Health Insurance Coverage

  • Major hospitals pull out of Alabama Medicaid reform, call for delay, By Amy Yurkanin, February 14, 2017, Birmingham News: “An overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program that has already been postponed a year could face more delays after the departure of several health care systems over concerns about the program’s direction and costs.  State leaders have been working since 2012 to transform the Medicaid program from a system that pays for unlimited services to managed care that caps costs at a certain amount per patient to control spending. Last year, federal authorities approved a plan for managed care for Medicaid, which provides health coverage to about a million low-income Alabamians. Regional care organizations in five regions are a key part of the reform effort…”
  • As GOP plows forward on Obamacare repeal, new data show the nation’s uninsured rate hit a record low last year, By Noam N. Levey, February 14, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “The nation’s uninsured rate tumbled further last year, hitting the lowest rate on record, according to new government data that underscored what is at stake in the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  In the first nine months of 2016, just 8.8% of Americans lacked health coverage, survey data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show…”
  • Republican health care proposal would cover fewer low-income families, By Alison Kodjak, February 16, 2017, National Public Radio: “House Republicans are debating a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act that would give consumers tax credits to buy insurance, cut back on Medicaid and allow people to save their own money to pay for health care costs.  The outline plan is likely to take away some of the financial help low-income families get through Obamacare subsidies, and also result in fewer people being covered under the Medicaid health care program for the poor…”

School Breakfast Programs – New Jersey

More than half of low-income children get breakfast in school in NJ, By Diane D’Amico, February 14, 2017, Press of Atlantic City: “Almost 268,000 low-income children in New Jersey got free or reduced-price breakfast in the last school year, a 6 percent increase from the year before, according to a national report. But breakfast is still not readily available to every child eligible to receive it.  The annual School Breakfast Scorecard, released Tuesday by the Food Research and Action Center, shows New Jersey improved its national ranking from 23rd in 2014-15 to 19th in 2015-16…”

Low-Income Housing – Wisconsin, Texas

  • Scott Walker’s budget would limit low-income tax credits to those who work, By Jason Stein, February 13, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would require able-bodied adults to work to receive a low-income housing credit — part of broader proposals in the bill to move more people into jobs. Starting in 2018, able-bodied adults below the age of 62 will need to earn money to claim the state’s Homestead Credit. The disabled and seniors would be exempt from the requirement…”
  • State lawmakers take aim at low-income housing, By Lydia DePillis, February 15, 2017, Houston Chronicle: “Two bills filed this month in the state legislature would make it harder to develop affordable housing in Texas, imposing onerous new requirements on the projects and giving neighbors broad powers to oppose them. Although the chances of passage are unclear — thousands of measures are filed during the four-month session and only a few become law — the bills would be consistent with many other restrictions the legislature has placed on affordable housing development. Meanwhile, helping low-income people access housing is a rising concern for Texas cities, as a flood of new residents has boosted the cost of both rental and for-sale units…”

Public Assistance Program Beneficiaries

  • Federal anti-poverty programs primarily help the GOP’s base, By Ronald Brownstein, February 16, 2017, The Atlantic: “Even as congressional Republicans mobilize for a new drive to retrench federal anti-poverty efforts, whites without a college degree—the cornerstone of the modern GOP electoral coalition—have emerged as principal beneficiaries of those programs, according to a study released Thursday morning…”
  • The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: Working-class whites, By Tracy Jan, February 16, 2017, Washington Post: “Working-class whites are the biggest beneficiaries of federal poverty-reduction programs, even though blacks and Hispanics have substantially higher rates of poverty, according to a new study to be released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities…”

Baby Box Program – New Jersey

Baby in a box? Free cardboard bassinets encourage safe sleeping, By Lisa W. Foderaro, February 12, 2017, New York Times: “Jernica Quiñones, a mother of five, was the first parent in New Jersey to get her free baby box — a portable, low-tech bassinet made of laminated cardboard. But first, she had to take an online course about safe sleeping practices, which experts say can sharply reduce the chances of sudden infant death syndrome.  ‘Basically, you want to have the baby on the mattress, and that’s it,’ she said after watching a 20-minute series of videos.  The message may not be new. But health officials say it is critical to keeping babies safe. To reduce infant mortality, parents must put babies to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress in either a bassinet or a crib — with no pillow, blanket, stuffed animal or bumpers.  Now, New Jersey has become the first state to adopt a broad program to reduce infant deaths by aiming to distribute as many as 105,000 of the so-called baby boxes — the expected number of births in the state this year…”

