Morgan Patullo, ’15
This week many articles were published discussing the ways in which the Affordable Care Act will affect insurance premiums. Many predict varying effects for people of different gender, age, and location, as well as other factors.
Sarah Kliff reported in The Washington Post that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that women will see some lower costs and men will see some higher costs. Sebelius also said that older customers may see a small decline whereas younger customers will see a slight increase in the cost of their healthcare. These predictions are supported by Jim Meyers of Newsmax who reports that “The Affordable Care Act will have an especially harsh impact on young Americans ages 21-29 – those with individual coverage will see their healthcare premium rise by an average of 189 percent.”
Anna Wilde Matthews and Louise Radnofsky wrote in The Wall Street Journal that UnitedHealth Group Inc. told brokers that premiums for some customers buying their own plans may increase by up to 116%. For small businesses, rates may increase between 25% and 50%. However, it was also reported that these numbers represent the highest level to which premiums would likely rise. They do not represent an average, and there are even some situations in which customers may see decreases.
In another view on who will be affected, David Hogberg suggests that the premiums will vary by states. He reports in Amy Ridenour’s National Center Blog that New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Jersey will likely see decreases in insurance premiums whereas the other 45 states and D.C. will see increases. Ohio and Wisconsin are predicted to see the largest premium increases, of a minimum of 80%. These results were predicted by the Society of Actuaries.
The factors taken into consideration when making these predictions are influenced by more than just the Affordable Care Act. Sarah Kliff reported that the consulting firm Milliman is expecting a 9% increase in their premiums simply due to the increased cost of health care. This may be true, but the Affordable Care Act’s reforms will also likely play an impact. Jim Meyers writes that because the reform mandates that everyone pay the same premiums no mater what their predicted medical expenses will be, this will increase premium costs for those under 50. The Affordable Care Act requires that when individuals purchase insurance, the insurance must include preventative services, chronic disease management and rehabilitative services, so people have less choice in the design of their health care plan which will also increase their premiums.
These increased premium predictions are extremely aggravating to many Americans because the Affordable Care Act was signed to make health care more affordable and reliable. I believe that much of the reason for the rise in insurance premiums is a combination of the Affordable Care Act and the increasing cost of health care. Because these insurance companies are required to provide more preventative care and will be unable to “decide” what is covered and what is not – in the past when someone developed cancer or other such health problems that required expensive care, the insurance companies might say that they did not cover those expenses, causing those that were sick to have to pay for their treatments from their own pockets – they will have to cover more costs. Insurance companies will now have to cover about 30 million more Americans, which will also increase their costs. How much these factors are increasing insurance companies’ costs is the real question. Once this is answered it will be much clearer whether insurance companies actually need to increase their premiums to provide the necessary health care for those they are insuring, or if they are only increasing them and using the Affordable Care Act as an excuse.
It is no secret that many undergraduate students are unsure or apprehensive about what the future holds for them. So when a group of these young adult college students has the opportunity to meet with a successful member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who shared their feeling of early-adulthood uncertainty, it is a truly calming and comforting experience. This is how I felt after meeting with Sean Corson, the Deputy Director at the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. Prior to landing this position, Mr. Corson had dabbled in the fields of environmental education, marine sanctuary designation, even flipping burgers between more desirable jobs. But as Mr. Corson said, he was able to take something away from all of these odd jobs before earning his spot in a managerial field with NOAA. As a graduating senior hoping to enter the marine sciences field, and who is unsure of how to get there or exactly what she wants to do in that field, talking with Sean Corson, for even a short period of time, was one of the most helpful and enlightening meetings I could have asked for.
Blake Chiappetta, ‘16
Throughout the past two weeks, controversy has risen out of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Threats concerning both South Korea and the United States have erupted from North Korea. The most notable threat occurred when North Korea announced that they intend to restart their nuclear facility, with the prospect of creating a nuclear weapon.
Although this statement causes concern, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the U.S. has not seen any difference in the North Korean military since the threats. The North Korean military has not mobilized nor have they begun to set up defenses. Secretary of State John Kerry said that no matter what threats were issued by the North Koreans, the United States would continue to honor its treaty with South Korea.
In order to increase its presence in the area, the US has deployed the USS McCain and the USS Decatur, both equipped with missile defending capabilities. Should tensions escalate in Korea and missiles are fired either on South Korea or the US, these vessels will be able to destroy the missiles. In addition to this protection, the Pentagon said that they will install radar systems in the west Pacific.
With these protections in place, the main problem remains unsolved. North Korea vowed to restart their nuclear plant that was shut down as part of an antinuclear peace talk that took place in 2007. If the North Koreans already started their nuclear reactor it is believed that they do not possess a long range missile that could reach the United States.
