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An US non-profit hospital, Mosaic forgave bills and stopped suing poor people, when came to light

Mosaic used to refuse medical attention to those that they had sued. Now, under their new policy which came about in 2015, the patients enter into a medical debt grace period

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Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit, is the only hospital in St. Joseph, Mo. The hospital and its system of clinics recently rebranded as Mosaic. Image source: www.propublica.org
  • Heartland Regional Medical Center sued low income patients for their medical bills
  • The hospital pardoned the debt in light of a new financial assistance policy
  • Many patients were unaware the policy even existed

Poor People were sued for inability to pay bills by an US non-profit hospital. When came to light, forgave bills

An US non-profit hospital, Mosaic forgave bills and stopped suing poor people, when came to light

Heartland Regional Medical Center nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri in United States. sued low income patients because they were not paying hospital bills. In light of these findings, Senator Charles Grassley stated, “Let me be clear: Nonprofit hospitals should not be in the business of aggressively suing their patients. In essence, because of the favorable tax treatment these hospitals receive, they have a duty to help our nation’s most vulnerable.”

Senator Charles Grassley. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
Senator Charles Grassley. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

A republican from Iowa, he made it clear that it was unacceptable that this issue had to be brought to the attention of not only congress but the press. He said that it should not have come to this, and the hospital should have upheld its mission and helped those in need.

It was due to an investigation done by NPR and ProPublica that led to uncovering the lawsuits Heartland Regional Medical Center, now known as Mosaic Life Care, was issuing. In fact, to NPR and ProPublica’s surprise, Mosaic was not the only nonprofit hospital that was quietly suing patients.

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Mosaic and other nonprofit hospitals such as, Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, have started to revisit their financial assistance policies. Mosaic used to refuse medical attention to those that they had sued. Now, under their new policy which came about in 2015, the patients enter into a medical debt grace period. With this policy, even the patients who owe the hospital money can receive medical attention.

Heartland Regional Medical Center. Image source: www.heartlandregional.com
Heartland Regional Medical Center. Image source: www.heartlandregional.com

This new policy relieved 3,342 people of their debt. The total amounted to $17 million being pardoned. That is a substantial amount of money that the money will never receive. Interestingly enough, they are still trying to obtain some sort of payment from patients who owe them. Keith Herie, a patient, said that he still owed the hospital over $26,000. After looking at his income, Mosaic deemed his income too high to allow his debts to be pardoned. The patient settled on paying $8,300 to Mosaic. That was after the fact that he had already paid $20,000 to the hospital prior to the official changes in Mosaic’s policy.

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In another interesting discovery ProPublica reached out to Keith Berry, a man who is on disability. He had not heard that Mosaic had a new debt forgiveness policy. When he contacted the hospital, they simply stated that he was too old and did not qualify. The policy does have specific steps. The debt period is held from October 1, thru December 31. During these days, patients, who having outstanding debt, must apply to be considered eligible to receive the benefits of this policy.

The CEO of the hospital said that although the hospital has done everything medically right for their patients, they are learning to do the same when it comes to finances. It is not just Mosaic and Deaconess that have failed the patients financially. Under half of 1,800 hospitals studied had failed to notify patients of their financial assistance policy prior to billing them.

Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @abby_kono

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Loan Waiver Provided to Maharashtra Farmers as ‘Diwali Gift’

Maharashtra farmers will get a "Diwali gift" in the form of loan waivers from October 18, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Tuesday.

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Loan Waivers announced by Maharashtra Government. IANS

Mumbai, Oct 18: After an anxious wait of over five months, Maharashtra farmers will get a “Diwali gift” in the form of loan waiver from October 18, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Tuesday.

“From tomorrow (Wednesday), we shall start disbursal to farmers under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana across all the districts in the state. The money would be deposited directly into their bank accounts,” Fadnavis told media persons while hosting the customary Diwali-eve lunch at his official residence, Varsha.

Admitting that it would entail a huge burden on the state exchequer, he made it clear that “providing relief to the farmers is the top priority” of the state government.

“Within the next 25-30 days, we shall clear around 80 per cent of the loan waiver disbursals. We have a software in place which has been tested and has a data base of around six million applicant-farmers,” Fadnavis added.

On reports of many “farmers” from Mumbai applying for the debt waiver scheme, he said a probe was underway and only those found genuine and eligible would be entitled for the disbursal.

Earlier, welcoming the announcement, the ruling party ally Shiv Sena claimed credit for the farm loans waiver and hoped that the entire exercise would be completed by October-end.

“It is because of the crusade we had launched that the state government had announced the loans waiver scheme for farmers,” said Shiv Sena Spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut late on Monday.

