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04/27/2006 A Real Health Care Plan for All Workers



Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rewarding-Work

WI: Real Health Care for All Workers

After the botched Massachusetts health care bill, it's nice to see Wisconsin is stepping up with a really bold health care plan.

Backed by unions, businesses and municipalities, a bipartisan group of Wisconsin legislators, led by Sen. Russ Decker (D-Schofield) and Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls), introduced SB 698, one of the most comprehensive health care proposals in the country -- that would cover every employee in the state much like the existing workers compensation and unemployment insurance systems.

An actuarial study done in 2003 estimated that employers would have to pay about $300 per month, while employees and dependents would pay a yearly deductible of $300 for a single person or $600 for a family.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO has this analysis which points out that it's the very ambition of the plan that will make the plan affordable for both employers and employees.  And why "individual mandates" or other so-called "consumer driven" proposals will fail:

[V]oluntary purchasing pools don�t work, because they are inevitably subject to �adverse selection�: only groups with above average costs want to participate. �Consumer-driven� or �market� reforms simply shift costs to individuals and ration access to health care according to wealth: none of these approaches increases access to quality health care, improves our health care system, or reduces overall costs...

And the Wisconsin plan, by standardizing benefits and administration will accomplish what almost no other proposal on the table will do-- dramatically reduces administrative costs. 20 to 30% of the cost of health care in the United States is currently for administration �- often just patients and care givers negotiating with a blizzard of different insurance companies over what will get covered and who will pay. Compare that to administrative costs of just 3% for Medicare and for the single-payer Canadian health care system and you can see the attraction of the new Wisconsin plan's more integrated approach.

The Wisconsin plan will also bargain with pharmaceutical companies to reduce prescription drug prices and establish common quality standards for hospitals and health care providers to control costs.

Now, this is a health care vision that takes the debate beyond incremental reforms. Unlike the Massachusetts bill, it holds employers responsible for providing health care, but also offers the carrot to responsible employers of reduced costs and not being undercut by companies that just dump their health care costs on emergency rooms.

The bill is being introduced too late to be passed this legislative session, but will no doubt help define the election races this fall for the legislature-- and hopefully those candidates who refuse to sign up won't be coming back for January 2007.

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Strengthening-Communities

New Latino Voters May Change Political Map

"Today we march, tomorrow we vote!" - the chant at the recent immigration rights rallies -- may translate into a changed electoral landscape in many states across the country.

Traditionally, even Latino citizens have had low turnout rates at elections. Only 47 percent of eligible Hispanics went to the polls in 2004 compared to 67 percent of whites and 60 percent of blacks. 

But the backlash against federal anti-immigrant legislation may translate into far higher Latino turnout rates nationwide, much as Latino (and other immigrant) voting spiked in California in the mid-90s after the anti-immigrant Prop 187 was passed in that state.

But it's not just current citizens who could change the political map. With the number of Latinos too young to vote or not currently citizens, Latinos made up only 6 percent of the electorate in 2004 � far below their 14.3% of the population. But that could rapidly change as young Latinos come of voting age and others apply for citizenship.

The most startling fact is that in March, 1.8 million citizenship forms � a record monthly number � were downloaded off the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site.

There's been a lot of focus on undocumented immigrants in recent weeks, but it's important to observe that about 8 million immigrants already legally qualify for citizenship but haven't yet applied, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Almost half were born in Latin America, including one-third in Mexico. So there is a potential for literally millions of new voters to enter the political arena in coming years � a wildcard that could change the electoral calculus in races across the country.

As these NCLR state profiles show, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington are the states with the largest Latino populations, but states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee have seen the fastest growth in their Latino populations, so this new dynamic will be reshaping the politics across the country -� a point emphasized by the number of cities and communities that saw immigrant rights protests in the last month.

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Growing-Economy

Investing in Estate Tax Reform: How 18 Families are Working to Strip Billions From the States

What was once a brilliant line from a screenwriter is now a solid rule of politics: "Follow the money." And true to that adage, when the federal government scaled back the estate tax, eighteen billionaire families were behind it, as documented in a new report by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy. And that "billionaire club" assault means that thirty-two states that peg their estate taxes to federal law lose as much as $5 billion per year in revenues.

