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Michigan State Senator Nancy Cassis Offers Care & Competitiveness Package
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Press Release

Michigan State Senator Nancy Cassis Offers Care & Competitiveness Package

State Senator Nancy Cassis (R-Novi) has crafted a package of bills to amend Michigan’s Single Business Tax (SBT). Michigan’s burdensome SBT has been a job killer and currently taxes employers on the health care benefits paid to employees. The Cassis package eases the tax burden and makes health care more affordable, by removing the “health care add-back” from the SBT. Employers would no longer be taxed for doing the right thing by providing health care benefits. CSE members support this important package of bills.

09/29/2003
Senate Seeks to Alter Lawmakers' Benefits
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Senate Seeks to Alter Lawmakers' Benefits

BY Steve Law

A bill OK'd Friday guts a preferred PERS status reserved for police and firefighters. How senators voted The Senate passed HB 2407-C by a 16-11 margin. The bill reduces lawmakers PERS benefits by paying them at the regular level, not the higher levels given to police and firefighters. Lawmakers who began serving before 1995 are exempt. Here is how local senators voted: Roger Beyer, R-Molalla: No Peter Courtney, D-Salem: Yes Jackie Winters, R-Salem: No Gary George, R-Newberg: Excused Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro: No What's next? The House will consider Senate amendments to HB 2407-C. The House likely will reject those amendments. Then a conference committee of House and Senate delegates will try to work out conflicting versions of the bill. BY STEVE LAW Statesman Journal The state House and Senate are at odds about whether lawmakers should remain in the state pension system. House members voted in March to yank lawmakers from the embattled Public Employees Retirement System and create a special 401(k) plan for them. Rejecting that idea, the Senate voted Friday to reduce lawmakers' PERS benefits, by eliminating their preferred benefits package normally reserved for police and firefighters. The Senate passed House Bill 2407-C by a 16-11 margin. "It's unjust enrichment" to keep getting benefits as if lawmakers were in public safety jobs, said Sen. Tony Corcoran, D-Cottage Grove, whose committee reworked the earlier House bill. Preferred PERS benefits for lawmakers often provokes howls of protest. It allows lawmakers to get the same pension after 25 years that most public employees take 30 years to earn. Police and firefighters get that treatment because of their hazardous jobs and earlier retirement age. In the past, some lawmakers determined that their long hours and low pay - $15,396 a year- merited the premium level. House members argued it's a conflict of interest for lawmakers to oversee a system that pays them benefits. Corcoran rejected that notion Friday. "My view is that there's nothing inherently wrong with us being part of PERS," he said. "We should live under the same rules as everybody else." Public servants should have a guaranteed benefit at the end of their careers, not a 401(k) account that offers no set pension, Corcoran added. Sen. Lenn Hannon, R-Ashland, who presided over the floor debate, declared he had a conflict of interest in the matter. Hannon also suggested lawmakers all had a conflict of interest "as a class." One provision in the bill illustrated why the issue stirs so much controversy. It exempts lawmakers who first served in the Legislature before 1995. That means six veteran lawmakers who voted for the bill won't see any reduced benefits: Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland, Sen. Frank Shields, D-Portland, Sen. Joan Dukes, D-Astoria, Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland and Sen. John Minnis, R-Wood Village. "They've exempted longtime serving members from having to switch," said House Majority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who championed the House bill. "It's the exact reason that legislators need to be removed from PERS completely, so they don't continue to deal themselves the best deal." A few days before Friday's vote, Courtney said he wasn't following Senate changes to the House bill and the issue hadn't come up for much discussion. "I think treating (lawmakers) like everybody else might be the way to go," he said. New PERS reforms signed into law will phase out the Money Match system. That means future pensions will be set by workers' final salary and years worked, not the size of their accounts. Police and firefighters get a pension equaling 2 percent of their final salary for every year on the job, or 50 percent of their final salary after 25 years. General service PERS members get 1.67 percent of salary per year worked, or 50 percent of final salary after 30 years. "To take them out of police and fire, I think, was a good idea," said Russ Walker, a PERS critic and Northwest director of Citizens for a Sound Economy. But no lawmakers should remain in PERS, he said. "There's a real loss of trust in government and most public officials, and this kind of thing, I don't know if it serves them well." Walker said his group will turn in an initiative petition next week that would scrap PERS for all public employees and replace it with a 401(k) plan.

