Archive | December, 2013

Go Ahead. It’s the New Year So Indulge Yourself at Flemings


HARTFORD — You’ve worked hard all year in 2013. So if you’re looking for a way to indulge yourself  in the New Year, you might want to stop by Fleming’s Steak and Bar Restaurant to do just that. The dining experience is worth it.

The ambiance at Flemings is only part of the course. And this New Years day, it’s only fitting to celebrate you with the succulent steak and seafood from Fleming’s.

Nationally acclaimed Fleming’s offers the best in steakhouse dining – Prime meats and chops, fresh fish and poultry, generous salads and side orders — with a unique wine list known as the Fleming’s 100®, which features more than 100 wines served by the glass.

Recommended: The prime steak rib special for New Year’s Eve or the 8-0z filet mignon with King Crab meat and caviar—all a part of Fleming’s “Three Ways to Celebrate.” The enticing three-course New Year’s Eve menu is for $69.96 per person.

And it’s worth every penny for the foodie in you. Enjoy.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

44 S Main St, West Hartford, CT 06107

Phone:(860) 676-9463

Photo Courtesy of Fleming's

Photo Courtesy of Fleming’s

 

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Applications Available for Academy


HARTFORD — CREC is now accepting applications from sophomores and juniors for the 30 spaces available in the 2014-2015 Capitol Region Inter-district Leadership Academy.

In its tenth year of operation, the Academy has provided leadership experiences and service learning opportunities to over 300 students in the Greater Hartford area. This is a free program for students. Applications are due March 21, 2014. All applications must be postmarked by March 21, 2014.

Students accepted into the program for the 2014-2015 Academy will: attend a seven day Outward Bound experience in Colorado from June 21 to June 28, 2014; develop and participate in a community service project which will benefit the Hartford area; be able to earn honors high school credit; meet with successful leaders in business, education, politics, health, and the military; be challenged with rigorous discussion and coursework on becoming a great leader; and build their student resume as they prepare for College.

The current 2013-2014 CRILA class includes 30 students from 22 towns and 26 high schools. These students were selected from a competitive pool of applicants from throughout the Hartford region. Applicants should have: the ability to lead, strong academic standing, the ability to work successfully with others, and an interest in and a commitment to community service.

Current sophomores and juniors from 35 districts in the Hartford area are eligible to apply to participate in CRILA. Participating towns are: Avon, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bolton, Bristol, Canton, Cromwell, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartford, Hartland, Manchester, New Britain, New Hartford, Newington, Plainville, Portland, Region 10 (Burlington and Harwinton), Rocky Hill, Simsbury, Somers, Southington, South Windsor, Suffield, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.

More information is available on the CRILA website: www.creccrila.com.  The application can be downloaded online at www.creccrila.com/application.html.

 

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Connecticut Awarded ‘Performance Bonus’ For Improving Children’s Health Coverage


WASHINGTON — Connecticut was one of 23 states awarded performance bonuses for improving access to children’s health coverage and successfully enrolling eligible children in Medicaid, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced on Monday that the state  in 2013 received more than $1.7 million of that $307 million in performance bonuses. This is the fifth and final year of performance bonus awards.

The performance bonuses were authorized under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 , one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by President Obama.

States could qualify for a bonus by implementing procedures to simplify Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and renewal processes to improve eligible children’s access to coverage. The amount of a state’s bonus corresponds to the increase in children’s Medicaid enrollment over a specified target.

“States are working hard to ensure children get access to the health coverage they need,” Tavenner said. “We are pleased to provide financial support to reward states that are reducing enrollment barriers and are connecting kids to coverage.”

Such efforts have been paying off.  Recent Census data show that uninsurance rates for children declined from 8.6 percent in 2009 to 7.5 percent in 2011.  In addition, an analysis by the Urban Institute found that participation rates in Medicaid and CHIP have continued to improve over time.  In 2011, 87.2 percent of eligible children were enrolled, a 5.5 percentage point increase from 81.7 percent in 2008.

Officials said that the bonuses help states by offsetting the costs of insuring the lowest income children and encouraging them to adopt sustainable improvements in their children’s health coverage programs.

Many of the simplifications that states adopted to qualify for performance bonuses  will be in place in all states in 2014 and applied consistently across Medicaid, CHIP, and the Marketplace.  These simplifications have led to improved coverage for children and have helped lay the groundwork for outreach efforts aimed at enrolling people now eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The 23 states awarded performance bonuses include:  Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

For more information on today’s CHIPRA performance bonus awards, visit http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/eligibility/performance_bonuses.html.

 

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Connecticut to Increase Minimum Wage on Jan. 1, 2014


HARTFORD –Connecticut’s two-step minimum wage increase will begin Jan. 1, 2014, giving working-class people a bit of relief from the stranglehold of low-paying jobs.

