- Policy Resources
- News & Analysis
- Your State
Matt Singer on October 26, 2006 - 10:19am
Thursday, October 26, 2006
In Today's Dispatch:
Onerous ID Laws Come Under Fire
Someday soon, we will all be experts in Ohio election law. The state's rules are under fire yet again. This time, a labor union and an advocacy organization for the homeless have teamed up to file suit regarding the state's new ID rules, which the plaintiffs say are being enforced differently county by county.
The rules have come under fire as they require a driver's license number (Ohio driver's licenses have two different unique ID numbers), a current utility bill (no one is quite sure what current means), or a military ID with current address (Army, Air Force, and Navy IDs do not have addresses on them).
ID rules have come under fire elsewhere as opponents charge the strict requirements will effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters nationally, disproportionately affecting the low-income, the disabled, the elderly, and people of color.
Making the situation worse is heightened demagoguery on immigration issues, which is leading legislatures to adopt even stricter laws making it more difficult for people to get IDs (in the linked story, the daughter of a Colorado Senator responsible for such a measure runs into roadblocks while trying to get her driver's license). Making it more difficult, more expensive, and more time-consuming to get identification while requiring that ID be shown at the polls is fundamentally threatening to participation in this nation.
Voters in Oregon No Longer Fooled by Measure 37
Two years ago, Oregon voters were sold Measure 37 as a property rights issue. The measure, they were told, would close loopholes governments used to regulate homeowners and prevent unnecessary regulation. Backers downplayed other ramifications that are now coming to light, ramifications that other states will face if voters in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, or Washington approve initiatives modeled after Measure 37.
Since Measure 37 passed, nearly 3,000 claims have been filed for compensation, totaling more than $5 billion. Oregon taxpayers are spending millions of dollars just to process the claims. A new poll indicates that Oregonians, by nearly a 2-1 margin, regret voting for the measure. If elections were held today, 66 percent of well-informed voters would vote against it.
Now, across the country, copycat measures are being advanced, hidden under the guise of proposals to reform eminent domain laws to deal with the Supreme Court's Kelo decision.
In California for example, supporters of the copycat Proposition 90 only speak of "safeguarding private property rights." There is no mention of the high cost of the initiative or the extent to which communities' planning abilities are gutted. Prop 90 redefines "just compensation" and greatly increases the cost of all property acquisitions by state and local agencies for infrastructure projects such as schools, roads, parks, and other public works. And it's not just the California initiative. Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Washington all have similar initiatives on their ballots, all claiming to protect private property while really ensuring the same costly, damaging results now being felt in Oregon. Washington's initiative, in fact, will be even more costly than Oregon's.
Advocates of these measures have been so successful in falsely presenting the true nature of the measures that even some progressives, distracted no doubt by other issues, are being mislead into thinking that these initiatives are either harmless or unlikely to pass.
The true nature of these measures is being hidden by the proponents because they know that what happened in Oregon will happen again. Voters will regret passing the measures and end up paying more than they bargained for. Fortunately, there is still time to stop and learn from Oregon's mistake.
Free Health Care? Hospitals Look to Contain Long-Term Costs
A 2005 Families USA report estimated that uncompensated care, or bad debt and charity care, cost the US health care system $43 billion, resulting in an average increase of $922 in family health insurance policies through the year. A New York Times report discusses how some hospitals, in an effort to reduce their uncompensated care costs, are providing free primary care to uninsured patients with costly chronic conditions, recognizing that preventing emergencies that arise from untreated chronic conditions saves money and yields better health outcomes. Some patients involved have seen their costs reduced by half.
Because they have no insurance, the uninsured delay getting care until they can't wait any longer - when treatments are more expensive, recovery times are longer and health outcomes less certain. This is compounded for uninsured Americans with chronic conditions, like diabetes. To cover the costs of treating the uninsured, hospitals and other providers raise the rates they charge to payers and those who have coverage. But, the uninsured are not the only people who result in uncompensated care costs. In Maine, for instance, a 2004 survey by the Maine Hospital Association and the Governor's Office of Health Policy and Finance determined that 30% of hospital bad debt and charity care comes from people with insurance. These people most likely have high deductible health plans and can't pay down their deductible.
