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Families USA's State Reports Document Bush's Assault on State Economies and the Consequences of Being Uninsured

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.

Voter Registration: Steps States Can Take to Help Voters Register and Keep Them Registered

Maintaining accurate voter rolls and ensuring that all eligible voters who register to vote actually make it onto voting rolls are two of the most important functions of election administration.  If an eligible voter cannot vote because his name doesn't appear on the voter roll used in an election, the problem will not be addressed by the federal guarantee of a provisional ballot.  Such a ballot cannot register a person to vote, it can only preserve a ballot in the case the voter rolls at the precinct are mistaken or the

Focus on Prescription Drug Reform

$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.

2008 Session Roundups: Oregon

Oregon held an experimental even-year session in February that lasted just three weeks.  Designed as a test for a possible switch to yearly legislative sessions (Oregon is one of 6 state legislatures that only meets once every two years), the short duration left little time for resolving controversial issues.  Several bills, however, were passed that implement small but important progressive reforms.  These reforms were focused on children, families, and the environment.

The Fight Against Global Warming: Another Way States Can Rein in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, recently released a report detailing the negative environmental changes that will result from climate change, including higher temperatures leading to increased deaths from more severe heat waves, increased incidence of infectious diseases, and severe damage to ecosystems. The IPCC report warned that there were only eight years left to act to prevent the worst effects of global warming. 

Promoting Affordable Housing through State Policy

The effects of the sub-prime lending disaster are still being felt as the stock market has been rocked in recent weeks and many families find themselves locked out of the mortgage market.  As we highlighted in the past, the subprime mortgage market was largely aimed at economically-strapped families trying to find some way to afford homes.  For low-income renters who never had the money to even be in the game, rising rents have increasingly priced them out of their homes. 

Extending Civil Rights to Gay Citizens

This session, the Iowa legislature broke a long standing stalemate and added sexual orientation to its civil rights laws. SF 427 makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, public accomodation, credit, housing and education based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.  In passing the bill, the Iowa legislature simply extended the protections they offer to everyone else to gay and transgender citizens.  As House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy said, "This was not some sort of liberal social agenda.  This is just saying that under housing and employment, people shouldn't be discriminated against because of their real or perceived sexual orientation." 

Overcoming Racial Discrimination

Despite real progress over the last generation in overcoming discrimination in our society, the reality is that Americans are still regularly refused employment, housing or equal treatment under the law because of their nationality or the color of their skin.  The numbers highlighting this racial discrimination are stark:

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.