Archive for August, 2008

What if there were a vote to decide whether to give 13.5 billion in tax breaks for oil companies or if those tax breaks should go to alternate energy like solar and wind. You may have guessed by now there was such a vote. But you may not know the results or the implications. To bring it to the floor for the full Senate to vote on it needed 60 votes then the 13.5 billion in tax breaks to big oil companies could have been repealed and instead used to fund alternative energy programs. We fell exactly 1 vote short of reaching the 60 required votes. That 1 vote could have been been ours if only one candidate for president had voted the way he claims his platform is built upon. I see the political ads with him standing there looking all presidential. Standing there with wind plants in the background. He must have been standing there when the vote was taken in December cause he sure didn’t show up to vote. Our offending Senator? Senator John McCain. Don’t believe me. Go to the Senates page and look up the roll call vote and see who voted and in what way. So much for being a maverick and not following the Republicans big oil ties.

The Olympics are in high swing with the U.S. in first place with China close behind in the medal count so far. In the gold count we fall to second behind China who has gone all out for the Olympics. After putting on the greatest opening ceremony ever, they have went on to medal in many events.

Political news is way down with the McCain camp not putting out much other than their misleading commercials. The Obama camp is out to lunch with Obama himself on vacation with his family in Hawaii.

With the price of oil steadily dropping so have the prices at the pump. The national average has fallen to $3.799 much better than the $4 plus prices of last month. Even so I have found a couple of sites that claim to show the lowest prices in your neighborhood. GasBuddy has a map and a zip code search that found no results in my area. Cheap Gas Prices has the states with links then to the counties here in South Carolina then the cities in Greenville county finding the lowest prices around. They could be very helpful especially if you have to travel very much.

A tiny bit of good news on the electronic voting horizon. Barbara Simons, an accomplished computer scientist and e-voting expert, was recently appointed to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisers. The EAC is the U.S. Federal body responsible for voting technology standards, among other things. In actuality there are supposed to be 4 positions out of the 37 member board that are supposed to be professionals in the field of science and technology. Only four on?the board sounds a little low to me but at least we are finally getting someone with actual computer knowledge into a position to set standards and perhaps put a little faith back into disillusioned voters. You can count me as one of them as I feel that e-voting as it stands today would be too simple to hack and change the results of an election and no one could ever prove it differently. Of the 37 members 4 are to be selected by the majority and minority leaders in the House and the Senate. Of these 4 members only the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid placed a genuine expert in the field to the board. I take my hat off to Mr Reid, thank you. Hopefully as vacancies pop up they will be replaced by other experts in the field and not just political appointments.

A recent study by the Government Accountability Office indicates that roughly one billion of the ten billion annual budget may be paid to fraudulent businesses. The GAO set up two fictitious companies with sketchy information and false documents to see how the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) would handle the sham businesses. The fake companies did not have clients or medical inventory to supply prospective Medicare patients. They won billing privileges even though everything was false and deliberately made to look so. The sting proved that there are gaps in the system and they can and are being manipulated by scam artists. The CMS says they are making changes to prevent this including;

  • requiring that suppliers keep supporting paperwork from doctors.
  • limiting the use of cell phones as the primary business number
  • setting up a new bidding process for medical equipment

But they promised to make changes in 2005 that have only achieved limited success. The government’s approval of the two sham companies is alarming because once a supplier attains Medicare billing privileges, it can easily get a doctor’s ID code fraudulently and begin submitting claims. A report by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general in December 2006 found that almost one-third of the 1,581 medical suppliers it visited in south Florida did not have an office at the business address they provided Medicare, even though they collectively had submitted claims for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The GAO cited several recent fraud cases to highlight the problem:

A company using a broom closet for its address filled with buckets of sand and tar. The owner also stole personal ID numbers from doctors. In August 2007, he was sentenced to 37 months in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and made to forfeit his Miami home and Rolls Royce.

A?secretary for a fraudulent medical supplier decided to start her own lucrative false company by renting an office in the same location. She purchased fake invoices and then provided her former employer kickbacks to have access to Medicare beneficiary numbers. From January 2006 to April 2007 she submitted $1.5 million in claims for urinary bags, canisters and air mattresses; Medicare paid the company $372,286. She was sentenced for fraud in January to 30 months’ imprisonment and three years of supervised release.

Good thing they make them forfeit all the funds they haven’t spent or even I might be tempted to do the hundred grand a year business. A little less than three years for three hundred grand isn’t too bad.