Health Care Costs: A Primer

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Publication number 7670, 8/8/2007

This primer on health care costs examines the rapid growth in the nation’s health care costs since 1970, when the average growth in health spending exceeded the growth of the economy as a whole by an average of 2.5 percentage points. It also examines the impact of health care costs on families, with insurance premiums rising 87% between 2000 and 2006, more than four times the growth in wages.

The primer describes the types and sources of health care spending and the demographic factors associated with higher or lower levels of spending. It also discusses other factors that influence health care spending growth, including the use of new medical technology, population changes, and changes in disease prevalence.

Future of Medicare: Report on Expert Views

Source: Keith D. Lind and Jackson T. Williams, AARP Policy & Research, #2007-12, May 2007

From press release:
Marking the 42nd anniversary of the Medicare program Monday, July 30th, AARP released new research that examines the future of Medicare through the eyes of 20 national health policy experts. “The Future of Medicare: Report on Expert Views” found no single answer to preserve Medicare for future generations, but those interviewed agreed there are several areas where Medicare can make improvements to help the program.

Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Source: M.V. Lee Badgett, Holning Lau, Brad Sears, Deborah Ho, The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, June 2007

This report reviews more than 50 studies over the last decade and demonstrates a disturbing and consistent pattern: sexual orientation-based and gender identity discrimination is a common occurrence in many workplaces across the country. Surveys of GLBT individuals, studies of the sexual orientation earnings gap, and controlled experiments all provide evidence of discriminatory treatment.

The Importance of the EITC to Urban Economies

Source: Alan Berube, The Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution, July 13, 2007

Though most do not recognize it as an “urban” program, the Earned Income Tax Credit provides significant benefits to families in cities and suburbs, and stimulates local economic activity. In this presentation to Congressional staff organized by Living Cities, Alan Berube examines what Members can do to maximize the benefits of the EITC for lower-income families and communities in their districts.

Joint Committee on Taxation Description Of Present Law Relating To Section 501(C)(3) Organizations

Source: Joint Committee on Taxation, JCX-53-07, July 19, 2007

The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight, has scheduled a public hearing for July 24, 2007, regarding an overview of tax-exempt charitable organizations.
This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, provides a brief description of present law provisions relating to organizations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”), and provides a summary description of the section 501(c)(3) organization-related provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and related proposed legislative proposals.

2006 Data Added to the Medicaid Benefits Online Database

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, August 2007

Kaiser Family Foundation: “The Foundation’s online tool examining Medicaid benefits for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Territories has been updated with data as of October 2006. The online database allows comparison of Medicaid benefits by state and service with information about benefits covered, limits, co-payments and reimbursement methodologies. Data for 2003, 2004, and 2006 are available.”

A Comprehensive Cure: Universal Health Care Vouchers

Source: Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Victor R. Fuchs, The Brookings Institution (The Hamilton Project), Discussion Paper 2007 – July 11, 2007

The Universal Healthcare Voucher System (UHV) achieves universal health coverage by entitling all Americans to a standard package of benefits comparable to that received by federal employees. Enrollment and renewal are guaranteed regardless of health status, as is the individual’s right to buy additional services beyond the standard benefits with aftertax dollars. Health plans would receive a risk-adjusted payment based on their enrollment. UHV is funded entirely by a dedicated value-added tax (VAT) with the rate set by Congress. A VAT of approximately 10 to 12 percent would insure all Americans under age 65 at a cost no greater than current public and private health care expenditures.

UHV offers true universality, individual choice, effective cost control, and competition based on quality of care and service. To foster accountability and efficient administration, the voucher system creates a National Health Board and twelve regional boards with a governance structure and reporting requirements similar to the Federal Reserve system. The National Board establishes the overall rules and procedures and sponsors an independent Institute for Technology and Outcomes Assessment, which will slow the rate of growth of expenditures by encouraging cost-effective innovations. In each region a Center for Patient Safety and Dispute Resolution replaces the dysfunctional malpractice system. UHV is relatively simple compared with other reforms that have similar objectives. Most importantly, it is congruent with basic American values: equality of opportunity and freedom to pursue personal goals.
+ Related policy brief
+ Presentation
See also:
Achieving Universal Coverage Through Medicare Part E(veryone)
Universal, Effective and Affordable Health Insurance: An Economic Imperative

World Prison Population List, Seventh Edition

Source: Roy Walmsley, International Centre for Prison Studies, Kings College London

Key Points:
● More than 9.25 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or as sentenced prisoners. Almost half of these are in the United States (2.19m), China (1.55m plus pre- trial detainees and prisoners in ‘administrative detention’) or Russia (0.87m).
● The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 738 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (611), St Kitts & Nevis (547), U.S. Virgin Is. (521), Turkmenistan (c.489), Belize (487), Cuba (c.487), Palau (478), British Virgin Is. (464), Bermuda (463), Bahamas (462), Cayman Is. (453), American Samoa (446), Belarus (426) and Dominica (419).
● However, more than three fifths of countries (61%) have rates below 150 per 100,000. (The rate in England and Wales – 148 per 100,000 of the national population – is above the mid-point in the World List.)
● Prison population rates vary considerably between different regions of the world, and between different parts of the same continent.
See also:
The International Centre for Prison Studies
A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management
World Female Prison Population List 2006

Treasury, IRS Issue New Proposed Cafeteria Plan Regulations

Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, HP-526, August 3, 2007

The Treasury Department and the IRS issued today new proposed regulations for employee benefit plans under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code. The plans, called “cafeteria plans,” allow employees to make a choice between receiving taxable cash compensation or tax-free employee benefits, such as health care, dependent care, and other fringe benefits.
The new proposed regulations generally preserve the rules of the existing proposed regulations, while adding clarifications relating to statutory changes and administrative guidance changes since the previous regulations were published. The new regulations also address many issues on which the IRS has previously provided informal guidance.

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study

Source: Freddi Karp, Editor, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 07- 5757, March 2007

There is no question that the aging of America will have a profound impact on individuals, families, and U.S. society. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National Institute on Aging under a cooperative agreement with the University of Michigan, follows more than 20,000 men and women over 50, offering insight into the changing lives of the older U.S. population. Launched in 1992, this multidisciplinary, longitudinal study has become known as the Nation’s leading resource for data on the combined health and economic conditions of older Americans.

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study describes the breadth and depth of the HRS to help familiarize a broad range of researchers; policymakers; media; and organizations concerned with health, economics, and aging with this data resource. Published in 2007, this colorful data book describes the HRS’s development and features and offers a snapshot of research findings based on analyses of the Study’s data. Sections of the report look at older adults’ health, work and retirement, income and wealth, and family characteristics and intergenerational transfers. More than 65 figures and tables illustrate the text.