GAO Report on Terminated Defined Benefit Pensions and Enforcement Challenges

Source: Report to Congressional Requesters, United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-07-703, June 28, 2007

To protect workers’ retirement security, the requesters asked GAO to assess: 1) What is known about conflicts of interest affecting private sector defined benefit (DB) plans? 2) What procedures does the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have to identify and recover losses attributable to conflicts? 3) What procedures does Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) have to detect conflicts among service providers and fiduciaries for PBGC-trusteed plans? 4) To what extent do EBSA, PBGC, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) coordinate their activities to investigate conflicts? GAO interviewed experts, including agency officials, attorneys, financial industry representatives, and academics, and GAO reviewed PBGC documentation and EBSA enforcement materials. GAO analyzed Labor, SEC, PBGC, and private sector data, including data on pensions, pension consultants, and rates of return data, and conducted statistical and econometric analyses.

Uninsured Veterans: A Stain on America’s Flag

Source: Steffie Woolhandler, Physicians for a National Health Program, Testimony Presented to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, June 20, 2007

In 2004, 1.8 million military veterans neither had health insurance nor received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals. Note that the surveys asked veterans if they had health insurance, and if they had veterans or military health care. We counted them as uninsured only if they answered no to both questions. The number of uninsured veterans has increased by 290,000 since 2000. The proportion of non-elderly veterans who were uninsured rose from less then one in ten (9.9%) in 2000 to more than one in eight (12.7%) in 2004.

An additional 3.8 million members of veterans’ households were also uninsured and ineligible for VHA care.

Virtually all Korean War and World War II veterans are over age 65 and hence covered by Medicare. However, 645,628 Vietnam-era veterans were uninsured (8.5% of the 7.56 million Vietnam-era vets). Among the 8.6 million veterans who served during “other eras” including the Persian Gulf War, 12.9% (1,105,891) lacked health coverage.

Almost two-thirds (64.3%) of uninsured veterans were employed and nearly nine out of ten (86.4%) had worked within the past year. Most uninsured veterans, like other uninsured Americans were in working families. Many earned too little to afford health insurance, but too much to qualify for free care under Medicaid or VA means testing.

The High Price of Being Poor in Kentucky

Source: Matt Fellowes and Dr. Terry I. Brooks, The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, June 2007

Summary
Kentucky’s working families frequently pay a premium for everyday necessities. Lower-income workers in Kentucky are more likely to pay double-digit interest rates for auto loans; more likely to pay hundreds of dollars more for car insurance; and more likely to pay a higher sticker price for their car compared to their higher income counterparts.

Additionally, lower-income workers are twice as likely to have purchased a high-cost mortgage compared to their higher income neighbors and are more likely to use alternative financial service providers, costing untold extra dollars for basic financial transactions and the purchase of home goods.

However, new innovative and practical initiatives are being implemented and improving the prices of key necessities for lower-income families around the country. Public and private leaders in Kentucky can follow suit and also reduce these higher costs of living, and do so in ways that defy the substantial budgetary, economic, and partisan pressures that limit so many efforts to grow the middle class.

The Financial Health of California Hospitals

Source: California Healthcare Foundation, June 2007

From the news release:
The financial health of California hospitals improved during a five-year period, but one-third of the state’s hospitals continue to lose money, reflecting a wide disparity in their performance, according to a comprehensive new report.

The analysis by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers builds upon an earlier CHCF report that warned of a looming crisis in which a large proportion of financially under-performing hospitals would face closure. The new report finds that that crisis has not materialized. Although 28 hospitals closed during 2001 to 2005, the decline was similar to the earlier five-year period. In fact, most survived in a stronger financial state than predicted.