On June 24, the state government had announced a massive Rs 34,022-crore relief package for the farmers, days after an unprecedented 11-day strike by the farming community in the state.

Under the scheme, the total number of beneficiaries were estimated to be around 8.90 million, but it is expected that over four million, mostly small and medium farmers, shall become completely debt-free, enabling them to avail fresh bank loans.

As per the available figures, around 3.61 million farmers shall be eligible for financial assistance of up to Rs 1.50 lakh each to clear their pending loans.

Interestingly, last August, a belligerent Shiv Sena had demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party “prove its claims” that the farm loans waiver would actually benefit 8.90 million farmers, and sought a detailed list of all the beneficiaries to be tabled before the state assembly.

Similarly, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar recently questioned the government figures that it would dole out Rs 34,022 crore for the farm loans waiver and claimed that the actual relief would be in the range of Rs 10,000 crore-Rs 12,000 crore only. (IANS)

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Journalist Behind the Panama Papers Killed in a Car Bomb

Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a "one-woman WikiLeaks".

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Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device. (Representative image) Pixabay

Valletta, October 17, 2017 : A journalist who led the Panama Papers probe into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her residence, the media reported.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device, reports the Guardian.

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.

Her latest revelations accused Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, the Guardian reported.

Malta’s President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for calm. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgement and to show solidarity.”

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In a statement, Muscat condemned the “barbaric attack”.

“Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine,” said Muscat, adding “Both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way.”

He announced in parliament later on Monday that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers were on their way to Malta to assist with the investigation, following his request for help from the US government.

According to local media reports, Caruana Galizia filed a police report 15 days ago to say that she had been receiving death threats.

The journalist posted her final blog on her Running Commentary website at 2.35 p.m. on Monday, and the explosion, which occurred near her home, was reported to police just after 3 p.m.

Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5 million documents leaked from the internal database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. (IANS)

 

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Decoding the Indian Agrarian Crisis and Fake Farmers Facade

Gaurav Tyagi believes half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

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An increasing number of farmers in India are committing suicide due to debt pressure. To tackle the issue, the government has come up with farm loan waivers. (VOA)

– By Gaurav Tyagi


New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : 
Indian and International media is full of articles regarding large number of farmers in India committing suicide due to debt pressure.

Instead of going to the root of the problem and analyzing the reasons for this phenomenon, Indian politicians have come up with an absurd idea of farm loan waivers.

Majority of Indian farmers under debt trap own very little land. Farming on such small piece of land is not economically feasible. This sector is highly unorganized. Most of the time, no planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation and harvesting.

Middlemen exploit farmers by buying their produce at a very low price and then selling it at a premium to the end consumers.

The irony is that a large number of Indian politicians claim huge incomes from agriculture while farmers starve.

In the province of Madhya Pradesh 24 farmers committed suicide this year over crop loss and failure to repay loans but 18 of the 20 cabinet ministers of the state have shown ‘agriculture’ as their main source of huge incomes.

How come politicians are earning in Billions through farming while the real farmers are struggling to make both ends meet?

Let’s examine the issue in-depth.

The income earned from agricultural land is exempt from income tax under section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act 1961. Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India launder their money misusing the above income tax clause.

Normally, one cannot own agricultural land in India unless their forefathers have been agriculturists. Rich and influential people in the country obtain agriculturist certificates by ‘greasing the palms’ of the local land officials.

Farmers are not required to maintain detailed records in India. This provides an excellent loophole to pass off unaccounted and undeclared cash as agricultural income. It is done by showing fake sales cash receipts of agricultural produce, which like other certificates can be purchased in India through bribes.

Approximately 800,000 tax declarants in India state exorbitant amounts as agricultural incomes while filing their annual income tax returns.

This income, a whopping INR. 874 Lakh Crores was eight times more than the cumulative GDP of India for the financial years 2011 and 2012.

The average annual income declared by these assesses comes out to be anywhere between Rs. 30-80 Crores, on which they don’t pay any taxes.

It’s obvious that the aforesaid is not agricultural earning instead it’s declared as agricultural income by these assesses just to avoid paying taxes.

According to National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Delhi, with hardly any farming land has more farmers indulging in agriculture than Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal provinces.

Delhi’s so called ‘farmers’ received Rs. 22,077 Crores in agricultural loans during 2009. In reality, these ‘self proclaimed farmers’ are the owners of big farm houses on the outskirts of the capital.

The authorities are well aware of this malpractice. The Tax Administration Reform Committee in its report in November 2014 said, “Agricultural income of non-agriculturists is being increasingly used as a conduit to avoid tax and for laundering funds, resulting in leakage to the tune of Crores in revenue annually”

The Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on 26th April said that the government of India does not plan to tax the farm income.

farmers
Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley, wikimedia

It reveals that Indian politicians cutting across party lines indulge in this malpractice, 27% of the winning Lok Sabha M.P’s in 2014 elections have declared wealth of over Rs. 1 Crore, majority of which has been mentioned as agricultural income.

