Ambulance Fees Increasing Across USA

Too many countries have levels of debt they will not be able to finance, which could cause further economic turmoil in 2011, Gulf economic expert Eckart Woertz has said. Speaking to Arabian Business, Woertz, who is a visiting Fellow at Princeton university in America, said GCC economies would not be insulated from another downturn on international markets. He said: “Debt levels are still at historic and unsustainable peaks compared to GDPs. There was only a certain shift from private to public sector debt issuance and the latter has faced increasing problems in 2010, be it in California or Greece.  “People who uncritically hail the growth potential of China and other emerging markets may think twice: their growth model has relied on exports and deficit spending in the US and other OECD countries – if the latter crumbles, they will face problems as well.”

Three-Quarters Of U.S. Uninsured Employed – Seventy-five percent of the some 50 million of the U.S. population with no health insurance come from working families, researchers say. 
The report by the Kaiser Family Foundation says 57 percent of people in the U.S. under age 65 receive health insurance coverage as an employer benefit. Medicare covers virtually all those who are age 65 years and older, but the non-elderly who do not have access to or cannot afford private insurance now go without health coverage unless they qualify for insurance through the Medicaid program, Children’s Health Insurance Program or a state-subsidized program. 
The report says the recession has resulted in many losing their health insurance because they have become unemployed, but it has become increasingly difficult for many of the employed to afford coverage.

Illinois Default Insurance Cost at Five-Month High: Muni Credit – The cost of insuring Illinois’s bonds against default rose to the highest level in five months as the state headed for the new year without a plan to finance a $3.7 billion pension-fund contribution. The cost of credit-default swap insurance on the lowest- rated state after California has risen 16 percent to $330,000 to protect $10 million of debt, from $285,000 on Dec. 3, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the most expensive since July 12, when it reached $335,000.  Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., said Illinois’s budget may be only 55 percent-funded."That means the other 45 percent they can’t pay or have to borrow," Gross said today in an interview on CNBC. "How a state like that can get in that type of position, I’m not quite sure."He said he would avoid buying any Illinois debt.

Ambulance Fees Increasing Across USA – Ambulance providers nationwide are coping with rising costs, decreased support from local government, low Medicare reimbursement rates and a jump in the number of uninsured Americans, says Stephen Williamson, president of the American Ambulance Association. A 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office showed providers were paid a Medicare reimbursement rate 6% below cost, and the gap widened to 17% in remote areas. Williamson says the disparity has grown since then. In the past, providers could rely on subsidies from local government, but those resources have dwindled during the economic downturn, Williamson says.

Oil Industry’s Spending to Rise in Hunt for Energy -The global oil industry—far from chastened by the catastrophic U.S. Gulf of Mexico spill—is planning record spending next year, including a large amount for deep-water development. From giants Saudi Aramco and Exxon Mobil Corp. to five-person wildcat outfits, the industry plans to spend nearly a half-trillion dollars next year to find and extract oil and natural gas, according to a new survey by investment bank Barclays Capital. For the first time in several years, large Western oil companies are leading the industry’s charge, increasing their budgets faster than the state-run national oil companies that have dominated spending in recent years. "This is being driven by the appetite to find more oil, comfort that today’s oil prices will be sustained and companies getting out of a hunker-down, recession mode,"

Minnesota Tax Hikes Looming – The Minnesota legislature is facing a six-billion dollar deficit. It could mean higher taxes.
The budget’s of most small Minnesota cities rely heavily on Local Government Aid payments from the state. If the Legislature cuts those payments, local leaders say it could mean a cut in services and more taxes.
For instance: A complete loss of L.G.A. payments to the City of Crookston would require a 300-percent increase in property taxes to make up the difference.
Dave Genereux, Crookston Mayor: "We really don’t have a lot of choices. We’d raise taxes a little… some. But, we’ll have to cut services, raise fees on things to try to make up for it."

Pleas For Food Jump As Poverty Increases – Arizona’s sharply rising poverty rate has spurred a run on food banks statewide, including Rim Country where food banks continue to push a food drive through the holiday season.
Arizona now suffers the second highest poverty rate in the nation and food banks this year reported a 27 percent jump in demand, according to a just-released survey by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.
The long lines at many food banks mirror a 33 percent increase in applications for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — formerly called food stamps. 
Nearly 1 million Arizonans now need extra food, including one out of four children, according to the survey.

