Patt Morrison for March 23, 2010

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They are the targets of almost universal scorn, from doctors to patients to President Obama who used the rate increases of Anthem-Blue Cross to make the final sales pitch for his healthcare reform plan: insurance companies are easy to hate and yet have been the vital linchpin to delivering medical care in the U.S. for several decades. When the President signed comprehensive healthcare legislation this morning he set in motion a fundamental shift in how insurance companies will do business. Facing an expanding list of restrictions but also a rapidly expanding customer base, it could be argued that the reform law’s most direct impact will be felt among insurance companies rather than the medical consumers. Every part of the industry, from pharmaceutical companies to hospitals, will feel the affect of healthcare reform—how will ultimately pass those changes onto you, the customer?
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The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that the Feds must tell the public which banks might have failed without the taxpayer funded financial bailout. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, filed numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to find out where $2 trillion (give-or-take) of taxpayer money went but those requests went unanswered and the case ended up in court. Bloomberg’s lawyers argued that the public has the right to know—it is their money after all. The Fed’s maintained that releasing the information is tantamount to a “death sentence” because a run or a sell-off by investors could futher jeopardize the bank’s financial stability. The court, in a unanimous decision, sided with Bloomberg. However, theirs may not be the final word on the matter. The Feds could appeal the case right up the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Congress pays off Student Loan Bill

As it passed health care reform Congress also revamped student loans to make more money easier to get and to pay back - increasing Pell grants, taking great power and great responsibility from the banks and lending institutions and giving it directly to the colleges, forgiving loans entirely after 20 years and more. While it sounds good on the surface this student loan reform is not without its controversy and critics, on both sides of the issue. Free marketers argue that the Obama-inspired legislation will crush private banks that currently offer a big chunk of student loans, and kill loan competition for students. Student advocates say the bill is nowhere near generous enough to keep pace with the increasing college tuitions. We discuss the basic arithmetic of the student loan bill and what it means to you.
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It’s no secret that the California’s K – 12 education system is stressed right now; the California State University system is no different. In an effort to better prepare student for college-level work, the CSU approved a controversial policy that requires academically inefficient students to take remedial math and English coursework before beginning their college careers. The “Early Start” program, which starts in 2012, demands that students who fail the already controversial proficiency tests will be forced to take mandatory CSU-Sponsored courses in summer school before they begin their freshman year. Currently about 60% of CSU freshman are not proficient in either subject, or both – even though they met the university’s standards of earning a B average in High School. On top of this, each CSU campus will have to create and finance its Early Start program and will not be reimbursed by the CSU system, which is currently facing a $584 million budget deficit. Patt talks to both sides of the discussion to discover if “Early Start” can right the ship.
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Just over a year ago, Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to operating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. We hear today from Harry Markopolos – a much less known name, but one central to finally exposing Madoff. Markopolos spent almost a decade investigating Madoff and warning the SEC that something was up with his investments…he also spent nearly a decade being ignored by securities regulators. He writes about his crusade in his new book, which chronicles the remarkable ineptitude of the Securities and Exchange Commission— the "regional turf rivalries," lawyers who don't understand the mathematically complex financial products that are traded on the markets, and the commission’s glaringly poor investigative ability.
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