Healthcare issues have always been at the forefront of my policy initiatives, both as County Comptroller and during the 35 years spent in the healthcare field. Throughout my two terms, I have been a squeaky wheel when it comes to finding ways to trim the escalating costs of Nassau County’s health benefits. Several years ago I persuaded the County Legislature to eliminate the practice of offering two family health benefit policies to one family, to lengthen the number of years of employment required to vest lifetime retiree health benefits and to increase the health benefit buy back amount to encourage employees with other coverage options to drop County health benefits.
Last year County Executive Tom Suozzi and I released a report showing that the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) was over-collecting premiums from local governments and had accumulated an excessive $540 million on top of statutory reserves. The State agreed and applied some of the excessive premium to keep the 2009 rate increase to an average 1 percent, instead of the 7 percent originally forecasted by NYSHIP. This effort saved Nassau County taxpayers approximately $11 million in health insurance premiums for 2009 and approximately $116 million for local schools and governments. I will also be working to recoup a portion of the excess NYSHIP premiums charged in prior years – an amount equal to $540 million statewide and $21 million for Nassau County, that could be made as a one month premium holiday for all NYSHIP participants. The vast majority of Nassau’s schools and local governments also participate in NYSHIP.
Recently I received an appointment to the New York State Health Insurance Program Participating Agency Advisory Council (PAAC). This is good news for taxpayers because now I will have the ear of the people who make the policies. Nassau County is the largest local government participating agency in NYSHIP and prior to my appointment, no one from Nassau County had served on the board! The Council also includes representatives from other participating agencies, such as local school districts. Nassau County Director of Risk Management John Brooks was also named to the PAAC.
As a member of this council I will continue my call (and the use of my squeaky wheel) for an outside review of NYSHIP because I believe there are many more opportunities for savings and I look forward to serving Nassau County.
Last week Lorraine and I (and my two sisters-in-law’s husbands) took a five-day trip cruise to Bermuda. The ship was the Explorer of the Seas. We left from a pier in Bayonne. No one mentioned the hazards of the Bermuda Triangle and we left with light hearts and happy attitudes.
One of the mysteries of the civilized world is the Bermuda Triangle. It extends from Bermuda to Puerto Rico (one leg), Puerto Rico to Florida (second leg) and back to Bermuda (third leg). Several ships and planes were lost and nothing was ever heard from them again.
The ship was enormous. Over 3,400 people on board and 1,500 in help. The Central Promenade on the fifth deck was comparable to a mall with shops and bars in Las Vegas. Gambling nightly (except in port) was a large part of the entertainment. A show a night also kept us busy.
Our cabin was supplied with U.S.A. television stations and a huge porthole window. Oh yes, also a lovely shower.
Eating and drinking on board were everywhere.
Bars and cafes with different themes and music were abundant.
Karaoke in one bar, Latin Music in another. A Ben & Jerry’s open all day. Tropical drinks (Pina Colada and Bahama Mama).
On board was a 900-seat Ice Rink where we watched a thrilling ice show, with ice dancers from around the world. Mind Boggling!
During the day the guys retreated to one of the six hot tubs on board. Congeniality and camaraderie are two of the secrets to a hot tub experience. Pleasant conversation and not ogling the gals too much is another handy tip.
After five days I learned the difference between fore and aft. The food was good, not great. Cabin was roomy and comfy.
Next week – Bermuda!
My father told me many years ago, that if I was hungry “just fill your mouth with something.” A candy bar, a slice of pizza, a hot dog, or anything that was handy.
The other day after a 2:30 p.m. appointment with my dentist, Dr. Stuart Kesner, I was ravenous. I looked everywhere for a hot dog vendor as I drove to Manhattan to visit my two grandsons, Lewis and Alexander. As I passed Queens College I saw an aluminum truck on Kissena Boulevard that usually is a traveling frankfurter salesman. I made a quick U-turn and pulled up next to the wagon. Nothing on the cart mentioned hot dogs. There was lamb and rice, chicken and rice with vegetables and some other Middle Eastern foods that were unfamiliar to me. I shouted, “Hot Dogs?” He shook his head, “No!” All the people on line turned to observe me and they looked at me as if I had two heads. I slinked back and withdrew from the scene as quietly as possible. But I was still famished.
Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) reminds parents that there is a great deal they can do to keep their teenagers safe on Prom Night and ensure that it is a positive experience.
“Parents can help to ensure that Prom Night is a great experience for their children,” Legislator Mejias said. “It requires some forethought on their part, a commitment to discussions prior to the event with their children, and knowledge of who they plan to spend the evening with, and where, if anywhere, that they plan to go after prom. Knowledge is power when applied for parents, and informed parents can help keep teenagers safe on what should be one of the best nights of their young lives.“
As the summer approaches, we see a definite increase in the number of invitations and dates we will receive. People seem to live more lustily and more lively in June, July and August.
One guarantee I can give my readers is that there will be one or more scheduling conflicts. Two appointments listed for the same time and same day are an abundance of riches. However, a decision must be made. Sometimes in a marriage it is the wife’s family versus the husband’s family. This requires delicacy.
Originally designated as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our great nation. There are varying stories in American lore of exactly how the holiday began. Over two dozen cities and towns around America claim to be the original birthplace of Memorial Day. There is even some evidence that the ritual of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers began with women’s groups of the Confederate south during the Civil War. New Yorkers will be proud to learn that the debate was settled in May of 1966 when then-President Lyndon Johnson declared the birthplace of Memorial Day as Waterloo, NY. Most historians agree that the holiday began in many separate places largely during the American Civil War when communities planned and organized dates to honor the fallen soldiers by decorating their graves.
Last spring I went to Brooklyn, where I’d never birded, with a small group to see the annual spring migration at two hot spots, Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. It was early May but it felt like early March. As we pass the Ebbets Field Apartments, in my mind’s eye the gray 2008 morning is transformed into a sunny 1950s May afternoon. I’m in the Ebbets Field bleachers during batting practice, before a Brooklyn Dodgers game, holding a pink Spaulding-type rubber ball. It was a “dead” ball that someone had thrown to Dodgers right fielder Carl Furillo. When he threw it back, the ball stuck in my hands; I never forgot it.
Free Range Chicken: We have all seen that delicacy on the menu of expensive restaurants. The restaurant is telling us that the chicken we are about to devour has not been kept in a box compartment, just to lay eggs. No, this chicken has been given the free range of the property and fends for itself and gets its own food. Why this makes a difference to the gourmet is a puzzlement to me. Does it taste different?
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