Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One More Day to Enroll in ACA

from the inbox:

Just one day remains for Pennsylvanians who faced a fine on their 2014 tax return for not having health coverage to enroll in a plan through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace and avoid facing the full fine next year.

In February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new, time-limited special enrollment period ending on April 30, 2015, giving some uninsured Pennsylvanians who did not realize they would be fined for not having health coverage another opportunity to enroll in a plan for 2015.

“This new special enrollment period has given uninsured Pennsylvanians another chance to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage and avoid the full fine on their 2015 taxes,” said Get Covered America Pennsylvania State Director Neil Deegan. “With one day left until the deadline, eligible Pennsylvanians should know about this opportunity to get covered so they can experience the peace of mind and financial security that comes with having health insurance.”

To qualify for this special enrollment period, consumers must attest that they first became aware of the implications of the fine after the end of open enrollment when they were preparing their taxes and were subject to the fine for not having health coverage in 2014.

The fine for not having health insurance for 2014 is $95 per adult in the family or 1 percent of household income, whichever is higher. For 2015, the fine increases to $325 per adult in the family or 2 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

There are other opportunities for Pennsylvanians to enroll outside the open enrollment window if they experience a life changing event during the year such as getting married, having a baby, or moving to a different coverage area among others. Lower-income Pennsylvanians who qualify for low cost coverage through the new Health Choices plan can enroll year-round.

To find out if you are still eligible to enroll, Pennsylvanians can schedule an appointment with an enrollment assister by visiting the Get Covered Connector, or by calling the Pennsylvania Health Access Network at 1-877-570-3642.To find out if you have experienced a qualifying life event, you can visit the HHS screener and answer a few questions.

Two Philadelphians Among National Champions of Change

modified press release:

On Friday, May 1st, the White House will honor “Champions of Change” that demonstrate how national service creates pathways to economic and employment opportunities. Through the longstanding AmeriCorps VISTA program and supporters of the Employers of National Service initiative, America is reaping the fruits of its commitment to national service.

Two Philadelphians are on this year's list:

Julia Hillengas, Philadelphia, PA
Julia began her career in city government as a SERVE Philadelphia AmeriCorps VISTA with the Mayor’s Office of Education, where she coordinated and grew the Graduation Coach Campaign. She has worked for more than a decade as an educator, coach, and community organizer through organizations such as YouthBuild Philadelphia, Fairmount Youth Soccer Association, and the YMCA of Philadelphia. Now as the City of Philadelphia's Deputy Service Officer, Julia builds national service and volunteer partnerships to increase impact across the city. She also manages PowerCorpsPHL, an innovative, new AmeriCorps program designed to address the city’s environmental stewardship, youth workforce development, and violence-prevention priorities. 

Brian Valdez, Philadelphia, PA
Brian Valdez served as an AmeriCorps VISTA from 2001-2003 in his home city of Philadelphia, PA. After a physical disability prevented him from joining the military, Brian saw VISTA as an opportunity to serve his country and the people of Philadelphia.  During his first VISTA term, Brian worked with administrators at various Philadelphia schools to address asthma triggers and other indoor environmental hazards that could negatively affect the health of students.  Brian then joined the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) where he served a second VISTA term. At NNCC, he helped to develop a plan to promote the growth and development of nurse practitioner-run health clinics serving medically underserved and uninsured patients around the country. After VISTA, Brian became a lawyer, passing the bar in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He continues to work with NNCC and its parent organization, Public Health Management Corporation. In 2014, Brian and a colleague founded Comunidades Philadelphia to increase funding for programs serving Latinos through community-driven philanthropy. 

Zivtech a Top System Integrator

Back in the day when Young Philly Politics was the top political blog in the city I read it mostly for the political news, but also for the comments.  One conversation point I especially enjoyed was the banter between or about two brothers who were among those who set up and ran the site.

One of them is now a rising tech entrepreneur, having co-founded Zivtech, an open source software programming firm.  It is now one of the city's thriving small nerd firms.  Who knows, maybe it's the next Microsoft.

Zivtech was mentioned in this week's Philadelphia Business Journal as one of Philadelphia's exceptional system integrators for 2015.  System integrators pull together existing hardware and software products to come up with streamlined, cost efficient solutions to solve business programs faster (or at least that's what the press release said).

