Author Archives: afscme

Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group Tools

Source: Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, 2013

Here are some of the tools we’ve designed to help mine through, visualize or present data sets.

Lobbyist Registration Tracker: The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires lobbyists and lobbying firms to register with the House and the Senate within 45 days of being hired by a client. The registrations list the issue areas that will be covered by the lobbying. This database allows users to see those registrations as they’re submitted, to browse by issue, registrant and client, and to see the trends in issues and registrations over time. The database is updated weekly based on Senate records and includes all registrations starting in 2009.
Post Employment Tracker: The Post Employment Tracker shows when covered congressional officials—former members and high-ranking staffers—can legally begin to lobby their old colleagues, though note that not everyone listed has become a lobbyist.
Follow the Unlimited Money: Track the latest activities of outside groups influencing federal elections. Many of these organizations can accept unlimited donations from any source — including labor unions, corporations and individuals.
House of Representatives Disbursements: How US Representatives spend taxpayer money on staff, office supplies, travel and other expenses incurred in the course of doing business.

Big Businesses Offer Revolving Door Rewards

Source: Michael Smallberg, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), March 21, 2013

During former Citigroup executive Jack Lew’s recent confirmation as Treasury Secretary, some people were surprised and troubled to learn that the big bank had promised him special financial awards if he left to take a job in the government. His employment contract was seen as rewarding him for passing through the revolving door and potentially easing a friend of the bank into a position of power. But a review by the Project On Government Oversight shows that Lew’s deal with Citi was no anomaly. Other major corporations also make it financially advantageous for executives to take government jobs, according to regulatory filings reviewed by POGO. Through their compensation policies, companies may be fueling the revolving door and making it easier for their alumni to gain influence over public policy….

Here’s what you can get when you leave these Wall Street firms from a government job: Morgan Stanley, Blackstone Group, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, MF Global, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust

Social Insurance: A Critical Base for Financing Long-Term Services and Supports

Source: Lee Goldberg and G. Lawrence Atkins, SCAN Foundation, March 2013

This series summarizes current issues in financing long-term care and outlines policy options for increasing affordable access to services….

…The challenge is to address the needs of the large group in the middle of the income distribution that faces a significant gap between the resources required to maintain their quality of life and what they can actually afford at the time they need care. … The issue with LTSS is not whether there should be government funding. In 2010, the federal government and the states spent more than $200 billion on LTSS, primarily through Medicaid. The state and federal partnership is a critical lifeline for millions of low-income people who cannot afford the LTSS they need, but it is only available after an individual becomes impoverished. Absent is a universally available insurance-based approach that would spread the financial risk of developing and living with a chronic illness or disability. Reform of our LTSS system may be on the horizon simply because the status quo will be increasingly difficult for governments to manage, especially state governments….
See also:
Shaping Affordable Pathways for Aging with Dignity: Current Issues and Potential Solutions for Addressing America’s Long-Term Care Financing Crisis
Overview of Current Long-Term Care Financing Options
Size of the Employer and Self-Employed Markets Without Access to Long-Term Care Coverage Options
Medicaid Spend Down: Implications for Long-Term Services and Supports and Aging Policy
RTI International: Medicaid Spend Down: New Estimates and Implications for Long-Term Services and Supports Financing Reform
Avalere: Insuring Americans for Long-Term Services and Supports: Challenges and Limitations of Voluntary Insurance
Why Long-Term Care for U.S. Seniors is Headed for ‘Crisis’
Source: Betty Ann Bowser, PBS Newshour, March 20, 2013

Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You

Source: Lois Beckett, ProPublica, March 7, 2013

Data companies are scooping up enormous amounts of information about almost every American. They sell information about whether you’re pregnant or divorced or trying to lose weight, about how rich you are and what kinds of cars you have.

Regulators and some in Congress have been taking a closer look at these so-called data brokers — and are beginning to push the companies to give consumers more information and control over what happens to their data.

But many people still don’t even know that data brokers exist.

Here’s a look at what we know about the consumer data industry.
Watched: A Wall Street Journal Privacy Report

States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class

Source: Karla Walter, Tom Hucker, and David Madland, with Nick Bunker and David Sanchez, Center for American Progress, March 2013

From the summary:
As our country inches its way out of the Great Recession and looks toward the future, it is clear that we need a new framework to guide our economic growth. The old trickle-down economic model of the past several decades is failing nearly everyone, save those at the very top. Incomes have been stagnating, inequality has deepened, and it has become harder to gain a foothold in the middle class. …

… Good government at every level—local, state, and federal—can play a critical role in rebuilding the American middle class and getting the country back on track to broadly shared prosperity. Our full report, “States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class,” focuses on what states can do. State governments have tremendous power and responsibility in the American political system. Adoption of the proposals in this report will help states fulfill their obligation to significantly improve the lives of residents.