As with all forms of disagreement, issues such as this can be solved through the politics of diplomacy. Having both sides talk about the issues at hand and coming to a reasonable conclusion that settles the problem is something John Kerry hopes to accomplish as Secretary of State. He has not only mentioned that the US plans to talk to the North Koreans to address increasing threats, but also urged North Korean allies like Russia and China to persuade the North Koreans to jump on the bandwagon of disarmament in order to solve the problem and restore peace to the region.
Despite the recent progress made by Congress towards reaching a consensus about immigration policy, recent arguments have erupted over how best to secure the border. Congress plans to legalize the approximate 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US, but recent talks on how to secure the border threaten to kill the deal. Some politicians think that there needs to be more border patrol guards while others believe that an extensive fence line needs to be built. Other politicians believe that these options are not enough and would like to deploy more drones, cameras, and other technologies. Another issue that angered House Republicans and spawned further dissent was when the Department of Homeland Security announced that these different strategies might not stop illegal immigration overall. Support from both parties has been reached on immigration reform, but the roadblocks on defending the border need compromising. Because there is past Congressional agreement on this issue, it is the perfect time for politicians to agree once more on a viable solution that not only allows current immigrants to receive citizenship, but also stops illegal immigration from occurring. Once a compromise is formed on how to defend the border, Congress has the ability to pass monumental legislation that can change history.
Emily Constantian & Mikaela Gerry
On Monday, March 11th, the Environmental Leadership team visited the Blue Plains Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant, located just outside of Washington DC. This is the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world, and serves customers in the DC metro area. We were lucky to get a personal tour of the plant, and were especially lucky that it was a cool and rainy day, which kept the smells to a minimum. The plant has the ability to treat nearly 400 million gallons of wastewater a day, at its maximum capacity. On average, the plant treats around 200 million gallons of water per day. There are many stations that the water passes through on its way through the plant.
The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater treatment plant is critical in the efforts to clean up the Potomac River, which ultimately drains into the Chesapeake Bay. Whenever Blue Plains experiences a leak, or the system overflows due to rainfall, raw sewage is discharged into the Potomac River, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the quality of the water. When raw sewage is discharged into streams it can degrade marine organisms’ habitats as well as deplete the dissolved oxygen present in the water. Further, a host of health problems, such as diarrhea, increased spread of infections, and fevers are associated with raw sewage being discharged into rivers. Blue Plains is attempting to minimize the occurrence of raw sewage being discharged into the Potomac and Anacostia River by separating the sewer from the storm water pipes in order to dump only storm water back into the streams in the event of an overflow. This would allow Blue Plains to primarily discharge only treated sewage back into the stream, and aid in the efforts to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Julia Scacchitti, ’15
In its recent history, Latin America has experienced varying levels of female representation within its political systems, with drastically different outcomes occurring among its individual nations. Two countries which have accomplished successful feats of female political empowerment include Chile, and Argentina, who have both elected their first female presidential candidates very recently in their history. An article from this week’s BBC news discussed Chile’s former president Michelle Bachelet’s intention to run for another presidential term in a November poll. She was Chile’s first female president, elected into office in 2006, and served her term until 2010. Since it is mandated within Chilean law that presidents are not able to hold two consecutive terms, Michele Bachelet has come back to campaign for the upcoming presidential term. Since her previous term ended, she has served as head of the United Nation’s gender equality agency, where she continues to promote the equality and independence of women within the United Nations.
Michelle Bachelet left office with a generally optimistic and high approval rating; yet she had received negative approval from her dealings with the earthquake and tsunami in February 2010, where 500 people died and where she was accused of not providing the proper and necessary assistance for the victims of this disaster.
Despite some criticisms, Ms. Bachelet is still considered a strong center-left candidate in the next presidential campaign, in which she will compete against center-right candidate Laurence Golborne, backed by current president Sebastian Pinera. Ms. Bachelet has said that she will announce her official decision to once again run for president by the end of March, demonstrating the increasing influence of women within Latin American politics.
President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina also presents another strong example of the rising trend of female representation and influence within Latin American politics. Elected for her second term in October 2011, President Cristina Fernandez has been a strong example of women in leadership within a constantly-changing economy. When elected, polls suggested that the president held a strong 70% approval rating from the general public, and she still garners strong support from the Argentine population.
