(NEW YORK) — Amazon, which delivers more than 10 billion items a year on fuel-guzzling planes, vans and trucks, vowed Thursday to cut the amount of damage it does to the environment and report its greenhouse gas emissions regularly.
The online shopping giant has been facing pressure from its own employees to do more to combat climate change and rely less on fossil fuels.
To cut emissions, Amazon says it has ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans that will start hitting the road in 2021. And it plans to have 100% of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030. That’s up from 40% today.
The announcement comes a day before more than 1,500 Amazon employees pledged to walk off their jobs as part of the Global Climate Strike, in which thousands of people around the world will protest climate change.
Over the past few months, several hospitals have announced major changes to their financial assistance policies, including curtailing the number of lawsuits they file against low-income patients unable to pay their medical bills.
Investigative reports have spurred the moves, and they prompted criticism from a top federal official.
“We are learning the lengths to which certain not-for-profit hospitals go to collect the full list price from uninsured patients,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told board members of the American Hospital Association on Tuesday, according to published remarks. “This is unacceptable. Hospitals must be paid for their work, but it’s actions like these that have led to calls for a complete Washington takeover of the entire health care system.”
In June, ProPublica published a story with MLK50 on the Memphis, Tennessee-based nonprofit hospital system Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. It brought more than 8,300 lawsuits against patients, including dozens against its own employees, for unpaid medical bills over five years. In thousands of cases, the hospital attempted to garnish defendants’ paychecks to collect the debt.
After our investigation, the hospital temporarily suspended its legal actions and announced a review. That resulted in the hospital raising its workers’ wages, expanding its financial assistance policy and announcing that it would not sue its lowest-income patients. “We were humbled,” the hospital’s CEO, Michael Ugwueke, told reporters.
The same month, NPR reported that Virginia’s nonprofit Mary Washington Hospital was suing more patients for unpaid medical bills than any hospital in the state. Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, and fellow researchers had documented 20,000 lawsuits filed by Virginia hospitals in 2017 alone. The research team found that nonprofit hospitals more frequently garnished wages than their public and for-profit peers.
In mid-August, The Oklahoman reported that dozens of hospitals across the state had filed more than 22,250 suits against former patients since 2016. Saint Francis Health System, a nonprofit that includes eight hospitals, filed the most lawsuits in the three-year span.
In the first week of September, The New York Times reported that Carlsbad Medical Center in New Mexico had sued 3,000 of its patients since 2015. That report was also based on findings from Makary, who just published the book “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care — and How to Fix It.”
And this week, Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post chronicled how Virginia’s state-run University of Virginia Health System sued patients more than 36,000 times over a six-year span.
There is no federal law mandating that nonprofit hospitals provide a specific amount of charity care, nor is there readily accessible data measuring how aggressively each hospital pursues patients for unpaid bills. But consumer advocates say the revelations in recent coverage on hospitals’ litigation practices are troubling.
“It’s dismaying to see how common it is,” said Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center who helped craft a Model Medical Debt Protection Act.
Nearly half of the nation’s 6,200 hospitals are nonprofits, meaning they are exempt from paying most local, state and federal taxes in return for providing community benefits.
But the issue of nonprofit hospitals engaging in aggressive debt collection practices that push the very communities they are designed to assist into poverty isn’t new.
In 2014, ProPublica reported on a small Missouri hospital that filed 11,000 lawsuits over a five-year span. In response, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opened an investigation, and the hospital forgave the debts owed by thousands of former patients.
In 2003, The Wall Street Journal detailed how Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut had pursued a patient’s widow to pay off his late wife’s 20-year-old medical bills. The hospital canceled the debt following the article.
“Some of these things are really outrageous,” said Jessica Curtis, a policy expert with Community Catalyst who helped draft billing protections for patients in the Affordable Care Act. “There are really aggressive tactics being used and little consideration or understanding for how those tactics actually impact people.”
Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service in February to renew his inquiries into whether nonprofit hospitals provide sufficient community benefits to qualify for tax breaks.
Since publishing our story on Methodist hospital in Memphis, we’ve continued to work with communities in the city to better understand the toll these lawsuits are taking.
We’ve learned from our reporting that, because of the stigma around owing money, people who’ve been sued sometimes don’t want to discuss it with a reporter. So we’ve tried to reach people in several ways, including letters sent in the mail, flyers posted in spots they might frequent and graphics we’re sharing on Facebook. We’re learning a bit more every day about what resonates with the community, and we hope to report back on that soon.
