Medicaid Expansion – Kentucky

Kentucky examines Medicaid expansion’s effects, By Chris Kenning and Laura Ungar, January 26, 2015, Louisville Courier-Journal: “One year after Kentucky enacted expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, the health care program for the poor and disabled has grown to serve nearly 1.2 million residents — a quarter of Kentucky’s population. Now, consultants are finalizing a report examining the expansion’s impact on the state’s health care system — and its bottom line — in a review that advocates say will carry important implications and is being watched by other states still considering an expansion. The study, set for release by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in the coming weeks, will explore how the change has affected areas such as provider reimbursements and uncompensated care; whether it’s beginning to create more jobs or tax revenue; and its future enrollment outlook…”

State Welfare Programs – Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan

  • Participation in ‘workfare’ fell sharply in Mass., study finds, By Megan Woolhouse, January 22, 2015, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest participation of welfare recipients working to receive their benefits, undermining one of the key reforms that was intended to move people from public assistance to self-sufficiency, according to a study to be released Thursday by a conservative Beacon Hill think tank. Only 7.3 percent of people receiving welfare benefits in the state held jobs in fiscal 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the Pioneer Institute. That’s roughly one-fourth the national average of about 30 percent…”
  • Walker budget to bar drug users from food stamps, Medicaid, By Jason Stein, January 22, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With federal approval in doubt, Gov. Scott Walker is moving ahead with his campaign pledge to ensure that drug users aren’t getting public health care, food stamp or jobless benefits. As Walker explores a 2016 presidential bid, the proposal being included in the governor’s Feb. 3 budget bill will help him sell himself to GOP primary voters as a leader committed to overhauling the core programs of government. For the first time Thursday, Walker committed to drug testing recipients of BadgerCare Plus health coverage and also pledged free treatment and job training for those testing positive for drugs…”
  • Snyder’s welfare plan needs ‘mother of all waivers’, By Chad Livengood, January 22, 2015, Detroit News: “Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday the federal government may need to grant Michigan ‘the mother of all waivers’ for his administration to redesign some 145 different social services programs. Snyder’s ambitious ‘river of opportunity’ agenda that he unveiled Tuesday in his State of the State address may involve a complex untangling of a federally financed state bureaucracy for the governor to make government programs more ‘people centric’ instead of program-driven…”

Kids Count Report – Rhode Island

One in five children in R.I. living in poverty, Kids Count report says, By Richard Salit, January 22, 2015, Providence Journal: “A new report finds that more than one in every five children in Rhode Island was living in poverty in 2013, a rate that is little improved since the end of the recession and is worse than the rest of New England. The report, put out by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, says 21.5 percent of children younger than 18 live below the federal poverty level. That’s 44,923 of the state’s 208,700 children, according to the report…”

Immigrants and Health Insurance Coverage – California

Calif. has novel view of health care for undocumented immigrants, By Anna Gorman, January 17, 2015, USA Today: “Angel Torres hasn’t been to the doctor since coming to the United States illegally more than two decades ago. But now, his vision is getting blurry and he frequently feels tired. Torres, 51, worries he might have diabetes like his brothers. ‘Time is passing,’ he said in Spanish. ‘I need to get checked out.’ Torres is in luck. He lives in California, which has a dramatically different approach to health care for undocumented immigrants than most other states…”

Medicaid Reimbursement

  • Paid more, doctors saw more Medicaid patients, Penn study finds, By Don Sapatkin, January 21, 2015, Philadelphia Inquirer: “For two years, the Obama administration dramatically raised Medicaid reimbursements for primary-care physicians in the hope that they would see more poor patients. The idea was that states would jump in to continue at least part of the payments. Few did, and the experiment ended Dec. 31, before researchers could report evidence of an impact. Now they have…”
  • Doctors took on more Medicaid patients when Obamacare boosted their pay, By Tim Darragh, January 22, 2015, “Doctors were much more willing to take on poor and low-income patients when the federal government temporarily boosted Medicaid payments, according to the study published Wednesday. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests the two-year increase in Medicaid reimbursements as scheduled in the Affordable Care Act helped bring health care to more of the poor and low-income people who are enrolled in the program. But the findings leave some concern the access to care problems those enrollees had before the program began will resume again, since New Jersey is among 35 states that let it expire on Dec. 31…”

Medicaid and Managed-Care – Iowa

Iowa to hire private firms to help run Medicaid, By Tony Leys, January 20, 2015, Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad plans to hire a private managed-care company or companies to help run the state’s Medicaid program, legislators and administration officials said Tuesday. Details are scarce on how the plan would work, but Branstad projects it would save $51.3 million from January through June 2016, its first six months. Managed-care arrangements generally involve private companies that oversee large health care programs and that share savings they obtain by making care more efficient. Iowa already has two such contracts for some services under Medicaid. The new arrangement apparently would involve a broad array of services, legislators said…”

