Financial Burden of Health Care, 2001-2004

Source: Health Affairs (Commonwealth Fund)

Rising health care costs, combined with slowed economic growth, have created greater financial burdens for U.S. families in recent years–and raised the likelihood that they will face problems paying bills, accumulate medical debt, and even forgo needed medical care. In a Commonwealth Fund-supported study examining families’ financial burdens and out-of-pocket spending between 2001 and 2004, researchers found that by 2004, more than 45 million Americans lived in families with high financial burdens–spending more than 10 percent of their after-tax income on health care. That represents an increase of nearly 6 million people over 2001.

Full Report

Census Bureau Releases Poverty Estimates for States, Counties and School Districts

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau today released 2005 poverty estimates for each of the nation’s almost 14,000 Title I-eligible school districts. The estimates are produced in order for the Department of Education to implement provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The school district data, part of the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, are contained in data tables showing the number of poor children ages 5 to 17 in families.

The tables also contain 2005 state- and county-level estimates of median household income and the total number of poor children younger than 18, related children between 5 and 17 in families; and for states, through age 4. Included as well are estimates of the total number of people of all ages in poverty in states and counties. These estimates are the only source of income and poverty data for counties and poverty statistics for school districts with populations of less than 65,000.

The estimate tabulations, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, are one of the criteria used to allocate federal funds to local jurisdictions. The Census Bureau has, for the first time, produced the estimates by using results from its American Community Survey (ACS). ACS data were combined with aggregate data from federal tax information, administrative records on food stamp program participation, Census 2000 statistics and annual population estimates.

Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE)

Insurers Maintain Record Profits in 2007 by Overpricing Policies and Underpaying Claims

Source: Consumer Federation of America

From press release:
State and national consumer organizations joined the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) today to release a new study concluding that the property/casualty insurance industry continued in 2007 to systematically overcharge consumers and reduce the value of home and automobile insurance policies, leading to profits, reserves, and surplus that are at or near record levels. The study estimates that insurer overcharges over the last four years amount to an average of $870 per household.

The report provides extensive data demonstrating that property/casualty insurance companies are paying out lower claims in relationship to the premiums they charge consumers than at any time in decades. The pure loss ratio, the actual amount of each premium dollar insurers pay back to policyholders in benefits, was only 54.6 cents in 2007. Over the past 20 years, the amount paid back as benefits has dramatically declined from over 70 cents per premium dollar, indicating a huge loss in the value of insurance to consumers.

Full Report (PDF; 316 KB)

Preparing and Protecting Security Personnel in Emergencies

Source: Occupational Health and Safety Administration

Security personnel (i.e., guards) potentially risk occupational exposures to hazardous substances including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) materials during emergencies. Emergencies involving the release of hazardous chemicals at industrial facilities, including chemical manufacturers and industrial facilities utilizing hazardous substances, are the most likely and predictable incidents that may involve security personnel. Security personnel, however, work at a variety of locations with the potential for emergency incidents. Although general chemical release emergencies may be the most likely, incidents resulting from natural disasters or involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are also of concern to both private and public sector employers and the security personnel they employ. Security personnel working at companies for the protection of the facilities, materials, and products, as well as those employed by government agencies, are often called upon to provide support during hazardous substance emergencies and the emergency planning in preparation for such incidents is key to successful implementation of emergency response operations.

This document specifically addresses emergencies involving hazardous substance releases and provides guidance for employers, and their security personnel, who may be involved in the emergency response. It does not address other safety and health hazards (e.g., workplace violence) that security personnel may be exposed to while performing their routine duties.

Full Report (PDF; 662 KB)

America’s Infrastructure: Ramping Up or Crashing Down

Source: The Brookings Institution

Infrastructure has a dramatic effect on the economic competitiveness of our nation, the health of our environment and our quality of life. And infrastructure–freight ports, airports, bridges, roads, rail and transit networks, water and sewer systems, web of channel communications–is the connective tissue of our nation. Smart policies and investments can enhance and further national prosperity and the health and vitality of metropolitan areas, where the bulk of our population lives and jobs are located.

A long-term infrastructure plan can foster productive growth in our economy, sustainable growth that furthers energy independence and real solutions to climate change and inclusive growth so that low and moderate-income families have access to opportunity.

With these critical issues in mind, the third Bernard L. Schwartz Forum on Competitiveness explored the challenges and opportunities for new infrastructure investment. The October 10, 2007 event followed in the wake of two previous forums that focused on American education, innovation, and research and development (April 2006) and America’s position in the world in science and technology (October 2006).

In his keynote address, Thomas Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, emphasized that better investments in infrastructure would make us safer; more secure and lead to happier and safer constituents. In sum, infrastructure investments make for good policy that both Republicans and Democrats should support.

Full Document (PDF; 80 KB)

Where Workers Go, Do Jobs Follow?