Unfortunately, economic downturns have resulted in high inflation and increasing unemployment, affecting the previously high levels of support for President Cristina Fernandez. Currently, the president and her economic team have created a proposed payment plan towards Argentina’s defaulting debt, which is estimated at 11 billion dollars. The proposed payment plan is a combination of cash and bonds towards the goal of reducing and managing Argentina’s current debt.
Under President Fernandez and her team of economic experts, Argentina’s foreign debt has been reduced from 166 percent of GDP in 2002 to 46 percent recently, showing signs of improvement, but with much progress still needed. While the president has received various complaints and concerns over the current economic state in Argentina, she still holds an overall high approval rating among the Argentine people.
Both of these women demonstrate positive and meaningful strides towards female independence and equality throughout the political system. These women are strong, influential individuals in Latin American politics who demonstrate key representations of women in successful leadership positions. While they have dealt with various hardships and criticisms throughout their presidencies, they continue to fight for the interests of their people and portray core examples of leadership and understanding within national politics. Their experiences leading dynamic Latin American nations will hopefully contribute to a more positive outlook on women’s representation and equality in developing countries.
The recent media hype over the Oscar-winning film, Argo, has called Iranian-US relations back to mainstream discussions of US foreign policy. The film depicts the real life events of the takeover of the US Embassy in Iran in 1979 and the six Americans who sought refuge with the Canadian Ambassador. My interest in seeing the film Argo was piqued after working with Ambassador John Limbert on a lecture event held at the Eisenhower Institute last month. Mr. Limbert is a former U.S. diplomat in Iran and was held hostage during the 1979 embassy takeover. I watched the film with fascination, amazed at the courage and strength the fifty-two hostages maintained for 444 days of captivity.
In meeting with Limbert, I asked about his immediate reaction to the takeover, shortly after the Embassy’s walls were breached. He explained that you could feel something bad was brewing for the twelve days before the embassy takeover –once the unpopular Shah was sent to the United States. As the doors of the embassy broke down, there was a shared initial reaction to keep everyone in the embassy alive. With regards to the film, Limbert said his experience was quite well portrayed, sharing, “I was one of the people who dialed every number there was seeking help, then hanging the phone up in frustration because there was no help coming.” Argo portrays the tensions between the US and Iran by focusing on the story line of the six Americans who sought refuge in the Tehran residence of the Canadian ambassador and eventually escaped from Iran after the takeover, while Ambassador Limbert details his time as a hostage inside the Embassy compound and how it has impacted his life choices and career.
Although no Americans were killed, a strong message was sent to the United States about the dissatisfaction in Iran. Limbert commented that the takeover was not intended to start conflict, but rather a way of expressing discontent through using the popular trend of the 1960’s and 70’s – sit-in demonstrations. Unlike other demonstrations of the time, this Iranian “sit-in” style takeover lasted for a year. I was curious to hear about whether Ambassador Limbert’s Foreign Service training addressed a potential hostage situation. He shared that he was trained for a kidnapping situation which emphasized the importance of creating your own space in the fortress-like embassy. Iranians are very respectful of host-guest relations. Limbert stated that the best way to handle the situation was to act as the host in your space and have the hostages act as the guests. I was shocked when Limbert mentioned that he spent over half of his time in solitary confinement; he continued to explain that there was no reasoning, no clear strategy, and the takeover escalated to become something much bigger than Iran or the United States initially imagined.
As a father and a husband, Limbert was determined to survive. Limbert’s Iranian wife and two sons were living in Saudi Arabia at the time of the takeover – their intermittent written communication inspired Limbert to survive each day. One of the most blessed days for Limbert was the day he joined his family again after being released. I asked Limbert what inspired him to continue with Foreign Service assignments after revealing there were times in captivity when he swore to himself he would never take a posting again. Limbert paused, and then said he continued in his Foreign Service career because his experience gave him a new appreciation for what it means to be an American diplomat and to represent the United States.
The popularity of Argo goes beyond the opinion of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and needs to be viewed as a teaching tool and catalyst to reexamine US-Iranian relations. Argo makes the effort to tell a story that is interesting and intriguing while at the same time reminding us of unfinished history. The negative attitudes of both countries that are displayed in the opening scenes of Argo are almost the same attitudes held by both sides today. The anti-Americanism and anti-Iranianism that was expressed is 1979 still lingers over thirty years later For that reason that it is so critical that the United States and Iran find a diplomatic way to build a new bond.
Ambassador Limbert set out after his captivity to improve US foreign policy relations around the world so that no other would have to experience a similar horror – this is the kind of leadership we need today. We need to see a greater appreciation for diplomacy and to use the lessons learned to progress. A renewed and strong US-Iranian relationship is pivotal to US foreign policy and to the prevention of wars in the future.