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In Health Care, 2007 May Be the Year of the Child

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

In Health Care, 2007 May Be the Year of the Child

Valuing Families

by Adam Thompson

In Health Care, 2007 May Be the Year of the Child

To little fanfare, the New York General Assembly and Governor Eliot Spitzer enacted a budget in early April that includes health care for essentially all children.  The budget increased SCHIP eligibility for children in families with incomes up to 400% of poverty ($80,000 for a family of four) and allows families above 400% without other options to purchase the SCHIP coverage at full-cost, which is still cheaper and likely more comprehensive than private options.  Premiums for families below 400% of poverty will be set at $20, $30 and $40 per child depending on income. 

As detailed in a new Georgetown University report, New York is at the cusp of state efforts to expand access to health care for children in 2007.  29 states have enacted or are working on proposals to improve kids' coverage, including better outreach to families with children eligible but not enrolled in public programs, increasing income eligibility for SCHIP and easing administrative barriers to make it easier for children to enroll and remain enrolled in public programs. 

The 300% Standard: An important trend among states is increasing the income eligibility for SCHIP, with 300% of poverty becoming the new standard.  Of the 15 states with such proposals in 2007, 10 seek to increase eligibility to 300% of poverty or above, as is the case in New York.  Increasingly, states are allowing families above the income limits to purchase SCHIP coverage at full-cost, including Washington and Tennessee which have already enacted such reforms.  Of proposals still being worked on, North Carolina would offer public coverage to children with sliding scale premiums to 300% and allow a full-cost buy-in above that. Ohio is seeking to go further by expanding SCHIP to 300% and subsidizing premiums for children in families up to 500% of poverty.

A Road to Universal Coverage: As we have written in previous editions of the Stateside Dispatch, kids' coverage is seen by many as laying the foundation for universal health care.  Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is fighting to enact coverage for children in his state, said, "If you drive the plan into the middle class, it's not just viewed as a public assistance program.  You build a base of support for the program to provide health care for all of us."  The Right, as expressed in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, fears this precise scenario.  The Journal refers to expanding SCHIP as universal health care "on the installment plan" and urges Republicans to "work to return SCHIP to its original, more modest purposes."

More Resources

Increasing Democracy

by Nathan Newman

IN: Prison Riots and Privatization

Take 1200 prisoners from Arizona, hire Indiana at $64 per day to house them, then ship them 1500 miles from home and loved ones to a private prison in New Castle, Indiana run by the GEO Group, a private prison company that has been repeatedly cited for substandard conditions. When a riot among 500 prisoners broke out last week, with prisoners taking over the facility for two hours, it was hardly surprising to observers.

As the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette noted in an editorial:

The director of the Arizona Department of Corrections had visited New Castle a week before the riot and ”“ based on what she found there ”“ halted the planned transfer of 630 more inmates. A spokeswoman for the Arizona department said there were not enough guards on duty and they did not have enough experience...Some former prison employees have charged that GEO Group has cut staffing, and there are reports that privatization of the food services prompted complaints from inmates.

Profits for private prisons comes, as the Journal-Gazette emphasizes, from "cost savings and low-wage jobs that come at the expense of public safety." 

Adding to these concerns is the fact that prison privatization in Indiana, as in too many states, followed a massive infusion of $226,000 in campaign contributions by prison interests to state-level candidates between 2001 and 2004, including $52,900 to incumbent governor Mitch Daniels.

This is all part of a broader trend, as Business Week details this week, of cash-strapped states increasingly turning to privatization of public assets like highways, airports and bridges -- a dangerous recipe for undermining public safety and ripping off the taxpayer, as we explained earlier this year.  

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Rewarding Work

By J. Mijin Cha

Arizona Governor Vetoes Bad Day Laborer Bill

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano recently vetoed a measure that would have barred people from "disrupting traffic" while seeking employment along public roadways. While focusing on traffic disruptions, HB 2589 was meant to target day laborers, who are often undocumented immigrants.  Governor Napolitano vetoed the bill on the grounds that it was "vague, overbroad and discriminatory" and could be applied to any adult seeking employment along public streets.

Day laborers, like immigrants, are not new to the country's work landscape and are a work force of their own, despite what anti-immigration groups may claim.  Immigrants, and others, often turn to day laboring when they cannot find better work through other means, although the ad hoc nature of day labor often results in unfair wages and dangerous working conditions.

A Better Alternative: A better public strategy is creating organized day labor centers which can reduce residents' concerns about traffic and health and safety.  They also provide a safe, secure place for workers to gather as they search for work.  As we previously highlighted, encouraging employers to hire day labor through hiring halls and regulating day labor services is necessary to discourage day labor abuses.

Florida, Illinois and Texas have laws regulating labor centers by requiring basic levels of facilities, such as restrooms and drinking water.  In 2000, Illinois implemented the Day Labor and Temporary Labor Service Act prohibiting labor centers from, among other things, taking unauthorized deductions from workers' wages, failing to pay all earned wages and forcing workers to work and travel in unsafe conditions.  The Act was amended in 2006 to provide further worker protection and providing stiff fines to labor centers that violate the Act.

