Spending by Employers on Health Insurance: A Data Brief

Source: Congressional Research Service

To attract and maintain a skilled workforce, many businesses provide health insurance and other benefits for their employees. As the cost of health insurance rises, employers face a growing challenge paying for benefits while managing labor costs to succeed in a competitive market. All types of businesses report problems, including both small businesses and firms with thousands of employees and retirees. Despite concerns about the cost of benefits, small and large employers together provide health coverage for most Americans, about 60% of the population in 2006.1 But as the amount that employers pay for health insurance has been increasing — both absolutely and as a share of labor costs — the percent of the population covered has been decreasing.

To describe employer contributions for health insurance, this report presents data from two employer surveys. The first, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, provides information on premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance. The second, from the Department of Labor, provides information on employer costs for employee compensation, including costs for wages and salaries, health insurance, and other benefits.

State IT Workforce: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Source: National Association of State Chief Information Officers

The predicted shortage in the state government IT workforce has been discussed and debated for a decade. A product of NASCIO’s Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) Public Private Partnership Working Group, State IT Workforce: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? (PDF; 993 KB) is a research survey that was designed to assess the current and future landscape of the state IT workforce. Covering such topics as anticipated state IT workforce retirements, employee recruitment and retention, and options for future state IT staffing and service structures, this online survey garnered 46 state responses–among the highest response rates of any NASCIO survey. The results of this survey provide states with a broad perspective on state IT workforce issues as a whole, and also allow CIOs to further assess the IT employment outlook within their respective states.

IRS Announces 2008 Standard Mileage Rates; Rate for Business Miles Set at 50.5 Cents per Mile

Source: Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2008 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (including vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
• 50.5 cents per mile for business miles driven;
• 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes; and
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The new rate for business miles compares to a rate of 48.5 cents per mile for 2007. The new rate for medical and moving purposes compares to 20 cents in 2007. The rate for miles driven in service of charitable organizations has remained the same.

Revenue Procedure 2007-70 (PDF; 57 KB)

Presidential Politics and the Resurgence of Health Care Reform

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

The 2008 presidential election will not resolve the debate over health care reform, but the results will go a long way toward determining the future of U.S. health policy. It would be a mistake, however, to read the candidates’ plans too literally. A plan offered during the primaries usually looks different in key respects from the plan that a newly elected president takes to Congress, to say nothing of any legislation that Congress actually passes. Still, it is clear that there is a wide partisan gap on health care reform that reflects ideological divisions over the roles that government and market forces should play in the health care system. And the further U.S. health policy moves from incrementalism, the more that partisan divide is likely to be exposed.

The Fate of SCHIP — Surrogate Marker for Health Care Ideology?

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

How prominently SCHIP and the health care needs of uninsured children will figure in election-year debates is anybody’s guess, but one thing is certain: However the SCHIP saga ends, it will not lay to rest the larger issue of what level of public support uninsured people deserve as our employer-based insurance system continues to erode.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting: Meta-Analysis of Psychological Mediators and Individual Consequences

Source: Journal of Applied Psychology

From press release (APA):

Telecommuting is a win-win for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover. These were among the conclusions of psychologists who examined 20 years of research on flexible work arrangements.

The findings, based on a meta-analysis of 46 studies of telecommuting involving 12,833 employees, are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“Our results show that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work,” said lead author Ravi S. Gajendran. “Autonomy is a major factor in worker satisfaction and this rings true in our analysis. We found that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors.”

An estimated 45 million Americans telecommuted in 2006, up from 41 million in 2003, according to the magazine WorldatWork. The researchers defined telecommuting as “an alternative work arrangement in which employees perform tasks elsewhere that are normally done in a primary or central workplace, for at least some portion of their work schedule, using electronic media to interact with others inside and outside the organization.”

Full study (PDF; 153 KB)

Prescription Drugs and Medicare Part D: A Report on Access, Satisfaction, and Cost

Source: AARP Policy & Research

Access, satisfaction, and cost issues related to prescription drugs in general and the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit specifically were examined in this October 2007 telephone survey of 400 adults aged 50-64 not yet eligible for Medicare and 400 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older with the drug benefit. Results suggest that people aged 50 and older are generally satisfied with their access to brand name and generic prescription drugs and are willing to talk to their physicians and other health professionals about their prescription drug options. Older adults who have Medicare Part D drug coverage report high levels of satisfaction with the plan and their premiums, with many stating that prescription drugs are more affordable now than they were prior to their enrollment.

Full Report (PDF; 462 KB)

Commission of Nation’s Leading Health Care Experts Issues Reform Recommendations for Next President

Source: Commonwealth Fund

Ensuring that everyone in the United States has health insurance is essential, but it is not enough to drive the kind of reform the health system needs, according to a new report released today by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System.

Guaranteeing affordable health insurance for all, changing the way doctors and other health care providers are paid, better organizing and coordinating care delivery, investing in implementing an electronic information system in a reasonable period of time (aiming for five years), and establishing national goals and doing what it takes to reach them through strong national leadership should all be on the next President’s health care agenda, says the report. Members of the commission are a diverse group of leading health policy experts from government, private industry, health care delivery organizations, academia, and professional associations.

Full Report (PDF; 187 KB)

Report: Open Government Lags Far Behind Technology; States Making Limited Progress in Using the Web to Enhance the Public’s Right to Know

Source: Good Jobs First

State governments are improving their transparency practices, but many are still not taking full advantage of the Internet to inform the public. Online disclosure of corporate tax breaks and other economic development subsidies lags far behind reporting on procurement contracts and lobbying activities. These are the main findings of a report entitled The State of State Disclosure released today by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

“The Internet makes possible an unprecedented level of government transparency and public participation.” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy, “But many states have been slow to adopt vigorous online disclosure, especially with respect to economic development subsidies. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia still provide no systematic online subsidy disclosure.”

The Good Jobs First study evaluates the quantity and quality of state government online disclosure in three categories: economic development subsidies, state procurement contracts and lobbying activities at the state level. It rates each state’s Web sites in the three areas on criteria such as ease of searching especially for company-specific data), level of detail, scope of coverage and currency of data. Using these criteria, it assigns a score (0 to 100 percent) to the states’ performances in each of the three areas and overall, and translates the percentages into school-style letter grades (A through F).

Executive Summary (PDF; 63 KB)
Full Report (PDF; 496 KB)
State Disclosure page

New Report Finds Nearly One Quarter of All Children in Twelve States Don’t Have Consistent Access to Meals

Source: America’s Second Harvest

In the United States, one out of six children in small towns and big cities lives in a food insecure household, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 12 million children in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.

That’s enough children to fill every seat in all of the professional league football, baseball, basketball and hockey stadiums and every Division One NCAA basketball stadium across the country at the same time. Now, for the first time, the extent of child hunger as reported by the USDA has been examined by state in a new study released today by America’s Second Harvest–The Nation’s Food Bank Network and sponsored by ConAgra Foods Foundation. In 12 states – nearly one quarter of the country – more than 20 percent of the children live in households without consistent access to food.

Full Report (PDF; 260 KB)
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