Here's how the business describes itself:

Zivtech, founded in 2008, is a Philadelphia web design and web development shop. Our jawn is open source software programming.  Zivtech works with healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, publishing, government, startups, and nonprofits. Zivtech partners with leading digital companies, including Acquia, to deliver reliable websites and web applications to organizations worldwide. The Hebrew term “ziv” translates to the light that comes from a candle: radiance, beauty, and seeing something new. Zivtech illuminates technology.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Montco Gay Caucus on Supreme Court Hearings

from the inbox:

Montgomery County Gay Caucus (MCGC) stands firm in the support of equal protection for all and would work to oppose any local, state, or federal law which may codify discrimination.
On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Obergefell v Hodges, a case originating in Ohio. This case has been consolidated with three other cases from Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee in order to consider two questions regarding marriage equality. The court will first consider whether states have the obligation to perform same-sex marriages, and then the court will hear arguments as to whether states are obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

If the court decides that there is a constitutional right to marry and that states have an obligation to perform same-sex marriage, then marriage equality will finally become law of the land in all 50 states, although more narrow rulings are possible. A ruling is not expected until late June.
"We at MCGC are proud of the progress made in Montgomery County in taking steps towards true equality for all. The concern is that we become complacent and while members of our community can now marry, we still live in a state where those same couples can be fired from their job because of who they love." Lori Schreiber, founding member, goes on to say, "The concern with a positive outcome in the upcoming Supreme Court decision will be the mistaken belief that the LGBT community in PA has secured the same rights and protections as everyone else, when in fact that is not true.”
Although MCGC is confident that marriage equality will soon be the law of the land, concrete steps for equality are still needed. When contacted on the subject by the caucus, County Commissioner Josh Shapiro said, “In order to achieve full equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters, we need to end legal discrimination in Pennsylvania by passing HB 300.”  Therefore, MCGC is encouraging our local/county elected officials to show the world that you're standing on the right side of history by signing a proclamation calling on the PA State Legislature to finally pass that pending legislation (HB 300) to protect all people.
(A proclamation example is available at
 With your help, there is still another battle to be won.

The Montgomery County Gay Caucus seeks and provides campaign support to qualified LGTB candidate as well as allies who have demonstrated support for LGBT equality.

Montco Dems Endorse Lazarus and Dubow

from the inbox:

When the Pennsylvania Democratic Party held its endorsement meeting for the May 19 primary election, it endorsed only two candidates for the three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and it fell short of endorsing anyone for the single open seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Accordingly, the executive committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee made its own choices last Thursday night for the open positions and voted unanimously to endorse Anne Lazarus for Supreme Court and Alice Beck Dubow for Superior Court.

Judge Lazarus, a former judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, was elected to Superior Court in 2009. She joins state party-endorsed candidates Kevin Dougherty and David Wecht as the choices of the Montgomery County party.

Judge Dubow, a lawyer in private practice for 23 years, has been a judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for the past seven years.  

Marcel L. Groen, the Montgomery County Democratic chairman, hailed Lazarus and Dubow as exemplary judges with superb qualifications who will be strong contenders for the party in the November general election.

The executive committee met in Plymouth Meeting at the offices of Local 1776, United Food and Commercial Workers.

I plan on voting for Anne Lazarus for Supreme Court.  More on my reasons for this shortly (I hope).  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Thoughts on the Gallery

Preliminary plans have been released for renovating the Gallery.  They amount to a few drawings of gleaming white spaces.  It sort of looks like a hospital or lab to me, a sterile space.  I also wonder if the mall will be willing to hire enough people to keep the floors and walls gleaming white.  Parts of the Gallery floor now are white, near the food court oddly enough, and as I walk over them they are usually stained or scuffed.  I can't imagine the entire floor being like that.  There's a reason why most homes with kids and pets have dark carpeting or flooring.  It hides the dirt and signs of heavy traffic. Gleaming floors, especially if they are at all reflective, are a hazard for the part of the population that might wear a skirt.  

The plans calls for high end outlets.  This entire concept kind of baffles me because it often isn't high quality goods at low prices.  It's lower quality goods made by companies known for luxury items.  Personally, I'm not interested in paying more to wear someone else's livery.  I've heard of Gucci and Prada but never owned anything made by them, and probably never will.  I'm too frugal to pay for the high end stuff and not fashion conscious enough to pay for low quality items that have that name on them.

