ILR School

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs

Permanent URI for this collection

This is a collection of CRS Reports on workplace issues, which have been produced as unbiased responses to Congressional Requests at the Library of Congress.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 961
  • Item
    Health Insurance Basics: Roles for the Market and Government in Providing, Financing, and Regulating Private Insurance Coverage
    Jenson, Jennifer; Fernandez, Bernadette (2007-09-18)
    [Excerpt] Both the market and government have important roles in ensuring the availability, affordability, and adequacy of private health insurance. These roles complement one another, but even together the market and government have limitations. The market provides a variety of insurance products for consumers and employers with different needs and preferences. These products differ on many dimensions, including the breadth of provider networks, amount of beneficiary cost-sharing, and techniques for managing the use of health care services. Large employers, small employers, and individuals have different health insurance options, but all must make tradeoffs between the cost of coverage and desired features. A strength of the market is its flexibility to adapt over time to changing circumstances. As economic conditions, consumer preferences, and government policies evolve, the market generates different products with different features. The primary limitation of the market is its failure to provide affordable options for all consumers. The federal government helps ensure access to health coverage through public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and it influences the market for private insurance through tax and regulatory policies. Some tax subsidies help people purchase insurance, and others — including those for Health Savings Accounts — help pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance. By far the largest subsidy is the tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits. Because of this exclusion, most people get health insurance through work. Tax subsidies make health insurance and health care seem more affordable for certain taxpayers, but do not provide equivalent support to everyone. In addition, subsides may increase health care spending by reducing the apparent cost of health insurance and health care services. Regulations affect both access to insurance and the adequacy of benefits. States have primary responsibility for regulating insurance, but the federal government has sought to address selected issues regarding health coverage. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 include provisions that allow certain people to obtain or continue health coverage under certain circumstances. In addition, several federal laws mandate coverage for specific health benefits. Although regulations provide some protection for consumers, neither federal nor state rules guarantee access to coverage for everyone. In addition, even where regulations require insurers or employers to offer coverage, consumers may find this coverage unaffordable. This report will be updated.
  • Item
    Spending by Employers on Health Insurance: A Data Brief
    Jenson, Jennifer (2007-10-10)
    [Excerpt] To attract and maintain a skilled workforce, many businesses provide health insurance and other benefits for their employees. As the cost of health insurance rises, employers face a growing challenge paying for benefits while managing labor costs to succeed in a competitive market. All types of businesses report problems, including both small businesses and firms with thousands of employees and retirees. Despite concerns about the cost of benefits, small and large employers together provide health coverage for most Americans, about 60% of the population in 2006.1 But as the amount that employers pay for health insurance has been increasing — both absolutely and as a share of labor costs — the percent of the population covered has been decreasing. To describe employer contributions for health insurance, this report presents data from two employer surveys. The first, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, provides information on premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance. The second, from the Department of Labor, provides information on employer costs for employee compensation, including costs for wages and salaries, health insurance, and other benefits.
  • Item
    Spending by Consumers on Health Care and Health Insurance: A Data Brief
    Jenson, Jennifer (2007-12-21)
    Over the 20-year period from 1986 to 2005, health care accounted for 5.4% of consumer spending, on average. According to data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), health care accounted for 5.7% of consumer spending in 2005, slightly higher than the 20-year average but lower than the 2004 share of 5.9%. In the CES, consumer spending for health care includes spending for health insurance and spending for other health care (medical services, medical supplies, and drugs). In 2005, health insurance accounted for 2.9% of consumer spending. Other health care accounted for 2.8% of spending. Consumers spent less on health care than on housing or transportation or food, both in 2005 and in every year since 1986. In 2005, housing accounted for 32.7% of consumer spending; transportation, 18.0%; and food, 12.0%. Average spending in these categories exceeded spending on health care in part because some consumers spend little or nothing on health care and health insurance. Those who spend relatively little on health may do so because they are healthy, because they have generous employer-sponsored or government health benefits, or because they are uninsured and lack access to care. Health care accounts for a higher share of spending, on average, for lower-income people. In 2005, health care accounted for 7.6% of spending by consumers in the lowest income quintile, compared with 4.4% of spending by those in the highest income quintile. Housing and food also account for a higher share of spending for lower-income people. In 2005, housing accounted for 39.4% of spending by those in the lowest income quintile, compared with 31.0% for those in the highest quintile. The spending shares for food were 15.9% and 11.1% for the lowest and highest income quintiles, respectively. As people age, they spend more on health care. In 2005, health care accounted for 2.5% of spending by consumers younger than 25, compared with 15.6% of spending by those 75 or older. Health care is different from other spending categories in its consistent pattern of increasing spending with increasing age. It accounted for 3.4% of consumer spending for those in the 25-to-34 age group, 4.1% of spending for those 35 to 44, 4.8% of spending for those 45 to 54, 6.9% of spending for those 55 to 64, and 10.8% of spending for those 65 to 74. Within the health care category, as people age, they spend more, on average, on both health insurance and other health care. The data in this report reflect direct spending by consumers on health care. They do not include spending by employers for employee health benefits, even though consumers may pay indirectly for such benefits through lower wages. Similarly, the data presented here do not include government spending for health care programs, even though consumers help pay for government benefits through income and employment taxes. This report will be updated.
