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February 26, 2007

Medicaid: In need of reform in Midwest states?

By Guest Blogger Rick Mattoon

A Forum on Medicaid and State Budgets

The U.S. Medicaid program provides healthcare coverage and long-term assistance to over 41 million low-income families and 14 million elderly people and persons with disabilities, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Given the high and rising costs of medical care, it is not surprising that the Medicaid program typically represents the largest single budget item (roughly 20%) for most state governments, having surpassed K-12 education. As such, the rising expenditures of state Medicaid programs are often the biggest culprit in the imbalance in state budgets from year to year. The question is, given current trends, can states afford Medicaid in the future without structural changes in either the program or in funding?

Medicaid is now funded as a partnership between the federal government and the states. The federal government provides matching funds (FMAP) as determined by a formula with the matching rate varying from 50% to 77% on the dollar. Given this matching feature, states have long been motivated to take advantage of the federal match by expanding their programs. In response, the federal government has tightened up eligible services, leaving many states with sole funding responsibility for certain current program services. In turn, many states have enacted cost containment strategies.

These developments have slowed the growth of Medicaid expenditures of late, holding it to 2.8% in FY2006 from an annual average of roughly 7.7% from 1997 to 2005. States have also enjoyed some respite from Medicaid budgetary pressures with the shifting of many prescription drug expenses to the federal government under the new Medicare Part D program covering prescription drugs. Budgetary pressures also have been eased from the revenue side as widespread economic recovery in the U.S. has often yielded better than expected state revenue growth. However, the respite may prove to be short-lived; states are budgeting for Medicaid growth of 6% in FY2007. Unfavorable trends will continue to put pressure on Medicaid spending including a growing elderly population, rising general health costs and an increasing number of uninsured in the general population.

In addition to addressing funding pressures to sustain existing programs, many analysts believe that Medicaid programs should be refashioned. Recent studies to this effect have been issued by the Medicaid Commission’s report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. For example, the Medicaid Commission recommended changes in five critical policy areas. These are:

• Long-term care—including providing incentives for individuals to plan for their own long-term care needs and shifting long-term care toward at-home rather than institutional care.
• Benefit design—providing states with greater flexibility to custom design Medicaid coverage to meet the needs of their covered population. In addition, an incentive system should be considered to reward Medicaid recipients who make prudent purchasing, resource-utilization and life-style health related decisions.
• Eligibility—permitting states to consolidate eligibility categories and increasing federal support for new options for the uninsured to obtain private insurance rather than falling into the Medicaid program. So too, the federal matching program should be scaled to provide a larger match for adding low-income recipients (the intended population for Medicaid) and a smaller match for adding higher income populations.
• Health information technology—including broad support for expanding the use of information technology including having all Medicaid beneficiaries having an electronic record by 2012.
• Quality and care coordination—further expansion of coordinated care programs as well as measuring the effectiveness of treatment by providers.

The Deloitte study suggests that fundamental reform is needed, particularly in the area of actively managing Medicaid programs. The study suggests that policymakers should be guided by six key choices in reforming their Medicaid programs.

• Choice 1. What should be the core function of the state’s Medicaid program?
• Choice 2. Should the program services be directly managed by the state or should it be contracted out?
• Choice 3. Where should the state be on the continuum between “traditional” Medicaid benefits and coverage and free health care for all low-income residents?
• Choice 4. Will the state go beyond simple program administration and use the Medicaid program to actively control the costs and quality of healthcare throughout the state?
• Choice 5. Which cost savings and policy levers will the state use to reduce, or at a minimum contain, the costs of the state’s program?
• Choice 6. To what extent will Medicaid recipients share in the state’s burden of cost reduction?

Clearly when it comes to Medicaid, there is no shortage of potential reforms.