Indian opposition politicians blackmail the political party in power by indulging in spurious farmer agitations.

If there is a bumper crop then the opposition parties start shouting that prices have crashed due to over-supply in the market. When farming cultivation fails due to the vagaries of nature, then they start throwing statistics about farmers suicide.

A group of ‘self proclaimed’ farmers from Tamil Nadu province camped at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Indian capital city during March this year and indulged in cheap theatrics to draw attention to their protests.

The leader of this group, P. Ayyakannu is demanding that all farmers should be given loan waivers from banks and quoted highly inflated figures of farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu government on 28th April, 2017 conveyed to the Supreme Court of India that no famers committed suicide in the state and clarified that a few, who took this extreme measure did it due to personal reasons.

Many farmers died due to old age and other medical issues. Ayyakannu clubbed all of them together to gather national as well as international attention.

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Ayyakannu called off this whole play in Delhi on 23rd April after 40 days, when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet these protestors.
He said that their group is giving a one month’s time-frame to the government in order to fulfill their demands otherwise, they would resume their protests in the national capital from May 25 on a bigger scale.

This impostor farmer leader Ayyakannu again came back to Delhi again on 16th July with his gang of ruffians to continue their drama.

Ayakannu as per media reports is not even a farmer, but a lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money through out of court settlements and personally owns hundreds of acres of land.

He and his bunch of hooligans all look quite healthy and well-fed. They don’t appear like destitute farmers as claimed by them.

Fake farmers like the aforementioned Ayyakannu are just the front faces of this façade in the name of farmers.

The remote controls of such characters remain in the hands of politicians, who use them for their narrow, selfish, corrupt agendas depending on the political situation at the state and national level.

The governments of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan & U.P. provinces have waived off agricultural loans worth Billions. This has set up a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.

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There are no ‘free lunches’ in this world. These half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

The following steps would go a long way in helping the real distressed farmers;

  • Scientific soil and climate testing should be done across all farming regions in India. Farmers can then be educated about which crops to grow profitably, in how many cycles; depending on the soil conditions and climate of the region.
  • Implement agricultural reforms like farming co-operatives, where farmers having small agricultural land holdings can be encouraged to come together and pool their land plus resources together.
  • Crop storage infrastructure should be built and maintained in every village so, that farmer can store their surplus produce rather than sell it desperately at a low price.
  • Crop insurance must be compulsorily introduced all over the country wherein, farmers by paying a nominal amount need not bother about their crops getting destroyed through excessive rain or drought.
  • Organic farming needs to be encouraged instead of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. The food waste produced by an entire village can be easily turned into biodegradable compost, through innovative schemes like Vermicomposting.
  • Vermicast can replace fertilizers in the agriculture fields. This would save money for the farmer and provide high quality chemical free crops.
  • The APMC’s (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) have created a coterie of middlemen, who along with the complicity of these committees, form a virtual barrier between the farmer and the consumer, paying the former a pittance for his produce and charging the latter exorbitant amounts for fruits and vegetables.
    Vegetables are purchased at Rs. 2 or 3 a kg from farmers and then sold at 30 to 40 rupees per kg to urban consumers.
    This setup has been going on for decades in every town and city of India. Millions of urban Indians pay artificially higher prices and majority of farmers are underpaid due to this flawed system.
    The profits are made by middlemen, who do not pay taxes on these huge earnings. It is a common practice for them to store money in cash and not in banks.

These APMC’s must therefore be abolished immediately. Farmers should get direct access to the end consumer through the elimination of middlemen. This would ensure a better monetary return for farmers.

  • Private moneylenders in and around the villages charge a very high rate of interest from farmers. This unscrupulous sector should be bought under government regulation by bringing down the rate of interest to a rational level.
  • Government schools in villages are in shambles. They need to be upgraded so, that quality education at an affordable price is available to every child in the village.
    This would uplift farmers children through educational empowerment. It will enable them to make a transition to non-agricultural professions in future and enhance their family earnings considerably.

The aforementioned steps would cost the government far less than what it is losing in the absurd loan waiver schemes, which anyways don’t help the poor marginal farmer at all.
As regard dealing with the fake farmers of India.

The solution entails; no farm loan waivers and bringing the agricultural income above a certain threshold under the tax bracket.

The aforesaid measures would prevent the fake farmers façade spreading rapidly all over the country, while resolving the agrarian crisis of India by assisting needy farmers of the country.

The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China. 


 

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