However, a gap in financial performance between the most profitable and least profitable hospitals persists. In 2005, median operating margin for the lowest performers (bottom quartile) was negative 5.6% compared to positive 7.3% for the high performers (top quartile).
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BJS Report on Medical Causes of Death in State Prisons, 2001-2004

Source: Christopher J. Mumola, Bureau of Justice Statistics Data Brief, NCJ 216340, January 2007

From press release:
The nation’s state prison officials reported that 12,129 inmates died while in custody from 2001 through 2004, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The deaths over this four-year period constituted an annual mortality rate of 250 deaths per 100,000 inmates, which was 19 percent lower than the adult mortality rate in the U.S. general population. Overall, 89 percent of all state prisoner deaths were attributed to medical conditions and 8 percent were due to suicide or homicide. The remainder of deaths were due to alcohol/drug intoxication or accidental injury (1 percent each). A definitive cause of death could not be determined for an additional 1 percent. Two-thirds of inmate deaths from medical conditions involved a problem that was present at the time of admission to prison.

New CDC Report Documents Percentage of People Without Health Insurance

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 25, 2007

From press release:
CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics is issuing a new report today entitled “Early Release of Health Insurance Estimates Based on Data From the 2006 National Health Interview Survey.”
The study examines data collected from interviews in over 100,000 households nationwide. Some of the highlights include:
• In 2006, there were 43.6 million Americans of all ages who did not have health insurance (at the time of the interview), or 14.8 percent of the population.
• Among working-age Americans (those ages 18-64), there were 19.8 percent who did not have health insurance in 2006, a slight increase from 18.9 percent in 2005.
• Approximately 9.3 percent of children under the age of 18 did not have health insurance in 2006, a decrease from 13.9 percent in 1997.
• In 2006, the percentage uninsured at the time of interview among the 20 largest states ranged from 7.7 percent in Michigan to 23.8 percent in Texas.

Annual Report on the Federal Work Force: Fiscal Year 2006

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Annual Report on the Federal Work Force, Fiscal Year 2006

From press release:
Naomi C. Earp, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), today released the Annual Report on the Federal Work Force for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, covering October 2005 through September 2006. The comprehensive report, which informs and advises the President and the U.S. Congress on the state of equal employment opportunity (EEO) government-wide, is available on the agency’s web site.

The 58-page annual report follows the structure of the requirements set forth in the EEOC’s Management Directive (MD)-715 and includes practical tips for improving EEO performance. Data in the report are presented both in individual agency profiles and in government-wide aggregate form. MD-715, which became effective in October 2003, is an extensive guidance document for federal agencies promoting EEO principles and best practices.

The report shows that in FY 2006, federal employees and applicants filed 16,723 complaints alleging employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability and reprisal – down seven percent from just over 18,000 complaints in FY 2005 and nearly 20,000 complaints in prior years.
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Labor Force Participation And Human Capital Increases In An Aging Population And Implications For U.S. Research Investment

Source: Kenneth G. Manton, Gene R. Lowrimore, Arthur D. Ullian, XiLiang Gu, and H. Dennis Tolley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Communicated by Robert W. Fogel, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, May 14, 2007

The proportion of the United States labor force ≥65 years of age is projected to increase between 2004 and 2014 by the passing of age 65 of the large post-World War II baby boom cohorts starting in 2010 and their greater longevity, income, education, and health. The aging of the U.S. labor force will continue to at least 2034, when the largest of the baby boom cohorts reaches age 70. Thus, the average health and functional capacity of persons age 65+ must improve for sufficient numbers of elderly persons to be physically and cognitively capable of work. This will require greater investments in research, public health, and health care. We examine how disability declines and improved health may increase human capital at later ages and stimulate the growth of gross domestic product and national wealth.

Valuing the Invaluable: A New Look at the Economic Value of Family Caregiving

Source: Mary Jo Gibson and Ari N. Houser, AARP Policy & Research, June 2007

The contributions of America’s family caregivers, along with many friends and neighbors, often go unrecognized in public policy discussions about the financing and costs of health care and long-term services and supports. Yet these unpaid caregivers provide by far the majority of long-term services and supports received by persons with disabilities of all ages.

Not only are their contributions the foundation of the nation’s long-term care system, but are an important component of the U.S. economy, with an estimated economic value of about $350 billion in 2006. Public policies to alleviate stress on caregivers could be implemented at a small fraction of the value of their contributions.
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