Monday, June 12, 2017

Ashamed of My Monday Globe

As soon as the page came up:

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt is stepping down

That's a surprise and if I had anything to with it, I take pride.

Now on to today and above-the-fold first:

"More workers are staying on the job past 65" by Katie Johnston Globe Staff  June 11, 2017

Let me guess, it is because they want to!

Having more experienced workers in the labor force is good for the country, economists say, especially as the population ages and those not healthy enough to work make even greater demands on society. Despite a common misperception, the historically low rate of younger men in the workforce is not caused by “older workers hogging all the jobs,” said Wellesley College economist Courtney Coile, because the number of jobs is not fixed. 

It's because they are a bunch of drunks, but that is also helping the economy.

While some older workers remain employed because they enjoy working, many do it because they must, as traditional pension plans vanish and personal savings come up short....

Yeah, they don't really want to and all those who want a job have a job.


Never mind that the impoverishment of seniors that is driving them to keep working is upsetting the fundamentals of the economy for so long. The $y$tem was built on you stepping aside so that college grad or high school kid could start working somewhere. That no longer applies.

Are you tired of the corporate and elite BS yet?

Now for the $hit-eating grin:

"Delta Dental wants to lower reimbursements. Dentists have a different solution" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Globe Staff  June 11, 2017

Delta Dental of Massachusetts has argued that its recently proposed contract changes, which would reduce some reimbursements to dentists, are necessary for the nonprofit insurer to grow and remain competitive.

But dentists, many of them concerned about absorbing the cuts, say the company should be looking elsewhere for savings: at its executive compensation, which exceeds the pay at other Massachusetts nonprofit insurers.

In 2015, the last year for which tax filings are available, eight executives at Delta Dental’s parent company earned more than $1 million in total compensation, up from just one in 2011. Total compensation includes base salary, bonuses, and retirement benefits. 

If you can call it "earned."

By comparison, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which has eight times the revenues, reported total compensation of at least $1 million for seven executives in 2015, including almost $2.9 million for chief executive Andrew Dreyfus. The pay packages at Delta’s parent company were also more generous than at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, two other nonprofit insurers.

Delta’s top earner in 2015 was the former president, Fay Donohue, who received more than $7 million in total compensation despite working just a few months before retiring that year; much of that sum came in the form of retirement benefits and was previously reported in tax filings.

Former Delta Dental of Massachusetts president Fay Donohue received more than $7 million in total compensation in 2015, despite working just a few months before retiring that year.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff/File 2013

Nice teeth!

Others who earned seven figures that year included Steven J. Pollock, who took over as president midyear and earned $2.4 million in total compensation, and Sheryl Traylor, senior vice president of human resources, who earned $2.6 million.

Delta’s parent company, Boston-based Dental Service of Massachusetts Inc., or DSM, one of the country’s largest dental insurers, defended its compensation and benefits as appropriate when compared to peer companies.

I'm $o $ick of the endle$$ excu$e$ for the mental illne$$ known as greed.

Although it is a nonprofit, DSM conducts much of its business through for-profit subsidiaries, including those it purchased or launched to sell plans in other states as the company grew.

But its hefty compensation numbers anger many dentists, who say the new contract Delta seeks in Massachusetts would slash reimbursement rates for a variety of dental procedures by as much as 30 percent. The company puts the reduction at closer to 20 percent.

Then let the assistant do it.

Dentists believe the rate cuts would force them to rush through patient visits, and those who own their own practices worry about being able to stay in business.

Oh, great. That, along with if you like your doctor you can keep him, is one of the most difficult decisions to make, and once you trust someone.... what's with the note on the door?

“Delta talks about needing to increase their profit or needing to increase their revenue,” said Dr. John P. Fisher, a dentist in Salem who has practiced for 45 years. “I look at the executive compensation and I just think it’s borderline unconscionable that they’re getting salaries like that.”

