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Volume 29, Issue 3

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Healthcare organizations – ranging from physician practice groups to large, multi-state hospital systems – face a variety of risks, including fraud and abuse, as well as HIPAA privacy issues. Starting from a baseline risk assessment, healthcare organizations are often juggling among competing risks and responding to enforcement threats.

The design and implementation of an effective healthcare compliance program is extremely difficult and requires dedication, resources, and a real leadership commitment. In many cases, healthcare organizations, big and small, have become complacent and fail to recognize the need for continuous assessment and improvements.

Healthcare organizations that ignore the importance of encouraging reporting of complaints and responding to those employee concerns are only asking for trouble. There are plenty of whistleblower lawyers encouraging potential clients to bring False Claims Act suits in order to earn significant payouts under the qui tam compensation program.

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http://blog.volkovlaw.com/2016/08/healthcare-compliance-juggling-risk-mitigation-strategies/

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 00:00

Can Data Centers Really Revive Rural Towns?

That’s the question a recent article in the New York Times asks. The conclusion is “negative.” While local officials often tout these projects as a way to boost rural economies that have been suffering as a result of the loss of manufacturing jobs, nobody can really claim that a data center, no matter how large, can offer anywhere close to the amount of jobs a textile or a furniture factory does.

There are other economic benefits, such as taxes on the enormous electricity and equipment purchases companies make for these facilities. But those benefits are often diminished by tax breaks local and state governments offer companies to lure their big data center construction projects in.

Yes, tax breaks expire over time. Also, it’s not uncommon for one major data center build to put a rural community on the map and attract more construction by other companies. Prineville, Oregon, is a prime example, where a data center built by Facebook was followed by a data center built by Apple.

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http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/08/29/can-data-centers-really-revive-rural-towns/

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana recovery continues with the energy and work of businesses, voluntary, faith-based, and community-based organizations along with government agencies and committed citizens.

Unfortunately, disasters also bring out criminals looking to prey on survivors who appear to be rich targets for their fraudulent services.

Being cautious is essential to preventing rip-offs.  Don’t offer personal financial information over the phone. Know who you are dealing with. Never be shy about asking for identification. Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment. They always wear an official government photo ID.

Homeowners and registered FEMA applicants should watch out for housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration. Inspectors already have each applicant’s nine-digit registration number and a FEMA inspector will not ask for this number. FEMA inspectors never require banking or other personal information. The job of FEMA housing inspectors is to verify damage. Inspectors do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine eligibility for assistance.

Watch out for middlemen who promise you will receive disaster grants or money, especially if they ask for an upfront payment.

Many survivors have been living in damaged homes or in hotels and motels or other emergency accommodation while their primary residences are being repaired and rebuilt.

Keep these consumer safety tips in mind when working with contractors:

  • Verify the license or registration number with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at www.lacontractor.org or call 800-256-1392.

  • Get three written estimates for repair work. Then check credentials and contact your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractor or business.

  • Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date, and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes.

  • Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landryencourages you to use the following tips:

    • Take a picture of your contractor, his/her vehicle, and its license plate.
    • Take a picture of the contractor’s business card and his/her driver’s license.
    • Photograph or scan his/her contracting license and insurance.
    • Photograph or scan the contract made with him/her.
    • Photograph or scan all checks and money orders made as payments to the contractor.
    • Preserve all these photographs by emailing them to yourself and a trusted companion and/or by saving them in a cloud-based application.
  • If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call the FEMA toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or your local law enforcement officials.

  • To report a scam or sign up for consumer alerts, call Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889 or visit www.AGJeffLandry.com.

Charity scams take many forms, including emails containing links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Donation requests from fraudulent charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.

US-CERT encourages users to take the following measures to protect themselves:

Review the Federal Trade Commission warning at FTC alert and its information on Charity Scams.

  • Do not follow unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages.
  • Keep antivirus and other computer software up-to-date.
  • Check this Better Business Bureau (BBB) list for helping Louisiana flood victims before making any donations to this cause.
  • Verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number. You can find trusted contact information for many charities on the BBB National Charity Report Index.

