Business & Economy
Loebsack Statement on Department of Labor’s March Jobs Report PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joe Hand   
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 09:21

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack today issued the following statement in response to the Department of Labor’s announcement that the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.2 percent in March and 120,000 jobs were added.

“Numbers do not mean anything to Iowans who are still out of work.   Today’s report shows that any progress is tenuous at best and Congress still has a lot of work to do for there to be a meaningful recovery.  The small steps that have been taken up to this point to get the economy heading in the right direction have provided only a small boost.  Congress needs to come together and move forward with commonsense, bipartisan solutions in order to create jobs and boost the economy.”

 

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Within 48 Hours, Two Loebsack-Backed Initiatives Signed by the President PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joe Hand   
Friday, 06 April 2012 12:54

With signature, JOBS Act and STOCK Act become law

 

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after both the JOBS Act and the STOCK Act were signed into law by President Obama.

 

“I am pleased the President signed both of these important pieces of legislation into law.  The American people have been demanding Congress work together to grow the economy.  They also want a government that will work for them, not make a profit off the information they get as part of their work.  The JOBS Act and STOCK Act are a step in the right direction on each front.

 

“These bills are both good examples of what can be achieved when both sides of the aisle stop playing games and work together to find bipartisan solutions.  I was pleased to work with my colleagues on both pieces of legislation and am hopeful they will begin to restore Americans’ trust in Congress.”

 

The JOBS Act, HR 3606, will help small businesses in communities access capital more easily in order to expand and support job creation and use capital more effectively in order to support growth.  An amendment introduced by Loebsack, which passed with unanimous support, will help women, veteran, and minority- owned businesses take advantage of the benefits and opportunities provided by this legislation.

 

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act will prevent Congressional insider trading.  In May 2011, Loebsack was the first person from Iowa and the fourth in the House of Representatives to cosponsor this important legislation.

 

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Governor Quinn Announces New Employment System to Help Connect Jobless with Businesses PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Friday, 06 April 2012 08:58

Free Illinois JobLink service boasts nearly 92,000 statewide job postings; more than 51,000 resumes

 

CHICAGO – April 4, 2012. In his latest effort to boost the Illinois economy, Governor Pat Quinn today announced a new “help-wanted” system that connects job-seekers with jobs and makes hiring easier and more cost-effective for businesses. Illinois JobLink, developed by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), allows businesses to post job ads and individuals to post multiple resumes for free. Currently, there are nearly 92,000 total statewide job postings and more than 51,000 resumes posted on the system.

 

“We can increase economic growth in Illinois by connecting people who are looking for a job with employers who are looking to hire,” Governor Quinn said. “During this difficult economy, Illinois JobLink is helping workers market their job skills and allowing employers to successfully find the help they need at no cost.”

 

Illinois employers including Aon, Chrysler and Ford, have used Illinois JobLink to search for resumes and potential employees. Comparable private job boards can cost employers hundreds of dollars, and studies show that businesses prefer the key word search function to find employees with the unique skills that are needed. Using Illinois JobLink (www.illinoisjoblink.com), employers can create want-ads that require specific skills or search resumes using keywords such as salary, educational attainment and location. In turn, job seekers can create multiple resumes that emphasize their variety of skills.

 

“Hiring is time-consuming and expensive for employers. Illinois JobLink makes hiring easier by allowing employers to focus in like a laser on job seekers that possess the unique skill sets that they need,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said. “It also helps our working families identify what job best fits their needs and puts them in a better position to pitch themselves to multiple employers at one time.”

 

Illinois JobLink also pulls want-ads from Indeed.com, the largest employment site in the United States. Indeed.com collects postings from thousands of websites, including newspapers, associations, company career pages and job boards. Nationally, more than 550,000 jobs are available on Illinois JobLink.

 

While the Illinois JobLink service is available to everyone, including those who are currently employed, individuals collecting unemployment insurance are required to participate in Illinois JobLink. It also serves as another tool to connect veterans to jobs when they return home.

 

"We in the veteran advocacy community are excited by what Illinois Job Link offers to veterans,” Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren said. “Helping employers find veterans is one of the most difficult pieces of the veteran unemployment 'puzzle,' and all job-seeking veterans can benefit from this powerful tool which allows the State's Veteran Employment Representatives to match veterans and employers."