Dr. Andrew S. Tonelli, who works at practices in Boston and North Reading, said it’s difficult to buy the argument that the company needs to grow revenue when its executives are already highly paid. (General dentists in Massachusetts make an average of $188,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

“That’s the insult to injury of the contract they put out there,” said Tonelli, a dentist early in his career who worries that the planned contract changes may hamper his ability to someday run his own practice.

DSM officials said they base their executive compensation, with the help of a consultant, on surveys of the pay and benefits offered at similar companies.

They said they compare their compensation levels to for-profit companies as well as nonprofits, because of the varied tax status of their subsidiaries — and because they compete against for-profits in recruiting executives.

DSM competes locally and nationally with a range of companies, from Boston-based Blue Cross to publicly traded insurance giants such as Aetna, Cigna, and Metlife, where CEO compensation reached $16 million or $17 million in 2015.

The company, which began as a nonprofit launched by a group of dentists more than 50 years ago, is a sprawling organization with 46 subsidiaries, including 38 for-profits. With 24 million members in 30 states, the company said it generated $1.8 billion in revenue through all its subsidiaries in 2015.

It was a good idea, but like all good ideas, it gets co-opted and corrupted by monied interests. It's the late 19th-century again, folks, the 21$t-century's Gilded Age.

The nonprofit side of DSM’s business files tax returns that are publicly available, but figures for the for-profit side of the business are private, making it difficult to fully evaluate the company’s finances. As with other nonprofits, DSM’s nonprofit business is exempt from paying taxes.

Nonprofit and compensation experts said DSM’s complex corporate structure — including its many for-profit subsidiaries — is not surprising, given the size and scale of its business.

You need that so they can't see you stealing loot.

And, experts said, it’s not unusual for such nonprofits to measure their compensation against big for-profit competitors.

An analysis by Equilar, a firm that studies executive compensation, found that Delta’s compensation was in line with the pay and benefits at other like-sized for-profit health care and insurance companies.

Except they are a non-profit.

“Most nonprofits also compare themselves with for-profits because we’re all going after the same talent,” said Rick Cohen, director of operations at the National Council of Nonprofits.

How $elf-$erving.

He cautioned that “apples to apples” comparisons are difficult because every organization is different.

“What we’re talking about is a big, big company that pays their people a healthy amount of money,” said James Abruzzo, a nonprofit consultant based in Hoboken, N.J., “but maybe for that size of business, even though they’re a nonprofit, that’s not unreasonable.”

Oh, okay.

But Deirdre Cummings, legislative director at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, or MASSPIRG, said that if Delta compares itself to for-profit companies, it should pay taxes on all of its business, as for-profit companies do.

“They’re avoiding taxes,” she said. “In a sense, the taxpayers are subsidizing these high salaries.”

That's nothing new. Just roll with it.

So why is the company still structured as a nonprofit, when it admittedly acts much like a for-profit? Executive vice president Todd R. Cruse said it is committed to “social benefits” as well as to “financial sustainability.”

“The legal status of our various entities, as nonprofit or for-profit, does not change our enterprise-wide core values or our mission to improve the oral health of all,” he said in an e-mail.


The proposed contract would cover a new preferred provider organization, or PPO, the company wants to launch. The new PPO would pay lower rates to dentists than its Premier plan, which would still be offered. It argues that the new plan will appeal to consumers and employers looking to contain costs.

“Our effort to build a new PPO product is to attempt to continue to be successful in the market to meet the needs of employers and members,” spokeswoman Kristin LaRoche said. 

Looks like rationing to me, same as with the HMOs, I mean, ACOs.

Most Massachusetts dentists, about 4,200, have signed up for the new contract, according to the company. But Dr. Raymond Martin, president of the Massachusetts Dental Society, said many dentists were upset by the changes and signed only because they felt they had no other choice. 

In allegedly free market AmeriKa?

Martin said the company has changed from its early days as a nonprofit: “[It’s] a migration of something that’s more for the common good to something that’s more for shareholders or company good,” he said.

Welcome to the early 21$t-century, doc.

