Discrimination by database

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/magazine/how-do-you-define-a-gang-member.html

How Do You Define a Gang Member?

Laws across the country are being used to target young men who fit the description for gang affiliation. But what if they aren’t what they seem?

The State Legislature responded with the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection Act (STEP Act), Statute 186.22 of the penal code, which, for the first time, legally defined “gang” in the state of California: a formal or informal group of three or more, sharing a common identifying name, symbol or sign, and whose primary activity is crime. The law augments a prison sentence, adding anywhere from two years to life, depending on the severity of the underlying conviction… Similar laws are now in place in 31 states across the country…

“The only way a jury is ever going to be able to connect something as minor as spray painting over a wall to a murder conviction is by adding a gang enhancement.” …

In Stanislaus County, as in many counties in California and across the United States, law-enforcement officers keep a database of individuals that they have identified as gang members. From their point of view, these lists are vital and necessary, but activists argue that they can be discriminatory. Researchers have found that white gang membership tends to be underestimated and undercounted, while the opposite is true for black and Latino youth. In 1997, California created a statewide database, called CalGang, and by 2012, according to documents obtained by the Youth Justice Coalition, there were more than 200,000 individuals named in it (roughly the same number as the population of Modesto), including some as young as 10. Statewide, 66 percent were Latino, and one in 10 of all African-Americans in Los Angeles County between the ages of 20 and 24 were on the list…

Just because you’re white, or a chronic pain patient, don’t think this kind of discrimination isn’t coming our way through the soon-to-be nationwide PDMPs.  In fact, there will be millions of names included in this database of people who aren’t even chronic pain patients — it will include anyone who filled a prescription for pain medication, even if it was just one time.  If you are included in this database, your electronic health record will always indicate that you’ve taken pain medication, along with any other drugs that states deem fit to include in the database.

“We thought the original writing of that bill was bad,” he said. “It made being a gang member a crime, and that flies in the face of the Constitution, in my mind. What’s to stop the Boy Scouts from being considered a gang?” …

Young men and women are bundled into the broad category of “gang member” all the time, based on photos like the ones shown at Sebourn’s trial; based on their wearing this color or that one; based, essentially, on a misunderstanding of how difficult these neighborhoods really are for youth. “Posing in a picture, acting cool or acting tough can be a navigation strategy,” Raju said. “That may not mean they want problems; in fact, it may mean the opposite.” …

Black and Latino inmates account for more than 90 percent of inmates with gang enhancements; fewer than 3 percent are white…

Obamacare exchanges help, but confused consumers are still spending too much

http://www.publicintegrity.org

That said, buying coverage post-Obamacare is no walk in the park. It’s useful to think of the American health insurance marketplace, even with the consumer protections in the law, as a big casino—but without the ambience and excitement. And it’s also useful to think of many American health insurance shoppers as first- timers in Las Vegas. They might get lucky, but the odds are with the house…

One of the reasons growing numbers of us are underinsured, as I wrote last week, is because we made bad choices when picking health plans. The researchers who conducted the NBER study found that the choices made by health plan enrollees “reflect a severe deficit in health insurance literacy and naïve considerations of health risk and price, rather than a sensible comparison of plan value.” They also found that older workers, women, and low earners were especially likely to choose unwisely…

Insurance companies deciding which healthcare services are essential

https://catchafallingstarbook.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/pirates-sell-insurance-as-an-act-of-evil/comment-page-1/#comment-1347

I am practically bankrupted by five ER visits in the last four years. Only one of those was mine. Health insurance does not approve ER costs for a whole list of health problems…

Aetna… er, I mean Faetna, decided that we could only use doctors that were associated with the same hospital where we visited the ER. Well, I asked them to give me names of the doctors who qualified. I got three names. I made an appointment. We were filling out the paperwork in the doctor’s office twenty minutes before seeing the doctor. The receptionist interrupted after I had half-way finished the mountainous paperwork to tell me the insurance had rejected payment. This doctor that THEY had recommended to me was not a part of the approved network. They took Faetna insurance, but Faetna refused to pay. The same day I called the other doctors on the list. No doctor recommended to me by the insurance company was part of the required plan. There were no doctors in the city who did qualify…

