Health Care

Building a Competitive Insurance Marketplace in PA

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So have you ever used Travelocity to book a flight? Or the Consumer Reports web site to research a new car?

Then you probably know the value of comparative shopping. I, for one, never book a flight before comparing just about every option and airline. What is the cheapest day of the week to fly, which airline offers nonstop flights, how long will I be in the air?

As Antoinette Kraus of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) wrote in an op-ed last week:

Sites like Travelocity have made air travel, car rentals and hotel bookings more convenient, competitive and affordable.

The same can't be said for health insurance, but that's about to change. The federal Affordable Care Act calls for the creation of competitive health-insurance marketplaces by 2014 to provide individuals and small businesses with a place to buy high-quality, affordable health coverage.

Third and State This Week: States Cutting Budgets, the Debt Ceiling Debate, and a Middle Class 'Under Attack'

This week, we blogged about the looming debt ceiling crisis in Washington, how state budget cuts will hurt the economic recovery, Marcellus Shale job claims, a new report on the middle class in Pennsylvania and more.


  • This week was a busy one for Mark Price, who penned four of our five blog posts. On the Marcellus Shale, Mark corrected an inaccurate figure in a recent Wall Street Journal piece about jobs created in Pennsylvania from Marcellus Shale drilling.
  • On the economy, Mark wrote about a recent report from the Keystone Research Center and the national policy center Demos on a middle class that is "under attack" in Pennsylvania. He also blogged about a new policy brief analyzing Pennsylvania's June jobs report.
  • On the federal debt ceiling debate, Mark shared his op-ed on this "manufactured crisis" which ran on this week.
  • Finally, on the state budget, Chris Lilienthal highlighted a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finding that at least 38 of 47 states are cutting K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key public services in 2012. According to the report, this cuts-only approach that most states have taken will slow the recovery and weaken the nation’s economy over the long term.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

State Cuts to Education, Health Care Will Slow Recovery

We have written about the negative impact that deep cuts to state funding will have for Pennsylvania children, seniors and our economy. Now a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that we aren't alone.

At least 38 of the 47 states with new 2011-12 budgets are cutting K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key public services, according to the report. As Policy Analyst Erica Williams writes at the Center's Off the Charts Blog:

While states continue to face rising numbers of children enrolled in public schools, students enrolled in universities, and seniors eligible for health and long-term care services, most states (37 of 44 states for which data are available) plan to spend less on services in 2012 than they spent in 2008, adjusted for inflation — in some cases, much less.

State lawmakers no doubt faced tough decisions this year, with revenues still far below pre-recession levels and emergency federal aid all but expired.  Still, our review shows that the cuts are unnecessarily harmful, unbalanced, and counterproductive.

The Middle Class ‘Under Attack’

At the Keystone Research Center, we have been chronicling for years the forces that are putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on middle-class Pennsylvanians.

Last week, we released a new report in partnership with the national policy center Demos that takes the temperature of the state's middle class in the wake of the Great Recession. I'm sorry to say, once again, the patient is not well.

The state's annual unemployment rate is the highest it has been in nearly three decades and the cost of going to college is on the rise.

According to the report, times are particularly tough for Pennsylvania's young people, with state budget cuts to 18% of public university funding and a 7.5% tuition hike in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. Pennsylvania's young people already bear the seventh highest rate of student debt in the nation — at approximately $28,000 on average.

Third and State This Week: Marcellus Shale, Budget Cuts and the Economy, and a Pa. Jobs Update

This week, we blogged about new reports on the Marcellus Shale, the economic impact of state budget cuts, the latest Pennsylvania jobs report and a groundbreaking new study on the health and financial impacts of Medicaid.


  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward shared her response to the final report and recommendations of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which reads like an industry wish list. Earlier in the week, Sharon shared her response to an industry-funded study that overstates the economic benefits and underestimates the costs of increased shale drilling. Chris Lilienthal, meanwhile, summed up the news coverage on the industry study.
  • On the state budget, Mark Price blogged about the impact of budget cuts on economic growth. Those states that made steep public spending cuts in the wake of the Great Recession have seen weaker economic growth in the years since, he wrote, citing research from the Center for American Progress.
  • On jobs and unemployment, Mark wrote that Pennsylvania's June jobs report provides cause for concern.
  • And, on health care, intern Emma Lowenberg highlighted a groundbreaking study out of Oregon showing that Medicaid has positive health and financial impacts.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Study Shows Medicaid Has Positive Health, Financial Impacts

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Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

This just in: providing the poor with medical insurance has a positive impact!

Third and State This Week: Pa.'s 2011-12 Budget, Job Numbers, Medicaid Cuts, and Lost Drilling Tax Revenue

This week, we blogged about a new analysis of the 2011-12 state budget, $200 million in lost revenue from legislative inaction on a drilling tax, what's at stake with proposals to cut Medicaid, a look at the recent national jobs report and more.


  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward highlighted a new analysis from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center on the recently-enacted 2011-12 state budget. Sharon also shared an op-ed she wrote grading the budget (it got a D).
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Chris Lilienthal wrote that the state has lost $200 million since October 2009 from legislative inaction on a Marcellus Shale drilling tax.
  • Intern Chaquenya Johnson made her Third and State debut, with two blog posts on jobs and the economy. One offers some analysis from experts on June's national jobs report ("a litany of bad news," in the words of one), and the other details the findings of a paper on the experiences of Denmark and Germany in the Great Recession and what we can learn from them.
  • Finally, on health care, guest blogger Athena Ford of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network explained what is at stake for seniors, families, jobs and more with proposals to cut Medicaid.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

What Cuts to Medicaid Could Mean For You, Your Family, Your Job

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By Athena Ford, Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN)
Originally published July 1, 2011 on the PHAN Blog

Here’s something that won’t come as a surprise to you: Folks in Washington have some difficult decisions to make given the current fiscal and political climate. That, however, is not a free pass to gut Medicaid funding.

Third and State This Week: Marcellus Jobs, Pa.'s Revenue Surplus and a Misleading Health Care Study

This week, we blogged about Marcellus Shale jobs, the state's year-end revenue surplus and a thorough debunking of a misleading study on the Affordable Care Act.


  • On Marcellus Shale jobs, Stephen Herzenberg writes about a statement from Lieutenant Governor James Cawley repeating widely-circulated figures that risk a misleading impression of job creation in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale industries. Steve also reflects on the Keystone Research Center's recent back-and-forth with the Marcellus Shale Coalition over industry job growth.
  • As the state ended the 2010-11 fiscal year with a $785 million revenue surplus, Michael Wood shares the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's year-end Revenue Tracker.
  • On health care, Chris Lilienthal highlights a recent blog post from Ron Pollack at Families USA that thoroughly debunks a misleading study about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on employer-provided health coverage.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Families USA Debunks Misleading Health Care Study

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Opponents of the Affordable Care Act are latching onto a new "study" from the firm McKinsey and Co. implying that the health reform law will prompt as many as half of all U.S. employers to drop employee health coverage, pay a penalty and dump their workers into new health insurance exchanges.

The law requires that state-based health insurance exchanges be up and running by 2014. The exchange is a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can review and choose from a variety of health plans from different insurance providers. Individuals who do not receive insurance through an employer can purchase health coverage on the exchange with the help of public subsidies based on income.

So should we be worried by the McKinsey study? Will employers start eliminating employee health benefits come 2014? In a word, no. As Ron Pollack of Families USA explains in a recent blog post:

This is pretty powerful stuff. Except of course for one teeny, tiny, little detail: It's not true.

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