Roundup: Shut-Down Slams Indian Country

House leadership selects farm-bill conferees • Health-insurance updates • Rural UK residents seeing life on the sunny side • Vermont’s digital forum helped during hurricane disaster, AP reports

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Shut-Down Batters Indian Country. The buses aren’t running. A home-health care program is suspended. And a third of the workforce is on furlough.

Those are a few of the effects of the federal shut-down on the Crow, the federally designated Indian tribe in Montana.

The New York Times chronicles the impact of government closure in impoverished parts of Indian Country. It’s not a pretty picture.

Dan Frosch reports:

“They don’t have a clue what’s going on out here,” the tribal chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, said of politicians in Washington from his office in Crow Agency, which sits in the shadows of the Little Bighorn battlefield, itself closed because of the shutdown. “It is hurting a lot of people.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides a vast sweep of services for more than 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, has kept essential programs, like federal police and firefighting services, running. But it has stopped financing tribal governments and the patchwork of programs and grants that form the thin blanket of support for reservations racked by poverty and other ills.

“You’re already looking at a good number of tribes who are considered the poorest of our nation’s people,” said Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “When you are dealing with cutting off food supply programs and even nominal payments to tribal members, it creates a dangerous impact immediately.”


House Names Farm Bill Conference Committee Members. House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have named representatives to serve on the farm-bill conference committee. The committee will work with their Senate counterparts to blend competing versions of the farm bill for congressional action. (Agri-Pulse.)

The 17 GOP members include representatives of the House Ag Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee and Ways and Means Committee. Also appointed as a “leadership conferee” is Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Florida, whose amendment to the farm bill derailed efforts to pass a bill back in June. Southerland’s amendment would have mandated additional work requirements for food-stamp recipients.

The 12 Democratic conferees include members of the Ag Committee, Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means and a “leadership conferee,” Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Off-Market Insurance Could Be Costlier. As the federal government’s online health-insurance marketplace continues to sputter to a start, some folks may be tempted to step outside the marketplace for insurance coverage. Watch out, says one consumer website.

HealthPocket.com found that many insurance companies have yet to reveal the cost of plans that are not part of the federal or state marketplaces, according to a company press release. But in Georgia, they found that off-exchange plans were more expensive than plans that could be purchased through a government-sponsored health-insurance marketplace.

“For those insurance companies only offering off-exchange health insurance plans within a state, there is a need to make a compelling case to the public that their premiums are worth investigating,” said Kev Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket. “If off-exchange rates cannot be easily reviewed on an insurance company’s web site consumers may assume that the rates aren’t competitive.”

In Nebraska, columnist Trudy Lieberman advises consumers to take their time and wait on more information. “You don’t have to rush into anything right now,” she writes in a column created in association with the Nebraska Press Association.  “Coverage doesn’t begin until January (if you sign up by Dec.15), and open enrollment doesn’t end until March 31. If you buy a cheap policy that doesn’t cover your needs when you’re sick, you may be stuck with it for months until the next open enrollment.”

Rural UK Residents More Optimistic. Things are looking up among rural residents in the United Kingdom, according to a new poll conducted by a UK insurance company.

NFU Mutual found that rural residents were more optimistic about the economy, cost of living and crime. Confidence in jobs, however, dropped a bit. The survey compared rural residents’ opinions from the first and second quarters of 2013.

Front Porch Forum. The Associated Press reports on how Vermont’s “Front Porch Forum,” a digital communications platform, helped communities respond more effectively to the impact of hurricane Irene:

Towns and cities with a strong presence on Front Porch Forum had an easier time pulling together after Irene because they had a platform to communicate, said Sharon Combes-Farr, project director for the Vermont Digital Economy Project, who directs the grant.

Meg Allison, of Moretown, used the forum during Irene when the village was evacuated and roads were washed away.

“We had one thing going for us that some other towns did not – a digital infrastructure and a citizenry who knew how to use digital tools to communicate, to organize, and ultimately, to continue our long-term recovery,” she said in a blog in 2013.

 

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