06/09/2003
Buckeye Institute to Release Comprehensive Medicaid Reform Proposal
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Press Release

Buckeye Institute to Release Comprehensive Medicaid Reform Proposal

The Buckeye Institute will release Reforming Medicaid in Ohio: A Framework for Using Consumer Choice and Competition to Spur Improved Outcomes. Medicaid has been one of the fastest growing portions of the state budget in the past decade. Reforming Medicaid in Ohio: A Framework for Using Consumer Choice and Competition to Spur Improved Outcomes examines how policymakers can see significant cost savings and improved outcomes through increased consumer choice and competition. Available at www.buckeyeinstitute.org on 3/13/03.

03/13/2003
Buckeye Institute to Release Comprehensive Medicaid Reform Proposal
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Press Release

Buckeye Institute to Release Comprehensive Medicaid Reform Proposal

The Buckeye Institute will release Reforming Medicaid in Ohio: A Framework for Using Consumer Choice and Competition to Spur Improved Outcomes. Medicaid has been one of the fastest growing portions of the state budget in the past decade. Reforming Medicaid in Ohio: A Framework for Using Consumer Choice and Competition to Spur Improved Outcomes examines how policymakers can see significant cost savings and improved outcomes through increased consumer choice and competition. Available at www.buckeyeinstitute.org on 3/13/03.

03/13/2003
Reader's Forum
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Reader's Forum