  • Item
    Health Care Spending: Context and Policy
    Jenson, Jennifer (2007-10-02)
    [Excerpt] The United States spends a large and growing share of national income on health care. In 2007, health spending is expected to approach $2.3 trillion and account for more than 16% of gross domestic product (GDP). We spend substantially more than other developed countries, both per capita and as a share of GDP. However, given our wealth, such spending is not necessarily a problem. On the one hand, depending on our preference for health care compared with other things, we may wish to spend even more. On the other hand, regardless of the preferred level for national spending, our nation might use available resources more efficiently and equitably. Health care costs put significant pressure on the federal budget — both directly, through spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal benefits, and indirectly, through tax expenditures for health insurance and expenses. The Congressional Budget Office projects that spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program will total $634 billion and account for about 23% of federal outlays in 2007. Federal tax expenditures for health benefits; health coverage for military personnel, veterans, and federal employees; and spending by Public Health Service agencies are expected to add $272 billion in costs. Given competing constituent interests and the complex interdependence of public and private benefits and actors, policymakers face difficult challenges in helping to ensure access to health care and health insurance without exacerbating federal budget pressures or contributing to marketwide inflation. Three broad policy directions have both promise and limitations for addressing health spending: (1) changing health care, (2) changing federal programs, and (3) changing tax policy. The first, changing health care, considers the potential for influencing spending by improving the quality and delivery of health care services. A key limitation of this direction is uncertainty about whether any particular change will reduce or increase health spending. The second direction, changing federal programs, focuses more narrowly on federal spending for federal benefits. To influence spending, policymakers can set budgets for programs, services, or beneficiaries. They can change eligibility rules or program benefits. And they can change other program features, including payment methods and amounts, and how beneficiaries obtain coverage. In this category, the primary challenge is balancing explicit tradeoffs between competing goals regarding access and spending. The final direction, changing tax policy, focuses both on making health care more affordable for individuals and families, and on influencing consumers’ choices as they purchase health insurance and health care. A key benefit of tax subsidies — including exclusions, credits, deductions, and tax-advantaged accounts — relates to flexibility. In general, these tools help consumers buy the health insurance and health care they prefer. A drawback is that tax subsidies may drive up consumer demand and spending on the one hand, while failing to help ensure access to health coverage on the other. This report will be updated.
  • Item
    Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB
    Jennings, Julie; Nagel, Jared C. (2020-03-25)
    [Excerpt] According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2.1 million civilian workers. Several federal agencies collect, compile, and publish statistics about this workforce. Sources may vary in their totals due to differences in the methods used to compile these statistics. For example, some sources rely on “head counts” of employees (OPM), some on total hours worked (such as the Office of Management and Budget [OMB]), some on surveys of employing agencies, and others on self-identification by workers surveyed in their homes. In addition, federal civilian employee databases may exclude particular departments, agencies, or branches of government. Some may also account for temporary or seasonal employees (such as those employed by the U.S. Census) depending on the time of year the statistics are generated. This report describes these sources and identifies key differences in methodologies, including data collection used by OMB and OPM. Understanding these sources and their differences will facilitate selecting appropriate data for specific purposes.
  • Item
    FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues
    Jansen, Don J.; Kamarck, Kristy N.; Kapp, Lawrence; Salazar Torreon, Barbara (2015-12-17)
    [Excerpt] Military personnel issues typically generate significant interest from many Members of Congress and their staffs. Ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the regular use of the reserve component personnel for operational missions, further heighten interest in a wide range of military personnel policies and issues. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has selected a number of the military personnel issues considered in deliberations on H.R. 1735 as passed by the House and by the Senate and the final bill, S. 1356, as enacted (P.L. 114-92). This report provides a brief synopsis of sections in each bill that pertain to selected personnel policy. These include major military retirement reforms, end strengths, compensation, health care, and sexual assault, as well as less prominent issues that nonetheless generate significant public interest.
