Dialysis Patients’ Use of Charitable Funds Questioned in Kickback Investigation

January 13, 2017; Reuters

In a victory for three major dialysis providers, a U.S. district judge has temporarily blocked a new federal rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would have prevented dialysis patients from buying health insurance with charitable funds. The new rule, which was announced on December 14th, would force dialysis providers to disclose to insurers any third-party assistance patients use to pay for end-stage kidney treatment. Amos Mazzant, a district judge in Texas, placed the rule on hold on January 13th after Fresenius Medical Care, DaVita Inc., and U.S. Renal Care Inc. filed a lawsuit to block the HHS rule. Mazzant has indicated that the lawsuit will probably be successful, and that the HHS has “likely violated the procedures” regarding the establishment of such a rule. HHS has said that the new rule is “intended to ensure that insurance coverage decisions are not inappropriately influenced by the financial interests of dialysis facilities.” Supporters of the regulation say that patients are encouraged to use charitable funds to pay for premiums on the private insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.

Can Nonprofits Support the Rebuilding of the Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure?

January 9, 2017; Keene Sentinel

The future of a rusting New Hampshire pedestrian bridge is now less certain because the nonprofit founded to maintain it is closing due to declining membership. The Chesterfield Arch Bridge Beautification & Preservation Society was founded in 2009 to preserve and improve the rare steel bridge. The nonprofit got off to a strong start, enlisting 40 members, building benches, and launching a formal dedication of the bridge to Justice Harlan Fiske Stone a year later, according to a Keene Sentinel story. But in a cash-strapped state with more than 8,000 nonprofits, the Society’s membership has dwindled to just six people after others left frustrated at the NH Department of Transportation’s inability to pitch and help. It’s clear that the country’s transportation infrastructure is at a tipping point.

Obama Commutes FALN Activist Oscar López-Rivera’s Sentence after 35 Years in Prison

January 17, 2017; Washington Post

Along with Chelsea Manning and more than 2000 others, Puerto Rican activist Oscar López Rivera had his sentence commuted by President Obama yesterday. López Rivera has been in prison for 35 years, and will be released in May of this year after decades of advocacy. López Rivera was convicted and sentenced in 1981 to 55 years in prison for seditious conspiracy, and then received another 15 years in 1988 for trying to escape from Leavenworth Federal Prison in Kansas. Because of the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States government, he is widely considered to be a political prisoner. When López Rivera was arrested 35 years ago with other FALN members who were convicted for a series of bombings, he and the others wanted recognition as combatants in an anti-colonial war against the United States to liberate Puerto Rico, which has “owned” the island since 1898.

Global Risks Report 2017: About What We Might Have Expected

The social discord that fueled the surprising outcome of our election is part of a global pattern. The World Economic Forum’s recently released Global Risks Report 2017 sees “deep-rooted social and economic trends are manifesting themselves increasingly disruptively across the world.”