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Aiding States to Stimulate the National Economy & New Models for Health Care Reform - WI and WA

Aiding States to Stimulate the National Economy & New Models for Health Care Reform - WI and WA

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Conference Call

 Toxic Toys Conference Call

Tomorrow Friday, January 25th at 1pm EST, Progressive States Network will be hosting a conference call focused on ways that states can address the burgeoning problem of toxic toys.

Please RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/2pcc2u.

Speakers include:
Rep. Hannah Pingree (ME)
Washington Toxics Coalition
United Steelworkers (USW)

Growing-Economy

BY Nathan Newman

Aiding States to Stimulate the National Economy

As Congress debates a stimulus to the economy in the wake of the housing bust, many economists are urging federal leaders to make aid to state governments a core part of the package. While direct tax rebates for individuals can help, it will not do much for the economy if states are forced to cut back on critical spending on public works, health care, and education at the same time. As Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who was also chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors in the 1990s, wrote this week in the New York Times:

The federal government should also provide some assistance to states and localities, which are already beginning to feel the pinch, as property values have fallen. Typically, they respond by cutting spending, and this acts as an automatic destabilizer.

What should go into that stimulus package for states? A few key components include spending on repairing our infrastructure, retrofitting buildings for energy savings, and funding SCHIP and Medicaid to cover families facing rising health costs.

  • Transit and Infrastructure: A new bipartisan coalition of state and local officials, led by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger, independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell called for new spending on repairing infrastructure-- and see it as a critical part of any stimulus to put people back to work and begin addressing the estimated $1.6 trillion of infrastructure spending needed across the country.  Similarly, Mark H. Ayers, President of the Building & Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, urged spending on infrastructure needs in order to spur growth and job creation since "the economic activity and the jobs directly created by this spending have a beneficial ripple effect as contractors purchase materials and employees spend their salaries."
  • Retrofitting Buildings: Tax credits for home insulation and for state programs to assist retrofitting buildings should be a key program, especially as Americans increasingly see money that could be creating jobs at home going overseas to pay skyrocketting oil costs. As Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), argues, such a green stimulus "would be the quickest green way to pump money in the economy. The collapse of the housing sector has put hundreds of thousands of construction workers out of work and made contractors desperate for business." A program to encourage building retrofits would reemploy exactly the people facing some of the largest job layoffs and transfer money now going to overseas oil producers into businesses at home.
  • SCHIP and Medicaid:  This last week, the US Congress Joint Economic Committee issued a report that indicated a recession would undermine federal and state budgets as more people become eligible for federal assistance through Medicaid and SCHIP. With an estimated 1.1 million additional children needing Medicaid or SCHIP during recessions, organizations like First Focus have called for a Child-Friendly Economic Stimulus Plan, that includes increased funding for SCHIP and Medicaid. 

These are a few key programs that state leaders and advocates should be demanding be part of any economic stimulus passed by the federal government this year.

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Valuing-Families

BY Adam Thompson

Wisconsin and Washington - New Models for Health Care Reform

Keep an eye on our YouTube page where we'll be uploading video highlights of the event.


In a show of legislative-solidarity, Wisconsin State Sen. Jon Erpenbach traveled to Olympia, Washington, on Monday to join Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser in the roll-out of her bold new health care reform plan, Washington Health Partnership.  Sen. Keiser's legislation is closely modeled after Sen. Erpenbach's Healthy Wisconsin plan, which we hailed as the most comprehensive health plan to pass a legislative body after the Wisconsin Senate approved the measure last June.  The visit and Sen. Keiser's legislation show that Healthy Wisconsin is a model for state reform.

During his visit, which was sponsored by the Progressive States Network, Sen. Erpenbach joined Sen. Keiser in briefings for legislators and advocates, a press conference announcing Washington Health Partnership, and testified during the bill's hearing before the Senate health committee that Sen. Keiser chairs. Progressive States Network helped organize the day's events and participated in the press conference and PSN Health Care Specialist Adam Thompson testified [Word, PowerPoint] at the committee hearing. 

Washington Health Partnership: Like Healthy Wisconsin, the Washington Health Partnership legislation stands out for its guarantee of affordable health care, cost containment provisions, and enhanced consumer choice of providers. The Partnership would guarantee all residents who are not otherwise in a Federally-based health plan like Medicare with portable comprehensive coverage modeled after the state legislators' health plan. Health care would be financed with payroll deductions - 9-12% of social security wages for employers and 2-4% of social security wages for employees - instead of premiums. Residents would be able to choose from various networks of providers, who would compete on metrics of quality, price and access. Costs would be cut systemwide through administrative efficiency, the negotiating power achieved by pooling all eligible residents, and improved systems for preventive care and chronic care management. 