To help investigate these issues, on March 15, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Civic Federation are cosponsoring a program to look at the current status and features of Medicaid and how states are dealing with this sizable program responsibility. The conference attendees will hear from Medicaid policy researchers including representatives from the Kaiser Foundation and the University of Illinois, as well as the directors of the Medicaid programs in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. A keynote address will be delivered by former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. To register for this program please go to http://www.civicfed.org/events/070315_RegistrationForm.pdf.


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Posted by Testa at 9:03 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

The auto region continues to reshape

By Guest Blogger Thomas Klier

On Wednesday, February 14, DaimlerChrysler AG announced a restructuring of its North American Chrysler Group. Adjusting its vehicle production capacity to continued market share losses, the company will eliminate shifts at three different assembly plants (Newark, DE, and Warren, MI, in 2007, St. Louis, MO, in 2008) and idle the Newark plant in 2009 (that plant is identified in figure 1 by a blue star).

Conversely, Toyota Motor Corporation, in response to strong growth in the North American market, is about to announce where it will build its next vehicle assembly plant in North America. The company is looking to expand its footprint of production facilities to meet its goal of achieving 60% of local production. Several weeks ago a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal identifying a handful of locations that are being considered by the company (identified in figure 1 by the red stars).

What are the main drivers underlying a decision to locate an assembly plant? This blog suggests a number of influences.

First, let’s briefly outline the current industry geography. Today there are 68 full-size assembly plants (plus two currently under construction) producing cars and light trucks, such as minivans and sport utility vehicles, in the U.S. and Canada. Figure 1 shows them all with the exception of the lone West Coast plant (the GM-Toyota joint venture called NUMMI, which is located in Fremont, California, in the San Francisco Bay area).


Click to enlarge.

The striking feature of figure 1 is the high degree of clustering exhibited by this industry. The vast majority of the plants are located in the interior of the country, extending south from Michigan and Ontario in a rather narrow band. In addition, one can see the importance of transportation infrastructure. It is a key location factor for manufacturing industries, such as the auto sector, which are operating based on lean manufacturing principles. Interstate highways and rail lines (the map only shows interstate highways) are enabling assembly facilities to connect with their supplier base on a just-in-time basis.


In a second quarter 2006 issue of Economic Perspectives, Thomas Klier and Daniel P. McMillen analyzed how the geography of assembly (as well as auto parts production) facilities has evolved in the U.S. and Canada since 1980. They identify noticeable changes in the industry’s geography. These changes, however, occurred gradually, in evolutionary fashion over the last three decades.

Two major trends have shaped the footprint of today’s assembly facilities: Foreign-owned assembly plants gravitated towards the southern end of the auto region, preferring warmer climes and a work force that had not previously been employed in auto assembly. With two exceptions, all of foreign-owned assembly plants operating today have been so-called greenfield plants, i.e., newly constructed plants on land that was previously not a manufacturing site. The domestic assembly facilities, on the other hand, re-grouped in the northern end of today’s auto region after decades of serving the major population centers directly. They began shutting down their coastal plants in the late 1970s in response to the changing economics of transportation costs associated with serving the national market.

And so today’s auto region with a clearly defined north-south extension came about. Concentration of locations remains very important for this industry: Assembly plants need to be near their supplier base. Yet there are reasons for them not to be right next to one another. Assembly plants are large manufacturing facilities drawing their work force from an area larger than the immediate vicinity. Notice in figure 1 how many of the 50-mile circles drawn around assembly plant locations do not overlap.

How do the latest developments fit the ongoing re-shaping of the auto region described above? Chrysler, in line with recent restructurings last year by GM and Ford (plant closings in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia as indicated by the other blue stars on the map), is trimming a production facility at the periphery of its manufacturing footprint. As a result, the domestic vehicle production has recently become more concentrated in the Midwest than it has been for many decades. For example, the announced closing of the Delaware assembly plant leaves only one vehicle assembly facility in the Northeast (there were six as recently as 1980). Should Toyota choose one of the locations mentioned in the press, it could best be described as "in-fill" development. It would fill a gap in the auto region which was extended considerably further south by assembly plants that located in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina during the 1990s.