Source: The Brookings Institution

Using data from the 1990 and 2000 Census of Population, an analysis of workers and jobs in the central cities and lower- and higher-income suburbs of the largest 150 metropolitan areas indicates that:
• Roughly 65 percent of all residents and nearly 60 percent of all jobs are now located in the suburbs, with over a third of each in the higher-income suburbs. More individuals now live in the higher-income suburbs than in the central cities, and nearly as many jobs are in the higher-income suburbs as well.
• Population grew strongly during the 1990s in the lower-income suburbs, while job growth was particularly strong in the higher-income suburbs. Residential populations grew by 36 percent in lower-income suburbs, compared to just 24 percent in the central cities and 16 percent in the higher-income suburbs; while employment growth was more rapid (at 26 percent) in the higher-income suburbs, than in the central cities and lower-income suburbs (18 percent each).
• Population growth in the lower-income suburbs for blacks and Latinos has been especially dramatic, while their employment growth in these areas lags behind. Population growth in the lower-income suburbs is also especially pronounced for less-educated groups. But job growth lags behind population growth in the lower-income suburbs and exceeds it in the higher-income suburbs for all educational groups.
• Most groups of residents in the lower-income suburbs must now commute out for work, especially to the higher-income suburbs. Major changes in commute patterns over the 1990s were observed among Latinos (and, to a lesser extent, high school dropouts), with the sharpest increases in commutes towards the higher-income suburbs occurring among members of these groups who live in the central cities and lower-income suburbs.
• The accessibility of residents of lower-income suburbs to jobs in higher-income areas appears to vary greatly across metropolitan areas. Lower-income suburbs are largely contiguous to higher-income suburbs in some metropolitan areas (such as Baltimore and Boston) while they are mostly concentrated on different sides of the central cities in other areas (such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver).

Full Document (PDF; 860 KB)

State Children’s Health Insurance Program: Program Structure, Enrollment and Expenditure Experiences, and Outreach Approaches for States That Cover Adults

Source: U.S. Governmental Accounting Office

In 2006 about 4.5 million individuals were enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Congress created SCHIP with the goal of significantly reducing the number of low-income uninsured children. Under certain circumstances, states may also cover adults, and in June 2006 about 349,000 adults were enrolled. Each state receives an annual allotment of federal funds, available as a federal match based on the state’s expenditures. Generally, states have 3 years to use each fiscal year’s allotment, after which unspent federal funds may be redistributed. Congress initially authorized SCHIP for 10 years, from 1998 through 2007, and provided approximately $40 billion for that period.

GAO examined (1) how 10 states that cover adults–parents, childless adults, or both–in SCHIP structured their programs; (2) these states’ enrollment and expenditure experiences for adults, which GAO considered in the context of those for all other SCHIP populations (children and pregnant women); and (3) the approaches these states adopted to attract all eligible individuals. To accomplish this, GAO reviewed 10 states that covered adults in SCHIP as of 2007. GAO interviewed officials in the 10 states; reviewed states’ 2006 annual reports and information available on states’ Web sites; and analyzed enrollment and expenditure data obtained primarily from the 10 states, as well as from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and published sources.

Full-text

Joint Economic Committee Annual Report on the State of the Economy and State Economic Snapshots

Source: Joint Economic Committee

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) and Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Vice Chair of the JEC, today released the Committee’s annual report. The President says his policies are working to make the economy strong and that all Americans are benefiting, but the facts show an economic record that has left the vast majority of American families behind. The JEC report concludes that the country needs a change in direction to get our economy back on the right track and to ensure that all American families share in our nation’s growing prosperity.

Highlights: The main indicator of the overall health of the U.S. economy, GDP growth, has been anemic during this economic recovery. Since the last economic peak in the first quarter of 2001, the economy has expanded at an annual rate of only 2.6 percent, about a third less than the 3.7 percent average growth rate of the three prior economic cycles of similar length.

The 2007 Joint Economic Report – Report of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States on the 2007 Economic Report of the President Together with Minority Views. Report 110-251, December 2007 (234 pages, PDF)

DHS releases REAL ID grant guidance and application kits

Source: Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security released grant guidance and application kits for two grant programs totaling more than $35 million to help states prepare to implement REAL ID provisions that require a standard format for state-issued driver’s licenses. The REAL ID Demonstration Grant Program will provide $31.3 million in grants to the states to check motor vehicle records in other states to ensure drivers don’t have multiple licenses, and to verify immigration status against federal records. It will help standardize methods by which states may seamlessly verify an applicant’s information with another state and deploy verification capabilities that can be used by all states, while protecting personal identification information.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 REAL ID Vital Events Verification State Project Grant Verification

EEOC and Retiree Health Benefits

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

From the press release:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)…announced the publication of a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The regulation, which safeguards retiree health benefits, was published in the December 26, 2007 Federal Register.

Final Rule: Age Discrimination in Employment Act; Retiree Health Benefits, Federal Register Notice, December 26, 2007

Questions & Answers about the EEOC’s Retiree Health Rule