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Maryland E-Health System to Combat Swine Flu Outbreak

Maryland E-Health System to Combat Swine Flu Outbreak

Thursday, August 27, 2009

PERMALINK: http://www.progressivestates.org/node/23411

Valuing-Families

By: ADAM THOMPSON

Maryland E-Health System to Combat Swine Flu Outbreak

The August heat may be as intense as ever, but government and health officials across the country are preparing for the coming flu season and the possibility that the H1N1 (swine) flu virus could affect half the US population, according to a presidential health panel.  In Maryland, state government, public health officials and the state's 46 hospitals have created a statewide computerized system for tracking the disease, which will help government and health officials mobilize a quick response in the event of an outbreak.

The new computer network, called the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE), will allow hospitals to share data on patients admitted, diagnoses and treatments. It is reportedly the first of its kind across the country to include all hospitals.  Drugstores will also report on sales of flu and cold medications.  While the system is promoted as part of the state's preparation for another outbreak of H1N1, it will help hospitals and public health officials to quickly track the spread of other diseases.

In related news, Maryland officials have made $10 million in start-up funding available to hospitals through increased reimbursement rates for the adoption of a statewide health information exchange.  The funding positions Maryland to apply for federal e-health funds approved under the federal stimulus program.  A state commission has chosen a non-profit entity as the health information exchange, the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP).  CRISP is advised by a broad group of Maryland health care stakeholders.  In May, Governor O'Malley signed a bill to help doctors adopt e-health records by requiring insurers to offer financial incentives for adopting the technology.  Once implemented statewide, the health exchange will allow providers to share clinical information, better track diseases, and has the potential to help reduce health care costs by informing best medical practices and improving the quality of care statewide.  The system will have a  patient approval process to help ensure the privacy of a patient's medical history.

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Rewarding-Work

By: CAROLINE FAN

Delaware Stands Up for Misclassified Workers

Delaware’s legislature passed the Workplace Fraud Act (HB 230), an employee misclassification bill that increases penalties for construction employers who knowingly misclassify employees as contractors in order to evade state and federal taxes and wage and hour laws, saving as much as 30% on the margins.  Delaware joins Maryland and New Mexico this year in enacting strong wage laws to protect working families, and becomes one of over nine states that allow workers to collect triple damages for wage law violations. States are on the forefront of addressing this pervasive problem, which was found in a 2004 study out of Harvard University to plague an estimated 24% of construction work sites in Massachusetts alone.

Under the law, which Gov. Markell signed at the end of July, construction companies must keep records of employees for 3 years, face increased fines for violations.  Department of Labor investigators can question employers and other employees, enter and inspect places of business and examine and copy books, registers, payrolls, and other records in order to determine if workplace fraud has occurred. Inspectors can also request sworn written statements from employers and interview witnesses under oath. Additionally, the law allows state agencies to coordinate efforts in finding.

The increased fines that employers are subject to include stop work orders, a $20,000 penalty for each misclassified employee, and an administrative penalty of up to $500 per day for every day that they fail to comply. If the employer has a contract with a public body, that agency may withhold payment to the offending employer in an amount sufficient to pay back wages, benefits, taxes, or other necessary contributions to the affected workers. All of this adds up to a substantial deterrent to construction employers who may otherwise decide to break the laws and pay the fines as part of "the cost of doing business." The bill also prevents employers from retaliating against workers and allows workers to sue for treble damages including attorneys fees.

Wage enforcement and stopping workplace fraud are two budget-friendly means that legislatures can take to protect workers' rights and put all employers on an equal playing field.

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Increasing-Democracy

By: CHRISTIAN SMITH-SOCARIS

North Carolina Passes Key Youth Voting Reform

Just at the end of the legislative session, North Carolina lawmakers passed a bi-partisan bill that will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote (H 908).  This will facilitate youth registration at two highly convenient locations — in school and at the motor vehicles department when applying for a driver's license.  Currently, the majority of voters register when conducting business at motor vehicle departments, and this change will extend that option to younger people as well.  And in doing so it will link in young people's minds the rite of passage of getting a driver's license with that of registering to vote.

When signed by the governor, the state will join Hawaii and Florida in allowing for pre-registration.  But in true North Carolina, pro-voter style they are coupling this reform with other important provisions — requiring schools to include voter registration information in the 10th grade civics curriculum, encouraging school boards to “adopt policies to promote voter registration,” and including schools in the yearly voter registration drives conducted by local boards of election.  Combining voting education with registration is a promising model, with students given the knowledge they need not just to register, but also to understand the importance and power of voting.

Of course, pro-voter legislation like this doesn't pass unless it has strong support at the grassroots and committed champions in the legislature.  In this case the bill was sponsored by Rep. Tricia Cotham, the youngest Democrat in the General Assembly, and Rep. Justin Burr, the youngest Republican, along with Rep. Angela Bryant  and Rep. Pearl Burris-Floyd.  To create a broad coalition that demonstrated wide support for the bill FairVote NC and Democracy North Carolina solicited the endorsements of NC associations of principals, school boards, and teachers, as well as a variety of nonpartisan organizations, including Action for Children, Kids Voting, League of Women Voters, NAACP, NC Center for Voter Education, UNC Civic Education Consortium, and Youth Empowered Solutions.

Young Voters, Most Progressive in Generations

Helping engage young people in the political process is without a doubt a feel-good endeavor.  Evidence of this is the strong bipartisan support this legislation received, with legislators from both parties sponsoring the bill.  But progressives should also know that this is a reform that will redound to our benefit as research shows that those under 35 (now referred to as “millenials,” previously known as the echo-boomers) are the most progressive group since the 1960's.  Interestingly, as the baby boomers aged they became more conservative, but their kids are now substantially more progressive then they were when they were young.

What this means for progressives is that efforts to engage the youth electorate is one of the most effective way to bring progressive-minded voters to the polls.  It is in large part due to the engagement of this population that President Obama was able to win last November.  And as progressive state legislators face a challenging mid-term election environment, keeping young people engaged will be key to cementing gains made in 2006 and 2008.

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Resources

Maryland E-Health System to Combat Swine Flu Outbreak

Kaiser News - Report Warns Swine Flu Could Affect Half of US Population
Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP)
Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE)

Delaware Stands Up for Misclassified Workers

NELP - Independent Contractor Misclassification and Subcontracting
Progressive States Network - New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend
Progressive States Network - Protecting Workers Rights by Stopping Misclassification as Independent Contractors in Maryland

North Carolina Passes Key Youth Voting Reform

FairVote NC
Democracy North Carolina
FairVote - A Uniform Advance Voter Registration Age
New America Foundation - Empowering California's Youth: A Proposal Allowing Voters to Pre-register at Age 16
FairVote Rhode Island - Youth Voter Pre-registration
Center for American Progress - The Millenial Generation

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Caroline Fan, Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Executive Administrator and Outreach Associate
Austin Guest, Communications Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

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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