Workers’ Rites: What happens when an employee’s freedom of religion crosses paths with a company’s interests?

Source: Vadim Liberman, Conference Board Review Magazine, September/October 2007

From the press release:
What happens when an employee’s freedom of religion crosses paths with a company’s interests? A recent article in The Conference Board Review looks to answer this question. In “Workers’ Rites,” TCB Review explores how expression of religion in the workplace often challenges businesses to find appropriate solutions to employees’ requests.

“Obviously, you can’t fire someone just because her faith differs from yours,” writes associate editor Vadim Liberman. “But what happens when you face situations that aren’t so black and white-when the beliefs and practices of customers and co-workers come into play, not to mention the intricacies of employment law?” As religion increasingly collides with corporate policies and practices, companies are asking what is and isn’t permissible behavior — for workers and for themselves.

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 2,541 claims of religious discrimination in the workplace — almost 50 percent more than a decade ago. And according to the New York-based Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, 66 percent of employees report “evidence of religious bias at work.”

Looking at the each state’s pay for its governor and coaches

Source: Kansas City Star, August 26, 2007
(subscription required)

Alaska is the only state that pays its governor more money than its highest-paid coach. Of course, Alaska doesn’t have college football.

In most states, the top-ranking official is paid significantly less. Here is a list of each state’s governor and his or her salary (GOV), the highest-paid coach from a state-funded school (HPC) and the highest-paid football coach (HPFC), if he’s not his state’s highest-paid coach overall.

Health Insurance Premiums Rise 6.1 Percent In 2007, Less Rapidly than in Recent Years but Still Faster than Wages and Inflation

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Health Research and Educational Trust, 2007

From the abstract:
Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 6.1 percent in 2007, less than the 7.7 percent increase reported last year but still higher than the increase in workers’ wages or the overall inflation rate, according to the 2007 Employer Health Benefits Survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust. Premiums are up 78% over the last six years, with the average family premium now reaching $12,106. The study also finds modest enrollment in consumer-driven health plans among workers.

See also:
Press release
Summary of findings
Chart pack

The Changing Landscape of Pensions in the United States

Source: James Poterba, Steven Venti, David A. Wise, NBER Working Paper No. 13381, September 2007
(subscription required)

The pension landscape in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Saving through personal retirement accounts has become the principal form of retirement saving. We document the transition from a defined benefit system to a personal account system and show the effect it has had on wealth at retirement. We summarize results from other research we have done to project the growth of retirement assets over the next three decades. Our projections suggest that the advent of personal account saving will increase wealth at retirement for future retirees across the lifetime earnings spectrum.

Health Insurance and Taxes: Can Changing the Tax Treatment of Health Insurance Fix Our Health Care System?

Source: Paul Fronstin and Dallas Salisbury, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Issue Brief no. 309, September 2007

From the press release:
Proposals to change the tax treatment of health insurance could mean the end of employment-based coverage as it now exists in the United States, according to a study released today by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Currently, the vast majority of U.S. residents with health insurance receive coverage through an employer. The most recent data show that about 62 percent of workers and their dependents (161.7 million individuals under age 65) had some form of employment-based health benefits, while about 7 percent (17.7 million) bought insurance directly from an insurer, and 18 percent (46.5 million) were uninsured.

Of the various options to change the way health benefits are taxed, the EBRI report identifies the proposed “tax cap” on the health insurance exclusion that workers currently receive as most likely to cause the end of employment-based health benefits. This change would be likely to prompt younger and healthier workers to drop out of the employment-based system, causing adverse selection in the remaining pool of older and less healthy workers, thereby resulting in a so-called “death spiral” that makes employment-based group health insurance unsustainable.

Highway Bridges in the United States–an Overview

Source: Jeffery Memmott, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Special Report, SR-003, September 2007

Bridges are an integral part of the U.S. highway network, providing links across natural barriers, passage over railroads and highways, and freeway connections. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) maintains a database of our nation’s highway bridges–the National Bridge Inventory (NBI)–with detailed information on all public road bridges greater than 20 feet. This special report gives a brief synopsis of that inventory, including bridge condition and the resources spent for maintenance and upgrades.

New survey shows churches count health care as a priority ministry

Source: National Council of Churches USA (NCC), 2007

From the press release:
A groundbreaking survey of more than 6,000 American congregations reveals that churches spend a significant amount of time, energy and money in the ministries of health care.

The Congregational Health Ministry Survey, conducted by the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that a majority of churches are ministering to their communities by providing health care ministries. As the number of uninsured Americans reaches 47 million people, congregations are supplying health education and direct health care services. Many are advocating on behalf of public policy issues related to health care.

According to the survey, about 70 percent of responding churches provide direct health services, with 65 percent offering health education programs within their community. The survey defines direct services as provision of medical care to individuals by trained health care professionals.

The Politics of Economic Insecurity

Source: Elisabeth Jacobs, Brookings Institution, Issues in Governance Studies, no. 10, September 2007

Recent media reports suggest a rising tide of economic populism among presidential candidates and voters. In newspapers’ business sections, personal finance columnists offer advice for avoiding mortgage foreclosure, managing credit card debt and navigating a job search. On the political pages, economic rhetoric aimed at winning over anxious middle-class families forms the core of the presidential campaign messages from many candidates. This paper shows, through data and analysis, that the populist message is rooted in an empirical reality.

Economic insecurity is perhaps best understood as the intersection between “perceived” and “actual” downside risk, which carry nearly equal importance in politics. Americans’ assessments of their personal financial well-being play at least some part in shaping their candidate preferences. And the empirical reality reflected by household financial data should play a critical role for candidates’ and elected officials’ framing of policy options, particularly when faced with the challenge of efficiently targeting scarce public resources. Of course, the relationship between perceived and actual risk is an intimate one, as perceptions are often informed by, and inform, reality.

What Happened to Health Insurance Coverage of Children and Adults in 2006?

Source: John Holahan and Allison Cook, Urban Institute, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Issue Brief, Publication Number: 7694, September 2007

On August 28, 2007, the Census Bureau reported that the number of nonelderly uninsured had increased by 2.1 million in 2006. Of the 2.1 million non-elderly uninsured, 1.4 million were adults and 710,000 were children (age 18 and under). In this paper we show that children experienced declines in employer-sponsored coverage at all income levels. The largest growth in uninsured children (48%) occurred among those in middle-income families (between 200 and 399% of poverty) because there was no increase in Medicaid and SCHIP to offset the decline in employer sponsored coverage.