offered the amendment that was rejected tonight to the reconciliation bill designed to make changes to the health care reforms that President Obama signed into law today.

"It's the same principle that motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress," Grassley said.  Before President Clinton signed into law Grassley's long-sought Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Congress had routinely exempted itself.

The Congressional Accountability Act made Congress subject to 12 laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Veteran's Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.

Grassley also is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposes on others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.

As it stands, thanks to Grassley's Finance Committee passed amendment, members of Congress and their personal staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coverage through the newly created health care exchange.  Members and personal staffs will only be able to use their employer contribution to buy health care coverage in the exchange.  Individuals will receive an age-adjusted contribution from the Office of Personnel Management with which to purchase a plan.

However, because the Senate rejected the amendment offered by Grassley last December and tonight, committee and leadership staff in Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, the President's cabinet and White House staff, will continue to be exempt from many of the reforms facing the rest of the country.

Earlier today, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in the health insurance exchanges that the reform law will begin in 2014.

"This is effectively an endorsement of my amendment to make sure political leaders live under the laws they pass for everyone else, and I appreciate it," Grassley said.  "The principle shouldn't be voluntary for political leaders, though."

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SPRINGFIELD - March 24, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today issued a statement on the passage of Senate Bill 1946 by the House of Representatives:
"I applaud the Illinois House of Representatives for voting in favor of public pension reform. I am a longtime advocate for pension reform and believe it is crucial for our state to get its public pension costs under control to help save Illinois taxpayers' money now and in the future. The proposed pension reform will stabilize the system, protect current state employees and provide attractive pension benefits to future state workers.  I look forward to the Illinois Senate taking up this important issue and making pension reform a reality in Illinois."
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Rock Island, Ill.-Augustana College will expand its outreach to the Quad-City community this fall with the creation of the Community Engagement Center (CEC). The center will centralize current and new on-campus offices that help students engage in the local, national and international community and provide a center where community partners may access student and faculty expertise.

The CEC will be made up of five offices: the Center for Vocational Reflection, Internship Services, Career Development, Entrepreneurial Development and Off-Campus Programs. The goal of the offices is to prepare and connect students with jobs, internships, and international programs; help build an experiential portfolio through volunteering, service learning and community projects; and meet the needs identified by the Quad-City community and beyond.

Augustana President Steve Bahls sees this new center as a way for the college to continue developing relationships with the community and teaching Augustana students to give back. "By establishing the Community Engagement Center, we seek not only to improve the learning experience of our students through integrative learning, but also to strengthen our continuing efforts in helping students develop personal and social responsibility," said Bahls.

The center is an extension of Augie Choice, an established program which enables students to apply for up to $2,000 to fund an internship, one-on-one faculty-mentored research or international experience. For more information about Augie Choice visit www.augustana.edu/augiechoice.

"The opportunities this new center gives our students -- to be out in the real world and to bring their gifts to the world outside Augustana -- will be a huge benefit to them and to the community," said Dr. Bob Haak, associate dean and CEC director. "We want to offer the resources we have to the great community that we live in."

Community organizations interested in learning more about the Center for Community Engagement and how they can get involved may contact Bob Haak at bobhaak@augustana.edu.

For additional information or requests for interviews, contact Kamy Beattie, director of public relations at (309) 794-7721 or kamybeattie@augustana.edu

About Augustana: Founded in 1860 and situated on a 115-acre campus near the Mississippi River, Augustana College is a private, liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The college enrolls nearly 2,500 students from diverse geographic, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds and offers more than 70 majors and related areas of study. Augustana employs 287 faculty and has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Augustana continues to do what it has always done: challenge and prepare students for lives of leadership and service in our complex, ever-changing world.

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    WASHINGTON, March 24, 2010 - In an effort to address childhood hunger and its impact on child development, health and learning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), are notifying states that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) can be used to assist families through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

    Through this unprecedented collaboration, ACF and FNS are joining forces to help communities provide children with adequate, nutritious meals during the summer. The notice sent to States includes an explanation of how resources under the TANF Emergency Fund provided by the Recovery Act can be used to cover portions of costs associated with running a summer food service site that are not otherwise reimbursed. States can seek 80 percent reimbursement through the Fund for a range of expenditures including the cost of compensation for staff support to provide supervision and programming at summer feeding sites, transportation services to transport food and/or children to feeding sites, recreational activities to attract more youth to program locations and meal preparation costs that are not otherwise reimbursed under the SFSP.

