Whitehouse to Prez: Dude, You’re Copying My Ideas! Keep it Up!

From the Whitehouse Press office:

New Obama Administration Goals for Medicare Mirror Sen. Whitehouse Recommendations

Senator Whitehouse has Been Urging Administration for Years to Set Clear Goals to Improve Care and Reduce Costs

Goals Resemble the Whitehouse-Steinberg Compact in Rhode Island

Washington, DC – Today the Obama Administration announced that it is setting clear goals and a specific timeline for reforming the way doctors and hospitals are reimbursed when treating Medicare patients. The goals announced today come after U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been urging the Administration for years to set clear targets for health care delivery system reforms, arguing as early as 2011 that, “we can and must have a clear challenge to strive toward.”

In 2013 Whitehouse co-authored an opinion piece urging President Obama to set specific goals for reforming payment systems, noting that “at least 75 percent of Medicare payments should be assessed in some way other than fee-for-service” by 2020. Whitehouse also released a report in 2012 chronicling the Administration’s progress in implementing the delivery system reform provisions within the Affordable Care Act, and identifying payment reform as one of five key areas for reform.

“As we continue working to improve the delivery of care and lower costs in our health care system, it’s vital that we set clear, accountable goals,” Whitehouse said today. “Vague calls to ‘bend the cost curve’ will never galvanize our nation’s health care providers and insurers in the same way that specific goals with a number and date will. Today’s announcement by the Obama Administration reinforces the reforms already taking place under the Affordable Care Act and could accelerate the shift to a system that works better for everyone.”

More specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today set a goal of tying 30 percent of traditional fee-for-service Medicare payments to alternative payment models by the end of 2016, and tying 50 percent of payments to these models by the end of 2018. HHS also set a goal of tying 85 percent of all traditional Medicare payments to quality or value by 2016 and 90 percent by 2018. Whitehouse was briefed by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in advance of today’s announcement.

Since 2011, Senator Whitehouse has been calling on the Administration to set a specific cost-savings target to drive health care delivery system reform efforts, and has identified payment reforms as one of the key areas in any such effort. More recently, he and Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg brought together a coalition of Rhode Island health care leaders to develop recommendations on how the state can improve care and lower costs. Among the recommendations they agreed to was to establish specific payment reform goals this year.

Senator Whitehouse has long been a leading voice for health care delivery system reforms. He founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute during his time as the state’s Attorney General, helped secure new investments in Health Information Technology in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and was a strong advocate for the inclusion of delivery system reforms in the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Retirement Savings Bill

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Neal Introduce Retirement Savings Bill

Automatic IRA Program will Help Enhance Retirement Security for Tens of Millions

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) introduced legislation today that would dramatically enhance the retirement security of millions of Americans. According to most financial planners, the United States is at the precipice of an impending retirement crisis. Many Americans are simply not saving enough to be financially secure in retirement. It is estimated that 75 million workers have no employer-provided retirement plan or other opportunity to save through workplace contributions.

The Automatic IRA Act offers a common-sense solution to dramatically expand retirement savings in the U.S.  Under the bill, tens of millions of workers would be eligible to save for retirement through a simple payroll deduction.  The non-partisan Retirement Security Project has estimated the Whitehouse-Neal Auto IRA proposal could raise net national savings by nearly $8 billion annually.

“Each month, tens of millions of Americans build toward a comfortable and dignified retirement by contributing to employer-based savings plan. Unfortunately, half of American workers don’t have access to employment-based accounts and may find it much more difficult to save,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget Committee. “This bill would give those without access to a 401 (k) plan the opportunity to benefit from automatic monthly savings. Coupled with Social Security, such tax-preferred savings can help people in Rhode Island and across the country enjoy financial freedom in their golden years.”

“Getting more low and middle-income workers into the retirement savings system remains one of my top priorities. Far too many Americans are putting their retirement at risk because they do not have access to a workplace savings plan. I believe this auto-IRA bill can dramatically improve their post-employment years. By making it easier for workers to save, millions of Americans will enjoy their retirement more secure and content,” said Congressman Neal, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Whitehouse-Neal legislation creates automatic payroll deposit Individual Retirement Accounts, or Auto IRAs, for workers who do not have access to employer-provided qualified retirement plans. The bill would also require employers with 10 or more employees to automatically enroll workers in an Auto IRA unless the employee opts out.  The employers could receive tax credits to defray the costs of setting up the accounts.  We know that automatic enrollment has been extremely successful in getting more people to save for retirement. Studies have shown that participation rates are at least 10 percentage points higher in plans with automatic enrollment (77 percent) than those without it (67 percent).  The GAO also found that automatic IRA enrollment could increase the number of lower-earning households with retirement savings and increase retirement income as well.

The Auto IRA proposal, which was jointly developed by Brookings Institution and Heritage Foundation scholars, has garnered widespread support, including the AARP, the U.S. Black Chamber, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security.

Bill and Melinda Gates bet big on the future and philanthropy – Yahoo News

I am thankful for Bill and Melinda Gates and all they have done for so many poor people in the world. But I don’t think philanthropy really has the teeth to address inequality in our country. It’s like in Medeival times when the Queen would give out gold coins to the poor. It’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems. Unless philanthropy can change the tax structure and income distribution problems we have, it will remain a token effort to address inequality.

 

Bill and Melinda Gates bet big on the future and philanthropy – Yahoo News.

Speak-Out for Good Jobs & Quality Care at RI Hospital

From our union brothers and sisters:

Some Certified Nursing Assistants report having to buy their own equipment to make sure they can monitor patients’ oxygen levels. Physical plant workers report troubling shortages of critical equipment they need to combat mold in ventilation ducts to patient and operating rooms. Now the Hospital is threatening to make the situation even worse by laying off more employees.