And so the combination of recently announced plant closures and a soon to be announced plant opening are reinforcing the shaping of an auto region that is located in the interior of the country, with a north-south orientation, extending northeast into Ontario.

What are the implications of this analysis for Michigan and the Midwest? In Michigan especially, intense discussion is under way concerning what role, if any, public policy can play in shaping the region’s future. Currently, the competitive struggles of the domestic automotive companies (formerly known as the Big Three) and their suppliers are affecting the Midwest economy. Surely, much will depend on individual companies’ abilities to restructure and find ways forward. However, as the research by Klier and McMillen suggests, at the same time as traditional automotive companies are retrenching, they are also regrouping closer to the traditional (midwestern) center of the automotive industry. Actions speak louder than words in many instances. Here, locational decisions strongly suggest that the Midwest remains a highly productive place to manufacture automotive parts and vehicles. The region’s advantages lie in the fact that: 1) it is already the center of production so that proximity to suppliers makes it cost effective in many respects, 2) its transportation infrastructure is highly developed to serve manufacturing, and 3) its existing work force is highly skilled and trained in these industries. Accordingly, in addition to moving in new economic directions, local policy actions to help restore the region’s place in manufacturing seem not misplaced.


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Posted by Testa at 4:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2007

Sports Franchises and Urban Development


Are there worthwhile benefits to large urban economies from professional sports franchises and events? Critics are especially hostile to the idea of tax breaks, incentives and other public subsidies to sport franchises and events. At best, they claim that local spending on sports events displaces local spending on other activities, with no net impact on expenditure or income. Worse, they claim that public monies spent or foregone to subsidize sports franchises or events could have otherwise been more productively spent on enhanced public education or the like.

In rebuttal, there is another school of thought that posits that the changing nature of urban economies has heightened the value of recreational amenities as a draw for coveted workers. As the productive basis of city economies has shifted away from the manufacturing and distribution of goods, and towards a greater focus on information exchange by skilled and educated workers, some policy analysts argue that the successful workplace location is now driven by where people want to live rather than by its strategic location for moving materials.

In some instances, major league sports teams and professional sports events, such as the Super Bowl, can be counted highly among cities’ “public goods” amenities that attract and retain productive workers. In this, sporting events may be among several amenities whose sum total is more than the some of the parts because a large city’s varied restaurants, museums, cultural diversity, arts, and sports all go into making it “an interesting and exciting place to live.”

The measurable evidence on this effect is sparse, but several statistical studies have found favorable impacts. A thorough and balanced review of studies has been conducted by Mark Rosentraub. No doubt that many subsidies are ill-conceived. But Rosentraub concludes that the net value of a sports investment by the public sector rests on its context and the particular outcomes for the city and county making the investment. For example, the placement of publicly-subsidized stadiums in downtown areas have been found to help enliven and revive struggling downtowns. Another study found that Indiana residents valued the intangible benefits of having the Indianapolis Colts sufficiently to justify public subsidies. And in a statistical study across metropolitan areas, Jerry Carlino and Ed Coulson found that households tend to pay higher housing rents in metropolitan areas that choose to host sports franchises. Apparently, the value of nearby sports activity affects land and housing congestion that arises as greater population is attracted to such sports-minded places.

Among the most intangible, most difficult-to-measure benefits attendant to sporting events are the advertising or marketing values associated with the opportunity to re-cast a city’s image to a national or international audience. Places whose images become distorted or unfairly known due to their past travails may especially view large sporting events as valuable in setting the record straight.

In particular, an enhanced image may be helpful as businesses consider investment decisions and as workers consider various recruitment offers. The City of Detroit, for example, went to great pains and took great pride in successfully hosting the Superbowl XL in their new stadium situated amidst extensive downtown renewal.