 

Illinois JobLink replaced the previous Illinois SkillsMatch system and individuals and businesses with SkillsMatch accounts are encouraged to update their profiles, which were automatically transferred to the new system. IDES encourages job-seekers to set their resumes to public to ensure maximum exposure to businesses.

 

The state’s comprehensive approach to helping match job seekers with employers is complemented by Illinois workNet® (www.illinoisworknet.com), a workforce development system administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).  Illinois workNet utilizes partnerships and technology to expand seamless and real-time access to employment resources, including assistance with hiring and training employees, recruitment services, and tax incentives to keep local Illinois businesses competitive. As of January 2012, the Illinois workNet portal has more than 234,000 individual, workforce and business accounts.

 

As Illinois’’ employment agency, IDES works with employers to fill vacancies in several ways including hosting job fairs, providing interview space and connecting job seekers with ready-to-hire employers. Providing soft-skills training to job seekers, such as skills assessment, resume review and interview techniques can be combined with other training courses available through more than 60 workNet centers across the state. This multi-agency, collaborative approach identifies the skills needed by businesses and helps job seekers obtain the skills needed to meet those needs. For more information, visit http://www.ides.illinois.gov/.

 

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Medical Malpractice Reform Grants Diverted to Other Research PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:13

Top Republican Judiciary Committee Members Question Obama Administration’s Commitment to Medical Malpractice Reform

 

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch are concerned that the Obama administration has diverted tens of millions of dollars intended for research on malpractice reform to other forms of research.

 

In a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the members point to a September 9, 2009 address to Congress where President Obama announced an initiative to address the rising costs of health care associated with medical malpractice.

 

The members wrote, “Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system…However, the AHRQ’s (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) description of the research being funded (through the President’s initiative) does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.”

 

The letter specifically calls attention to the fact that none of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and that it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious: as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.

 

The letter goes on to ask questions about why the grant program has not done what the President publicly committed to do with the money, which is to try to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  It also asks for an accounting and justification of the way that the money has been spent.

 

Here is a copy of the text of the letter to Sebelius.

 

April 3, 2012

Via Electronic Transmission

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary

Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

 

We are writing to express our concerns with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants being funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 

On September 9, 2009, President Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, directed you to move forward on an initiative aimed at reducing health care costs.  Specifically, he stated:

…, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.  So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.  I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues.  It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

(Emphasis added).

On June 11, 2010, pursuant to the President’s orders, the HHS, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), awarded $23.2 million to fund demonstration and planning projects.  The AHRQ’s press release confirmed that the “grants [we]re part of the patient safety and medical liability initiative that President Obama announced during a September 9, 2009, address to a joint session of Congress.”[1] Specifically, the AHRQ has funded seven demonstration grants for a total amount of $19.7 million and 13 planning grants for a total amount of $3.5 million.  The demonstration projects are scheduled to take three years to complete and the planning projects are scheduled to take one year to complete.  According to the AHRQ, the projects are supposed to allow States and health care systems to develop, implement and evaluate medical liability models that “(1) put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries; (2) foster better communication between doctors and their patients; (3) ensure that patients are compensated in a fair and timely manner for medical injuries, while also reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits; and (4) reduce liability premiums.”[2]

Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system.

 

The goal of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms is not to hinder meritorious lawsuits, but rather to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits, inflated awards and inflated attorneys’ fees.  Generally speaking, traditional malpractice reforms seek practical solutions to combatting frivolous lawsuits, such as caps on punitive damages, caps on noneconomic damages and limits on the percentage of an award that can be taken by a plaintiff’s attorney under a contingency fee agreement.  Thus, traditional reforms are necessarily aimed at dealing with the medical system as it exists and influencing the behavior of lawyers and courts by altering legal parameters--substantive and procedural.  Correspondingly, research on traditional reforms should be aimed at assessing the effects of specific legal changes on claims, lawsuits, awards and settlements, either through mathematical models, simulated jury studies or real data.

 

However, the AHRQ’s description of the research being funded does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.  Indeed, it does not appear that any of the entities that have received the $23.2 million in grants have the expertise necessary to examine the effects of changes in substantive legal standards and procedural rules on the rate of malpractice claims, lawsuits, and awards.