At the same time, Lifespan – A Health System paid more than $16.6 million in compensation to just ten executives last year. These individuals averaged $1 million more in compensation than the average compensation earned by CEOs of nonprofit hospitals nationwide. Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s largest healthcare employer has employees working more forty hours per week that get no health coverage.

Speak-Out for Good Jobs & Quality Care at RI Hospital.

Whitehouse Calls for Tax Fairness and an End to Tax Haven Abuse by Corporations

From the Whitehouse Press Office:

Congressman Doggett, Senator Whitehouse Introduce Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. The bill closes a number of offshore tax loopholes, eliminates many tax incentives for U.S. companies to move jobs and operations offshore, and modifies rules on corporate inversions for businesses dodging U.S. taxes.

“While most Americans contribute their fair share to our national security and vital public services, some large corporations still are not,” said Doggett. “They revel in single digit effective tax rates, and in some years, many pay their lobbyists more than they pay in federal taxes. Corporations that renounce their citizenship not only invert their business operations but pervert our tax laws. This bill is a step toward righting some of these inequities and ensuring that taxpaying small businesses are provided a more level playing field.”

“Big corporations shouldn’t be allowed to play games with the tax code and benefit from shipping jobs overseas,” Whitehouse said. “This bill would force corporations that are dodging their responsibilities to pay their fair share of taxes, and create an even playing field for American companies that already play by the rules.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that provisions similar to those in this bill would raise at least $278 billion in revenue over ten years. More than two dozen of the largest profitable corporations paid no federal taxes at all over a recent five-year period. Among the many provisions of this bill are some recommendations contained in President Obama’s previous Budget Proposals. Find a full summary of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act House version here.

The bill is one of three “tax fairness” measures introduced by Whitehouse today, which he hopes will help shape the upcoming debate on tax reform.

Whitehouse Calls for Tax Fairness, Billionaires to Pay Their Fair Share

Good news and more good news:  Senator Whitehouse is looking for ways to put the middle class first, get billionaires to pay their fair share, and generate new revenues. Not for nothing, but sometimes I really wish Senator Whitehouse could have been Vice President with Obama. These are the reforms our country desperately needs. From the Whitehouse Press office:

Providence, RI – With President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress citing tax reform as a key area for bipartisan cooperation in the new year, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that he will introduce three bills to make the federal tax system fairer for middle-class families and small businesses.  The package would end tax breaks and loopholes that benefit multi-national corporations and the highest earners, and is projected to generate over $300 billion in revenue over 10 years.

“Our tax code is riddled with giveaways and special deals for the biggest corporations and top earners, and that special treatment hurts hardworking Rhode Islanders,” said Whitehouse.  “Multi-national corporations stash assets and profits abroad to avoid paying a fair share in taxes.  Companies ship jobs overseas and get a tax break for doing it.  And billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.  These bills would help end this kind of special treatment for special interests, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the process.”

All three bills will be introduced tomorrow when the Senate is in session.  Senator Whitehouse will fight to include these proposals in any tax reform package that moves through the Senate.

Whitehouse’s plan includes:

The Paying a Fair Share Act – The Paying a Fair Share Act would implement the “Buffett Rule,” ensuring that multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate.  The rule is named for legendary investor Warren Buffett, who has famously pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  The bill, which includes language to preserve the incentive for charitable giving, would generate an estimated $71 billion over ten years.

The Offshoring Prevention Act – Currently, U.S. companies that manufacture goods abroad for sale here at home are allowed to defer payment of federal income tax – waiting to pay taxes on foreign income in years that minimize their tax liability.  The Offshoring Prevention Act would require companies that send factories and jobs overseas to play by the same rules as ones supporting jobs in the U.S.  The bill would generate an estimated $20 billion in revenue over ten years.

The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act – Estimates show that Fortune 500 companies hold roughly $2 trillion in offshore holdings to benefit from favorable foreign tax systems and bank secrecy.  Championed in previous Congresses by retired Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act would close loopholes that allow multi-national corporations to avoid paying a fair share in taxes by moving assets and profits through intricate networks of offshore subsidiaries and bank accounts.  This bill would generate at least $220 billion in revenue over ten years.

None of the bills prescribe uses for the revenue they would generate.  It would be up to Congress to decide how the funds would be spent – anything from investments in infrastructure to deficit reduction.

Whitehouse has been a leader in the Senate on tax fairness issues.  In addition to authoring the Buffett Rule and Offshoring Prevention legislation in previous Congresses, in 2013, he proposed a plan to replace strict austerity measures contained in the 2011 debt ceiling deal – the budget “sequester” – by closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, and he has spoken often of the injustices in our present tax code.

How is the Rhode Island Foundation Coalition-Building for Health Care Reform? – Health Policy | Grants | Inside Philanthropy

The first female Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is going to have her work cut out for her with requests for all sorts of things — funding for everything under the sun, reform ideas from every political perspective, and, oh yes, health care — that little elephant in the room, costing us all a fortune, wreaking havoc on middle class and poor families, and making us look bad internationally for having the most bloated, ineffective system in the world.

Enter Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the Rhode Island Foundation, stage left. They bring with them many years of sustained investment in improving health care. Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute during his time as Attorney General and is a leading voice in Washington for health care delivery system reform. The Rhode Island Foundation has been funding health care initiatives since early in its history, and continues to look for and fund innovative ways to improve health care access and delivery.

via How is the Rhode Island Foundation Coalition-Building for Health Care Reform? – Health Policy | Grants | Fundraising – Inside Philanthropy.