Universal Health Care for Wisconsin?

Source: David Moberg, In These Times, August 20, 2007

Combining features of “single-payer” proposals that make a public plan the universal insurer with elements of market-oriented “managed competition” proposals, Healthy Wisconsin would cover virtually every state resident not insured under a public program, like Medicare. According to projections by the Lewin Group, a prominent health care consulting firm, it would also save individuals, employers and governments an estimated $13.8 billion on health insurance over the next decade.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) is a nonprofit consumer organization with a two-part mission — consumer information and consumer advocacy. It was established in 1992 and is based in San Diego, California. It is primarily grant-supported and serves individuals nationwide.

The PRC’s goals are to:
•Raise consumers’ awareness of how technology affects personal privacy.
•Empower consumers to take action to control their own personal information by providing practical tips on privacy protection.
•Respond to specific privacy-related complaints from consumers, intercede on their behalf, and, when appropriate, refer them to the proper organizations for further assistance.
•Document the nature of consumers’ complaints and questions about privacy in reports, testimony, and speeches and make them available to policy makers, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and the media.
•Advocate for consumers’ privacy rights in local, state, and federal public policy proceedings, including legislative testimony, regulatory agency hearings, task forces, and study commissions as well as conferences and workshops.

Also in Spanish

Trends in Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations among Adults and Children, 1997-2004

Source: Allison Russo, M.P.H., H. Joanna Jiang, Ph.D., Marguerite Barrett, Healthcare Cost And Utilization Project, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Stastical Brief #36, August 2007

Because of major concerns with both the cost and quality of health care, a priority of policy makers and health care providers is to identify areas where quality improvement and lower costs coincide. Potentially preventable admissions—inpatient stays that could be prevented with high quality primary and preventive care—are one area where higher quality care can cost less. Higher rates of these “preventable hospitalizations” identify areas where potential improvements in the health care delivery system could be made to improve patient outcomes and decrease costs. Changes in these rates over time may signal an improvement or worsening in the quality of ambulatory care, in access to timely and effective treatment of certain conditions for specific populations, or in patient adoption of healthy behaviors.

Healthcare Organizations Launch Disaster Response Initiative

Source: Rx Response, 8/15/2007

From press release:
Health care organizations involved in the manufacturing, distribution and dispensing of pharmaceutical products came together today to announce the creation of Rx Response – a program designed to help support the continued delivery of medicines during a severe public health emergency. The partnership includes the American Hospital Association, American Red Cross, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Healthcare Distribution Management Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Community Pharmacists Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

More Than 300 Counties Now “Majority-Minority”

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, CB07-113, August 9, 2007

Nearly one in every 10 of the nation’s 3,141 counties has a population that is more than 50 percent minority. In 2006, eight counties that had not previously been majority-minority pushed the national total to 303, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

The two largest counties passing this threshold between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006, are Denver County, Colo., and East Baton Rouge Parish, La., with total populations of 566,974 and 429,073, respectively. Three other counties were in Texas (Winkler, Waller and Wharton), with one each in Montana (Blaine), New Mexico (Colfax) and Virginia (Manassas Park, an independent city and considered a county equivalent).

Los Angeles County, Calif., had the largest minority population in the country in 2006. At 7 million, or 71 percent of its total, Los Angeles County is home to one in every 14 of the nation’s minority residents. The county’s minority population is higher than the total population of 38 states, with the largest population of Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians and Alaska Natives in the country. It also has the second largest population of blacks and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.
+ Detailed tables

National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL 07-1202, August, 9, 2007

There were 5,703 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2006, down slightly from the revised total of 5,734 fatalities in 2005. The rate of fatal work injuries in 2006 was 3.9 per 100,000 workers, down from a rate of 4.0 per 100,000 in 2005. The numbers reported in this release are preliminary and will be updated in April 2008.
Key findings of the 2006 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:
• The overall fatal work injury rate for the U.S. in 2006 was lower than the rate for any year since the fatality census was first conducted in 1992.
• Coal mining industry fatalities more than doubled in 2006, due to the Sago Mine disaster and other multiple-fatality coal mining incidents.
• The number of workplace homicides in 2006 was a series low and reflected a decline of over 50 percent from the high reported in 1994.
• Fatalities among workers under 25 years of age fell 9 percent, and the rate of fatal injury among these workers was down significantly.
• The 937 fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers in 2006 was a series high, but the overall fatality rate for Hispanic or Latino workers was lower than in 2005.
• Fatalities among self-employed workers declined 11 percent and reached a series low in 2006.
• Aircraft-related fatalities were up 44 percent, led by a number of multiple-fatality events including the August 2006 Comair crash.

