AirTalk for June 30, 2011

Mercer 19080
Beginning tomorrow, a new state law is forcing out of state online businesses to collect sales tax on purchases by California customers. Until now online merchants were not obligated to charge this tax and the effect will be felt by small businesses and the affiliates of online retailers like Overstock and Amazon. The projected gain for the state could be as high as $317 million but how hard is this hitting the estimated 25,000 affiliates of these sites in California? According to industry organizations they will be losing up to 90 percent of their income in the stroke of a pen and many are considering leaving the state. Is this law going to lead to a mass exodus? Similar laws have passed in other states, what have the effects been there?
Mercer 19079
A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows more people seeking treatment for addiction to prescription drugs. In particular, opiate addictions -- such as to the legal pharmaceutical Oxycontin -- jumped from 8 percent of all treatment seekers in 1999 to 33 percent in 2009. Earlier this year, President Obama's Administration released an action plan to deal with what it calls "America's prescription drug abuse crisis." Other more frightening statistics that point to an epidemic are the number of violent attacks on pharmacies. In New York this month, four people were gunned down and killed by a robber who stole thousands of painkillers. What has changed in the last decade that is responsible for the rise in abuse? If opiates are too dangerously addictive, what are the alternatives? Legislators want tougher penalties for prescription drug theft and trafficking -- how effective could that be to address addiction?
Mercer 19081

California to regulate health insurance rates?

When insurance companies want to raise car and home insurance rates in California, they must first get approval from state regulators. If a price hike isn’t deemed "fair, reasonable, and adequate," the California Department of Insurance can kill it. The Insurance Commissioner has no such authority over health care insurance, unless a new bill is passed. AB 52 would force health insurance companies to get approval before any rate hikes take effect. The bill has already passed an Assembly vote and was introduced to the Senate Health Committee yesterday (WED). Those opposed to AB 52 argue health insurance rates are set by costs and adding regulation will only increase the costs of health care. Should health insurance be regulated in the same way as auto and home? How have other states dealt with this issue? Why are doctors and hospitals opposed to AB 52?
Mercer 19068

National HIV Testing Week

If you’ve been putting off that HIV test, here’s your chance. From now through Friday, Los Angeles County is providing free, confidential HIV tests at a variety of locations. The L.A. County Department of Public Health stresses the importance of these tests, as new cases of HIV in Los Angeles are perpetuated by those who are unaware they are carrying the virus. While the disease has traditionally been relatively contained on a national level, recent trends indicate that it’s again on the rise. In 2006, the amount of HIV infections jumped 40% from the previous year. Minority groups have the most prevalent incidences of HIV; blacks contract the disease at seven times the rate of whites, while the rate for Hispanics is triple that of whites. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, condoms and testing were at the forefront of everyone’s mind. While most of us still realize the risks, testing seems perhaps to have fallen to the back burner for many. Has it for you? When was the last time you got tested? And what about safe sex? What precautions – if any – do you take to protect yourself and your partners? Do you “have the talk” or adhere to the no-glove-no-love policy with prospective partners? Are you taking more risks than you might have in the past? What about your friends? How relevant are the risks of contracting HIV in your world? EraseDoubt.org provides a list of all the free testing centers in Los Angeles County.
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