Preferred drug list is not acceptable Editor: The Canadian-style health-care and medication program is a prescription for disaster. West Virginia's elderly and poor could be forced to ultimately pay the price through drastic reduction of services and lack of availability of life-saving medications. West Virginia Citizens for a Sound Economy believes this could be one more blow to West Virginia's ailing health-care system. And patients will suffer as a result. This is why the Canadian health-care bureaucracy is wrong. The government sets the prices for prescription drugs and the drug makers are forced to accept those reduced prices or simply not market those drugs to its citizens. Under the governor's proposal, the West Virginia Preferred Drug List system will regulate the medications allowed. The PDL system is flawed. Physicians and patients should have complete access to whatever medications are medically appropriate. Do you want the politicians or your doctor prescribing the medicine you need for cancer and heart attacks? The governor should not stop patients from getting the drugs that they desperately need to prevent a stroke. Much of the Medicaid budget is squandered through political funding contests and the inefficient allocation of resources. Millions are lost each year on unnecessary treatments and emergency room visits. Let's fix this problem first - not ration medications for sick West Virginians. Alice Click Point Pleasant Nursing home law already exists Editor: As CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association, I am compelled to respond to the recent Gazette editorial on the proposed legislation requiring nursing homes to form family councils and post detailed staff lists for each shift. This legislation is redundant of the current federal regulations, which our state's nursing homes are required to adhere. New federal regulations, effective Jan. 1, 2003, now require staffing information to be posted in each facility and closely mirror the proposed legislation. Resident councils are already required, while family councils are encouraged. Contrary to the statement in the Gazette editorial, we are not "fighting" this proposed regulation. We do not see the need for additional legislative attention be placed on a law that already exists for nursing homes. Other issues, of much greater consequence, are facing our state's frail and elderly. Primarily, will the Legislature find the funding necessary to fill the $ 300 million Medicaid budget shortfall so access and care for the frail and elderly through the program can continue? Our members are very aware of regulations imposed by state and federal governments. These regulations are followed in our facilities. Our profession understands the need to provide quality service and care to our residents and their families. Imposing a law with existing penalties in addition to existing regulation is just not necessary. John Alfano CEO West Virginia Health Care Association Charleston America needs a black president Editor: It's time that African-Americans elected a leader for our people. Currently, no individual can legitimately claim this title. We are disunited as a people and don't have a central source of power to tap into. None of the existing organizations are sufficient. It is therefore proposed that we elect a "President of Black Affairs." Along with managing social and societal problems, a central source of power would also let the world know where we generally stand as a people regarding important issues - and what goals we'll put our muscle behind in order to progress. Granted, there are philosophical differences within the black community. But that's true of America in general. Yet, somehow, presidents still manage to get elected. Our president would be surrounded by officers representing the various issues. The officers would work PRO-actively as well as RE-actively in our favor. The basic funding for general operations would come from our people themselves. We'd consider it another "tax" we must pay. All interested African-Americans can contact me at kba917a@yahoo.com. The ballot can be sent by mail or by e-mail attachment. The ballots will be submitted to various black publications and organizations in hopes of gaining their support for this endeavor. Keith Anderson Bluefield ATV safety begins at home Editor: It is very unfortunate about the ATV deaths throughout West Virginia. However, the cause is not due to the ATV but rather the ignorance and recklessness of the user and/or legal guardian. The vast majority of ATV deaths involve violating manufacturer's riding instructions and warnings. All ATVs are supplied with emblems that clearly state no passengers, set minimum age requirements, and set maximum speed limits. Nearly all ATV accidents involve violating at least one of these rules. I ask, "Where was the parent?" The parent allowing the child to be put in harm's way should be held legally accountable. Regardless of whether the harm is in the form of a vicious dog, a train track, an ATV or a rattlesnake. Who bought the ATV anyway? Few children can afford such toys. Parenting, common sense and taking time to supervise your child start in the home - not at the Capitol. If we try to legislate ignorance, where does it stop? How does a child know not to put his hand into a lawn mower or touch a hot stove? You guessed it - supervision! Greg Combs Point Pleasant Church, state rules inconsistent Editor: Well, here we go again. Am I the only one upset? Am I the only one who sees the inconsistency? Am I the only one who will speak up? I hope not. It started when the Columbia exploded on re-entry and seven valiant astronauts lost their lives. We were told to pray for the victims and their families. Go to your church or synagogue or mosque and offer prayers and comfort. A memorial service was held at NASA in Houston where the comfort of God was requested. A local religious service was held here in Charleston with all the local politicians, including the governor. The seven were honored and the grace of God requested on all us who endured this tragedy. Remember Sept. 11? The same tenor and fervor covered our entire nation. Pray for the victims and their families. But in between those two events, we were told prayer and God and church and spirituality and after-life and divinity were not supposed to be discussed in the public forum. There was even an attempt to remove "one nation under God" from our national pledge of allegiance. In other words, when all is well, please shut up about God and His Son. But when tragedy strikes, then it's politically correct to request his help. Consistent? Not hardly. Steve Fox Charleston War will not solve anything Editor: While watching the president's State of the Union speech, I didn't hear what I thought should have been the main topic. I never heard the name of God mentioned. That should have been the first word mentioned by Mr. Bush, and he should have used that word many times because God has the whole world in his hands. We are a sinful nation. Just stop for a moment and think why we are having fires burning out of control, floods, storms that destroy whole cities, children killing children/parents, their own best friends. And then there is the issue of fairness. We open the doors to people from Europe, Asia, Far East and then what happens: Sept. 11. We round up all immigrants, line them up and question them for hours or days. Then there is a small boat loaded with black people from Haiti seeking a better life in the Great U.S. of A. and what happens? They are forced to jump boat, rounded up and sent back home. Is this great nation a haven for all people that are oppressed? I don't think so. War with Iraq will not solve anything, Mr. Bush. It will cause death to many thousands of innocent people. Be not deceived, for God is not mocked. Whatsoever man soweth so shall he reap. Ferguson B. Meadows Institute We have heroes at home too Editor: At 4:15 a.m. on Feb. 17, ice on the trees pulled limbs down onto the high voltage power lines. At first I thought we were being bombed, with the fire in the sky. Then within seconds, not minutes, the South Hills fire department was here. It was only minutes till AEP was on the scene and cut the high voltage off. Yes, you're right. We didn't have power but we were safe. I called AEP customer service and they said they were trying to do everything they could, and they were a pleasure to talk to. At 11 a.m. it looked like the Army landed with AEP and Asplundph tree service. By 2 p.m. all trees were trimmed and the power was restored. I watched men go up in the air around high voltage lines that I can tell you, with all the ice, I would not have been there without feathers. I know we have troops abroad and I thank God every day for that, but we also have heroes at home. Oh, you say it's their job. Well, try it. I have worked in different countries and our utility bills are cheaper by far. May God bless all our troops abroad and bring them home safely and bless the people that are taking care of us at home. Tommy J. Ritchey Charleston

