U.S. Farm Commodity Support: An Overview of Selected Programs

U.S. Farm Commodity Support: An Overview of Selected Programs.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Sahar Angadjivand.  April 17, 2018

 Federal efforts to bolster farm household incomes and the rural economy by providing support to producers of key crops has been a central pillar of U.S. farm policy since such programs were first introduced in the 1930s. Current farm support programs are counter-cyclical in design—that is payments are triggered when the annual market price for an eligible crop drops below a statutory minimum or when revenue is below a guaranteed level.

 [PDF format, 22 pages].

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Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Suzanne M. Kirchhoff, Judith A. Johnson,  Susan Thaul. April 24, 2018

 Prescription drugs play an important role in the U.S. health care system. Innovative, breakthrough drugs are providing cures for diseases such as hepatitis C and helping individuals with chronic conditions lead fuller lives. Studies show that prescription drug therapy can produce health care savings by reducing the number of hospitalizations and other costly medical procedures. Congress and presidential administrations have attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) and expanding drug coverage under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended). Congress also has enacted laws to encourage manufacturing of lower-cost generic drugs, as well as cutting-edge biologics and biosimilars.

 [PDF format, 38 pages].

The Healthy America Program: Building on the Best of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act

The Healthy America Program: Building on the Best of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. Urban Institute. Linda J. Blumberg, John Holahan, Stephen Zuckerman. May 14, 2018

 Since efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed, and bipartisan attempts to improve the law have stalled, some policymakers are now looking beyond incremental fixes. In this paper, Urban Institute researchers present a set of policy ideas that would provide universal access to comprehensive coverage but would also allow people to keep their employer-sponsored coverage, would offer a range of insurer options and ensure broad pooling of health care risk, would not have an employer mandate, would provide income-related federal assistance, and would create a more flexible individual incentive to remain insured than that under the ACA. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 24 pages].

The Consumer Product Safety Act: A Legal Analysis

The Consumer Product Safety Act: A Legal Analysis.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. David H. Carpenter. April 24, 2018

 The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or Commission) was established in 1972 by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) “to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products.” The CPSC is empowered to meet this objective through a blend of consumer monitoring, research, investigations, safety standard-setting, and enforcement powers. The Commission’s jurisdiction under the CPSA is largely governed by the definition of “consumer product,” which is broad in scope, although a number of products that generally are regulated by other federal agencies are explicitly carved out of the definition. The term includes products that are manufactured domestically, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of consumer products that are manufactured outside of the U.S. and imported into the country each year. It encompasses over approximately 10,000 types of products from baby strollers, cribs, and bath seats, to cigarette lighters and matchbooks, to lawn mowers, garage door openers, and television antennas, to name a few. The CPSC estimates that covered consumer products play a role in over $1 trillion of costs to the country annually in the form of deaths, illnesses, injuries, and property damage.

 [PDF format, 25 pages].

Federal Requirements on Private Health Insurance Plans

Federal Requirements on Private Health Insurance Plans. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Annie L. Mach, Bernadette Fernandez. May 1, 2018

 A majority of Americans have health insurance from the private health insurance (PHI) market. Health plans sold in the PHI market must comply with requirements at both the state and federal levels; such requirements often are referred to as market reforms.  The first part of this report provides background information about health plans sold in the PHI market and briefly describes state and federal regulation of private plans. The second part summarizes selected federal requirements and indicates each requirement’s applicability to one or more of the following types of private health plans: individual, small group, large group, and self-insured. The selected market reforms are grouped under the following categories: obtaining coverage, keeping coverage, developing health insurance premiums, covered services, cost-sharing limits, consumer assistance and other patient protections, and plan requirements related to health care providers. Many of the federal requirements described in this report were established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended); however, some were established under federal laws enacted prior to the ACA.

 [PDF format, 26 pages].

Tax Incentives for Opportunity Zones: In Brief

Tax Incentives for Opportunity Zones: In Brief.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Sean Lowry, Donald J. Marples. April 5, 2018

 The 2017 tax revision (P.L. 115-97) temporarily authorized Opportunity Zone (OZ) tax incentives for investments held by Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) in qualified OZs. The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund (hereinafter, the “Fund”), organized under the Department of the Treasury, will designate qualified census tracts that are eligible for OZ tax incentives. The Fund will also certify QOFs that are eligible to claim tax incentives for eligible activities within an OZ. Qualified OZ designations are in effect for 10 years. The tax benefits for these investments include a temporary tax deferral for capital gains reinvested in a QOF, a step-up in basis for any investment in a QOF held for at least five years (10% basis increase) or seven years (15% basis increase), and a permanent exclusion of capital gains from the sale or exchange of an investment in a QOF held for at least 10 years. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the provision will cost $1.6 billion over 10 years.

This report briefly describes what census tracts are eligible to be nominated as an OZ by the “chief executive officer” (typically, the governor) of each state or territory, what types of entities can be certified as QOFs, and the tax benefits of investments in QOFs. 

 [PDF format, 10 pages].

Money for Something: Music Licensing in the 21st Century

Money for Something: Music Licensing in the 21st Century. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Dana A. Scherer. April 6, 2018

 Songwriters and recording artists are legally permitted to get paid for (1) reproductions and public performances of the notes and lyrics they create (the musical works), as well as (2) reproductions, distributions, and certain digital performances of the recorded sound of their voices combined with instruments (the sound recordings). The amount they get paid, as well as their control over their music, depends on market forces, contracts among a variety of private-sector entities, and laws governing copyright and competition policy. 

Congress first enacted laws governing music licensing in 1909, when music was primarily distributed through physical media such as sheet music and phonograph records. At the time, some Members of Congress expressed concerns that absent a statutory requirement to make musical works widely available, licensees could use exclusive access to musical works to thwart competition. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) expressed similar concerns in the 1940s, when it entered into consent decrees requiring music publishers to license music to radio broadcast stations.

 [PDF format, 32 pages].