The report presents policies that states can adopt to help those who are currently in or near the middle class, as well as those who are struggling to join the middle class—helping restore the idea that if you work hard, you can achieve the good life, exemplified by a secure paycheck that grows year after year, a nice home in a safe neighborhood with decent schools, retirement savings, health care, some leisure time to spend with friends and family, and the ability to send your kids to college and pass along to them a bigger share of the American Dream. …

Inflation and the Real Minimum Wage: A Fact Sheet

Source: Craig K. Elwell, Linda Levine, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42973, February 26, 2013

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established the hourly minimum wage rate at 25 cents for covered workers. Since then, it has been raised 22 separate times, in part to keep up with rising prices. Most recently, in July 2009, it was increased to $7.25 an hour. Because there have been some extended periods between these adjustments while inflation generally has increased, the real value (purchasing power) of the minimum wage has decreased substantially over time…

The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues

Source: Thomas H. Neale, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42979, February 28, 2013

The year 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the expiration of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment’s extended ratification deadline. Since that time, new analyses have emerged that bear on the question of whether the amendment proposed in 1972 remains constitutionally viable. This report examines the legislative history of an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and both identifies and provides an analysis of contemporary factors that may bear on its present and future viability. …

The Financial Benefit to Hospitals from State Expansion of Medicaid

Source: Stan Dorn, Matthew Buettgens, John Holahan, and Caitlin Carroll, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, March 2013

From the summary:
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals are likely to gain $2.59 in revenue from newly enrolled Medicaid beneficiaries for every dollar they lose from private health insurance, according to research conducted by the Urban Institute.

Beginning in January 2014, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion extends public coverage—which is reimbursed at a lower rate than private insurance—to adults making below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This expansion increases hospitals’ public insurance revenue by creating a larger Medicaid coverage pool. At the same time, it will mean some people currently paying for private coverage will drop it and enroll in Medicaid, resulting in lower payments when they receive hospital care. Whether or not hospitals will ultimately fare better or worse financially has long been debated.

This report looks at whether hospitals stand to gain more revenue under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion compared with if no states expand Medicaid eligibility.
One Pager: The Financial Benefit to Hospitals from State Expansion of Medicaid

School Nurse Shortage Update

Source: Jolynn Tumolo, Advance, March 20, 2013

The majority of school districts in the U.S. fail to meet recommended nurse-to-student ratios despite growing number of children needing complex care. …

…A report in the Twin Falls Times-News revealed that the number of full-time school nurse positions in Idaho from the years 2000-2008 grew from 93 to 121, with the most recent data suggesting somewhere around 136 full- and part-time positions.

But despite the increase, the state rates among the worst on the NASN student-to-school nurse ratio list. With a ratio of 1,881-to-1, it ranks 41st and falls far short of the recommended one nurse to every 750 well students recommended by NASN and Healthy People 2010. The article mentioned two part-time nurses at one school district who juggle the responsibility for 13 schools.

Meanwhile, an article on Northeast Florida’s questioned the absence of nurses in many schools there. In Jacksonville, nurses at the Duval County Public School system each rotate among eight or nine assigned schools. When a nurse is not on-site, children receive care from administrative staff who have been trained by school nurses….

…When questioned about a lack of school nurses, most districts blame lack of funding, which differs from state to state and could explain ratios that range drastically from first-place Vermont’s 1-to-396 to worst-case Michigan’s 1-to-4,411. …

FMLA and Adult Children: New DOL Interpretation

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 30 no. 4, February 25, 2013
(subscription required)

You have an employee with a 30-year-old who daughter just gave birth to her first child. The daughter is struggling with postpartum depression and your employee wants to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to be with her. It’s not a good time for you to be shorthanded. Do you really need to grant permission for your employee to take care of her adult daughter? A new “Administrator’s Interpretation” released by the U.s. Department of Labor (DOL) on January 14th aims to make the answer clearer to employers. …The expanded definition of disability under the ADAAA means more employees will qualify for FMLA leave to care for adult children… In cases where employers believe employees don’t qualify, employers need to be ready to defend their decisions…