Phoenix and New York City are separated by 2,500 miles, but the distance between them in terms of education innovation can only be measured in light years.
Last week, the Arizona Republic ran a story titled, “How school choice has reshaped Arizona,” looking at open enrollment policies, the number of charter schools, and education savings accounts, the most innovative education solution in the country. And don’t forget tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and a homeschool law. With all these options for parents, “districts from the southwest valley to Paradise Valley have poured money into specialty programs that cater to niche interests in their communities” and “Arizona students can learn to speak Mandarin, study dance, become young engineers or delve into the medical sciences.”
Traditional schools, charter schools, and private schools try to attract parents and their children by out-doing one another through challenging programs. What an amazing place to live, where schools are watching where parents are going and trying to offer classes and programs that get their attention.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent in New York City, the New York Times ran a story titled “The Get-Into-School-Card,” referring to a family’s address. “Moving to a particular neighborhood in order to land a seat at a coveted public school has long been the middle-class modus operandi for obtaining a high-quality education in New York, where placement in many elementary schools is determined by home address.”
Unfortunately, New York families are finding out after they move that overcrowding in good schools is causing them to be re-zoned into boundaries for other schools. Parents wind up putting children on charter school waiting lists or resort to an “outright lie by borrowing an address from a friend or relative to get their children into a school.”
For parents looking for a great opportunity for their child, Arizona has told parents they have choices, and traditional districts are “inspire[d]…to improve options.”
In New York, parents without a good neighborhood school have to do it the old fashioned way: Move.
Goldwater Institute: School Choice Catalogue
Arizona Republic: How school choice has reshaped Arizona
New York Times: The Get-Into-School-Card
In the debate over expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Arizonans, we are being told that the costs for uncompensated care at Arizona hospitals are soaring, making Medicaid expansion necessary to prevent financial disaster from befalling our hospitals. A closer look reveals that this claim is simply untrue.
Uncompensated care is made up of two things: charity care and bad debt.
Charity care is free or discounted care hospitals provide to people below a certain income level, usually 150-200 percent of the federal poverty level. The nonprofit Banner Health hospital network netted a very healthy $296 million in 2011, while charity care composed a mere 2.8 percent of their expenses in 2011. At Yavapai Regional, another non-profit hospital which increased its net revenues by over $17 million between 2010 and 2011, charity care represented only .5 percent of total expenses. Charity care is far from breaking the bank.
Bad debt, by far the largest portion of uncompensated care, is when a patient does not qualify for charity care because they are above the income threshold but they fail to pay their bill. It encompasses uninsured patients but also insured patients who fail to pay their co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. Bad debt will be unaffected by Medicaid expansion because the people in this category will still not be eligible for Medicaid coverage because they will be above the income limit. Furthermore, hospitals report bad debt at their “charge rates” rather than their actual cost, which effectively hides millions, or in the case of giants like Banner hundreds of millions, in additional net profit by making their uncompensated care costs appear much higher than they actually are.
In inflating uncompensated care numbers, hospitals point to “unreimbursed Medicaid,” the difference between the cost of providing care to Medicaid patients and the reimbursement rate from the government, which hospitals constantly say is too low. This number will only increase under the proposed Medicaid expansion because hospitals will claim additional unreimbursed Medicaid for each Medicaid patient they treat. As the number of people on the Medicaid rolls grows, so will the claim of unreimbursed Medicaid. Don’t be surprised if this leads to a plea from the industry for an increase in reimbursement rates, an increase that taxpayers would have to cover.
Experience shows that even if Arizona did expand Medicaid, hospitals would still report increasing uncompensated care numbers. In 2009, the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association commissioned a report which found that during the first eight years of the Prop. 204 Medicaid expansion, uncompensated care increased by an average of 9 percent per year. We must ask hospitals why they expect a different result this time around.
In truth, hospital profits are more than healthy. This is not an industry that needs more taxpayer dollars. The legislature should be wary of the story hospitals are selling.
Outside Star Trek’s mythical “dilithium” power crystals, there is no such thing as clean energy. That’s one lesson learned from a new Beacon Hill Institute report, The Economic Impact of Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff. The report illuminates the expense of renewable energy as well.
In 2006, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) passed the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff, requiring 15 percent of Arizona’s electricity to come from renewable sources, including wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal technologies, by 2025.
Beacon Hill estimates that in 2025 the ACC mandate will cost Arizonans between $239 and $626 million and from 1,500 to 4,100 jobs, with electricity prices 4 to 10 percent higher than otherwise. Odds are the economic damage is understated since costs like connecting windmills to the grid can only be guessed. Texas is spending $7 billion to connect its “Cuisinarts of the sky” (windmills kill birds by the bushel) to its grid. Beacon Hill accounts for costs associated with coal and gas backup facilities that prevent brown outs on still and cloudy days.
But there’s more to consider than just costs. Renewable technologies reduce carbon emissions, but the construction and decommissioning of renewable energy facilities produces more carbon than coal and gas facilities. The carbon advantage accrues from the production of electricity.
Recently The Economist, a publication strongly in the global warming corner, acknowledged there has been no warming for more than a decade, contrary to global warming theory. Despite what some may say, there is still a debate about the threat carbon emissions pose.
For the sake of intellectual honesty, jobs, and efficiency the ACC needs to revisit its Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff regulation.
Beacon Hill Institute: The Economic Impact of Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff
RealClearPolitics: The End of an Illusion
MasterResource: Texas Wind Power
The Economist: A Sensitive Matter
Thanks to a Goldwater Institute lawsuit and the courage of a local entrepreneur, the Arizona Board of Cosmetology has gotten a makeover.
The Board went after cancer survivor Lauren Boice’s small business, threatening to shut her down. Lauren started her business, Angels on Earth Home Beauty, after witnessing firsthand how beauty services lifted the spirits of homebound patients. Her unique business connects the elderly, sick, and terminally ill, with licensed cosmetologists who can perform haircuts, manicures, or massages right in clients’ homes. Lauren’s services have been in high demand.
But the Board of Cosmetology had its own demands. It told Lauren it would regulate her phone business as if it were a beauty salon. The Board forced Lauren – who does not practice cosmetology – to get licensed and open a physical salon, even though her homebound clients would never visit it.
The Goldwater Institute took Lauren’s fight to court to defend her constitutional right to earn a living and help her sick clients. After a 16-month legal battle, the Board agreed to a binding settlement, assuring it would never regulate Lauren or other businesses like hers.
This is a great victory for freedom. Thanks to this settlement, entrepreneurs like Lauren Boice can focus on serving their clients rather than navigating the Board’s labyrinth of red tape.
But many still find themselves at the mercy of regulatory boards that stifle innovation, deprive entrepreneurs like Lauren of their right to earn a living, and punish those who provide services to the public.
Lauren spent years battling the cosmetology board in and out of court just to arrive at the common-sense conclusion that a cosmetology board doesn’t have the power to regulate a phone dispatch business. When regulators overstep their boundaries, they stall businesses and waste resources. Perhaps it’s time for the legislature to make over other bureaucracies.
Goldwater Institute Media Advisory: Board of Cosmetology will Cease Regulating Small Businesswoman
Goldwater Institute: Six Reforms to Occupational Licensing Laws to Increase Jobs and Lower Costs
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