Using militia and intimidation tactics will not shut down the day laborers, but merely push the problem further underground where states cannot regulate workers' rights and wages.  The solution is to bring the workers further into the regular work force where their wages and rights can be regulated and protected.

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Valuing Families

By Adam Thompson

Prescription Drug Confidentiality in Jeopardy, but States Move Ahead

A federal judge has put up a roadblock to the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire law that makes the prescription-writing habits of physicians confidential and banned "data-mining companies" from selling those records to pharmaceutical companies. Given the billions of dollars drug companies spend on marketing to physicians, this information is a gold mine to pharmaceutical companies who use it to target physicians.

Despite this setback, New Hampshire is likely to appeal the ruling and states considering similar legislation are moving forward, in part because the ruling only applies to New Hampshire.  Even if the drug companies win on appeal, there are several options available to states to ensure these laws pass judicial muster.  

According to an analysis of the ruling by the counsel to the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARX) and an NLARX press release, "the decision left open a number of options for states seeking to protect prescriber privacy and address concerns about the use of prescriber specific information for the purpose of marketing prescription drug prices." These include: more legislative documentation of the effect these marketing practices have on health care costs and physician's practices; allowing the release of this information at the consent of physicians; and targeting the most abusive practices by allowing, for instance, evidence-based marketing.

NLARX member states with legislation pending that would regulate the marketing use of prescriber data include Vermont, Maine, New York, Massachusetts and Texas.

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Research Roundup

Research Roundup

In its first survey of a US-based corporation for human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch details Wal-Mart's Violation of US Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association, a 214-page report detailing the "sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of [Wal-Mart's] anti-union apparatus and actions" -tactics that take advantage of failings in United States labor law which allow companies to deny US workers internationally recognized labor rights.

Americans are impatient with political leaders and want immediate action to address the threat of global warming, according to a new survey by the Center for American Progress and pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.   Among the findings,  60% of the public believe that pollution is causing global warming and “we must take action now or it will be too late to stop it.”?

In Oklahoma, the Community Action Project has a new issue brief, Growing Oklahoma's Economy, which reviews the evidence of what policies drive regional economic growth.  The report emphasizes that the most effective strategies focus on public investment in schools, health and infrastructure to provide the context for vibrant business growth.  Tax cuts, on the other hand, are generally unfocused and do little to effect investment decisions by businesses.

Better data collection and use of information technologies by government can dramatically improve our ability to address key problems from environmental management to better coordination of public employee time.  The Center for American Progress outlines case studies of success by government using information technology in Governing by the Numbers and The CitiStat Model.

In Tipping Frames, the corporate social responsibility consultancy Lifeworth surveys how global mobilizations on issues like climate change, fair trade, and human rights are putting new pressures on businesses to change their practices-- or leading those businesses to try to strategically co-opt criticism by "reframing" business actions to appear more benign than they really are. 

In Health Care, 2007 May Be the Year of the Child

Georgetown University - Children's Health Coverage: States Moving Forward

Progressive States Network, Covering All Kids - A Step Towards "Health Care for All"

Progressive States Network, Illinois: Covering AllKids

IN: Prison Riots and Privatization

Private Corrections Institute, GEO Group Rap Sheet

Institute on Money in State Politics, Policy Lock-Down: Prison Interests Court Political Players

Business Week, Roads To Riches: Why investors are clamoring to take over America's highways, bridges, and airports””┬Łand why the public should be nervous

Progressive States Network, Ripoff Privatizations-- And Why They Keep Happening

Arizona Governor Vetoes Bad Day Laborer Bill

Illinois' Day Labor and Temporary Services Act

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

National Employment Law Project, Nonstandard Worker Project

National Employment Law Project, Guide to Drafting Day Labor Legislation

Progressive States Network, Holding Employers Accountable for "Fly-by-NIght" Operations

Arizona Central, Governor Vetoes Day-Laborer Bill

Prescription Drug Confidentiality in Jeopardy, but States Move Ahead

American University/Washington College of Law, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property and Statement in Response to Decision in IMS vs. Ayotte

National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices

Prescription Policy Choices

Progressive States Network, Big PhRMA and Marketing Prescription Drugs

NCSL, 2007 Prescription Drug State Legislation

Eye on the Right

Corporate hack Steven Milloy set a new record for disingenuousness last week with his scare-mongering FoxNews piece on the hazards of compact florescent lightbulbs (CFLs). CFLs have recently been identified as an easy way to reduce energy consumption, requiring only one quarter a normal bulb’s energy.

Ignoring any of CFLs benefits, Milloy hypes the story of a Maine woman who broke a CFL while installing it in her daughter’s room and the danger of small amounts of mercury in the bulb.  What he doesn't say is that a CFL contains only about 4 mg of mercury, 750 times less than is contained in an old thermostat, and that power plants emit far more mercury emissions to produce the energy needed for less efficient bulbs.  In fact, coal power generation spews 44 billion milligrams of mercury into our air every year.

Where is Milloy’s outrage about this power plant mercury, which is equivalent to every American breaking a CFL every 10 days?  Of course, Milloy's interest has never been in saving the environment but flacking for his corporate funders, which have included companies ranging from Phillip Morris to, yes, ExxonMobil.

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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