Health Care Headlines
In Washington State, the legislature has passed a bill to bring state oversight to premium increases for individual health insurance premiums. The bill, which would subject all individual premium increases to approval by the state insurance commissioner, is intended to slow rapidly rising premiums. Opponents say it would penalize insurers while ignoring the root causes of high health costs.
Click HERE for the article from the Seattle Times.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist wants to spur competition in the health care industry by deregulating hospitals. He is asking the legislature to get rid of the certificate of need process that currently restricts new hospitals to communities that can prove they need the facility. Opponents fear that new hospitals will be small and focused solely on lucrative market segments, leaving general community hospitals to treat an even higher percentage of uninsured and Medicaid patients.
Click HERE for the article from the Miami Herald.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Ohio’s J-1 visa waiver program for foreign born doctors is not doing enough to help close the supply gap for primary care doctors in rural parts of the state. The problem, they say, is that major hospitals in the largest cities are using the J-1 program to keep specialists, depriving outlying areas of necessary primary care.
Click HERE for the article.
States see Potential in Alternative Energy
Increasingly states see both environmental and economic development potential in renewable energy investment.
Florida issues 12.5 million in renewable energy technology grants. Click HERE for the article from the Miami Herald
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is worried that her state will will lose out on wind turbine manufacturing plants and other job-creating ventures if they don't adopt renewable energy portfolio standards. Click HERE for the article from The Detroit News.
Immigration, Still on the Front Burner
The presidential candidates may not want to talk about it, but immigration is still on the front burner for many state legislatures.
The Michigan House is considering a package of bills, dubbed the 'Hire Michigan First' plan, that would require state construction contractors to hire only employees living in Michigan and cancel state contracts with firms that hire undocumented workers. Click HERE to read the article from The Detroit News.
In Kansas, business owners are calling for more H-2B visas to help ease labor shortages with legal workers. Immigration has been a hot-button issue in Kansas since the state legislature introduced 4 major pieces bills targeting undocumented immigrants. According to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, 40,000-70,000 illegal immigrants live in Kansas, making up roughly 2% of the population. Click HERE for the visa story and information about the immigration legislation from The Wichita Eagle.
Georgia's state legislature recently rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to declare English as Georgia official language. Opponents of the hotly contested issue were concerned about unintended consequences. Click HERE to read the article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hometown Democracy Amendment Fails in Florida
Back in November the Policy Clearinghouse alerted you about a major constitutional amendment proposal in Florida called Hometown Democracy. The Hometown Democracy amendment would have divested land use decision making from elected officials and planning commissions by making citizens vote on potentially hundreds of zoning decisions every year. (Check out the Land Use page on the left to read the full article)
After coming up over 50,000 petition signatures short of the 611,009 necessary by Feb. 1, the Hometown Democracy amendment will not be on the ballot this November.
This is a major victory for the Florida Chamber and dozens of other chambers in the sunshine state that opposed the amendment. Click HERE to read an article about the chamber's victory in opposing the Hometown Democracy amendment.
Health Care Issue Jam follow up: a message from Brian Klepper
Thanks to the attendees, both for the keen interest in the topic and the rollicking discussion.
Its clear that you're all dealing with difficult health care regional policy issues. Among the most alarming is that small business is getting priced out of the coverage market and, for those who are still in the game, being required to pay more for coverage - due to mandates and premium taxes - than mid-sized and large businesses that can self-insure.
Even so, I'd urge you to keep your eye on the ball. The biggest costs in health care aren't due to mandates, premium taxes or medical malpractice, but from excess at every level of the system. That excess is promoted by a fee-for-service reimbursement system that rewards doctors and hospitals for providing more, rather than the right, care, and by a lack of pricing/performance transparency that makes it difficult to see who's doing a good job and who isn't, what works and what doesn't, who needs care. We often can't identify opportunities, or problems, even when they're dangerous.
There were two take-aways I hoped you got from the discussion yesterday. One is that real, meaningful policy change is still very unlikely. Even though health care economists generally agree that between 1/3 and 1/2 of health care cost is unnecessary or inappropriate, health care special interests are the nation's biggest and richest industry - one dollar in seven - and they have a firm grip on Congress and the legislatures. They're unlikely to agree to reforms, even reasonable ones, that undermine their revenues and profitability.