03/04/2003
Wise Drug Plan is the Wrong Prescription
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Wise Drug Plan is the Wrong Prescription

BY Alice Click

Would you rather have the government or your doctor prescribing the drugs you need for heart disease and cancer? West Virginia will be forced to use cheaper drugs that are often not as effective as original drugs if Gov. Bob Wise gets the pharmaceutical plan he wants. When the government buys drugs, it must ration them. The Wise plan could be costly, and a deadly mistake. A Canadian-style system to control pharmaceutical prices is what the governor has proposed. But if he gets his way, West Virginians will have fewer drug choices and longer, more costly illnesses. Faced with a state budget crisis, deepened by rising Medicaid costs, Wise blames higher drug prices for the state's fiscal woes and wants drug makers to charge the same prices set by the Canadian government, not by the market place. Sounds good? Citizens for a Sound Economy states otherwise. As a result of Canadian price fixing, more of the newer and more effective pharmaceuticals for cancer and hypertension are unavailable there. Because prescription drugs are more often used for preventive care, they stave off more debilitating, more costly medical conditions requiring expensive and lengthy hospitalization. With a $600 annual prescription for two leading cholesterol-reducing drugs may seem expensive, it is the long-term effect of those drugs that helps avert an emergency bypass operation and lengthy hospital stay. Socialized medicine is touted as a cure-all for expensive medical care. Yet, how many of us would wish to be put on a waiting list for gall-bladder surgery or a heart-bypass surgery? With Wise's plan, West Virginians may see a drastic reduction of services and lack of availability of life-saving drugs. Already U.S. generic drugs are less expensive than those under the price-controlled Canadian system. Is there more in Wise's initiative than meets the eye? Could it be the governor has a long affiliation with the fat-cat lobbying groups who may reap billions of dollars in windfalls if more patients are forced to switch to generic drugs. With no private sector alternatives, patients have no choice but to accept what the government - not their doctor - decides is best. It has been suggested a market-oriented plan can be devised to help poor and low-income people get the medicine they need. This could be part of a competitive prescription drug benefit system that lets consumers shop around - choosing the health-care coverage that suits their needs and their pocketbooks. Competition in the pharmaceutical industry and wider choices are needed among public and private benefit plans - not a price-controlled Canadian system. It comes down to this: Will it be the doctor or government prescribing our drugs?

03/02/2003
Wise drug plan is the wrong prescription
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Press Release

Wise drug plan is the wrong prescription

This opinion editorial originially appeared in the The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington on Sunday, March 2, 2003 Would you rather have the government or your doctor prescribing the drugs you need for heart disease and cancer? West Virginia will be forced to use cheaper drugs that are often not as effective as original drugs if Gov. Bob Wise gets the pharmaceutical plan he wants. When the government buys drugs, it must ration them. The Wise plan could be costly, and a deadly mistake.

03/02/2003
Prepare to duck
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Prepare to duck

Something called the Citizens for a Sound Economy begins a media blitz in West Virginia today, lobbying against what they call "Gov' Wise's Canadian Healthcare Proposals." They announced it Thursday with the kind of overkill and hype that often makes it difficult to take a well-intentioned, valid cause seriously. From here, it looks like CSE intends to make this economy at least partially sound by spending as much money as it can to get out its message, even when most of that spending appears needless. This is the kind of lobbying that fosters cynicism in newsrooms.

01/21/2003
Misguided drug plan
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Misguided drug plan

