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Health Care for All: Policy Options for 2009

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While US Olympians Excel, US Health Care Under-performs

US athletes are now showing their mettle, competing against the world in the Beijing Summer Olympics.  Since the modern summer Olympics began in 1896, the US has been a force; consistently fielding a dominant cadre of athletes and ranking first, or among the top, in the overall medal count. In the spirit of competition and international comparison, this Stateside Dispatch will look at how well our health care system stacks up against our peers in the international community.

Future State Toxic Toys Laws to Be Preempted Under Federal Consumer Protection Legislation

Consumer and safety groups are rightly applauding an agreement by House and Senate lawmakers to move forward a bill which bans lead and most phthalates -- ? plastic chemicals that can cause developmental disorders -- in most children's products.  The bill, already approved by the U.S. House, will also increase funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, strengthen testing standards, and enhance public access to product safety information.

Overview

The need for health care reform is well-known and, to most Americans, indisputable.  Numerous statistics and an endless trove of real-life stories document the need for bold health care reform.  This section provides four sets of policies to help state legislators and advocates build proposals and political strategies to challenge the self-interests of the health care industry and successfully move health care reform:

The cost of health care is the primary reason at least 47 million Americans lack coverage and at least 25 million more are under-insured, meaning their insurance does not shield them from high health care costs.  From 2002 to 2007, family insurance premiums rose 78% while inflation rose 17% and wages a mere 19%.  Both employers and employees are feeling the squeeze.  

Failure to create a coordinated and user-friendly health care system that provides necessary coverage for all Americans has left us with the endemic health care costs and wasteful spending that define our disjointed health care system.  For instance, a staggering 78% of all health care costs are for people with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and depression - costs which could be reduced with effective management and disease prevention.

States Still Leading Feds on Minimum Wage

With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour scheduled to go into effect on July 24th.  Even better, a number of states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:

Overview

Today, a major digital divide exists between thosewho have access to high-speed Internet and those who lack access and/ or thecapability to use, high-speed Internet. Too many Americans, especially those inrural areas or low-income households do not have any Internet access, let alone high-speed Internet access. Mapping high-speed Internet availability andadoption, and making that information accessible to the public is an important tool for legislators and local planning groups that wish to evaluate thecurrent status of their states’ high-speed Internet infrastructure and utilization. Such information iskey when determining where to dedicate future resources when developingdeployment strategies.

Overview

In the last few years there have been major changes in the telecommunications environment. There is growing recognition by the public sector, businesses and communities that telecommunications infrastructure and services play an important role in economic transformation, sustainability and social well-being. The rise of more advanced Internet technologies has increased the demand for infrastructure far beyond the level previously needed. We are faced with the challenge of getting universal, affordable high-speed Internet deployed, especially to under-served and un-served areas. The challenge that we face is how to get universal affordable high-speed Internet deployed,especially to under-served and un-served areas.

In order to achieve universal and affordablehigh-speed Internet, states must implement intertwining policies that increase access to, and adoption of high-speed Internet. States need to identify where access to high-speed Internetcurrently exists, develop deployment strategies to increase affordable high-speed Internet access and adoption in under-served and un-served areas, and develop policies that ensure community and consumer protections in infrastructure build-out.

Core Universal and AffordableHigh-speed Internet Policies:

 

Overview

Finally,states need to foster cooperation between local jurisdictions to ensure mutualgains from growth, not play a zero-sum game of wasting development dollarsluring businesses to move a few miles. Good Jobs First in a series of reports, most recently on Minnesota and Michigan, hashighlighted how funds are wasted as development dollars from wealthier suburbsare directed towards raiding jobs from urban centers rather than creating newjobs. 

Overview

Policyleaders should be critically concerned with using these new tools to reviveareas devastated by deindustrialization and chronic poverty. Around the world,"emerging markets" are hotspots for investment, so many states aretreating their low-income domestic areas as "domestic emergingmarkets" that just need a bit of patient capital in order to be revived.

Overview

Beyondsupporting individual technology firm startups, states are increasingly lookingto support interrelated "clusters" of firms that reinforce innovationin a region around specialized industries, much as the car industry grew up inDetroit, the film industry in Los Angeles, finance in New York City, and as aparadigm of the high-tech economy, Silicon Valley became a source ofongoing computer-related innovation.

Statescan play a critical role in promoting such clusters beyond supportinguniversity research and funding new startups by identifying key local assets,facilitating relationships among firms, deepening the talent pool, andencouraging investments that reinforce those cluster needs—a pointemphasized by the National Governors Association in a recent report, Cluster-BasedStrategies for Growing State Economies.