So said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was joined by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn), Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden), Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin, Southington) and others who made the announcement on Monday.

Malloy said the 2014 wage increase is the first of two scheduled increases in the state’s minimum wage slated to take effect this week as a result of a new law he signed earlier this year. The law requires the state’s minimum wage to increase from $8.25 to $8.70 on Jan. 1, 2014, followed by a second increase on Jan. 1, 2015 to $9.00.

Out of Connecticut’s workforce of 1.7 million people, it is estimated that there are about 100,000 workers who earn the minimum wage.  Under the current rate of $8.25 an hour, an employee working 40 hours a week earns $17,160 per year.

Officials said that as the gap between the rich and poor widens, the incremental increases  will help low-wage earners “keep food on their table and provide for their families.”

“This gradual increase over two years is a balanced approach to helping hard working men and women without adversely impacting the business community,” Malloy said.  “Studies have shown that increasing the minimum wage is one of the best ways to get children out of poverty.  This modest increase is money that will be put back into our economy and help residents to make ends meet.”

“This increase in the minimum wage will give thousands of low-income working families across Connecticut a small raise in the new year, which is long overdue,” Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) said.  “Raising the minimum wage is good for our economy, helps people, and is the right thing to do.”

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Wyman Announces Director of CT’s Health Reform


HARTFORD — The state will now have a point person responsible for the massive overhaul of health reform since the 1960s.

Meet the Director of Healthcare Innovation: Mark Schaefer. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, Dr. Schaefer will lead “the broad stakeholder effort under the Affordable Care Act to transform healthcare delivery and health for Connecticut’s residents within the next five years.”

Lt. Gov.Nancy Wyman announced  the news on Monday, saying that Schaefer is expected to lead the project management office of the SIM from within the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, assuming day to day management of activities to implement the State Innovation Plan, published at www.healthreform.ct.gov.

healthcarereformState officials said the initiatives range from primary care practice transformation to workforce initiatives, community health improvement, consumer empowerment and the establishment and charge of four key task forces and councils.

The state will compete for funding of up to $45 million to implement some of the activities outlined in the Innovation Plan.

“I am confident that Dr. Schaefer has the expertise to lead the state forward on much needed transformation of our healthcare system. He has developed many of our most successful healthcare efforts during his career at the Department of Social Services, including the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, the Integrated Care Initiative and health neighborhood shared savings model to improve care and reduce costs for Medicare/Medicaid eligibles, the Rewards to Quit program, the Person Centered Medical Home initiative and the selection of the Medicaid administrative services organization,”  Wyman said.

Schaefer was nationally recognized as a Medicaid Director and selected for the Medicaid Leadership Institute.  He recently designed and implemented the UConn Medicaid Partnership to improve Medicaid administration.

State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri said, “I look forward to handing over the directorship of this critical initiative into his very capable hands and returning to my primary responsibilities as Healthcare Advocate.  Mark has the drive and skills to make Connecticut a leading state in the SIM.  I am proud to host him and the PMO within OHA.”

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Access Health CT’s Appeal Process for Frustrated Residents Should Be Less Painful


By Ann-Marie Adams

Access Health CT, Connecticut’s official health insurance marketplace, reported a single-day record number of individuals applied for coverage by midnight on Dec. 23: more than 6,700. This figure, officials of the state agency boasted, puts the total number enrolled from Oct. 1 to Dec. 23 at about 62,000.

Impressive.

But people whose applications were not processed, or who had been waiting on the phone for more than 90 minutes, are not impressed.

Almost 300,000 Connecticut residents do not have health insurance.  In Hartford County alone, 98,000 people lack coverage. Of that amount,  34,000 are in Hartford. Most of the uninsured in the capital city and the state are people of color and would have surely benefited from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It’s the first nationwide health reform since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society effort with Medicare in 1965.

Just think. If the state’s quasi-nonprofit agency had planned a more effective and inclusive enrollment period to meet the demand, many more people would have signed up, so that they could have had comprehensive health insurance effective Jan. 1.

Dr_AnnMarie_AdamsFor the thousands of people who did not get to enroll, hearing that they can continue to enroll up to March 31 without a tax penalty does not soothe the pain of learning they would have to wait another 30 days from enrollment for insurance to kick in, especially if they have a pre-existing need for insurance.  All they have to look forward to at this point is more snafus or bureaucratic mazes to navigate.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionConsider this: For one individual, enrolling online was a chore that failed. On Dec. 3, she filled out an application and submitted it through Access CT’s portal. By Dec. 23, she had yet to receive confirmation that her application was processed. She also tried to log in, but was kicked off the site. So at about 4 p.m., she called the 800 numbers listed on Dec. 23. She received a recording saying that she should leave her number and someone would return her call the next business day.