However, it is clear that commuters will be kicked out while the renovations are underway.   Then after two years (probably more) of being out in the heat, cold, rain, and snow, if we're still around the owners think we will gleefully run back inside and throw money at them.  Me, I tend to carry a grudge.  After two years of regularly wet feet every time it rains I won't think kindly of them.  My commute involves multiple forms of transit with short walks in between, the longest of these currently is through the Gallery.  My feet might get wet at other places along the way but they will definitely get wet on Market St., especially if it is too crowded to use an umbrella. 

One of the news articles on the Gallery mentioned the possibility of an Italian restaurant (with white floors??!!) with a bocce court.  I don't know what that is but if it involves throwing, kicking, or tossing one object at another you don't want me doing it around other people.  As a founding member of the Physically Uncoordinated Americans for Mom and Apple Pie I know my limitations.

But, then, it is pretty clear that the new Gallery owners are not interested in my money very much at all.  All this talk of high end retailers and fancy eateries tells me I'm not their target customer.  I loved the CVS, but it closed years ago.  As ubiquitous as the chain is it was the only one I passed on a regular basis and it was great to pop in and get bandaids and hosiery (I fell on the way to the train that day), toiletries (forgot my deodorant that morning), office supplies, batteries, and all the other daily necessities that I otherwise only buy on weekends at the grocery store.  I loved Bolton's and shopped there frequently but they closed.  I went into the bookstore and the card shop.  They closed for the renovations and there's been no mention of anything like that in the renovations.  I went into whatever Stuff Mart was on the street level (K-Mart? WalMart?) but it closed.  I miss Strawbridge's but it closed years ago and whatever took it's place inexplicably didn't use the lower floor display windows.  They've been papered over for years.  I never did understand that -- all those people walking by blank windows. 

So, I am accepting my dinosaur status.  All the signs seem to read "pragmatic middle aged women with disposable income need not apply."  Or perhaps we just don't spend enough or there aren't enough of us to matter.  Earlier I wrote about my emotional attachment to the Gallery and as days go by I'm slowly accepting that this chapter in my daily life is ending.  I've mapped out my alternate transit routes but will probably hang on till the last day.  I'll force them to kick me out instead of leaving under my own steam.

One last thought in this post -- white floors?  really?  did these people never mop? 

Recent articles on the Gallery from the Inquirer:

"PREIT's $575M plan to remake Gallery," by Jeff Gammage, 4/15/15

"Shopping for a new image," by Jeff Gammage, Maria Panaritis, and Jacob Adelman 4/19/15

"In-city outlets," by Jacob Adelman 4/16/15

"Gallery's revival clears a first hurdle," by Jeff Gammage 4/17/15

Allyson Schwartz to Head Better Medicare Alliance

Allyson Schwartz, former congressional representative for Pennsylvania's 13th district, has announced her new career shift.  Here is part of the official statement:

Today, I will begin as President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance. The Better Medicare Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington that supports and promotes Medicare, in particular Medicare Advantage.

As you know, while I have worked on many issues during my years in Congress and the state Senate, nothing has been more important to me than ensuring quality, affordable, accessible health care to all Americans.

I am proud of my accomplishments, from my role in establishing one of the nation’s first CHIP programs to helping ensure the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Throughout, I advocated public-private partnerships, innovations in the delivery of health care, and financing that rewards quality and value - all with the goal of making health care more affordable, and improving the health of beneficiaries.

Schwartz provides a variety of social media connection points for Better Medicare Alliance, and a video link:

The purpose of the Better Medicare Alliance is to bring together a national coalition of health plans, providers, advocates and beneficiaries to support and strengthen Medicare Advantage.

As President and CEO, I look forward to reaching out to everyone who cares about keeping the promise of Medicare our seniors, to build on the experience of what works, and to share this knowledge to sustain Medicare for all of us.  It is exciting and important work.

I encourage you to learn more about the Better Medicare Alliance and to share your perspective with me through our website, on Facebook or Twitter.

I know from experience that we as a nation have the capacity to meet challenges when we make the commitment. I look forward to this opportunity to work to fulfill the promise of Medicare - health care our seniors and their families count on - and meet one of those great challenges.

With warm regards,


P.S.: To learn more about the Better Medicare Alliance, check out my video at

Thursday, April 16, 2015

AccessMatters and CHOICE to Merge

from the inbox:

[PHILADELPHIA, PA: April 15, 2015]: After decades of partnering to increase access to sexual and reproductive health, AccessMatters, formerly Family Planning Council, announced that CHOICE, Inc., a longtime community partner, soon will merge into AccessMatters.  The boards of both organizations approved the proposed merger and expect it to be finalized by June 30th. The merger preserves the legacy of CHOICE’s programs and enables AccessMatters to expand its ability to address critical health needs of even the hardest-to-reach populations, closing the gap between those with access and those without.

