Washington Watch - March 3, 2010

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Washington Watch - March 3, 2010

Eliminating The Antitrust Exemption For Health Insurers

Amid the battle of vote counts for health reform, the House passed legislation to end the antitrust exemption for insurance companies. Designed to target the ever smaller pool of insurance carriers, supporters say the resolution (H.R. 4626) would help consumers by increasing competition and driving down costs. Now, it is up to the Senate to decide the future of the bill.

Read more on the issues regarding federal and state regulation of health insurance here.

2010 Census Forms Set To Arrive Soon

Roughly 12 million addresses will receive hand-delivered census forms across the nation, mostly in rural areas where people do not receive mail at the same location as their residence. Most of nation’s 120 million households, about 90 percent of the U.S. population, should look for their 10-question forms to arrive by mail mid-March.

While the majority of areas covered by this operation are rural, the Census Bureau also is delivering forms to Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricane Katrina to ensure everyone is included in the once-a-decade count. Census takers will deliver 2010 Census questionnaires directly to each residence in these areas, leaving a form packaged in a plastic bag at the home's main door. Residents are encouraged to fill out and mail back their census forms - using the enclosed pre-paid envelope - as soon as possible.

In 2000, about 72 percent of the population mailed back their census forms - halting a three-decade decline in the national mail participation rate. Mailing back the forms save taxpayers money, as it reduces the number of census takers that must go door-to-door to follow up with households that failed to do so. The Census Bureau saves about $85 million in operational costs for every percentage point increase in the national mail response rate.

Starting March 22, visitors to the 2010 Census Web site will be able to track how well their communities are participating in the census on a daily basis. All census responses are confidential. Answers are protected by law and cannot be shared with anyone. The Census Bureau takes extreme measures to protect the identity of individuals and businesses. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ individually identifiable answers with anyone, including tribal housing authorities, other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.

For more information, visit Census.gov.

Economy And Small Business Trends

Small businesses remained skeptical, but hopeful about the reported rise in economic factors. The SBA Office of Advocacy is releasing its fourth quarter of 2009 indicators, which includes how micro-businesses fare.

According to the report, the U.S. economy rebounded in the fourth quarter; real GDP grew by an annualized 5.7 percent. Much of this growth stemmed from inventory replacement. Other contributing factors were growth in real personal consumption (2 percent) and real exports (18 percent) and slowing growth of imports (11 percent, all at annualized rates). Both the Federal Reserve’s industrial production index and the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing composite index reflected strong growth during the quarter.

For more details, view the indicators online.

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