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Archive for September, 2009

A quick time out from policy for a moment…

The Caesar Rodney Institute has submitted numerous freedom of information act requests to the state and the Markell administration. They have provided the information in a very timely fashion and responded with comprehensive documents per the various requests. The administration is living up to its promises of transparency…and for that the Governor and his administration should be commended.

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Race to the Top

Tom Donohue, President and CEO of  U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently penned an op-ed entitled, States Race to the Top for Education Dollars.

He states,
We’ve all heard the alarming statistics: Nearly a third of all high school students–and half of minority students–do not graduate in four years. Those who do go to college are often in need of remedial courses. American students ranked 22nd out of 26 in math, 19th out of 26 in science, and 15th out of 29 in reading literacy in recent international assessments. This is a prescription for national decline.
However, the administration is applying some tried-and-true business practices and free enterprise principles to education that are so obviously lacking in most of their other proposals. And they are backing it up with some real money from the stimulus bill.
Specifically, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is using a $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTTT) fund to bring greater accountability, higher standards, and innovation to American schools. RTTT grants will be awarded competitively to states based on progress in four areas: (1) adopting internationally recognized K–12 standards that will prepare students for higher education or the workforce, (2) measuring student achievement through better data collection, (3) developing and retaining first-class teachers and principals, and (4) enacting sweeping reforms in our lowest-performing schools.

Everything I’ve heard about Delaware’s efforts to obtain some of the RTTT funding is positive. Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery are optimistic about the state’s odds of taking part in this program. We’ve scrapped the DSTP, passed HB 119 which accomplishes some of the other requirements and have an administrations in Dover that appear to be on the right track with this program. I hope Secretary Lowery is successful in her efforts.

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Let’s forget Washington, DC for a moment. As far as the health insurance reform goes, there is plenty that policymakers in Delaware can do to improve the system. While much of the substantive reform requires changes at the federal level, there are certain changes that occur at the state level.

Our legislature should allow insurers to offer mandate free health insurance plans. Delaware currently has 28 mandates. Allowing individuals who don’t want and/or don’t need various mandates to purchase such “skinny” plans will lower costs and increase the number of individuals who are young and normally not too concerned with obtaining coverage to obtain care. If the goal of reform is to lower the number of insured, then this would be a step in the right direction. A recent study found that each mandate increases the number of uninsured by 0.25%.

Another step that can be taken is to allow individuals to purchase insurance plans approved in any state. A study by at the University of Minnesota finds that opening insurance competition beyond state lines would reduce the number of uninsured by at least 25%. The study notes that with just one state doing this, the effect will be minimal. However, regional and national competition will enable more folks to obtain insurance while also lowering costs. Critics of this type of reform like to point out that this reform would be ineffective because doctors in one state (such as Delaware) would not be in the network of an insurer in another state (whether it be Pennsylvania, right next door; or Washington, on the other side of the country). This rebuttal is false. Once the market is expanded, the networks will grow to include coverage in the states that allow for such competition. It is a no-brainer that as long as laws do not allow purchasing insurance over state lines, the market won’t exist. The laws need to be changed first.

One of the most important changes that can be made is to overhaul Delaware’s Medicaid system. Florida has initiated Medicaid reform and Louisiana is in the early stages of its own reform. Many of the ideas in the reforms from these states could occur in Delaware. And, we can learn from the mistakes of reform in these states. One idea is to convert Medicaid into a voucher system for low-income individuals. Removing the middle man reduces cost shifting and allows Medicaid beneficaries to have more skin in the game, thus reducing abuse of the system.

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