“For decades, CHOICE, which stands for Concern for Health Options, Information, Care and Education, has provided access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and programs,” said Kerri Barthel, President of the Board of Directors of CHOICE, Inc.  “CHOICE is excited to pursue a merger with AccessMatters, a mission-aligned organization.” 
AccessMatters has been trailblazing for over 40 years to eliminate barriers to high caliber care for more than 200,000 people annually. Through research, training, delivery of evidenced-based programs, community engagement and advocacy, AccessMatters leads the way in transforming access to sexual and reproductive health.

AccessMatters’ breadth of work is expansive including both business-to-business services and direct-to-consumer services. Programs and services include: healthcare provider training, research, quality improvement, program evaluation, grants and program administration, and community-based services. 

“CHOICE was looking for a like-minded partner,” said Melissa Weiler Gerber, President and CEO of AccessMatters.  “Given our long-standing partnership with CHOICE, and AccessMatters’ strategic interest in expanding our capacity for community outreach and quality improvement initiatives, it was a perfect fit.”

“CHOICE has a proud history of providing high-quality health education, and has a stellar reputation as a trusted referral resource,” Weiler Gerber added.  “We are honored to preserve this legacy.”   

Since 1972, CHOICE has served the Pennsylvania region with education and information on human sexuality, pregnancy options, contraception, and health care through education programs for the general public and through a counseling service for individual women and couples.  CHOICE offers community education, training, and outreach programs; maintains a referral database of over 714 agencies throughout the Pennsylvania region; and operates free and confidential hotlines.  CHOICE hotlines are staffed by trained professionals who offer individualized support, referrals and short-term counseling to women, men, and teens.

For over 25 years, CHOICE has been a part of AccessMatters’ Network, participating in AccessMatters’ Title X Family Planning and CDC funded I MATTER Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs by operating its hotline, producing health information publications, and providing quality assurance services aimed at improving service delivery in the AccessMatters’ Network. CHOICE also is a partner in AccessMatters’ school-based Health Resource Center Program, staffing adolescent sexual health programs in South Philadelphia and Frankford High Schools. 

“Our purpose has always been to meet the unique needs of individuals by connecting them to resources and empowering them to make informed decisions,” said Barthel.  “We are confident that this new relationship will serve as a catalyst to strengthen services and broaden our reach in providing access to health options for all.” 

 “We complement each other in mission, and there is a clear alignment in our strategic plans,” said Weiler Gerber. “With our common commitment to community education, community engagement and quality improvement, this is a unique opportunity for AccessMatters to add another layer of depth to our programs while preserving invaluable services that CHOICE has provided throughout the years.”

The two organizations will begin working toward integration of services, with the merger officially taking effect on July 1, 2015, at which point all operations will be housed at AccessMatters’ offices at 1700 Market Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Famous Philly Women II: Deesha Dyer

Politico's new KGB  File column by Kate Glassman Bennett highlights the woman who will be the next White House Social Secretary, Deesha Dyer.  She is a native of Philadelphia and used to work for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

Another contender for the job, Samantha Tubman, also has Philly roots, as a graduate of Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania.

You can read more in "Entertainer-in-Chief."  The article starts with Tubman, who was considered a frontrunner, and is updated with the announcement on Dyer.

Famous Philly Women I: Malika Saada Saar

The April issue of More magazine includes a profile of Malika Saada Saar, a human rights attorney.  One of her areas of specialty is fighting human trafficking.  She led the effort to shut down the adult services section of Craigslist in 2010.  In 2011 she co-founded a human rights organization called Rights4Girls that helps raise the awareness of child sex trafficking in the US.  The article, by Sharon Cotliar, mentions that Saar grew up in Philadelphia.  I can't find the article online but the print issue is still on newsstands.

Biden to Philly Next Week

Traffic alert:  Vice President Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia next Tuesday, with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in tow.  Plan accordingly;

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interesting Articles from the WSJ

A few articles in the Wall Street Journal from the past week or so:

"Pro Stadiums, Public Money," by Eliot Brown 3/09/15 (behind paywall)
The president's proposed budget would bar the "use of tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports facilities."  The Treasury Department noted that such bonds "shifted more of the costs and risks from the private owners to local residents and taxpayers in general."   Yeah, let's stop doing this.

