On Thursday, the official unemployment rate climbed to 8.1% nationwide as employers shed an additional 651,00 workers last month. Add in sharp rises in the number of involuntary part-time and long-time discouraged workers, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.8%. While long-term job growth is the goal of the recovery package, states need to, and some are already stepping up to, address the immediate needs of the unemployed. This Dispatch emphasizes key programs states can take advantage of to help their unemployed workers.
Concord - Rep. Jill Shaffer Hammond (D-Hills. Dist. 3) today
introduced an innovative bill that would allow small businesses,
non-profits, and their employees to purchase health insurance through
the state employee health plan. HB617 would help tens of thousands of
New Hampshire residents and small employers by increasing their options
in the insurance market. The bill could reduce health insurance costs
for business owners and employees who take advantage of the option to
join the state employee plan.
There are stark differences between the two presidential campaigns'
approaches to federal-state relationships. Differences range from the
amount of funding appropriated for programs run by the states to
whether the candidates would strengthen or weaken state regulatory
States can take a number of actions to improve access
for families and small businesses to more affordable insurance. These include requiring insurers to allow young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance, creating public plan options to increase offerings and create bargaining power for families and small businesses, and requiring insurers to cover necessary benefits.
Politics, particularly in small states, makes for strange bedfellows.
The latest effort to derail Maine's first-in-the-nation 2003 Dirigo
Health Reform initiative bears this out. The president of the State Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the Dirigo Health Board of Directors is now treasurer of a lobbyist-driven political action committee waging a campaign to sap Dirigo Health of its funding.
One year after implementation, Massachusetts new health care law has
dramatically reduced its rate of the uninsured by half, increasing
coverage in both the public and private sectors for 355,000 previously
uninsured residents, a new Urban Institute study published in Health Affairs shows. The state has improved access to coverage but rising costs are a key challenge as the state moves forward.
Early Tuesday morning, the Connecticut Senate joined the House and overwhelmingly adopted HB 5536, the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership.
The legislation will open up the state employee health plan to
municipalities, small businesses and non-profits. Pooling small groups
with the state employee plan, which has more than 200,000 members, will
generate significant bargaining power and enable small employers and
municipalites to negotiate better insurance rates. As we've written
previously, while more than 20 states allow similar pooling of state
and municipal workers, Connecticut would be the first to allow small
businesses to join the plan at such a large scale.
Hartford - The Progressive States Network, a
national group that tracks state initiatives to achieve quality and
affordable health care, lauded the Senate's passage of the Connecticut
Healthcare Partnership (HB 5536) and strongly urged Governor Rell to
sign the legislation. Connecticut would be the first state to allow
small businesses and municipalities to buy into the non-profit group
health plan currently provided to state employees - potentially saving
local taxpayers millions of dollars and reducing small employer
Allowing small businesses, non-profits, and
municipalities to join the 200,000 members-strong state plan will
foster competition among health insurance carriers and give employers,
municipalities and working families the clout they need to negotiate a
better deal for health insurance.