The names of some of these families will come as no surprise to many of our readers:

  • The Waltons -- Heirs to Sam Walton's billions, the family behind Wal-Mart stands to save billions of dollars with the repeal of the Estate Tax.
  • The DeVoses -- The founders of Amway are interested in getting their way. We've profiled Dick DeVos before. He and his wife speak poorly of high wages, but claim to support vouchers because of how they help further education. Right. We're sure his family supports the estate tax repeal in order to help family farmers.

Even more interesting are some of the names you may not be familiar with. Shortly after the report was released, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a Bloomberg article and editorialized about the short-sightedness and selfishness of those advocating for the Paris Hilton Tax Cut. Meanwhile, their competitors, the Seattle Times is controlled by one of the families that is leading the charge for estate tax repeal. In fact, the Seattle Times has lobbied for estate tax repeal -- a strange mission for a newspaper lobby. The newspaper's editorial page has also been vociferous in its advocacy for estate tax repeal, to the point that it plays fast and loose with the facts.

For all of these individuals, the expenses of advocating for the estate tax repeal -- $50,000 in campaign contributions, $100,000 in lobbying fees, $200,000 to start shell astro-turf organizations -- are well worth it. With the repeal of the estate tax, they can expect to save anywhere between hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of billions of dollars. The downside, of course, is that the money disappears from the U.S. treasury -- an amount equal to $1 trillion over ten years.

And the impact reaches far into the states -- billions and billions of dollars. At the federal level, shortfalls can be turned into deficits to be paid by future generations flush with cash from their large inheritances. States have no such ability.

What they can do is follow the lead of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire who made the estate tax a priority in her first session. Washington now joins a group of seventeen states with estate taxes that are independent of the federal levy.

Regardless of whether the reform costs us now or later, a lot or a little, the bottom line is that it is a bad idea. Large estates are a sign that the system works. And the estate tax is only paid by the wealthiest of individuals -- not by family farmers or small business owners. That's why despite a ten-year effort to demonize the estate tax, repeal remains deeply unpopular, with voters preferring reform to repeal by more than a 20% margin.

More Resources

More Resources

WI: Real Health Care for All Workers

Wisconsin AFL-CIO, The Wisconsin Health Care Plan
AFL-CIO Affordable, Quality Health Care. Wisconsin is Getting Close
SB 698- text of Wisconsin Health Care Plan (WHCP)

New Latino Voters May Change Political Map

Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics and the 2004 Election
National Council of La Raza, Leap to Action Voter Mobilization Project
Southwest Voter Registration Education Project
League of United Latin American Citizens, Voter Registration

Investing in Estate Tax Reform: How 18 Families are Working to Strip Billions From the States

Public Citizen & United for a Fair Economy, Spending Millions to Save Billions: The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax
Citizens for Tax Justice, The Effects of the Bush Tax Cuts on State Tax Revenues
Stateline.org, "Estate taxes bite the dust in 34 states"
Stateline.org, "Federal Estate Tax Repeal Would Affect States"

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Strengthening-Communities

New Latino Voters May Change Political Map

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Eye on the Right

The man at the heart of the anti-immigration movement isn't a bigot, he just works closely with them. John Tanton, a man who has founded numerous high-profile organization fighting immigration, both legal and illegal, says he was drawn to fight immigration as a way of promoting conservation. In These Times' Christopher Hayes profiles Tanton this month. The article is a must-read.

Upcoming Events

May 8 | NYC, NY
Holding Corporations Accountable for Their Fair Share of Employee Health Care Costs

New York's Drum Major Institute for Public Policy hosts Maryland Senator Gloria Gary Lawlah, author of the Fair Share Health Care bill. Join her for breakfast and a discussion of health care reform. RSVP Required.

May 10 | NYC, NY
Campaign '06: The Year of the Hostile Takeover

Author and Progressive States Co-chair David Sirota, a veteran political strategist and Capitol Hill operative, has released a new book called Hostile Takeover showing how political corruption is creating policies that are intensifying America's middle-class squeeze. Co-sponsored by Progressive States and the Drum Major Institute. More details to follow.

May 12 | Concord, NH
Cleaning Up Our Statehouses

Join Progressive States and co-hosts for lunch and a conversation on state legislative strategies for government reform. Registration Required.

Internships

Progressive States' policy department is looking for interns for Summer 2006. We're looking for students interested in public service with experience in policy advocacy or community organizing. For details, visit the Jobs & Internships Page.

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

Matt Singer
Editor, Stateside Dispatch