June 27, 2005

It is hot across America and lots of people spend a modest amount of money on portable pools. An awful lot of these pools are not surrounded by safety fences, which are required by most safety codes.

KCTV in Kansas City took a look at the dangers of portable soft-sided pools. The big issue is that people set up these inexpensive pools against safety regulations. They set them up out in the open where little kids can jump in. But in-ground pools or other permanent pools have to be surrounded by fences. So, then, should the soft-sided pools. Any pool with 24 inches or more of water must be surrounded by a fence.

The station easily spotted dozens of pools that had no fences around them. This is a public safety issue.

The After-Death Tax Bill

The AARP just completed a national survey that certainly contains a story for a lot of you. First, a little background:

In 1993, Congress told states that the states must attempt to recoup some of the expenses they pay out in Medicaid. So, states have begun going after any assets that senior citizens who received Medicaid leave behind when they die. In some cases, it means that heirs are getting slapped with tax bills that wipe out any inheritance.

AARP found that it depends a lot on which state the senior citizen lived in. Some states have become very aggressive in “estate recovery” while others still are not. In the worst cases, people do not know that the estates will be lost when they die. But 14 states hand out information about estate recovery when people apply for Medicaid.

The study in brief found:

  • 1. The states recovered a total of $347.4 million for the most recent state fiscal year (2003). The amount differed markedly among the states, ranging from about $86,000 (Louisiana) to close to $54 million (California). The median recovery, expressed as a percentage of annual Medicaid long-term expenses, is just over one-half percent of total long-term care costs, a relatively small recovery rate, but in total dollar amounts not insignificant. Oregon reported the highest recovery rate at 2.2 percent. Moreover, administrative costs in the few states reporting such costs were modest, reinforcing the cost effectiveness of the programs, however small in size. Nevertheless, the significant absence of data on the full administrative costs of operating estate recovery programs raises uncertainty about its financial impact.

  • 2. Estate recovery amounts, measured per estate, are modest but not insignificant. The average and median recovery per estate amounted to $8,116 and $5,081 respectively. However, the tremendous variation in average recoveries and other factors make firm conclusions difficult. The average ranged from $93 per estate in Kentucky to $25,139 in Hawaii.

  • 3. The scope of estate recovery efforts is expanding. The findings indicate a trend toward expansion of the scope of recoverable estates, as well as a broader variety of ownership types subject to recovery. Three states — Georgia, Michigan and Texas — did not have estate recovery programs at the time the survey was conducted, but two of these were implementing programs. Thirteen states were proposing changes to their programs at the time of the survey, generally to expand or facilitate recovery. However, the maximum potential for growth in estate recovery efforts is unknown.

Here is the entire study.

The way for you to localize this is to get hooked up with your state’s “estate recovery” unit. How many people are working in the unit and how do they feel about going after the assets of seniors who thought they were leaving their homes, their furniture, life insurance or even meager savings to heirs? You may find these recovery workers think it is a fair trade: the government pays for your long-term health care when you can’t, but you have to turn over all of your assets when you die. It is still unclear how far people go to hide their assets before they sign up for Medicaid.

Deep Impact, Fourth of July

On July 4, NASA will blast a crater into Comet Tempel 1 and analyze the ice, dust and other primordial stuff hurled out of the pit. The blast will be equal to more than four tons of TNT. It is still unclear whether the fireworks that will be caused might be visible here on Earth.

Private Contractors, Private Warriors

PBS’s “Frontline” aired a remarkable project that examines the private companies that make America’s war in Iraq run. About 100,000 civilian contractors and 20,000 private security workers make up the second largest military presence in Iraq — second only to the U.S. military itself, and far more than any other country has committed to the effort.

Who are these companies and what do they do? This site is worth your time.

Coolest Websites

Time has its list of the coolest new websites. It is worth a look. Al’s Morning Meeting did not make a list. We should start a campaign.

The Buffalo Nickel Rumor

I have gotten a few e-mails from people telling me that they heard the new Buffalo Nickel was being recalled because it was too anatomically correct. It is, anybody can see, most decidedly a “boy” buffalo. But Snopes says somebody is trying to buffalo you. There is no recall.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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