Okay. It can’t get worse. We still had the therapist who was working miracles for my son. He took Faetna insurance. There was no problem there, right? But wait. The pirate captains of Faetna took another look. They started rejecting his claims too. Soon there was a huge yellow envelope full of demands for clinical records to justify the need for the therapist. I went to the ER, to the wonderful doctor, to the hospital in Denton where they were still taking my money away from me, and to the therapist himself. We gathered documents. The lovely hospital charged me $50 for paperwork and made me drive all the way there to Denton twice to accomplish it. I got all the materials compiled, overnighted them to the insurance company’s disapproval department, and everything should’ve been fine. But. of course, it wasn’t. The claims for services were denied. I am expected to pay out of pocket. They found no clinical evidence that the services were essential and they insisted I pay the bills without help from them…

Under comments:

authormbeyer
May 28, 2015 at 8:44 pm
Am I a great satirist or what? As soon as I posted this post I received an email that the Pirates of Faetna… er, Aetna? were so ashamed they reversed their decision about the therapist and agreed to pay for continued visits. Of course, the therapist called them yesterday and made the case himself. Maybe that helped.

silentlyheardonce
May 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm
I’ve heard horror stories from Aetna. But it’s insurance itself. I use to get extra help to pay for my medications. I got extra help for 4 years. This year they say I make too much money on SS to get extra help. In a month or so I’m going to tumble in the donut hole. I’m making sure life insurance premiums are paid up so my family can drop me in the ground. It is f’ed up.

Awesome Atheist Ernie Chambers

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/05/27/nebraska-just-repealed-the-death-penalty-thanks-to-its-atheist-state-senator/

Nebraska Just Repealed the Death Penalty Thanks to Its Atheist State Senator

He’s the one who introduced the bill in January — something he did unsuccessfully 37 times before…

He introduced a bill last year, LB675, that would eliminate a state property-tax exemption for religious organizations — essentially taxing churches. The bill itself was a riot because all Chambers did was cross out the word “religious” from the current list of groups exempt from paying property taxes…

http://fusion.net/story/140807/meet-ernie-chambers-who-led-nebraskas-death-penalty-ban-and-also-sued-god-once/

“Miracle Mineral Solution” promoter convicted of selling bleach as a miracle cure

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/miracle-mineral-solution-promoter-convicted-of-selling-bleach-as-a-miracle-cure-052915.html

You wouldn’t normally think of industrial bleach as being a miracle cure. Or any kind of cure for that matter. But that didn’t stop Louis Daniel Smith from selling many gallons of the stuff by labeling it “Miracle Mineral Solution.”

A federal jury in Washington state sat through seven days of testimony, alleging that Smith, 45, of Spokane, sold the toxic liquid as a miracle cure for numerous diseases and illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, lyme disease, asthma and the common cold…

In 2010, the FDA said it had received several reports of health injuries from consumers using the product, including severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration. Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away, the FDA said…

According to the instructions that Smith provided, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working. The instructions also stated that despite a risk of possible brain damage, the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill…

Funny how easy it is to find statistics on the number of people who die from drug overdoses, but nothing is mentioned in this article about how many people died from drinking this product during the four years it was being sold.

Service members to get $60 million in student loan refunds

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/service-members-to-get-60-million-in-student-load-refunds-052915.html

Nearly 78,000 members of the U.S. military will be getting checks ranging from $10 to more than $100,000. The checks represent excessive interest charges imposed by Navient Corp. when it was servicing student loans as part of Sallie Mae. The checks, totaling about $60 million, are scheduled to be mailed on June 12 and will average $771. Check amounts will depend on how long the interest rate exceeded 6% and by how much, and on the types of military documentation the service member provided…

The United States alleged that Navient engaged in a nationwide pattern, dating as far back as 2005, of violating the SCRA by failing to provide members of the military the 6% interest rate cap to which they were entitled for loans that were incurred before the military service began…

How hard was it to see that for the past 10 years, the interest rate being charged on these loans was over 6%?