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200,000 Children Will Be Hurt on the Job, Group Says

September 1, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An estimated 200,000 children will be injured this year on the job, according to a report by the American Youth Work Center, a youth advocacy group.

In a report released Friday, the American Youth Work Center predicted some 40,000 cases of child labor violations will be reported this year, almost double the number found in 1989.

″Deaths and injuries are increasing dramatically and yet are spread thinly across the country,″ said AYWC’s William Treanor. ″And so all that people have are anecdotal stories. Everybody can think of one gruesome, horrible incident that they’re aware of and they think that that’s some sort of freak occurrence. ″

The Department of Labor conducted a one-day sweep of businesses in June this year, uncovering 3,800 cases of child labor violation. Most of the cases involved youngsters working more hours than the laws allow, but many were using dangerous machinery.

As a result of the sweep, Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole announced that the administration would back legislation to increase fines from $1,000 to $10,000, the maximum penalty for violations.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Don Pease, D-Ohio, will go to the floor when Congress gets back to work this fall.

One area not covered by proposed legislation is agricultural. An estimated 300 children are killed every year in farm work, and more than 23,000 are injured. In July this year, investigators from the Department of Labor found children as young as 3 years old working as migrant laborers in Northern California.

--- Post Office to Keep the Color in Christmas

WASHINGTON (AP) - Postal officials are red-faced about reports that they want Americans to have a white Christmas.

Not so, says Richard J. Strasser, senior assistant postmaster general for marketing and customer service. Strasser’s comments came after postal officials in Kansas City told area residents earlier this week that they should ″never use red, green or any dark colored envelopes.″

If people buy Christmas cards that come with envelopes that are red or green or some other color, the Postal Service will deliver them happily, Strasser said Friday.

Americans send one another some 2 billion cards annually, millions in colored envelopes.

White envelopes are easier for the agency’s automated machinery to handle, Strasser admitted. Dark-colored backgrounds can make the addresses written on them very hard to read.

″They are a challenge, but we can handle it,″ he said.

How did the misunderstanding start? Some postal workers may have been too enthusiastic in discussing the benefits of the new automatic letter sorting equipment, Strasser said.

Strasser said the postal service and the makers of greeting cards have been working together to develop envelope colors that are attractive but can easily be handled by automatic sorting machinery.

But in the meantime, no envelope that is sold will be rejected, he said.

--- HHS proposes changing Medicare physician payment program

WASHINGTON (AP) - Health Secretary Louis Sullivan is proposing to Congress a plan that will change the way physicians are paid by the Medicare program.

The package sent to Congress on Friday includes a preliminary fee schedule covering about 1,400 physician services, shifting payments to primary care and away from procedure-based services like surgery.

Under the new system, physician fees will be based on the time, skill level and resources needed to perform the service, as well as practice costs and malpractice insurance costs.

More than 500,000 physicians will be affected by the change scheduled to be implemented Jan. 1, 1992. It will be the largest change in the Medicare program since its inception 25 years ago.

In his letter to health committee and subcommittee chairmen and ranking members, Sullivan cautioned that the numbers in the fee schedule are ″very preliminary ... Many and perhaps all of these values will change.″

″Important policy and technical questions ... are unresolved,″ he said.

Under the current Medicare system, physicians are paid their actual charge, customary charge or the prevailing local charge for a service, whichever is lowest.

The system has resulted in large variations in payments among localities and services.

The new system will pay physicians either the actual charge or a fee based on the value scale, whichever is lower.

A geographic adjustment will account for differences in practice costs, but overall payments will increase for many physicians in rural areas who are paid less than urban physicians under the current system.

A spokesman for the American Medical Association said the group’s officials were looking over the preliminary fee schedule but could not comment in detail on the proposal yet.

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