Senator Baucus Unveils Health Care Bill
Senator Max Baucus’ health care reform bill hit the streets Wednesday to mixed reviews. Some business groups find the Senator’s bill preferable to the House bill because it shifts the burden of the bill’s $865 billion costs over 10 years to health insurers and the public. Even some Democrats, such as Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), oppose the bill unless it is changed to reduce taxes on generous health care plans and significant premium increases for many middle class Americans. Everyone will be required to buy health insurance under the Baucus proposal. Lower income workers will be subsidized. Middle income Americans above 300% of the poverty level would be penalized for not buying insurance. The maximum penalty would be $3,800 for a family of four with an income of $66,150 (based on the 2009 Federal Poverty Level).
Insurers would be prohibited from excluding coverage for pre-existing health conditions and from rescinding health coverage. Insurers could vary premiums based only on the following characteristics: tobacco use, age, and family composition. Age would be the most significant factor. Premiums for older individuals could be five time higher than premiums for younger people. Premiums for tobacco use would be 1.5 times higher than those for non smokers. According to the bill’s own summary, some families will pay 7.5 times more for coverage than others based on risk factors and variables allowed in the bill. (Title I, Subtitle A, Rating Rules, page 2 ).
The bill proposes a non-profit national insurance exchange to expand coverage to the uninsured and to provide access for small businesses and other groups. There is no employer mandate and no public option. However, employers with more than 50 full-time workers would pay $400 per employee if they don’t provide coverage and their employees apply for a tax credit. While the bill is significantly shorter than the House bill, Senator Baucus’ bill is still complex and faces significant opposition. Nonetheless, Senator Baucus plans to mark-up the bill in the Senate Committee on Finance this month. Amendments are expected at that time.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance premiums jumped 131 percent, more than three times workers’ wages and four times inflation, over the past ten years. The Kaiser Foundation’s website is a good source for information about the various bills before Congress, but it has not yet been updated with the latest information about Senator Baucus’ legislation.
Secretary Salazar Signs Order Directing Interior Agencies to Address Impacts of Climate Change
In March Secretary Salazar signed an executive order giving priority to the production and transmission of renewable energy on lands under the Department of Interior. On September 14th the Secretary signed Order No. 3289, which directs the agencies to establish a Climate Change Response Council to coordinate the agencies policies and actions to address climate change. Some of the issues that will be addressed include:
• Agencies must take into account the impacts on climate change when making management decisions and developing management plans and base those decisions on science.
• Management responses will be based on a landscape-level and may include wildlife mitigation, wildlife corridors and strategies to reduce the spread of invasive species.
• The DOI will embark on a Carbon Storage Project to develop carbon sequestration methodologies.
• The DOI Carbon Footprint Project will develop a unified greenhouse gas reduction program, setting a baseline and goals for reducing the Department’s greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
Many Outfitters Reporting Better than Expected Results for 2009
While it was a challenging year, many outfitters are reporting to AOA that their season was better than expected. Revenues were still down or flat for most of the industry, a few outfitters near metro areas with lower cost day trips or with new product offerings saw growth. The Southeast enjoyed strong demand for rafting with renewed demand on rivers like the Chattooga and Nolichucky, which have run all summer season due to generous rainfall in the region. Join us in Reno to learn more about these industry trends and strategies to expand your market in a recovering economy. For more information go to Agenda.
Study Documents Rising Interest in Camping
Perhaps it’s the economy or maybe a nascent back to nature movement, but camping is on the rise growing by 7% in 2008, according to a study by the Outdoor Foundation. In late spring of this year, the Forest Service said their campground reservations were up by 20% over last year. Despite all the concern about the young forsaking the outdoors, the largest group of campers, are younger adults between the ages of 25 and 44. The study includes RV camping but shows a significant growth in tent camping.
Some other findings include:
• 57% of all campers are male and 43% female.
• The 25 to 44 age group makes up more than one-third of the total number of campers (34.5%). The over 45 age group is a close second at 29%.
• The Pacific region (OR, WA, CA) is home to the most camping participants in 2008 (18.9%), while East North Central (NC, SC, VA, MD, WV, GA, FL) was second in number of participants (16.9%).
• Most campers have a household income between $50,000 and $74,999 (24.7%) or $100,000+ (24.9%), while 35% of campers are in the 2 lowest income brackets below $50,000.
AOA’s own study with Penn State several years ago found, “having fun with family and friends” is a primary reason people take outdoor trips.
Two Known Fatalities in Commercial Rafting This Year
AOA has documented only two known fatalities on guided whitewater raft trips in 2009. One was on the Upper Animas in Colorado and another on the Gauley River in West Virginia. If the trend holds, this will be the lowest number of fatalities on guided trips in years.
Latest Results of Business Outcome Survey for Summer Season 2009 Available
For a pdf of the latest results and to read the comments submitted by respondents, send an email to email@example.com See how a sizable sample of the industry fared in this challenging season and which strategies were most effective in improving the bottom line.