Although a detailed cost-analysis on the Washington plan has not been completed, Sen. Erpenbach was able to bring confidence to the proposal by repeatedly citing the billions in cost savings Healthy Wisconsin would achieve for his state.  A Lewin Group study shows that Healthy Wisconsin would save that state $1.3 billion each year for the next ten years, freeing up dollars for property tax relief and infrastructure improvements like roads and bridges. The average family would save $750 a year on their health care costs and employers that currently provide coverage at some level would save $700 million dollars in the first year of Healthy Wisconsin. 

Press Coverage: Sen. Erpenbach's participation in the roll-out of Sen. Keiser's Washington Health Partnership helped underscore the strength of the approach to reform as well as its status as a model for state reform across the country. In addition to several TV news outlets, newspapers across the state covered the roll-out, making note of Sen. Erpenbach's testimony, including: The Seattle Times through a staff columnist and Associated Press story; the Tacoma News Tribune; the Columbian; the Olympian, and even Washington's blogosphere took note of a geography lesson Sen. Erpenbach gave to a Senate Republican concerning Wisconsin's borders. Newspapers in Wisconsin also picked up the unique story of legislators across states working in tandem on a model proposal for health care reform. 

A New Standard for State Reform: The Wisconsin and Washington legislation offer a new standard for state health care reform, a point underscored by PSN's co-chair, David Sirota, in a nationally syndicated column that also landed in the Seattle Times on the day of Sen. Keiser's roll-out. The Wisconsin and Washington approach represents a shift away from the 2006 Massachusetts model for reform by establishing a uniform, affordable funding mechanism that is proportional to employers' and families' ability to pay. 

Where the Massachusetts law seeks to shore up the current disjointed system of multiple payers and private insurance companies that are prone to profiteering and inefficient administration, the Healthy Wisconsin and Washington Health Partnership model creates an integrated health care system that can tackle cost containment more effectively. Massachusetts has made laudable progress in expanding coverage, but the state has had to exempt 65,000 from the law's individual mandate because of the cost of available insurance. The law's administering authority recognizes rising costs as the major barrier to sustainability of the reforms.

Under their respective proposals, Wisconsin and Washington avoid the problems of the Massachusetts approach to reform by creating a more coordinated system with affordable financing for working families, while wringing inefficiency and unnecessary spending out of the system, and enhancing what Americans value in health care - choice, control, patient-doctor relationships, access and quality. 

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Research Roundup

Like too many property tax relief programs, the tax savings from the Florida "Save Our Homes" program, which may be expanded by a vote next Tuesday, have gone overwhelmingly to the richest state residents according to a new report to be published in the Journal of Real Estate Research. The result has been a tax bonanza for owners of multi-million dollar homes. Similarly, a new study by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute argues that property tax cut proposals by Georgia political leaders would come at the expense of working families who would likely see higher sales taxes even as richer residents would see tax cuts.

The National Immigration Law Center has released Why States and Localities Should Not Require Employers to Participate in the Basic Pilot/E-Verify Program , which outlines the high error rates produced by the government database used to check citizenship status and the employer misuse of the program to punish workers who seek to collectively organize for better wages.

Families USA and Community Catalyst have introduced a new, interactive web tool, A Consumer Guide to State Health Reform, that walks outlines the wide variety of options available to expand state health coverage, including expanding SCHIP and Medicaid programs, building on employer-based health systems, better regulating the insurance market, pooling risk, and finding new funding mechanisms.

One key path to deploying high-speed Internet access if for cities and towns to invest in municipally-owned broadband infrastructure, as outlined in a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The report explains how to approach the issue provides the options for communities seeking to expand broadband for their residents.

In The State of Sentencing 2007, the Sentencing Project analyzes how 18 states freed up prison space and took steps to reduce recidivism by changing parole policies, expanding inmate rehabilitation programs and improving other criminal justice practices. The study sees an important change in criminal justice policy in the states as rehabilitation and alternatives to mandatory minimum sentences are increasingly the focus of state lawmakers.


Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

Resources

Aiding States to Stimulate the National Economy

CEPR - Stimulating Politics

First Focus - Child-Friendly Economic Stimulus Plan

Apollo Alliance - Apollo Across the Nation: States, Cities, and Campuses

Center for American Progress - Capturing the Energy Opportunity: Creating a Low-Carbon Economy

Wisconsin and Washington - New Models for Health Care Reform

Citizen Action of Wisconsin - Healthy Wisconsin Resource Center

Progressive States Network - Healthy Wisconsin: Model Policy, Model Advocacy

Washington State Senator Karen Keiser - Let's Fix Out Health Care System

Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach - Just Good for Business: Healthy Wisconsin

Adam Thompson - Presentation at Washington Health Partnership hearing (Word, PowerPoint)

SB 6221 - Washington Health Partnership Act

SB 40 - Healthy Wisconsin

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Operations Manager

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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