Child Poverty and Health

Study shows poor children face higher rates of asthma and ADHD, By David Templeton, February 13, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Poverty takes a toll on human health and especially on children.   The American Academy of Pediatrics and Britain’s Child Poverty Action Group, among various groups and scientific studies, long have documented the higher risk of illness, chronic disease and disability among impoverished children, along with lower birth weights and an average life expectancy nearly a decade shorter than children from affluent families.  Now add asthma and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to the long list of physical and mental maladies, along with attendant conditions known as ‘comorbidities.’   These are the key findings of a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC study published today in Pediatrics…”

Medicaid Expansion – Utah, Louisiana

  • State officials send feds Medicaid expansion plan for low-income parents, By Alex Stuckey, February 3, 2107, Salt Lake Tribune: “As Utah officials continue to wait for federal approval of their small-scale Medicaid expansion plan, they hope to expand coverage to some parents.  Tom Hudachko, state Department of Health spokesman, said Friday that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ‘verbally indicated’ to state officials late last year that it would approve that part of the expansion, covering low-income parents with dependent children…”
  • Louisiana’s uninsured rate falls to 12.5 percent; leaders cite Medicaid expansion, By Elizabeth Crisp, February 8, 2017, Baton Rouge Advocate: “Louisiana is one of 10 states that have seen the steepest decreases in the rate of uninsured residents over the past four years, according to survey findings released Wednesday. The 2016 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that Louisiana’s uninsured rate fell to 12.5 percent last year — down from 21.7 percent in 2013.  The survey’s researchers note that all 10 states that saw their uninsured rates drop have expanded Medicaid through the federal Affordable Care Act…”

Columbia Daily Tribune Series on Poverty

Left Behind, series homepage, Columbia Daily Tribune: “Poverty does not just affect the poor.  The Left Behind series looks at different aspects of poverty – mobility, crime, education, health care, housing, employment and transportation – and how each affects not only the poor, but the taxpayers of Boone County.  Tribune reporters spent weeks poring over data and talking to Boone County residents about how poverty affects us all…”

Public Defender System – Louisiana

La. Governor sued over state’s alleged failure to provide lawyers to poor defendants, By Rebecca Hersher, February 7, 2017, National Public Radio: “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was sued Monday over his state’s public defender system, which plaintiffs say violates the U.S. and Louisiana Constitutions by denying effective representation to poor people accused of crimes.  The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court describes defendants kept in jail for months before seeing a lawyer, public defenders who are so overworked they cannot provide adequate counsel and multiple instances in which people accused of minor crimes did not receive an attorney at all…”

Small Grant Programs for Low-Income College Students

Universities try new way of providing aid to boost graduation rates for low-income students, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, February 6, 2017, Washington Post: “Several public universities are taking part in a pilot program to provide small-dollar grants to help low-income students complete their degrees.  The five-year project is a collaboration of Temple University and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which will use a nearly $4 million grant from the Education Department to examine and build out completion aid programs at up to 10 universities…”

Retirement Savings for Low-Income Workers – California

Congress targets a California law that aims to give low-income workers retirement security, By Evan Halper, February 9, 2017, Los Angeles Times: ” An ambitious California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the Trump-era Congress, which is moving to block the state and others from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans…”

Lead Poisoning in Children – Indiana

Indiana bill aims to increase lead testing for children in low-income families, By Ted Booker, February 9, 2017, South Bend Tribune: “Only a small fraction of Indiana’s children in low-income families are tested for lead poisoning, but a proposed state bill aims to change that.  Senate Bill 491 — co-authored by Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend — calls for doubling the number of Medicaid-eligible children tested statewide for the toxic metal, which can cause permanent damage to kids’ developing brains and organs…”

Child Welfare System – Idaho

Study: Idaho’s child welfare system overwhelmed, overworked, By Associated Press and Samantha Wright, February 8, 2017, Boise State Public Radio: “State auditors say Idaho’s child welfare system is overwhelmed, with too few foster parents, too heavy caseloads for social workers and not enough infrastructure to hold it all together.  The study from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations found that the number of foster parents has decreased by 8 percent since 2014, while social workers are dealing with 28 to 38 percent more cases than they can reasonably handle…”