Immigrants and Health Care — At the Intersection of Two Broken Systems

Source: Susan Okie, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 357 no. 6, August 9, 2007

For recent immigrants — especially the estimated 12 million who are here illegally — seeking health care often involves daunting encounters with a fragmented, bewildering, and hostile system. The reason most immigrants come here is to work and earn money; on average, they are younger and healthier than native-born Americans, and they tend to avoid going to the doctor. Many work for employers who don’t offer health insurance, and they can’t afford insurance premiums or medical care. They face language and cultural barriers, and many illegal immigrants fear that visiting a hospital or clinic may draw the attention of immigration officials. Although anti-immigrant sentiment is fueled by the belief that immigrants can obtain federal benefits, 1996 welfare-reform legislation greatly restricted immigrants’ access to programs such as Medicaid, shifting most health care responsibility to state and local governments. The law requires that immigrants wait 5 years after obtaining lawful permanent residency (a “green card”) to apply for federal benefits. In response, some states and localities — for instance, Illinois, New York, the District of Columbia, and certain California counties — have used their own funds to expand health insurance coverage even for undocumented immigrant children and pregnant women with low incomes. Other states, however, such as Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia, have passed laws making it even more difficult for noncitizens to gain access to health services.
See also:
Terra Firma — A Journey from Migrant Farm Labor to Neurosurgery

Rite of Passage? Why Young Adults Become Uninsured and How New Policies Can Help

Source: Sara R. Collins, Cathy Schoen, Jennifer L. Kriss, Michelle M. Doty, and Bisundev Mahato, The Commonwealth Fund, Vol. 26, August 8, 2007

From press release:
Since 2003, 16 states have enacted legislation requiring insurance companies to provide health insurance coverage to dependent young adults on their parents’ health plans beyond age 18 or 19, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund. While Utah has had such a law since 1994, recent legislative activity reflects states’ rising concern about the steady loss of coverage among young adults under the age of 30.

Because a majority of uninsured young adults have low incomes, extending eligibility for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) beyond age 18 would be an important policy solution to cover this group, the authors say. The SCHIP reauthorization bill recently passed in the House of Representatives would allow states to extend coverage up to age 25. Currently, Medicaid and SCHIP coverage for children typically ends at age 19.

The report, Rite of Passage? Why Young Adults Become Uninsured and How New Policies Can Help, finds that 13.3 million young adults ages 19 to 29 were uninsured in 2005, up from 12.9 million in 2004. Young adults also continue to represent the largest age group without health insurance. Despite comprising only 17 percent of the under-65 population they account for 30 percent of the uninsured in that group. Two-fifths (41%) of uninsured young adults ages 19–29 are in families below the poverty level, and 72 percent have incomes below twice the poverty level).
See also:
Issue Brief
Chartpack
Chartpack PowerPoint

Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States—Early, Targeted, Layered Use of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CS108488, February 2007

From press release:
Community Measures Prevent Deaths During Pandemic, New Study Finds –
School closures and other community strategies designed to reduce the possibility of spreading disease between people during an epidemic can save lives, particularly when the measures are used in combination and implemented soon after an outbreak begins in a community, according to a new study based on public records from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.

The findings (subscription required), which are published in the Aug. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, provide vital clues to help public officials planning for the next influenza pandemic and highlight the importance of community strategies. These strategies are particularly important because the intervention most likely to provide the best protection against pandemic influenza — a vaccine — is unlikely to be available at the outset of a pandemic. Community strategies that delay or reduce the impact of a pandemic (also called non-pharmaceutical interventions) may help reduce the spread of disease until a vaccine that is well-matched to the virus is available.

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Michigan Medical School′s Center for the History of Medicine completed an exhaustive review of public records such as health department reports, U.S. Census mortality data and newspaper archives.
See also:
Early Warning Infectious Disease Program (EWIDS)
Pandemic Planning Update IV
Department of Health and Human Services’ Pandemic Flu Website

The Problems with Property Tax Revenue Caps

Source: Karen Lyons and Iris J. Lav, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 21, 2007

Several states (Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Texas) have recently considered imposing severe caps on property tax revenue. These caps restrict the amount that property tax revenue can increase from year to year to a low fixed percentage, a formula based on the inflation rate, or some combination of the two.

While such caps may hold down property taxes, they are likely to impair local governments’ ability to provide education, public safety, and other services residents demand and need. They also are likely to make the local revenue system more regressive.

Property tax caps do nothing to change the main drivers behind higher property taxes. They cannot slow the increase in the cost of health care or fuel, for example, which reflects forces outside of the control of local officials. Nor do they change the demand for local public services, such as quality K-12 education, public safety, and good roads.