This woman tried again several times until her last call at 10:06 p.m. — hoping to get someone on the phone. After waiting for about 30 minutes, someone answered and asked her name and age then put her on hold for 90 minutes. At 10 minutes before midnight, another agent came on the line and said that it was too late to enroll her.

It was a curious experience that demands answers: was the woman put on hold that long because she was over 40? Was Access CT screening calls so they could sign up mostly customers under 40? Why was there a recording throughout most of the day on Dec. 23, saying customers should call back the next day? How many people of color were signed up? If the state doesn’t have that number as reported earlier, then can we know why? And most importantly, how many of the 34,000 uninsured people in Hartford were signed up?

There were other reported issues. But the main concern now is whether those individuals who were put on hold for waits lasting about an hour or who were locked out of the site, would be considered enrolled.

Although there are many assisters and navigators who have worked hard during the last several months, The Hartford Guardian has witnessed much bumbling during the enrollment period here. In fact, there were numerous warnings, one from Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra himselfsaying that “if you don’t market it and recruit people in an appropriate place, you could still end up with a lot of uninsured.” And that is the case — because of the incompetence and arrogance of those who guided the enrollment campaign.

There is also clearly conflict of interest and cronyism involved in how resources and marketing efforts were distributed, especially in Hartford. And these strategies and conflicts impacted the number of people and which segments of the population got enrolled on the exchange.

For instance, The Guardian couldn’t help but notice that the so-called Navigator for the city of Hartford was the Hispanic Health Council, an agency whose founding member is Mayor Segarra. We also couldn’t help but notice that Juan Figueroa, who was president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, is now Segarra’s acting chief of staff. Figueroa also had a hand in crafting strategies leading up to the state’s health reform push that began in January 2013. And he sits on the board of director for a news outlet charged with being the official organ of everything positive about Access Health CT.

We also noticed that resources were directed to community papers, which quietly ignored the fact that there was reportedly only one person in the North End to cover half that populous section. And that most of the marketing efforts in the city targeted the South End of Hartford, just one of the city’s 17 neighborhoods.

We are happy to see that Access Health CT has taken steps to correct its errors and is now “actively reaching out” to those people who were on hold Dec. 23. These frustrated applicants should indeed now be considered eligible for coverage effective Jan. 1.

However, appeal process in place for others should also take into account the insufficient recruitment efforts made in some city neighborhoods, which were seemingly overlooked because of sub-par marketing strategies and outreach.

An we hope the appeal process won’t be as painful as it was waiting online for 90 minutes without a positive outcome.

Individuals interested in filling an appeal should either call 855-805-4325 or mail their appeal to Access Health CT Appeals, P.O. Box  # 670, Manchester, CT 06045-0670. 

Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is founder and editor of The Hartford Guardian. Follow her on twitter.

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Author Kristen Chen Comes to Hartford, Talks Soy Sauce


HARTFORD — Here’s your chance to learn the unexpected art and tradition behind the brewing of a much-used but unsung condiment: soy sauce.

Yep. That dark sauce you spread across your chicken wings or chop suey from your favorite Chinese restaurant.

On Jan. 25, the Hartford Public Library will host an inspiring afternoon with author Kirstin Chen, who will discuss her new book Soy  Sauce for Beginners, a funny and heartfelt novel exploring the intersections of food, family, and culture.

The event is free and open to the public and will begin at 2:00 p.m. oat the Downtown Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture.

Chen was born and raised in Singapore. A former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, she holds an MFA from Emerson College and a BA from Stanford University. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Kirstin Chen

Kirstin Chen

But when an old American friend comes to town, the two of them are pulled into the controversy surrounding Gretchen’s cousin, the only male grandchild and the heir apparent to Lin’s Soy Sauce. In the midst of increasing pressure from her father to remain permanently in Singapore—and pressure from her mother to do just the opposite—Gretchen must decide whether she will return to her marriage and her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory, or sacrifice everything and join her family’s crusade to spread artisanal soy sauce to the world.

Other authors had praise for Chen’s second foray into fiction writing.

Said author Kevin Kwan, “Kirstin Chen’s debut is a delicious page-turning treat. Chen captures the zeitgeist of Singapore’s new generation in an engrossing, intimately layered tale of love, family, and the discovery of one’s true calling. It will also turn every reader into an artisanal soy sauce aficionado willing to settle for nothing but the best.”

 

Copies of Soy Sauce for Beginners will be available for purchase, and a book signing with the author will follow. A portion of all sales will benefit Hartford Public Library. The even is sponsored by  by Sneha, Inc.

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FUNdraising Good Times: Making the Ask – Part Two


By Mel and Pearl Shaw

Fundraising provides nonprofits with the money they need to deliver on their missions. When you ask others to join you in giving you become part of the nonprofit’s success team.

In part one of this series we discussed how to prepare to solicit a gift. In this column we cover setting the appointment and what to say when asking.

