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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Get a Lesson on Massachusetts' Health Insurance Exchange

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Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

Members of the Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee heard from a national expert today on Massachusetts’ experience structuring a health insurance exchange.

States have until 2014 to create state-based health insurance exchanges that meet the criteria set forth in the Affordable Care Act. If they do not create a satisfactory exchange by then, the federal government will establish one for them.

While emphasizing that there is no “one size fits all” approach for states as they structure insurance exchanges, Dr. Jon Kingsdale said Pennsylvania can learn a thing or two from the Massachusetts experience.

Advocates Ask Senate to Keep Tobacco Funds for Health Care

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Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

Consumer health advocates from across the state came to Harrisburg Wednesday to speak out against a plan that would redirect the state’s share of a legal settlement with tobacco companies away from health care purposes.

Since 2001, tobacco settlement dollars have helped seniors age at home, reduce tobacco- related health care costs, and offset some of the costs for hospitals treating uninsured patients. They support life sciences research that brings jobs and wealth to the Commonwealth.

And until March, tobacco funds helped provide health insurance for the uninsured through the state’s adultBasic program. That program was ended in March after another funding source expired.

Now, a state budget plan that passed the House would eliminate the Tobacco Settlement altogether and fold those funds into the state’s General Fund. The Governor has also proposed diverting $220 million from the fund to create a business loan program.

In meetings with senators and at a Capitol press conference, advocates working with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network made the case for preserving the tobacco funds as a dedicated source for health care funding.

Summing Up the May Jobs Report: Four Leading Economists Weigh In

Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

Economist Jared Bernstein pretty much sums up the latest data on U.S. job numbers with this first impression: "YUK."

That comment comes in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Friday release of data on unemployment and payroll statistics for May. While the national jobs report was pretty disappointing, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve projects another decrease in the Pennsylvania unemployment rate this May from 7.5% to 7.4%.

Bernstein is one of four leading D.C. economists to sum up the bleak jobs picture. He, Dean Baker, Heidi Shierholz and Heather Boushey all interpret the fundamentals of the national report similarly: Job growth is stagnating, industries across the board are adding fewer jobs than before, and, when placed in the context of the past three months’ numbers, the future is not looking bright.