Kids Count Report – New Mexico

Child report: a few improvements in NM, By Rick Nathanson, January 20, 2015, Albuquerque Journal: “It’s not all bad news, but still pretty bad. The 2014 Kids Count data book for New Mexico and produced by New Mexico Voices for Children, says the state saw improvement in just five of the 16 indicators of child well-being. Worse, child poverty—a main factor in poor outcomes— increased from 28 percent in 2012 to 31 percent in 2013, even as it decreased in most of the rest of the nation…”

Oregonian Series on Homelessness in Oregon

Our Homeless Crisis: A close look at homelessness in Oregon starts this weekend, By Anna Griffin, January 16, 2014, The Oregonian: “This weekend, we’ll publish the first story in a project that started last spring with a question, one readers ask anytime The Oregonian/ writes about poverty, panhandling or illegal camps: Is homelessness worse in Portland, or does it just feel that way? To find out, reporter Anna Griffin interviewed national experts, elected officials, nonprofit organizers, advocates for the poor, social workers, police officers, doctors, volunteers and dozens of men and women who are either homeless now or recently got indoors…”

Low-Income Public School Students

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty, By Lyndsey Layton, January 16, 2015, Washington Post: “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation. The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunches in the 2012-2013 school year. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers…”

Extreme Poverty – Rochester, NY

Report: Rochester tops ‘extreme poverty’ list, By David Riley, January 9, 2015, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “This is not the kind of national list that Rochester-area residents hope to top. Rochester now has more people living at less than half the federal poverty level than any other similarly-sized city in the U.S., says a report released Thursday by the Rochester Area Community Foundation and its ACT Rochester initiative. For a family of four, that means getting by on less than $11,925 a year — conditions that the report described as ‘extreme poverty.’ Another unfortunate distinction: Rochester is now the only city of its size where slightly more than half of children live in poverty, according to the report…”

Medicaid Expansion – Pennsylvania

Applying for Pa. Medicaid expansion? Wait in line, By Robert Calandra, January 16, 2015, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Almost seven weeks after the launch of Healthy Pennsylvania, the state’s Medicaid expansion plan, enrollment has been hampered by delays. Only an estimated 55,000 of 163,968 people who applied for the program by Jan. 1 have been enrolled in the Medicaid expansion, said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services. She acknowledged the delays and said the agency was working to fix them…”

Long-Term Impacts of Medicaid

Study: Medicaid-eligible children pay more in taxes as adults, By Amanda Cuda, January 12, 2015, Stamford Advocate: “Children of the 1980s who were eligible for expanded Medicaid benefits in their youth paid more in taxes as adults, according to a new study from Yale University. The study also showed that these same people were more likely to attend college and less likely to die prematurely in adulthood than peers who weren’t eligible for benefits. For some advocates, the research supports what they have long believed about providing Medicaid to vulnerable populations…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance – Maine

With AG’s approval, LePage administration to start drug testing some welfare applicants, By Mario Moretto, January 14, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “After changes were made to protect the state from potential lawsuits, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is moving forward with a plan to drug test some welfare applicants as a condition of eligibility. The new rule, approved recently by Attorney General Janet Mills, requires applicants convicted of a drug felony in the past 20 years to take a written test designed to determine their risk for further drug use. If the applicant is determined to be at risk, he or she would be required to take a drug test…”

State Tax Burdens

  • Study finds local taxes hit lower wage earners harder, By Patricia Cohen, January 13, 2015, New York Times: “When it comes to the taxes closest to home, the less you earn, the harder you’re hit. That is the conclusion of an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that evaluates the local tax burden in every state, from Washington, labeled the most regressive, to Delaware, ranked as the fairest of them all. According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent…”
  • Are local taxes unfair to the poor?, By Aimee Picchi, January 14, 2015, CBS News: “When it comes to state taxes, the rule of thumb is often topsy-turvy: The less you earn, the more you pay. That’s the conclusion from a new analysis of local taxes from the nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonpartisan research firm that studies tax issues. The organization’s findings won’t do much to make middle- and low-income workers feel good about their state and local tax burdens. The poorest 20 percent of Americans pay an average effective state and local tax rate of 10.9 percent. By comparison, the top 1 percent of Americans have an effective local tax burden of 5.4 percent…”