Second, the changes that ARE possible are most likely to come through the marketplace. The single thing that Chamber members can do to have the most impact is to leverage your strength to make the health care marketplace more transparent. Transparency is the ONLY approach that can help make health care behave like a market. Encourage your larger members to pool and mine their claims data to identify the problems and opportunities, and then share that information with the smaller employers.
Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss this or other health care issues.
For more information and insight about health care in America, check out these recent columns:
Tax Policy News Roundup
Find out what's happening around the nation and stay ahead of the curve in your own community. Here are some interesting tax and budget related news articles pulled from papers across the country.
- In Florida, voters decide to cut property taxes by way of constitutional amendment. Opponents of the amendment, projected to cut over $9 billion during the next 5 years, are concerned about funding for vital public services such as firefighting and education. Click HERE for the article from the Miami Herald.
- Georgia's governor, Sonny Perdue, supports a tax break on premiums paid for high deductible health insurance plans. The tax break is intended to help more Georgian's afford health insurance, but opponents say the market-based solution will not help most low to middle income families access health insurance. Click HERE for the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Ohio faces major budget shortfall with blame attributed to higher Medicaid costs and lower than expected corporate franchise tax revenue . Click HERE for the article from Cleveland's The Plain Dealer.
- County commissioners in Orange County, North Carolina are considering a 0.4 percent land transfer tax or a quarter-cent sales tax increase to generate additional revenue for education. Land transfer tax measures have failed in 16 other counties in North Carolina, and face strong opposition from Realtors and home builders. The land transfer tax is expected to generate $4 million annually as opposed to $3 million from the sales tax increase. Click HERE for the article from the Raleigh News and Observer.
Health Care Issue Jam on February 5th
The second installment of ACCE's Issue Jam DIALogue teleseminar series will happen at 1pm eastern on Tuesday, February 5th. The topic is health care and we are featuring insight and commentary from two top health care policy experts, Matthew Holt and Brian Klepper.
I have yet to meet a chamber that isn't talking about health care costs and insurance coverage, so I'm sure there will be plenty of open discussion. Be ready to share your thoughts and learn from other chamber leaders on this important call.
Click the link for more information and to register for the Health Care Issue Jam DIALogue teleseminar.
In preparation for the call, check out this interesting blog post, On Practical Reforms, from Brian Klepper.
Driver's Licences in Maryland
If you read the last Policy Clearinghouse Update newsletter then you probably recall uproar caused by Governor Elliot Spitzer's plan to offer a driver's license to New York's undocumented immigrants. While that effort failed to gain traction, Governor Martin O'Malley is drafting a similar proposal for Maryland.
According to a Washington Post article on Sunday, January 13, Maryland is currently one of eight states that allow state residents to get a license without proof of legal citizenship. Governor O'Malley's proposal would institute a two-tier license system to comply with the federal government's Real ID program and still offer illegal immigrants documented driving credentials.
Opposition to the proposal comes from both sides. Immigrant advocates fear that a different license would be like a scarlet letter, while others oppose paying to implement a program that benefits illegal immigrants.
Click here to read the entire Washington Post article.
Employer Crackdowns on the way for Indiana?
According to an article in the Indianapolis Star on January 5th, the Indiana state legislature is considering a bill that would sanction employers who hire illegal immigrants. If adopted, the new law would be similar to legislation passed in Arizona during 2007.
If you were on the line for ACCE's Immigration Issue Jam with Peter Creitcos on December 4th, you are aware of the potential impact the Arizona law may have on business. Business organizations in Indiana, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, have already voiced concerned about the proposal in their state.
To read the full article from the Indianapolis Star click HERE.
Information on the Arizona immigration bill can be found on other postings on this blog.
Arizona Immigration Update
Last month we featured the new Arizona law sanctioning employers who hire illegal immigrants. For everyone following this issue, here are links to two current stories about the potential impact.
- For an AP article discussing the burgeoning exodus of immigrants from Arizona click HERE.
- To read a Reuters piece addressing the potential impact of the law on Arizona businesses click HERE.