Here’s what we believe: asking for a gift should be done in person whenever possible. Make an appointment to talk with your colleague, family member or friend about giving. Let’s use an example of asking Jesse for a gift. “Jesse, would you have time to meet with me about All In For Children?

Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw

I am committed to working with them to raise money for their new programs and I want to share that information with you and explore how you would like to be involved.”

All you want from the conversation is a time to meet. If Jesse says, “Oh, we don’t have to meet. Put me down for $100,” you can respond with, “I understand. Would you make some time for me just the same? You might want to give even more after we talk!”

Keep the conversation light, but get that appointment.

As you prepare for your meeting, make sure you have brochures or online information you can share. Practice your presentation. You will want to talk about the organization’s history, current activities and vision for the future. You will also want to cover what specifically you are raising money for and how the money will be used. Be prepared to communicate using emotion and facts.  Talk about what the organization means to you and why you are involved.

During the solicitation be sure to ask for a specific, reasonable and challenging gift.  Know the amount you will ask for.  It shouldn’t be too small an amount, nor too large.  Remember to talk about the gift you made.  If your gift is similar to what you would like your prospect to give, state the amount you gave and why.

Always remember to make the ask. Be very clear and specific when asking: “Jesse, I would like for you to make a gift to All In For Children.  Would you be willing to contribute $___?”

 Pause after you ask for the gift.  Do not rush to fill the silence.  Give Jesse time to respond, for he will. If he says “yes”, thank him and ask how he would like to make his gift. If he says “no”, ask what would be the right amount at this time. If Jesse says this is not the right time, ask what would be a good time. Regardless of the outcome, thank him for his time. After the meeting, send a thank you note.  You can do it! Your nonprofit depends on you.

 Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success.” They position nonprofits for fundraising success. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com

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Preserve The First Amendment to Keep Free Speech in America


By Glenn Mollette     

Arts and Entertainment television was out of line for suspending Phil Robertson for a recent statement that the network executives did not appreciate. They may not have liked his Bible quote but he was stating his personal belief and not speaking on behalf of the network. I realize that he is employed by the network, but that should not prohibit him from stating his opinion.

Every American in most circumstances has an opinion and many will disagree or agree depending on the subject. Because someone states something does not mean that it is reality, except in that person’s mind. However, there are many circles of shared belief throughout our world. I happen to believe some are right but some are also wrong–in  my opinion.

glen mollettMy opinion is based on my background, upbringing, Bible reading, education, personal studies, media, folktales and even common sense.

I don’t like everything I see on television, read in the paper or hear on the radio. However, I have yet to eliminate any of the three the-hartford-guardian-Opinionfrom my life. I don’t like everything I see and hear in church but I still go. Yet, I believe in the freedom of religion just like I believe in the freedom of people to state their opinions and quote their favorite books whether it’s the Bible or Reader’s Digest.

As a free society our task is to muddle through the free speech and make a sensible determination. Free speech encourages or offends people.  However the goal of speech should never be to limit human rights to anyone. A worthy goal for us all is to use our free speech to make America better even though words can burn as in the case of Robertson’s statements. Again, just because somebody makes a statement does not mean that it is reality, except in the mind of the person who made the statement. The statement simply is a window into that person’s soul.

I may not agree with what you say or even like it but let’s please preserve the First Amendment. A good America is a free America and a free America means free speech.

 Glenn Mollette is an American columnist read in all fifty states.  Contact him at GMollette@aol.com.   Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmolletteHe is the author of American Issues and numerous other books.

Featured Photo Credit: Preachers.com

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State’s First African American Top Cop to Retire


HARTFORD — After serving three out of the four-year expected when he was appointed in 2010, the state’s top cop will retire effective Feb. 1.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday announced that Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford will step down early next year.

Malloy said Bradford did an “exceptional job of leading the state’s first responders through a period where they were tested time and time again.”

Bradford was the first African American Commissioner appointed to the position after serving with the Connecticut State Police t for 22 years. He then left to head security e for the National Football League for 15 years.

He was  expected to address the issue of diversity and other reform matters of the six divisions: the Division of State Police; the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security; the Division of Statewide Emergency Telecommunications; the Division of Scientific Services; the Division of Police Officer Standards and Training Council  and the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control/Connecticut Fire Academy.

The State Police Union gave him a no confidence vote.

But state officials noted several of Bradford’s accomplishments, which includes restoring the state’s crime lab’s national accreditation and “virtually eliminating any backlogs at the facility.”  He also incorporated the former Department of Homeland Security and other offices to “achieve greater efficiency in state government.”

“Working at the Department has presented many challenges, but the underlying work ethic of the people who make up this critically important agency made the task at hand worthwhile,” Bradford said.  “While we have accomplished much, there is much more to be done.”

Official said that work to find Branford’s replacement began several weeks ago when the he suggested he would retired.

 

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