Nurse Family Partnership

How nurses can help low-income mothers and kids, By Nancy Cook, January 14, 2015, The Atlantic: “At the start of her junior year of college, 19-year-old Camille Wallace discovered she was pregnant. At the time, she lived in student housing with three roommates in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Her relationship with the father of her child had already ended. And her financial situation? Well, that was precarious. Wallace supported herself by working temporary or seasonal jobs on vacation breaks, earning no more than $5,000 to $6,000 a year. “I was a typical college student, eating ramen noodles every day,” Wallace, now 25, remembers. ‘I thought: ‘I can barely feed myself. How can I feed this child?” Wallace’s outlook changed, however, when she saw a flyer for something called Nurse Family Partnership. The maternal-health and home-visitation program set up shop in South Carolina in 2009, and it offered her a lifeline during this daunting period…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Iowa minimum wage trails neighbors, but hike unlikely, By Matthew Patane, January 11, 2015, Des Moines Register: “In South Dakota, a worker earning minimum wage gets paid $8.50 an hour — $1.25 an hour more than in Iowa. In Nebraska, the minimum wage is $8 an hour, and in Illinois, it’s $8.25 — both higher than Iowa’s $7.25 minimum. In fact, except for Wisconsin, Iowa is surrounded by states that offer a higher minimum wage. And the difference can be substantial — adding up to an additional $800 to $2,600 a year for full-time workers earning a higher minimum…”
  • Minnesota restaurant owners want break on tipped workers, By Patrick Condon, January 13, 2015, Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune: “Minnesota restaurateurs, sensing an opportunity with the new Republican House majority and fresh signs of sympathy from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, plan to push for an exemption to last year’s minimum wage increase that would allow them to pay a lower base wage to tipped employees. ‘This last year has been a test for us,’ said Ed Fong, owner of David Fong’s, a Bloomington Chinese restaurant his parents opened in 1958. ‘With the minimum wage increase, and big increases in food costs — those are my two biggest costs, and I seem to have less and less control of those items.’ When the Legislature boosted the state minimum wage last year, a proposal to add the so-called ‘tipped employee tier’ nearly became part of the package. The idea had bipartisan support, but failed by one vote in the DFL-controlled House. Then Dayton, who strongly backed the minimum wage law, said shortly after signing it that he saw the logic behind an exemption for restaurants…”
  • Minimum wage increase in Colorado still leaves some workers short, By Greg Ruland, January 10, 2015, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “The 23-cent increase in Colorado’s minimum wage provoked mixed reactions from local business owners and county officials, but did little to close the gap between full-time pay and the cost of living in Mesa County. The raise from $8 to $8.23 per hour — or for tipped employees, from $4.98 to $5.21 per hour — took effect Jan. 1. Spokesmen for two area restaurants employing minimum wage workers voiced different points of view about the increase…”

Predatory Lending

  • Rise in loans linked to cars is hurting poor, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, December 25, 2014, New York Times: “The rusting 1994 Oldsmobile sitting in a driveway just outside St. Louis was an unlikely cash machine. That was until the car’s owner, a 30-year-old hospital lab technician, saw a television commercial describing how to get cash from just such a car, in the form of a short-term loan. The lab technician, Caroline O’Connor, who needed about $1,000 to cover her rent and electricity bills, believed she had found a financial lifeline…”
  • Churches step in with alternative to high-interest, small-dollar lending industry, By Rebecca Robbins, January 9, 2015, Washington Post: “Every month for about three years, Nina McCarthy followed the same routine after payday. She’d go into a Check Into Cash near her home in the Richmond area, and pay off an open-end loan for $700 or $800 – and then she’d take out a new one for the same amount, never accumulating interest in the process. Then McCarthy’s overtime hours at work were cut. With rent, a car payment and a 3-year-old granddaughter to feed, McCarthy didn’t have $700 for Check Into Cash. McCarthy made a partial payment, but interest piled up rapidly, at a rate she recalls was 24.9 percent a month, or a nearly 300 percent annualized rate…”

College Affordability – Michigan

Low-income students seeing huge cost hikes at some Michigan universities, By Ron French, January 5, 2015, MLive: “Michigan’s poorest college students are bearing the brunt of cost increases at some state public universities, decreasing the chances Michigan’s most vulnerable students will earn degrees. Over a recent four-year period, six of the state’s 15 public universities increased the net cost of attendance for their poorest students ‒ those from families earning less than $30,000 a year ‒ more than for their wealthier classmates…”

Child Care Subsidies – Oregon

New federal child care rules, meant to help families, could also harm them, says Oregon audit, By Amy Wang, January 5, 2014, The Oregonian: “As Oregon works to meet new federal rules meant to expand access to child care and improve its educational quality, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and others are raising concerns that the families who most need stable and affordable child care could lose it as a result of those same rules. The rules are part of the recently reauthorized federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, which helps fund child care subsidies for lower-income families…”