BY Donald Lambro

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise wants a Canadian-style system to control pharmaceutical prices. But if he gets his way, West Virginians will have fewer drug choices and longer, more costly illnesses. Faced with a state budget crisis, deepened by rising Medicaid costs, Mr. Wise blames higher drug prices for West Virginia's fiscal woes and wants drug-makers to charge the same prices set by the Canadian government, not by the marketplace. But Canada's rigid price-control system isn't the answer. Because of its price-fixing, many of the newer and more effective pharmaceuticals for illnesses like cancer and hypertension are unavailable there. The price of many medicines here is high, but they treat or prevent illnesses that would cost people hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the medicines themselves. Price controls that impose disincentives to develop new drug treatments, or prevent the best drugs from getting to ill patients, would make health care worse, not better. A study by economist Frank Lichtenberg at Columbia University shows that every dollar spent on newer generations of drugs saved four times that amount in hospital costs. Citizens for a Sound Economy [CSE], a Washington-based free market group that is lobbying against Gov. Wise's plan, explains that "because prescription drugs are more often used for preventive care, they stave off more debilitating, more costly medical conditions requiring expensive and lengthy hospitalization. While a $600 annual prescription for two leading cholesterol-reducing drugs may seem expensive, it is the long-term effect of those drugs that helps avert an emergency bypass operation and lengthy hospital stay at an average cost of $300,000." CSE has launched a public awareness campaign in West Virginia to counter Mr. Wise's misguided proposals for a Canadian system. In addition to a series of radio ads critical of the governor's plan, it is sending "Canadian Health-Care First-Aid Kits" to state legislators. Included is a five-year calendar "so West Virginia citizens can schedule their emergency surgery at a pace consistent with the delays Canadian citizens must endure." "Wise's proposed solution to West Virginia's crisis is nothing more than a hidden tax on drug-makers - one that will force citizens to ultimately pay the price through the drastic reduction of services and lack of availability of life-saving drugs," said CSE President Paul Beckner. In many cases, West Virginians will be forced to use cheaper generic drugs that are often not as effective as original drugs or the newer drugs that replace them. But there is more in Mr. Wise's initiative than meets the eye. The governor has had a long affiliation with Business for Affordable Medicine, a fat-cat lobbying group whose members "will reap billions of dollars in windfalls if more patients are forced to switch to generic drugs," according to the CSE. Mr. Wise's crusade to adopt Canada's price-control system ignores some important facts, according to a CSE study. Among them: c Some, though not all, drug prices are cheaper in Canada, subsidized by taxpayers who on average send more than 35 percent of their income to finance the government's welfare state programs. "But when a government buys drugs, it must ration them. With no private sector alternatives, patients have no choice but to accept what their government - not their doctor - decides is best," says a CSE spokesperson. c If Americans were required to buy the same pills in Canada that they bought here, they would end up paying 3 percent more, according to a study by University of Pennsylvania professor Patricia Danzon. The reason, according to the CSE, is that "generic drugs, which account for half of U.S. consumption, are less expensive under the competitive U.S. system than the price-controlled Canadian system." * The Canadian plan that Wise wants to copy has a notoriously poor health care record. Writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Richard Davies, a cardiologist at the University of Ottawa, found that more than 1,500 people were on lengthy waiting lists for heart bypass surgery. Some die before surgery can be scheduled. * As for Canada's drug program, a recent survey found that nearly 30 percent of British Columbia doctors reported that patients ended up in the hospital because of government-mandated substitutions of prescribed drugs. Congress will no doubt be debating a prescription drug plan this year. And there will undoubtedly be lawmakers here who, like Wise, want to use Canada's system. That would be a monumental, and in some cases deadly, mistake. A market-oriented plan can be devised to help poor and low-income people get the medications they need. This could be part of a competitive prescription drug benefit system that lets consumers shop around for the health-care coverage that suits their needs and their pocketbook. Such a plan should be part of a larger reform that gives taxpayers a tax credit to offset their medical expenses, including drugs. The best way to keep down drug prices is to encourage competition in the pharmaceutical industry and wider choices among public and private benefit plans. The worst way would be a Canadian-style, state-preferred drug list that prohibits doctors from prescribing the most effective drugs on the market for their patients. Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

01/20/2003
Misguided drug plan
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Press Release

Misguided drug plan

This piece originally ran in the Washington Times on Monday, January 20, 2003 West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise wants a Canadian-style system to control pharmaceutical prices. But if he gets his way, West Virginians will have fewer drug choices and longer, more costly illnesses. Faced with a state budget crisis, deepened by rising Medicaid costs, Mr. Wise blames higher drug prices for West Virginia's fiscal woes and wants drug-makers to charge the same prices set by the Canadian government, not by the marketplace.

01/20/2003

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