Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A bloglunch with Mayor Parker, and more on Medicaid expansion and Uber

-- As Neil has already mentioned on Facebook and at his new shop, a handful of us blogger types had lunch with the mayor at her office yesterday, and we covered a wide range of policy topics.  We promised Janice Evans and Jessica Michan that it would (mostly) be off the record, and nobody broached any politics or campaign issues.

So maybe I'll respond later with something about this, or this, but honestly... I doubt it.

There are so many better things to talk about that are meaningful, that would make a difference in the race, and the two front-running campaigns simply aren't going to discuss them.  This is why the lack of debates, or forums, or whatever they're called is so disappointing.

Just one example: the Texas Observer has more on the subject of Houston police brutality than you will ever read in the Chronicle, see on TV or hear on local radio, and much more than either of these two candidates will ever discuss.  The same is true of most every other topic you can think of that confronts the residents of Houston who are not wealthy.

Update: In a strange turn, Noah at Texpatriate inexplicably draws out mayoral challenger (and erstwhile also-ran in 2012 for Harris County Democratic Party chair) Keryl Douglas. That exchange, and a couple of Tweets from her, are as accusatory as you can imagine. For an attorney (I'm not one but she is), libel -- or something walking up to the line of libel -- seems a very weird way to open one's public communications as a candidate.

-- At the lobby day for expansion of the Medicaid program in Texas at the Lege last spring, I found a sympathetic Republican in John Zerwas. (His wife Cindy, just lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago.)  Even if we have to wait a couple of years until the the next session, I'm holding out hope that Zerwas can persuade fellow R legislators with some financial math, and the Dallas News provides an assist.

Gov. Rick Perry’s rejection of Medicaid expansion will force private health insurance premiums to rise by an average of 9.3 percent for Texans buying coverage on their own, a new study finds.

GOP lawmakers, strongly encouraged by Perry, decided not to add poor adults to Medicaid’s rolls and that means about 1.3 million fewer Texans will have health coverage of some sort by 2016 than if the federal health law were fully carried out in the Lone Star State, according to a study by the nonprofit research organization RAND Corp.

Here's the breakdown.

With Medicaid expansion, the percentage of Texas’ non-elderly population that’s uninsured would drop in 2016 from 28.2 percent to 12.4 percent, they said. Obviously, that won’t happen. Still, the number of uninsured Texans will decline from more than 6 million currently to just over 4.2 million. With full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the number would have shrunk to 2.9 million. Undocumented immigrants can’t gain coverage under the law, so in states such as Texas and Florida, the uninsured rate will remain high, the researchers found.  

The free money from the feds didn't work.  Perhaps a bit of complaining from constituents who pay insurance premiums might get their attention.

(I know: who am I kidding? All this BS from the GOP about stopping Obamacare has nothing to do with rational thought.  Still, I just can't abandon logic.  Even a few appalling ignorant Republicans like Jan Brewer get it, for Christ's sake.  So if you pray, pray for Rick Perry's soul.  It might be the only chance he has left to make it to heaven.  Nah; who am I kidding?)

-- My two-part series about Uber last week drew considerable attention; Charles Kuffner has also written some posts on the topic, most of them ahead of mine (including two more back in July, when the news broke).  Via OTK, here's another comprehensive look at what Dallas is doing now, as we wait for Uber to begin in Houston.

Per a late addition to Wednesday’s meeting agenda, the Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on a substantial city code rewrite that will redefine everything from who can dispatch a car to who can drive a limo to the cost of a limousine’s off-the-lot sticker price (has to be more than $45,000). And the city doesn’t want you to be able to order up a limo whenever you want: The rewrite, says the addendum, will “require limousine service to be prearranged at least 30 minutes before the service is provided” and establish “minimum limousine fares.”

The addendum item doesn’t come out and say it’s aimed directly at Uber, only that “the use of computer applications and other technologies by some providers of limousine service has distorted certain distinctions between limousines and taxicabs,” and that it’s high time the city “establish those distinctions to help the public understand the differences between those types of passenger transportation services.” City Hall also wants to be able to regulate drivers being dispatched via app.

But in a memo sent to city council Friday night, assistant city manager Joey Zapata is quite clear: This rule rewrite is all about Uber, with whom the city has been tangling since September. Says Zapata, the city told Uber in November that in order to operate in Dallas, it needed 1500 Marilla’s OK. At the same time car-for-hire companies and drivers were told that working with Uber was a violation of city policy. Uber, says the memo, was cited for “advertising a transportation-for-hire service without first being granted operating authority by the City.” Zapata says 31 drivers have been cited 61 times for “driving for an unauthorized service.”

Lots more at the link.

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