 

President Obama’s September 9, 2009 speech included a reference to “demonstration projects” considered during President George W. Bush’s administration.  The day after the President’s speech, Tevi Troy, who served as the Deputy Secretary of the HHS, during the Bush Administration, responded to President’s Obama’s statement.[3] Mr. Troy explained the nature of the demonstration projects considered during the Bush administration.  In particular, he explained the limited purpose of those projects and the fact that they would not solve the crisis created by frivolous lawsuits.  Mr. Troy’s article also made it clear that “reducing the incidence of costly and ineffective medical malpractice lawsuits was a high priority of the [Bush] administration.”

 

The President’s speech gave the clear impression that taxpayers’ monies would be spent, in significant part, on projects related to “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  Contrary to that clear impression, it appears that none of the $23.2 million awarded has

 

gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  In fact, it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious:  as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.

 

We are concerned that these developments do not fulfill the President’s commitment to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  Accordingly, please respond to the following requests for information:

 

1.      Explain how the HHS’ spending $23.2 million on studying “nontraditional” liability reform fulfills the President’s promise that his administration would examine a “range of ideas,” including the “traditional” malpractice reforms noted above and advocated by Republican Members of Congress?

 

2.      Do you agree that the projects funded by the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants are not researching “traditional” malpractice reform, but rather are exploring “nontraditional liability reforms”?[4] If you disagree, explain the basis for your disagreement in detail.  Also, identify which projects are researching “traditional” malpractice reforms and how much from the $23.2 million in grants is being spent on studying “traditional” malpractice reforms.

 

3.      Do you agree that the AHRQ is not the most qualified agency to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If you disagree, explain in detail how the AHRQ is the most qualified agency within the federal government to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms.

 

4.      How, if at all, will the results of each of the 20 demonstration and planning projects directly help to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits and reduce high malpractice insurance premiums, as represented by the AHRQ?  Also, if a project will have no direct impact on reducing frivolous lawsuits and insurance premiums expressly acknowledge that fact.

 

5.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects will directly benefit American taxpayers.  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of these projects, when will those benefits be seen?

 

6.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 projects will directly contribute to lowering health care costs, as stated by the President?

 

7.      Describe in detail how the HHS and/or the AHRQ will utilize the information generated by each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects?

 

8.      Is each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects unique or are they similar to previous studies?  If any of the current projects are similar to previous studies, explain the HHS’s justification for funding that project or projects?

 

9.      When was it decided that the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants would fund research of “nontraditional liability reforms,” as opposed to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  Who made that decision?  If it was a group decision, identify all of the individuals who participated in the group.

 

10.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate (in any manner whatsoever) in the drafting of the requests for proposals issued in connection with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of the individual’s participation.

 

11.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate in the selection of any of the recipients of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of each individual’s participation.

 

12.  Is one of goals or purposes (official or unofficial) of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants to produce studies that will discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?

 

13.  Is the HHS or any other agency of the federal government currently conducting, participating in or funding research, the (official or unofficial) purpose of which is to discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If so, set forth the details of each such project, including who will conduct the research and who will oversee it.

 

14.  In addition to the $23.2 million being spent on the demonstration and planning projects, another component of the initiative ordered by President Obama is an evaluation project.  JBA/RAND was awarded $2 million for the evaluation project.  According to the AHRQ, the $2 million has been “allocated to evaluate the overall knowledge that is gained from this initiative.”[5]

 

(a)    Explain in detail the substance and goals of the evaluation project and explain why it is necessary.

 

(b)   Are salaried federal employees at the AHRQ or in another unit of the HHS capable of understanding and evaluating the results of the demonstration and planning projects?  If so, why weren’t they assigned the task of conducting the evaluation project or its equivalent?  If they are not capable, explain how the HHS and the AHRQ will be able to work with any of the information generated by the projects.

 

(c)    How, if at all, will the results of the evaluation project directly benefit American taxpayers?  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of the evaluation project, when will those benefits be seen?

 

If the HHS and/or the AHRQ possess documents relating to the subject matter of any of the foregoing questions, provide copies of those documents.

 

We ask that you provide written answers and documents by May 3, 2012.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

________________________       ________________________

Charles E. Grassley                       Lamar Smith

Ranking Member                         Chairman

Senate Judiciary Committee                      House Judiciary Committee

 

 

 

________________________      

Orrin G. Hatch                         

Ranking Member                        

Senate Finance Committee

 

 


[1] AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/hhsliabawpr.htm).