"Executive Pensions Swell at Top Firms," by Theo Frances and Andrew Ackerman (3/25/15)
One of the examples discussed is that of Jeff Imhelt of GE. Compare these two quotes: "In all, Mr. Immelt’s pension is valued at about $4.8 million a year for life. The company puts its current value at about $70 million, up from around $52 million a year ago." and this "In 2011, GE stopped offering new employees traditional defined-benefit pensions and replaced them with 401(k) plans. At the time, Mr. Immelt cited recent market downturns and lower interest rates as being among the reasons for the shift."  Somehow that just doesn't seem fair.

"Wells CEO Sees Pay Stay at $19.3 Million," by Emily Glazer (3/18/15) (behind paywall)

"For Google CFO, a $70 Million Package," by Rolfe Winkler (3/27/15) (behind paywall)

These last two are self-explanatory from the headlines.

Registration Open for GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon

from the inbox:

On Wednesday, April 1 at 12 a.m. (midnight EDT) registration for the 2015 GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon, Half Marathon, Rothman Institute 8K, and Kids Fun Run will open. Evolving from a small, local race more than 20 years ago into what named the best marathon in the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2014, GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon Race Weekend offers race participants, volunteers, and fans a dynamic experience. Interested race participants can register for the three main races, along with the Kids Fun Run at

“Our goal is to make the 2015 GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon the best one yet,” said Desiree Peterkin-Bell, Race Director of the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon. “We are excited to have GORE-TEX® footwear sponsoring the Marathon for the third year in a row, and we look forward to giving runners the best Race Weekend experience possible.”

Race Weekend 2015 opens Friday, November 20 and ends Sunday, November 22. Events include a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo located at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, carb-loaded dining options from participating restaurants throughout Philadelphia, and the Kids Fun Run, a short distance non-competitive event for kids ages 6-12 years old.

The GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon takes runners through 26.2 miles of different neighborhoods in Philadelphia and is a Boston qualifier. The course displays a unique mix of historic landmarks, gorgeous scenery, and vibrant neighborhoods — starting and finishing along the iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This year’s GORE-TEX®Philadelphia Full Marathon and Half Marathon will both take place on Sunday, November 22. The Rothman Institute 8K will occur Saturday, November 21. All three races are USA Track & Field-sanctioned.

Last year, 29 year-old Dan Vassallo of Peabody, Massachusetts, captured the men’s marathon crown for the second time with a time of 2:17:28. In 2010, Vasallo took first place in the men’s marathon with a time of 2:21:36. Competing in her first full marathon, Leonara Patrina of Bayport, New York, came in first place in the women’s marathon with a time of 2:40:00.

The two champions were among more than 30,000 registered runners to participate in the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Race Weekend. The races attracted participants from every state and 53 countries.
 “GORE-TEX® footwear is excited to serve as the title sponsor for the Philadelphia Marathon for the third consecutive year,” said Kirk Christensen, GORE-TEX® Running Footwear Global Leader. “With many runners training in cold or wet weather, the connection between our brand and a race like the Philadelphia Marathon is clear. Having waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® product technology in your running shoes during your training allows you to focus on your run and not the weather. We're proud to help these runners have the best training and racing experience possible, rain or shine.”  
Pricing and Fees
The first 500 participants to register for the Full Marathon on April 1 will pay a registration fee of $80. After the first 500 are registered, the price from April 1 to April 15 will be $100. April 16-30, the cost will be $110. For the month of May, the registration price will be $120.

Registration for the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Half Marathon will start at $60 for the first 500 registrants. After the first 500 participants are registered, the price of registration from April 1 to April 15 will be $80. From April 16 to April 30 the registration fee increases to $90, and for the month of May the price will be $100.

From April 1 to May 31, the registration price for the Rothman Institute 8K will be $25. The price of registration for the Kids Fun Run will be $15 from April 1 to November 21.

*Additional pricing information and promotions will be available on the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon website,, at a later date.

GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon Race Weekend attracts more than 30,000 runners, 60,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers.  Race Weekend features the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, November 22; the Rothman Institute 8K and Kids Fun Run on Saturday, November 21; and a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21. Race participants pass many of Philadelphia's famous attractions on the swift and scenic USATF-certified course, which is a Boston qualifier. Take the first step to experiencing 26.2 miles of fun, beauty, history and excitement by visiting Be sure to connect with us on Facebook (, Twitter (@philly_marathon) and Instagram (@philly_marathon) to stay up to date with the latest GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon news.