    "During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to work together across federal, state, and local offices to support children in need.  We look forward to these Recovery Act dollars supporting children this summer since the lack of nutrition for children during summer recess can lead to long term concerns such as illness and other health issues throughout the school year," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Carmen R. Nazario. "HHS and USDA are working diligently to help ensure that TANF funds are available to states to expand participation in the SFSP and ensure that children return to school healthy and ready to learn."

    "One of our priorities for reauthorization of Child Nutrition Programs is strengthening the SFSP so that children aren't left out just because school is out. Increasing access to more nutrient-rich foods for our Nation's disadvantaged children is no simple task," said USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon.  "It requires government agencies, the private sector, non-profits and local communities to collaborate to ensure children get the proper nutrition that will help end childhood hunger."

    The Summer Food Service Program was created to ensure that children in lower-income areas can continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast.  SFSP encourages communities to provide complete, wholesome meals for children that are served in safe, supervised locations where children can enjoy activities and playing with other children.

    For more information and guidance on the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/.

    For more information about the SFSP please visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/.


    Regional Surgicenter in Moline has now been honored as a quality endoscopy unit by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).  To receive such recognition, an endoscopy unit must demonstrate quality assurance, show proof of accreditation by a recognized accrediting body and complete an ASGE Recognition Course. The Regional Surgicenter is also accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

    As of this time, only 167 endoscopy units have earned the ASGE's recognition throughout the United States.  Earning this recognition is an indication of the high quality of care found at Moline's Regional Surgicenter.

    "We are honored to be recognized by ASGE for our efforts to enhance quality and safety in our Surgicenter," said Dr. Rao Movva, President and Medical Director of the Regional Surgicenter and Gastroenterology Consultants, S.C.

    The ASGE Endoscopy Unit Recognition Program honors endoscopy units that follow the ASGE guidelines on specialized training, quality assurance, and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) infection control guidelines, as well as completing the training on prin-ciples in quality and safety in endoscopy.

    The Regional Surgicenter is an outpatient Ambulatory Surgery Center, providing Gastrointestional endoscopy and related procedures, and also provides multi-specialty surgical procedures.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over taxes, has worked to hold tax-exempt hospitals accountable for the federal tax benefits they receive.  The health care legislation signed into law yesterday includes provisions Grassley co-authored to impose standards for the tax exemption of charitable hospitals for the first time.  The bill requires that a hospital complete a community needs assessment once every three years and adopt and publicize a financial assistance policy; prohibits billing those who qualify for financial assistance the top rates; and prohibits a hospital from taking extraordinary collection actions if the hospital has not made reasonable efforts to notify patients of its financial assistance policy.   The bill also requires the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of each hospital every three years; requires Treasury and Health and Human Services to submit an annual report to Congress on the level of charity care, bad debt expenses and the unreimbursed costs of means-tested and non-means-tested government programs; and requires Treasury and HHS to provide a report in five years on the trends on the items reported on an annual basis.  Grassley made the following comment on the advancement of these provisions.

    "Tax-exempt hospitals don't have many measures of accountability for their special status. The law hasn't given them much direction, and so they've defined standards for themselves.  Sometimes that's resulted in providing very little charitable patient care or other community benefits, failing to publicize charitable care to patients, charging indigent, uninsured patients more than insured patients, and using very aggressive collection practices.  The Government Accountability Office and others, including the former IRS commissioner, have said for a long time that there is often no discernible difference between the operations of taxable and tax-exempt hospitals. These new provisions are modeled after principles and polices that the Catholic Health Association has had in place for years.  I appreciate the association's willingness to have honest, forthright conversations about charitable hospitals' activities. The provisions take steps to differentiate tax-exempt hospitals from for-profit hospitals and provide further transparency about tax-exempt hospitals' fulfilling their charitable mission.  Congress, the IRS, and the public will now have additional tools and information to ensure that charitable hospitals act charitably." 

     

    The provisions enacted in the new health care law are the result of Grassley's leadership on tax-exempt organizations' accountability and transparency, including hospitals.   In 2005, he sent letters of inquiry to some of the nation's largest tax-exempt hospitals.  In 2006, he convened a hearing and released a summary of the hospitals' responses.  In 2007, he released a staff discussion draft of potential legislative reforms and convened a roundtable of experts to discuss the potential reforms.  In 2008, he followed up with letters of inquiry to more hospitals and received a report he'd requested from the Government Accountability Office.  In 2009, he drafted legislative reforms and succeeded in persuading the Democratic majority to include several of the reforms in the new health care law.

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