Number Of Homeless Students In State Climbs To 21,000 – They sleep in cars. In parks. In shelters. On the sofas of generous relatives or friends.  They are the more than 1.3 million homeless children nationwide.  Of that total, more than 21,000 live in Washington state, according to numbers submitted to the federal government this past week.  According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the numbers show that during the 2009-10, the state reported 21,826 homeless students, up 5.0 percent from the previous year and up 56.5 percent from 2005-06.  “There are a lot of factors that could explain the increase,” said Melinda Dyer, program supervisor for the education of homeless children and youth at OSPI. “The biggest is probably more awareness. Five years ago, many districts didn’t know that this was a requirement. We’re seeing better reporting now than we did then.

State colleges and universities bracing for budget storm – Officials at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities are bracing for another tough budget year as the legislature and new governor grapple with next year’s $3.67 billion deficit. "Public universities are definitely on the firing line,"  "The next several years are going to be the toughest budget years higher education has faced in the last 50 or 60 years." While combined spending by the state’s three higher education systems-the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Community Colleges-grew by nearly 230 percent over two decades, to $1.94 billion in fiscal 2009, the General Fund contribution increased by less than 83 percent, to $556 million, Meanwhile, in-state tuition and fees increased by 239 percent at the community colleges, 284 percent at UConn and nearly 353 percent at CSU

Italy launches 12-billion-euro bond issue at higher rates – Italy on Wednesday raised 12 billion euros (15.7 billion dollars) in a treasury bond auction that drew strong demand but at interest rates sharply higher than at a previous operation. Italy, with a public debt approaching 120 percent of gross domestic product, has lately prompted investor unease amid a wider eurozone finance crisis affecting Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece. The Bank of Italy said the treasury had placed six-month bonds worth 8.5 billion euros and two-year bonds worth 3.5 billion euros. The rate on the six-month bond went to 1.698 percent from 1.483 percent while that on the two-year bond rose to 2.937 percent from 2.307 percent.

Highest-paid UC execs demand millions in benefits – Three dozen of the University of California’s highest-paid executives are threatening to sue unless UC agrees to spend tens of millions of dollars to dramatically increase retirement benefits for employees earning more than $245,000. "We believe it is the University’s legal, moral and ethical obligation" to increase the benefits, the executives wrote the Board of Regents in a Dec. 9 letter and position paper obtained by The Chronicle. Their demand comes as UC is trying to eliminate a vast, $21.6 billion unfunded pension obligation by reducing benefits for future employees, raising the retirement age, requiring employees to pay more into UC’s pension fund and boosting tuition.

Global oil wealth to rise by 2trn barrels – New technology in the future could boost the world’s proven oil resources by nearly two trillion barrels but more than five times of these quantities could remain inaccessible, according to Saudi Aramco.  Although the current global oil reserves in place are estimated at 14 trillion barrels, only about 1.2 trillion can be recovered, said Khaled Al Buraik, executive director of the government-controlled Saudi Aramco Speaking at a seminar in Riyadh, Buraik said the quantity of oil extracted so far worldwide does not exceed one trillion barrels.

US `Very Concerned’ About China Rare-Earth Quotas -USTR Spokeswoman – The U.S. sharply criticized China’s decision Tuesday to cut its rare-earth export quotas, raising the stakes for potential retaliation over the sensitive trade issue.
"We are very concerned about China’s export restraints on rare-earth materials," said a spokeswoman from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
"We have raised our concerns with China and we are continuing to work closely on the issue with stakeholders," the spokeswoman said.
China’s decision to cut first-half 2011 export quotas by about 35% from the year-earlier period is stoking tense bilateral trade tensions less than a month before President Hu Jintao arrives for a visit with President Barack Obama.

China To Establish Rare Earth Group – China, which supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, is close to establishing an association that will, under government oversight, work to “guide” the domestic industry. The China Association for Rare Earth will be organized under the authority of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and include the 93 largest domestic producers, Wang Caifeng (王彩鳳), a member of the committee overseeing the group’s formation, told reporters at a press conference in Beijing yesterday…..The US said last week it may file a WTO complaint against China over restraints on supplies of rare earths….(Page 2)-China will also raise export taxes for some rare earth elements to 25 percent next year, the Ministry of Finance said this month. The move is an increase from the 15 percent temporary export tax on neodymium, used in batteries for hybrid cars, including Toyota Motor Corp’s Prius.

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