This year’s two Super Bowl contestants, Chicago and Indianapolis, likely welcomed the media coverage of their cities deriving from both the Miami telecast and from national pre-game media hype. Chicago has been working to boost its image as a national and global city having superior amenities and functionality. In fact, it is one of two U.S. cities still vying to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis has been pursuing sports-minded economic development for quite some time. During the 1970s, the city began to boost its support for amateur sports facilities and events, meeting some success in hosting the Pan American Games in 1987 and, among other things, it is now the headquarters locale of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. During times when high-profile events are not taking place in Indianapolis, its sports facilities are often in use by young athletes who come to town (often with their families), patronizing the city’s hotels and restaurants.

Despite scoldings by the majority of public policy analysts, many of which are well-founded, some cities still see gold in them thar’ games!


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Posted by Testa at 2:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 5, 2007

Michigan Labor Market--Still Awaiting Recovery

Following the 2001 national recession, the labor market remained somewhat slack and slow-growing until mid-2003. Subsequently, the national economy accelerated, pulling along labor demand and employment growth. The year 2006 marks the third consecutive year of strong year-over-year employment growth (and falling unemployment) nationally.

Meanwhile, the Seventh District, which includes the state of Iowa and most of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, also experienced an employment recovery. However, the pace of job growth in the Seventh District has fallen somewhat short of the nation over most of the post-recession period. From the fourth quarter of 2001 until the fourth quarter of 2006, payroll job growth is currently reported to have risen by 3.9 percent in the nation, versus 0.7 in the Seventh District states overall.

Much of the Seventh District weakness is confined to Michigan, and recent indications show little sign that the Michigan labor market performance is turning around. As illustrated below by a 3-month moving average of monthly unemployment rates, the U.S. and the rest of the Seventh District states (excluding Michigan) have reported a falling rate of unemployment over much of the past 3 years. Currently, the region’s unemployment rate lies very close to the nation at around 4.5 percent. In contrast, Michigan’s current unemployment rate, after improving in 2005, is now back where it was in 2004.


Click to enlarge.

Unemployment rates are not fool-proof indicators of labor market performance because they are conducted by household surveys which are subject to sampling bias. However, other independent indicators tend to corroborate these survey indicators. Among the other indicators, the survey of payroll employment at business establishments is reported for states by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It too is based on a survey, and it is revised later as more information becomes available.

Below, year-over-year growth in payroll employment is shown for Michigan versus the District and the U.S. The payroll survey suggests that Seventh District job growth, though slower than the U.S., has shown steady growth over the past three years. Michigan’s year-over-year job growth has continued to decline—at an accelerating pace.


Click to enlarge.

So too, reported information on initial claims for unemployment insurance by laid off (or otherwise severed) workers exhibits the same pattern: deterioration at an accelerated pace over the past three years in Michigan, and improvement outside the state.


Click to enlarge.

In past decades, weak automotive-related performance in Michigan has sometimes been appraised as temporary or cyclical. However, this time around, as indicated by labor market performance in surrounding states, weak economic performance in Michigan appears to reflect structural problems for auto makers and automotive supply companies. Since early 2004, Michigan has lost 17.6 thousand net jobs at auto assembly establishments (a 24 percent decline) and 27.5 thousand jobs in motor vehicle parts production (a 15.8 percent decline).

Overall domestic automotive production is being eroded by imports and by enhanced production and sales of transplant automotive companies who largely produce outside the state of Michigan. Recent employee buyout programs at Ford, General Motors, and Delphi will result in a head count reduction of nearly 100,000 across the U.S. Approximately one-third of those jobs are situated in Michigan.

At least for the near future, the Michigan labor market situations does not yet look to be improving. The Michigan-domiciled auto assembly companies foresee or have announced continued employment reductions and facilities closings in both production and in administrative/R&D employees. Longer term, the Michigan economy's sharp automotive concentration means that the labor market will continued to be driven by developments in the industry.



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Posted by Testa at 9:14 AM | Comments (2)