Americans can only expect bad debt and charity care costs to increase as rates of uninsured continue to rise and more businesses drop coverage or shift more of the burden of health care costs to employees. The 2006 Health Confidence Survey , released by the non-partisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, reports that 60% of respondents with insurance said the share they pay for their coverage has increased in the last year. In addition, rates of employer-based coverage continue to decline, down to 61% in 2004, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Despite these trends, the Right continues to push for consumer-driven health plans that put more of the cost-burden on employees and consumers, forcing them to make tradeoffs between getting needed care and providing for other family needs, such as food and clothing. The Health Confidence Survey found that 44% of Americans delayed going to their doctor when they were ill and 22% didn't fill prescriptions or skipped doses because of cost increases. Consumer-driven plans typically consist of high deductible insurance and are sometimes paired with a pre-tax health savings account. These plans presume that consumers have thousands of dollars to put away to save for health costs. But, as the Health Confidence Survey shows, rising costs are depleting the savings of many Americans. 36% say that cost increases have limited their ability to save for retirement, 33% said their savings have been depleted by rising costs, and 22% have increased their credit card debt. Increasingly shifting costs to consumers and expanding the use of high deductible insurance may be the Right's way to go, but accumulating evidence shows it is the wrong way.
As the New York Times report demonstrates, managing chronic conditions before emergencies arise creates savings and improves health outcomes. Rather than limiting access to preventive care as consumer-driven plans do, changing provider incentives to promote preventive care is a clear policy goal for progressives. It will result in better health and cost savings over the long term.
State EITCs, Minimum Wage Trends, Health Care Satisfaction, Low-Income Legal Assistance, Uninsured Children
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that a rising number of low-income working families are being helped by state level Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs).
A new briefing paper regarding "Minimum Wage Trends: Understanding Past and Contemporary Research" from the Economic Policy Institute concludes by noting that an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25/hr. would impact 14.9 million workers, 80% of whom are adults, and many of whom are primary breadwinners in their families.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute released their "2006 Health Confidence Survey" which found a doubling in dissatisfaction with America's health care system in the last eight years.
A study released by Legal Services of New Jersey finds that over the past year, nearly 120,000 low-income New Jerseyans were turned away from free legal assistance due to a lack of resources. The report, entitled "People Without Lawyers: New Jersey's Civil Legal Justice Gap Continues," also found that 99 percent of defendants in landlord-tenant eviction cases at state courts were not represented by a lawyer.
North Carolina needs to decrease the number of uninsured children as a recent report found that the number of uninsured children rose almost 18 percent since 2000. The Action for Children North Carolina and the North Carolina Institute for Medicine report found that almost 12 percent of all children in North Carolina are uninsured.
An Eye on the Right
Rocky Mountain News, "Red Tape Ensnares State's New ID Law"
Voters in Oregon No Longer Fooled by Measure 37
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, "Oregon Statewide Poll Results: Voters Have Buyer's Remorse for Measure 37"
Takings Initiatives Accountability Project, "Who's Bankrolling the Initiatives?"
Free Health Care? Hospitals Looking to Contain Long-Term Costs
Families USA, "Paying a Premium: The Increased Cost of Care for the Uninsured"
Eye on the Right
The rightwing is clamoring for tougher controls on showing ID at the polls. The real reasoning is simply that the extreme right truly wants to fight democracy, but that's rarely the public line. Far more common, we hear concerns about voter fraud and arguments that "If you need ID to get on a plane, why not to vote?" The second one is easy: Getting on a plane isn't a right and the consequences of hijacking a voting booth are minimal. The first question is actually pretty easy, too. The facts are clear: polling place fraud is extraordinarily rare. ID requirements are a solution in search of a problem, unless -- like the right -- you think voting is a problem.
Three Steps Forward
Two Steps Back
Jobs & Internships
Check out current opportunities with Progressive States on the Jobs & Internships Page.
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.
To unsubscribe: Click here
Progressive States Network
101 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013