Delta is still awaiting approval from the state Division of Insurance before it can start selling the new PPO plan, which many dentists oppose. The dental society has asked for a public hearing before an approval is issued.

Maybe they can take a bite outta crime!


Was going to brush my teeth but.... better get 'em checked then.



"New Haven school construction offers inspiration, caution to Boston" by James Vaznis Globe Staff  June 11, 2017

NEW HAVEN — Many of New Haven’s schools are breathtaking, featuring designs that draw inspiration from the city’s maritime history or preserve architectural elements of the buildings they replaced.

The buildings, New Haven officials say, have gone a long way toward improving the environments for students and staff by providing good air quality, ample natural light, and space for new programs such as preschool, and the district has reaped savings by installing energy-efficient utility systems, but New Haven officials caution that the new buildings are not a panacea for improving lackluster student achievement.....

Anybody check the water?


When you get the air and water right get back to me; otherwise, I've already graduated to summer vacation this year. Sorry.

Also seeTwo very different stories of teenagers gone wrong. Both have Boston parents worried about their own kids

I've seen enough of her,  and the Harvard kids are a teachable moment

Btw, did you know that "this fall, Harvard students can sign up for a class called “The Real Game of Thrones: From Modern Myths to Medieval Models?” 

I don't know how that helps you get a job, but maybe that's not the point. The point is to go there and gain the connections that will make you part of the privileged elite and help staff its bureaucracy.


Man shot at high school graduation party in Worcester

One in Hartford, too.

Jessica Tang quietly makes history with Boston Teachers Union election

Everyone is happy with the choice.

Well, almost everyone.


National Lead, top half of page A2:

A mix of pride and anger at gay rights marches across US

Somehow anger and gay don't go together with me.

Supreme Court could tackle Wis. redistricting case

When and if they do, let me know (sigh).

Texas mulls non-jail options for those who can’t pay fines

I thought that kind of thing went out with Shay's Rebellion, but what do I know?

Virginia GOP candidate wins right to run ad with graphic image of Trump

Why breathe life into her rank and fetid carcass of a career?

Speaking of rank and fetid carcasses:

"On Friday, onetime GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former vice president Joe Biden did not discuss the 2012 election where they ran on opposing tickets, but Biden did discuss the 2016 election. He made some comments critical of President Trump, but said he felt his own party and its candidate, Hillary Clinton, failed to connect with some key voting blocs, including millennials and those in working-class states....."


Millennials voted for Trump? That's a new one.

Despite Trump’s tough talk on travel ban, few changes to vetting

He wants to keep Puerto Ricans out now, can you believe it?

"Seizing on opioid crisis, a drug maker lobbies hard for its product" by Abby Goodnough New York Times  June 11, 2017

NEW YORK — Five years ago, Vivitrol was a treatment for opioid addiction that was struggling to find a market. Now, its sales and profile are rising fast, thanks to its manufacturers’ shrewd use of political connections, and despite scant science to prove the drug’s efficacy.

Last month, the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, praised it as the future of opioid addiction treatment after visiting the company’s plant in Ohio. He set off a furor among substance abuse specialists by criticizing its less expensive and more widely used and rigorously studied competitors, buprenorphine and methadone, as medications that “simply substitute” for illicit drugs.

Just wondering where you got this stuff.

It was the kind of plug that Vivitrol’s maker, Alkermes, has spent years coaxing, with a deft lobbying strategy that has targeted lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The company has spent millions of dollars on contributions to officials struggling to stem the epidemic of opioid abuse. It has also provided thousands of free doses to encourage the use of Vivitrol in jails and prisons, which have by default become major detox centers.

That explains a lot.

With the Trump administration sending $1 billion in new addiction prevention and treatment funds to states during the next two years through the 21st Century Cures Act, Alkermes’s marketing has shifted into even higher gear.

