Popular Vote is a Popular Choice for Bay State

In this year's presidential primary, 1.7 million Massachusetts voters cast a ballot. That's over a million more than the number that voted in the 2004 primary. Such an increase in turnout is unprecedented in the state, and similar increases took place in states throughout the country. What made for such a jaw-dropping surge in democratic participation? The answer is simple: people in every state felt their voice mattered. Wouldn't it be great if Massachusetts voters felt that way in November as well?

Businesses Failing to Provide Health Care to Pay Increased Assessments under MA Governor's Proposal

To close funding gaps in the state's new health care law and encourage more employers to provide health coverage for their employees, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick this week proposed raising an additional $33 million from employers with more than 10 workers who don't contribute at least one-third of workers' premiums within the first 90 days of employment and don't have at least 25% of their employees enrolled in insurance plans.  The plan would raise additional funds by assessing fees on insurers' reserve accounts. 

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:

Mass. Health Care Reform One-Year Later: Clear Successes and Challenges Emerge

One year after implementation, Massachusetts new health care law has dramatically reduced its rate of the uninsured by half, increasing coverage in both the public and private sectors for 355,000 previously uninsured residents, a new Urban Institute study published in Health Affairs shows.  The state has improved access to coverage but rising costs are a key challenge as the state moves forward.

Eliminating Health Disparities, Achieving Equity

In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country.  In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy. If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking, or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse.  For instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites.  For African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.

Focus on Prescription Drug Reform

$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health care costs.  While spending on hospital and physician care surpass spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out at $30 billion each year.

California Health Care Reform - Momentum Stalled

After more than a year of negotiation, compromise, and ample national attention, major health care reform in California was dealt a seemingly lethal blow on Monday.  The compromise health care measure,  ABX1 1, was rejected by the Senate Health Committee by a none-too-subtle 7 to 1 vote.  The reform, which resembled the 2006 Massachusetts law, was largely crafted by Speaker Nunez and the Governor after an earlier version was vetoed by Schwarzenegger in September.   Senate President Pro Tem Perata, while a participant in negotiations throughout, never came to fully back the latest measure. 

Dealing with the Foreclosure Crisis at the State Level

The statistics are shocking. The current mortgage crisis is expected to result in the foreclosure of 3 million homes. In Stockton, CA, one in every 27 homes has been hit by the foreclosure crisis. And, Countryside, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, just released figures showing that foreclosures and late payments rose in December to the highest on record. Calls to helplines by homeowners facing foreclosure have skyrocketed.  As a corollary, local animal shelters are seeing a sharp increase in intake due to owners having to surrender family pets when they lose their homes.