The US Structurally Unemployed

The new face of American unemployment, By Jeanna Smialek and Patricia Laya, February 7, 2017, Bloomberg: “Even at so-called full employment, some 20 million Americans are left behind.  They’re looking for work, out of the labor force but unhappy about it, or report working part-time when they’d prefer more hours, according to data released last week. Their plight comes even as the U.S. flirts with what economists consider the maximum level of employment for the first time since before the recession, having added 15.8 million jobs since the start of 2010. While some of America’s jobless are simply between gigs, those persistently stuck out of work are called the structurally unemployed…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Indiana looks to extend Medicaid experiment started under Obamacare, By Phil Galewitz, February 1, 2017, National Public Radio: “As Congress weighs repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday sought to keep its conservative-style Medicaid expansion under the federal health the health law.  Indiana applied to the Trump administration to extend a regulatory waiver and funding until Jan. 31, 2021, for its package of incentives and penalties that are intended to encourage low-income Hoosiers on Medicaid to adopt healthful behaviors. Beneficiaries pay premiums, get health savings accounts and can lose their benefits if they miss payments…”
  • Kasich keeps Medicaid expansion in state budget proposal, By Catherine Candisky, January 31, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “Amid uncertainty about the expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Gov. John Kasich’s final two-year budget proposal maintains Medicaid health coverage for 3 million poor and disabled Ohioans, including the 700,000 childless adults added to the rolls under Obamacare.  To curb costs, Kasich’s plan for Ohio’s tax-funded health insurance program would save hundreds of millions by cutting payments to hospitals and nursing homes, charging premiums to some beneficiaries, and moving nursing home residents and others into private managed-care plans…”
  • Arizona plan to tighten Medicaid eligibility likely to stand better chance under Trump’s watch, By Ken Alltucker, February 1, 2017, Arizona Republic: “State officials again will seek to tighten Medicaid eligibility with new restrictions that could affect tens of thousand of adults enrolled in the government insurance program for low-income Arizonans.  The state’s Medicaid agency is preparing to seek federal permission to require ‘able-bodied’ Medicaid recipients to either be employed or searching for a job while enrolled. The state also proposes to cap lifetime eligibility for Medicaid at five years…”

January 2017 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. starts year with job surge, but pay gains are weak, By Patricia Cohen, February 3, 2017, New York Times: “Job growth was quick out of the gate in the new year, the government reported on Friday, as employers added a healthy 227,000 workers to their payrolls in January. But despite a surge of local minimum-wage increases in states across the country, wage growth was meager.  The official jobless rate rose slightly, to 4.8 percent, but for good cause: More people were lured back into the work force…”

Racial Wealth Gap – Chicago

Chicago’s racial wealth gap far worse than U.S. average, report finds, By Gail MarksJarvis, January 31, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “About 65 percent of African-American, Latino and Asian households in Chicago have so little savings and other assets that a sudden job loss, medical emergency or other income disruption would throw them into poverty within three months, according to a report on wealth inequities in the city.  The report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development identified the divide between the incomes of white households and minority households as wider in Chicago than the nation as a whole. And the national divide is large. Not only do Chicago’s white households on average far exceed African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in income, but there is a sharp difference in the city between the wealth held by whites and that held by minority communities…”

Foster Care – Kentucky

Court: Kentucky must pay relatives who take in foster kids, By Deborah Yetter, February 1, 2017, Courier-Journal: “A federal appeals court has ruled Kentucky must pay relatives who serve as foster parents in the same manner it pays adults who are licensed as foster parents and paid a daily rate.  Friday’s ruling by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals could prove a budget blow to the state’s human services agency, already straining to care for a growing number of children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect…”

Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Detroiters leave $80 million unclaimed for tax credit, By Susan Tompor, January 29, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “The Earned Income Tax Credit is one big bonus check for Michigan’s struggling workforce. The credit is a one-time shot of potentially thousands of dollars that can be used to pay bills, put money down on a used car or even, maybe, save a little something for a rainy day or retirement.  It’s sort of like those big profit-sharing checks for many autoworkers that are ranging from $5,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to $9,000 on average at Ford.  But you must file a tax return to get that tax-credit cash. And plenty of people don’t file for one reason or another…”
  • Gov. Scott Walker to expand low-income tax credit he once cut, By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, February 1, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker is reversing course on a key tax credit for the working poor, proposing to raise incomes for more than 130,000 state families by returning the more than $20 million a year he cut from the program in 2011.  The Republican governor will unveil the proposal at the Wauwatosa Rotary Club Wednesday as part of a broader package in his budget bill that aims to strengthen families and marriage. The measure marks the changing priorities for Walker as he shifts from the budget cuts of his first term to his current goal of trying to draw Wisconsinites into the work force…”