2 Id.

3 Tevi Troy, “Med Mal Pal?,” Critical Condition, National Review Online’s Healthcare Blog (Sept. 10, 2009)(available at  http://www.nationalreview.com/critical-condition/48345/med-mal-pal/tevi-troy).

4 See Allen Kachalia & Michelle M. Mello, New Directions in Medical Liability Reform, 364 N. Engl. J. Med. 1564 (Apr. 2011) (available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr1012821) (acknowledging the definition of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and confirming that the AHRQ’s demonstration and planning projects are studying “nontraditional liability reforms.”).

5 Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ Commentary, “Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform: Putting the Patient First” (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/commentaries/comptsafty.htm). 

 
Governor Quinn Convenes First Meeting of Illinois Export Advisory Council PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 15:12

Group Will Develop Recommendations to Increase Trade Opportunities and Business Investment in Illinois

 

CHICAGO – April 3, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today convened the first meeting of the Illinois Export Advisory Council. As part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to strengthen the Illinois economy and create jobs, the group will work with the Governor’s office and recommend strategies to increase trade and business investment in Illinois. Governor Quinn announced the group as part of his growth strategy during his 2012 State of the State Address.

 

“We have brought together some of the most successful business and economic leaders in the country with the single mission of advancing Illinois’ growth in the global economy,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois goods and services are among America's best, and our council will bring that message to the world.”

 

Following the meeting, the Governor and members of the council called on Congress to pass the four-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) and raise the limit on Ex-Im’s loan portfolio. The Ex-Im Bank has financed exports since 1934, but could close in May without the reauthorization. Over the past five years, the bank has assisted more than 280 Illinois companies, 67 percent of which are the small- and medium-sized businesses that are crucial to Illinois’ economic growth.

 

Chaired by Navistar Chairman and CEO Daniel C. Ustian, the Council will work to increase exports by providing recommendations on state and federal policies and programs, with the goal of maximizing Illinois’ competitive strengths in the international marketplace. Council members will also serve as international ambassadors for Illinois. Members will work to promote Illinois firms and the inherent advantages Illinois can offer countries seeking trade opportunities. The group’s initial discussions today centered on Illinois’ current trade landscape, opportunities to expand trade, and diverse strategies to drive export growth and open up more global markets to Illinois companies.

 

The council consists of 21 top Illinois CEOs and private sector leaders that drive international trade for Illinois (complete listing is attached).

 

“Creating the environment for Illinois business to grow requires trade policies and practices that make it easy to access the expanding global marketplace,” said Ustian. “Today’s meeting is a great example of the public and private sectors coming together for a common goal.  We now have a robust structure in place to gather input from Illinois businesses – from the smallest start-ups to the Fortune 500 – and will move forward with our work to increase exports from Illinois throughout the world.”

 

Governor Quinn has been one of Illinois’ most active governors when it comes to promoting Illinois on the world stage, recently returning from an economic trade mission to Belgium where he met with key business and economic leaders from countries within the European Union. Also last month, he attended the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) trade show, which is the leading foodservices and

hospitality event in Canada, to promote Illinois’ foodservices industry, as well as tourism and life sciences industries. The Governor also led a trade mission to China last fall that resulted in $370 million in new business agreements for Illinois-based companies.

 

Next week, Governor Quinn will travel to Washington D.C., where he will meet with Brazil President Rousseff and nine governors from Brazil. The Governor will lead a trade mission to Brazil later this year.

 

Governor Quinn has set an ambitious goal for Illinois to double exports by 2014. Illinois saw a $14.5 billion increase in exports in 2011, representing a nearly 30 percent increase over 2010, which was nearly double the nation’s average growth of 16 percent. January 2012 represented a 12 percent increase over the same period in 2011, compared to the national average of 7.4 percent. Illinois is the sixth largest exporting state in the nation and ranks number one between the coasts for exports and foreign direct investment. There are nearly 1,600 foreign firms in Illinois employing more than 323,000 Illinois residents.

 

The Governor’s aggressive focus on harnessing and promoting the strength of Illinois companies abroad will have a significant impact on job creation at home.  According to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce estimates, reaching Governor Quinn's goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 will result in the addition or retention of nearly 230,000 jobs in Illinois.

 

More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at www.illinoisbiz.biz.

 

 

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