With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:
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.
Maine lawmakers addressed a
$190 million shortfall with unfortunate cuts to education and health
care services for low-income and indigent Mainers, but fortunately
continued to support the state's health care reform efforts. Lawmakers
also passed a minimum wage increase from $7 to $7.50 over two years,
strong protections for children from toxic chemicals, legislation
to combine the state and county corrections systems while capping
property taxes that will fund the new system at 2008 levels, and a
model cable franchise agreement that municipalities can use to
negotiate local video franchises.
Absent a national health care
policy, states have found ways to expand the reach of Medicaid by
covering more low-income, senior and disabled people and expanding the
list of covered services. Because of state action, 58 million
Americans now have health coverage they would not otherwise possess.
To push back on the states, the Bush Administration put forward several new Medicaid regulations
last year that, if implemented, will shift the burden and costs to
states. This will result in reduced benefits for millions of Americans
unless already cash-strapped states find some way to pick up the slack
- to the tune of $50 billion over five years.
It's counter-intuitive, but many US not-for-profit hospitals have
bigger profits than their for-profit counterparts. Last week, a Wall Street Journalarticle discussed
the growth of profits in the not-for-profit hospital sector and the
welcome attention this is garnering from federal policymakers. As
reported, the combined net income of the 50 largest not-for-profit
hospitals across the US increased nearly eight-fold from 2001 to 2006
to a staggering $4.27 billion. 77% of the 2,033 not-for-profit
hospitals in the US routinely make money, compared with 61% of
On April 2nd, the Maine Senate passed a National Popular Vote bill, LD 1744, that would guarantee that the Presidential candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states wins the Presidency.The
bill is an interstate compact, which would take effect only when states
possessing a majority of the membership of the Electoral College (that
is 270 of 538 electoral votes) enact similar statutes.
$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent
on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health
care costs. While spending on hospital and physician care surpass
spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills
and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to
reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications
covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue
influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out
at $30 billion each year.
In the wake of a bitter 2004 Governor's election and state Supreme Court races that took in more money from third-party groups than any other high court campaign in the country, Washington State's House took the first step toward public financing by passing HB 1551. Introduced by Senator Joe McDermott, HB 1551 allows cities, counties, and other jurisdictions to provide local candidates with government financing. The bill only allows local taxes to be tapped for the public campaign accounts and the public funds cannot be used for campaigns for state offices or school boards.