The company’s strategy highlights the profit opportunities that drug companies and investors see in an opioid epidemic that killed 91 Americans every day in 2015 and is growing worse, but some of its marketing tactics, and Price’s comments, ignore widely accepted science, as nearly 700 experts in the field wrote the health secretary in a letter.

That means more die from drugs than guns, and yet.... some see profit opportunities in the opioid cri$i$, huh? 

That explains a lot regarding the failed "drug war," and exposes the crocodile tears from the authority that cares so much about me and you.

Not a single study has been completed comparing Vivitrol with its less expensive competitors. Some studies have shown high dropout rates, or found that many participants returned to opioid use while taking Vivitrol or after going off it.

In one study that the company used to secure the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment, conducted with 250 patients in Russia, nearly half of those who got Vivitrol failed to stay abstinent over a six-month period, although they stayed abstinent and in treatment longer than those who got a placebo.

Alkermes executives say they welcome any addiction treatment. But in pitches to investors, doctors, law enforcement officials, and legislators, they have presented Vivitrol as something of a miracle drug, a cleaner alternative to Suboxone, the most common formulation of buprenorphine.

I'm sorry, readers, I have to stop there (where print article ended), but the web left plenty on the table:

They described Suboxone as an addictive “black market” or “street” drug, emphasizing that it is smuggled into prisons.

That view has resonated with drug court judges and sheriffs. But some addiction and public health specialists complain that the company unfairly denigrates its competition, without any data to suggest Vivitrol has better outcomes.

“If you care about actually solving the problem, you cannot stigmatize the most effective treatments,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former Maryland health secretary who is now an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This is a company that has put its own perverted idea of market success ahead of actually solving the problem.”

As health secretary, he said, he had to call a meeting to tell Alkermes to “back off talking down methadone and buprenorphine” to legislators as the company aggressively lobbied to get Maryland to use Vivitrol.

“They’re exploiting a stigma that exists out of a very narrow view of their own economic self-interest,” he said. “And the result is going to be more people dying if they cannot get access to effective treatment.”

In an interview, the chief executive of Alkermes, Richard Pops, noted a dearth of data on the long-term success of any medication for opioid addiction. “In this entire field, there’s just not a lot of research that’s been done looking at long-term outcomes,” Pops said.

But he argued that the rush of states adopting Vivitrol programs indicates that those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic believe that the drug works. “The outcomes data that local ecosystems trust the most is their own,” he said.

Vivitrol, taken as a monthly shot, is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the brain’s opioid receptors so users cannot feel any high from heroin, pain pills, or the synthetic fentanyl that has caused sharp increases in overdose deaths in some states.

Don't worry; all you will feel is a little bite.

Buprenorphine and methadone, on the other hand, are classified as “opioid agonists.” They bind to the brain’s opioid receptors just enough, with proper dosing, so that people taking them do not feel cravings or symptoms of withdrawal.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Vivitrol in 2006 for alcoholism and expanded its approved use to opioid addiction treatment in 2010.


So what do you think? Give 'em a pa$$ for all their good work?

Also see: Addiction medicine maker is secret funder of Kennedy-Gingrich group

A paid adviser is Van Jones, the CNN commentator and former Obama aide. 

They should all be ashamed of themselves.

Time to check out if you ask me.


With Wynn’s casino rising nearby, city has plans for Sullivan Square

Here is an update.

Rhode Island man leads officers on multi-state car chase

Motorcyclist hurt, SUV driver charged in Warwick hit-and-run crash

Salem gathers to mourn boy killed by commuter rail train

Rockland man dies in motorcycle crash
Driver dies in crash involving police officer
Malden woman ejected from moving Jeep
Man killed in Route 3 rollover crash
Woman who died in I-90 crash is identified

Uber’s directors ponder shaking up management

They lit a fire under him and the heat was too much.

"The MBTA recently decided to invest $32 million to revive a portion of Track 61 from the Cabot Yard repair facility near Broadway Station to Cypher Street behind the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center....."

Holy $h**!!

Nothing left to talk about this morning

So what are you doing for lunch?