October 24, 2014

claurie's blog

It’s Time to Re-Think End-Of-Life Care

In 2011, Medicare spent $170 billion, or 28 percent of its total expenditures, on services for beneficiaries in their last six months of life. But a new report says many of these patients are not receiving the care they want and are undergoing costly and unnecessary tests, procedures, and hospital visits.

Lawmakers Running Out of Time to Fix Highway Trust Fund

In a move that many saw as inevitable unless lawmakers acted, the Department of Transportation announced recently that the dwindling Highway Trust Fund would have to begin delaying payments to state governments in August.

Updated Federal Budget Challenge Already Producing Results

More than 7,000 students, retirees, political leaders and other citizens have played The Concord Coalition’s updated Federal Budget Challenge since we put the updated version online a month ago.

Health Reforms in Massachusetts and Maryland May Hold Lessons for Rest of U.S.

The growth in health care spending has slowed in recent years but could speed up again as the economy strengthens and the population ages. Even with slower growth rates, however, federal and state governments need to pursue reforms and innovations to keep public health programs sustainable.

A Bad Bipartisan Idea: Funding Highways From Short-Term Corporate Tax Revenue

House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) remarked recently that there are some similar ideas in the tax reform proposals that he and President Obama have suggested. Normally overlap between Republican and Democrat ideas is a welcome occurrence.

House Budget Panel Approves Switch to Biennial Budgeting

The House Budget Committee last week approved a bill on a bipartisan 22-10 vote that would switch the annual congressional budget process to a biennial (two-year) cycle.

States Should Use Surpluses to Improve Their Long-Term Fiscal Health

State lawmakers across the country are debating how to spend large surpluses after the economic recovery helped produce higher-than-expected tax collections for the second year in a row.

Oregon Experiment with Medicaid Reform Begins to Reap Dividends

As more people obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and its expansion of Medicaid -- the federal-state program for low-income individuals -- policymakers should focus on ensuring that the health care system can meet the increased demand for services.

Task Force Identifies Growing Fiscal Challenges for States

Many state and local governments have done little to address growing structural problems in their budgets that have been aggravated by federal deficit-reduction efforts, according to the State Budget Crisis Task Force.

The bipartisan organization released its final report last week, reiterating a stark warning from its previous reports: “The existing trajectory of state spending, and administrative practices cannot be sustained.”

Complicated Tax Code Creates Difficulties for IRS -- and Taxpayers

The national taxpayer advocate, who serves as ombudswoman for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), released her annual report last week, saying budget reductions have “significantly hampered” the agency’s ability to provide top-quality service.