There is no fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it. The only ways to register for FEMA help are to:

  • Call 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585)

  • Visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or speak to a FEMA employee at a Discovery Recovery Center.

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    FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.  Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/femaregion6 and the FEMA Blog at http://blog.fema.gov.

    Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

    For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800)877-8339.

    Download the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips. The app provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the Nation. The latest feature of the app allows you to send notifications to your device to remind you to take important steps to prepare your home and family for disasters. Go to Ready.gov for more details.

Posted on August 29, 2016 by Dr. Stephen Redd, Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response

Soumbedioune fish market in Dakar, Senegal

There’s a big difference between seeing something in a picture and experiencing it in 360-degree reality, saturated with sounds and smells. In the summer of 1987, I traveled to Senegal for three weeks. This was the first time I had really traveled and seen firsthand what the rest of the world was like.

In Dakar, fishermen brought their catches to beach on the edge of town. An open sewer drained directly into the ocean almost in the middle of where the fishermen landed their boats. In addition to the smells, that sewer pipe seemed guaranteed to make people sick. It also seemed that something simple, like moving the drain, could prevent illness. It might have been a naïve idea, but it struck me that there were many opportunities to make small changes that would improve people’s health.

Many of us came to public health because, at some point in our life, we had a similar realization. As a clinician, treating one patient at a time undoubtedly helps people and is rewarding, but working to protect and benefit the community as a whole can provide larger-scale benefits.

Preparedness at the forefront

This is why I’m passionate about being prepared. When an emergency hits, having trained people who know what to do, and having the resources in place to allow them to do their jobs, saves lives. And – as we have seen all too clearly – a lack of preparedness can turn an outbreak into an epidemic, or a natural disaster into a crucible for infectious disease.

Planning ahead and being ready are the most critical things we can do to keep people safe. The world recognizes this, which is why countries have signed international agreements like the International Health Regulations and the Global Health Security Agenda that commit them to being prepared for a public health emergency. We have a long way to go, but we have a clear roadmap for what needs to be done.

And, here in the U.S., we are doing our part to fulfill our obligation to the global community. Recently, we invited a team of international experts to evaluate the ability of the U.S. to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats. Looking at 19 different areas, they gave us feedback on where we are succeeding, and where we can do better. We will use the results of their report as we continue to build on our expertise.

Knowledge benefits everyone

The benefits of improving our expertise are twofold: not only do we protect ourselves, but we gain knowledge that we can share across the globe as other countries build their capabilities to respond to health threats. We are doing this every day.

CDC’s efforts in developing our Emergency Operations Center provide a great example. What we’ve learned is that the most important investment a country can make is having highly trained people at the ready. When people know what to do, a conference room and a few computers is all it takes to coordinate a response that can mitigate disaster and save lives.

CDC is able to share this kind of information with partners in countries around the world who may not have the resources to do everything at once. From working with Kenya on how to regulate the labs that handle the world’s deadliest germs and poisons, to working with Cameroon and Ethiopia on how to manage an emergency stockpile of medicines, we are helping others learn from our experience, and also learning from them as we go.

We are all connected 

Our connection to other countries is more important than ever. As we help build capacity across the globe, we also protect our health here at home. We have to think globally as we build the knowledge we need to prepare for, and respond to, emergencies.

We must keep in mind that, somewhere in the world, there is a draining sewer that might be ground zero for an outbreak. And, somewhere, there is a conference room we could fill with trained responders to help stop it.

(TNS) - Buffeted by hurricanes and tornadoes, inundated by floodwaters, Texas topped the list of states most affected by natural disasters in 2015.

A just-published study by InsuranceQuotes said the Lone Star State had 951 incidents of high winds, 783 incidents of hail and 228 reports of tornadoes last year. That put it first among the top five states experiencing natural disasters last year.

“Texas is getting a lot of weather: It’s big, there’s a lot of land and its size makes it a bigger target,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes in a phone interview.

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http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Texas-led-states-in-natural-disasters-last-year.html