In the meantime — and we tell this to every person we can — these stories are stronger and more accurate when people who’ve been sued share their experiences with us. Hearing from more people who have been sued can help us hold more institutions accountable.
If you’ve been sued by a nonprofit hospital or physician group, we want to hear from you. If you work or have worked for an organization that takes unusually aggressive legal action against people unable to pay, we’d also like to hear from you.
This article originally appeared on ProPublica, read the article here.
U.S. International Transactions, 2nd quarter 2019
The U.S. current account deficit, which reflects the combined balances on trade in goods and services and income flows between U.S. residents and residents of other countries, narrowed by $8.0 billion, or 5.9 percent, to $128.2 billion in the second quarter of 2019, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The revised first quarter deficit was $136.2 billion. Full Text
Published September 19, 2019 at 08:30AM
Read more at bea.gov
President Donald Trump says his latest move to roll back California’s state-level car regulations is going to make cars cheaper and help automakers. But car companies say they don’t want lower standards and experts warn that the changes could even harm automakers who have made major investments in new, green technology.
Speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, the President announced the elimination of a rule that allows California to set stricter gas mileage standards. The policy shift could have profound implications for the American auto industry. California has more vehicles on the road than any other state. Additionally, a dozen other states and Washington, D.C. follow their emissions guidelines.
The Trump Administration argues that the new policy is both consumer and business friendly, and will make cars cheaper and safer while standardizing the industry.
“Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday. The U.S. Justice Department is also conducting an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four major automakers to lower emissions standards, according to the Associated Press.
However, industry experts say that the President’s view is short-sighted.
Carmakers have already made major changes to their factories in order to meet the guidelines. Experts say that the Trump administration’s changes will disrupt the companies’ production plans, which are years in the making, and make it hard to plan beyond what’s likely to be a protracted legal battle between the administration and blue states – and the 2020 election, says Professor Peter Adriaens of the University of Michigan.
“They’re going to be thrown into disarray. The question is where are all these investments going to go?” says Adriaens.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), which represents manufacturers of vehicle components, said in statement on Wednesday that it is concerned that Trump’s policy could harm the automobile industry’s competitiveness. MEMA said that the revocation of the waiver will lead to “lengthy litigation” and “will contribute to on-going regulatory uncertainty, which could have damaging effects on industry’s ability to invest and plan for the future and impact industry’s ability to grow jobs.”
MEMA noted that it has urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the EPA to come to an agreement with California.
Adriaens says that the changes are also likely to affect the car companies’ positions in the stock and capital markets, and possibly make it harder to sell more fuel-efficient cars.
“From a stock-market perspective, where our argument is– look, you’re going to be developing all these different kinds of cars. Electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, more fuel-efficient cars and whatnot,” Adriaens says. “Are you sure you’re going to be able to recoup all that investment if there is no policy that says you should go towards more fuel efficient cars?”
Ultimately, Adriaens says, companies may be forced to develop and build two fleets of cars – one for the United States, and one for everywhere else – which will be much less efficient.
“What legislation does, is it nudges innovation,” says Adriaens. “It makes total sense from a global market perspective. It just seems that the administration wants the U.S. to be a very different market from the global car market.”
And industry experts say that President Trump’s policy could ultimately make the American car industry much less competitive in a world that is moving towards more fuel-efficient vehicles. Automakers and American workers may be left behind as green jobs and factories move overseas.
Although the policy will encourage Americans to keep buying large cars and to take advantage of the country’s low gas prices, the rest of the world is moving towards more efficient cars, Susan Helper, a professor at Case Western University and the a former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Obama, tells TIME. Ultimately, that means that companies will have an incentive to move factories and some of the best jobs overseas, where they can be closer to the people who are purchasing them.
She warns that the policy may lead to “less innovation and less competitiveness for automakers competing in other markets that do have more sensible gas prices” and push future green jobs overseas.
Helper says that this policy rewards companies for engaging in “irresponsible behavior” such as investing in less fuel-efficient vehicles, or slowing down production of environmentally-friendly vehicles in the United States
Helper argues that the policy will ultimately be a “disaster for having innovative green jobs in the U.S.” and potentially leave the U.S. manufacturers behind China, which is investing heavily in electric cars.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised to take legal action against the changes.
“I’m confident we will prevail eventually. It will take years and years and years, more uncertainty more anxiety,” Newsom said, according to the LA Times.