  • Item
    Federal Prison Industries
    James, Nathan (2007-07-13)
    UNICOR, the trade name for Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), is a government-owned corporation that employs offenders incarcerated in correctional facilities under the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). UNICOR manufactures products and provides services that are sold to executive agencies in the federal government. FPI was created to serve as a means for managing, training, and rehabilitating inmates in the federal prison system through employment in one of its industries. The question of whether UNICOR is unfairly competing with private businesses, particularly small businesses, in the federal market has been and continues to be an issue of debate. The debate has been affected by tensions between competing interests that represent two social goods — the employment and rehabilitation of offenders and the need to protect jobs of law abiding citizens. At the core of the debate is UNICOR’s preferential treatment over the private sector. UNICOR’s enabling legislation and the Federal Acquisition Regulation require federal agencies, with the exception of the Department of Defense (DOD), to procure products offered by UNICOR, unless authorized by UNICOR to solicit bids from the private sector. While federal agencies are not required to procure services provided by UNICOR they are encouraged to do so. It is this “mandatory source clause” that has drawn controversy over the years and is the subject of current legislation. Of the eligible inmates held in federal prisons, 19,720 or 18% are employed by UNICOR. By statute, UNICOR must be economically self-sustaining, thus it does not receive funding through congressional appropriations. In FY2005, FPI generated $765 million in sales. UNICOR uses the revenue it generates to purchase raw material and equipment; pay wages to inmates and staff; and invest in expansion of its facilities. Of the revenues generated by FPI’s products and services, approximately 74% go toward the purchase of raw material and equipment; 20% go toward staff salaries; and 6% go toward inmate salaries. In recent years, the Administration has made several efforts to mitigate the competitive advantage UNICOR has over the private sector. Going beyond the Administration’s efforts, Congress has taken legislative action to lessen the adverse impact FPI has caused on small businesses. For example, in 2002, 2003, and 2004, Congress passed legislation that modified FPI’s mandatory source clause with respect to procurements made by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); in 2004, Congress passed legislation limiting funds appropriated for FY2004 to be used by federal agencies for the purchase of products or services manufactured by FPI under certain circumstances. Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress would address many of the same issues as legislation in the 109th Congress. Like legislation in the 109th Congress, legislation introduced in the 110th Congress, S. 1407, S. 1547, and S. 1548, would eliminate the requirement that some or all executive agencies purchase products or services from FPI in most cases. This report will be updated as warranted.
  • Item
    Body Armor for Law Enforcement Officers: In Brief
    James, Nathan (2016-01-28)
    [Excerpt] Firearms are one of the leading causes of deaths for law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty. According to data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), approximately 92% of the 505 non-federal law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty between 2005 and 2014 were killed by a firearm. Law enforcement officers who are shot in the torso are more likely to die as a result of their injury if they are not wearing a vest. Since FY1999, Congress has provided funding to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to help them purchase armor vests for their officers through the Matching Grant Program for Law Enforcement Armor Vests (also referred to as the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Initiative, hereinafter “the BPV program”). This report provides an overview of the BPV program. It also provides a discussion of data on law enforcement agencies that require their officers to wear armor vests while on duty, research on why officers may choose to wear armor vests research on the life cycle for armor vests, data on the use of body armor by law enforcement officers who were killed with a firearm, and research on the effectiveness of armor vests. The report concludes with a survey of congressional issues policy makers might consider should they take up legislation to reauthorize the BPV program.
  • Item
    Outsourcing and Insourcing Jobs in the U.S. Economy: Evidence Based on Foreign Investment Data
    Jackson, James K. (2008-05-13)
    [Excerpt] The impact of foreign direct investment on U.S. employment is provoking a national debate. While local communities compete with one another for investment projects, many of the residents of those communities fear losing their jobs as U.S. companies seek out foreign locations and foreign workers to perform work that traditionally has been done in the United States, generally referred to as outsourcing. Some observers suggest that current U.S. experiences with outsourcing are different from those that have preceded them and that this merits legislative actions by Congress to blunt the economic impact of these activities. Other observers argue that investing abroad by U.S. multinational companies impedes the growth of new jobs in the economy and thwarts the nation’s investments in high technology sectors. Some opponents also argue that mid-career workers who lose good-paying manufacturing and service-sector jobs likely will never recover their standard of living. Economists and others generally argue that free and unimpeded international flows of capital have a positive impact on both domestic and foreign economies. Direct investment is unique among international capital flows because it adds permanently to the capital stock and skill set of a nation, but it also challenges the general theory of capital flows because of the presence of strong cross-border and intra-industry investment. Supporters contend that to the extent that foreign investment shifts jobs abroad, it is a minor component of the overall economic picture and that it is offset somewhat by the investment of foreign firms in the U.S. economy (referred to as insourcing), which supports existing jobs and creates new jobs in the economy. Broad, comprehensive data on U.S. multinational companies generally lag behind current events by two years and were not developed to address the issue of jobs outsourcing. Many economists argue, however, that there is little evidence to date to support the notion that the overseas investment activities of U.S. multinational companies play a significant role in the rate at which jobs are created in the U.S. economy. Instead, they argue that the source of job creation in the economy is rooted in the combination of macroeconomic policies the nation has chosen, the rate of productivity growth, and the availability of resources. This report addresses these issues by analyzing the extent of direct investment into and out of the economy, the role such investment plays in U.S. trade, jobs, and production, and the relationship between direct investment and the broader economic changes that are occurring in the U.S. economy. This report will be updated as events warrant.
  • Item
    U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners
    Jackson, James K. (2015-05-21)
    This report presents data on U.S. merchandise (goods) trade with its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner countries. The data are presented to show bilateral trade balances for individual FTA partners and groups of countries representing such major agreements as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) relative to total U.S. trade balances. This report also discusses the issues involved in using bilateral merchandise trade balances as a standard for measuring the economic effects of a particular FTA.