States and Medicaid Expansion

  • In health bill’s defeat, Medicaid comes of age, By Kate Zernike, Abby Goodnough and Pam Belluck, March 27, 2017, New York Times: “When it was created more than a half century ago, Medicaid almost escaped notice. Front-page stories hailed the bigger, more controversial part of the law that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed that July day in 1965 — health insurance for elderly people, or Medicare, which the American Medical Association had bitterly denounced as socialized medicine. The New York Times did not even mention Medicaid, conceived as a small program to cover poor people’s medical bills. But over the past five decades, Medicaid has surpassed Medicare in the number of Americans it covers. It has grown gradually into a behemoth that provides for the medical needs of one in five Americans — 74 million people — starting for many in the womb, and for others, ending only when they go to their graves…”
  • Medicaid expansion becomes trendy with death of GOP health bill, By Maggie Fox, March 31, 2017, NBC News: “All of a sudden, Medicaid is trendy again. The governor of Kansas vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have expanded Medicaid in his state. But the legislature is reserving the option of trying to override the veto and Virginia and North Carolina are moving toward expansion. Several other states are considering it.  It’s a fast turnaround made by states that had resolutely resisted taking part on a major plank of the 2010 Affordable Care Act — the expansion of Medicaid to cover more people…”
  • The states where Obamacare’s footprint might get even bigger, By Russell Berman, March 29, 2017, The Atlantic: “Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived its most serious threat in Congress, the law’s footprint across the country might grow even larger in the months ahead. Several states that initially opted out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion are now reconsidering their decision as a result of last year’s elections and as Republicans come under new pressure to accept the billions in federal dollars available under the law. The most aggressive push is coming in deep-red Kansas, where the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday sent Governor Sam Brownback legislation that could expand the state’s version of Medicaid to as many as 150,000 new enrollees…”
  • Brownback vetoes Medicaid expansion; House pauses override debate, By Jonathan Shorman, March 30, 2017, Wichita Eagle: “The fate of Medicaid expansion in Kansas remains undecided – at least until Monday – as supporters of expansion scramble to find votes to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto. Brownback vetoed the proposal Thursday morning, one day after receiving it. ‘The cost of expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare is irresponsible and unsustainable,’ he said in his veto message…”
  • Arkansas lawmakers send Medicaid expansion to governor, By John Lyon, March 31, 2017, Times Record: “The House on Thursday approved and sent to the governor’s desk a bill that will fund Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program for another year. House members voted 77-13 to approve Senate Bill 196 by the Joint Budget Committee, a bill to appropriate $8.3 billion in federal and state Medicaid money for traditional Medicaid and the Medicaid expansion program…”
  • Georgia to explore Medicaid changes after GOP health plan’s implosion, By Greg Bluestein, March 27, 2017, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday his administration is exploring changes to Georgia’s Medicaid program after a sweeping Republican overhaul of the Affordable Care Act was scuttled in a stunning rebuke to Donald Trump and Congressional leaders. The Republican governor said there are limits to what the state can request ‘as long as mandates under the basic Obamacare legislation stand in place.’ But he said the state would review healthcare options that could include changes to ‘mandated minimum coverage’ provisions that require the state Medicaid program to cover a range of health services to recipients…”

County Health Rankings – Minnesota

Report: Child poverty, STDs, premature death on the rise, By Stephanie Dickrell, March 29, 2017, St. Cloud Times: “Child poverty and STDs are on the rise in Central Minnesota, according to a nationwide report released Wednesday. The County Health Rankings looks at health outcomes, health behaviors and access, as well as social, economic and environmental factors. ‘What the rankings show us is that where we live matters to our health,’ said Aliana Havrilla, a community coach for County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. ‘It’s an easy-to-use snapshot.’  The results for Central Minnesota are mixed, although in general, the region is doing better than the state and the country. There are plenty of areas to improve upon including smoking, obesity, excessive drinking and access to exercise opportunities…”

Ohio Poverty Report

Report highlights Ohio grandparents, college students living in poverty, By Jackie Borchardt, March 23, 2017, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “More than 90,000 Ohioans are responsible for caring for grandchildren, and about 22 percent of the state’s residents live in poverty. Meanwhile, at least 12 Ohio colleges and universities have opened food pantries for students. And a single parent with two children must work 109 hours a week in a minimum-wage job to reach self-sufficiency. Those are among the findings in a new report from organizations battling poverty on the front lines. The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies annual State of Poverty report examines census data and other research to paint a picture of poverty in the Buckeye State…”

Lifeline Program and Internet Access

FCC to halt expansion of broadband subsidies for poor people, By Jon Brodkin, March 29, 2017, Ars Technica: “The Federal Communications Commission is dropping its legal defense of a new system for expanding broadband subsidies for poor people, and it will not approve applications from companies that want to offer the low-income broadband service. The decision announced today by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai would halt implementation of last year’s expansion of the Lifeline program. This 32-year-old program gives poor people $9.25 a month toward communications services, and it was changed last year to support broadband in addition to phone service…”

Medicaid Births – New Mexico

NM has highest rate of Medicaid-covered births, By Rick Nathanson, March 28, 2017, Albuquerque Journal: “New Mexico leads the nation in the percentage of babies born into Medicaid families – which can be taken as a reflection of the state’s high poverty rate or an indication that government here takes care of its own. According to figures from 2015, 72 percent of the births reported in New Mexico were paid for by Medicaid, a jointly funded federal-state health insurance program for low-income, disabled and other people who qualify…”

Welfare Reform – Maine

Gov. LePage tells legislators: Turn my welfare actions into permanent law, By Kevin Miller, March 28, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a package of proposed welfare changes Tuesday that seek to put into law the executive actions his administration has made to tighten access to assistance programs while beefing up work requirements. Several of the proposals outlined by LePage were introduced as bills in the past but have failed in the Legislature in the face of opposition from Democrats and advocates for low-income Mainers…”

Immigrant Families and Assistance Programs

  • Deportation fears prompt immigrants to cancel food stamps, By Pam Fessler, March 28, 2017, National Public Radio: “Groups that help low-income families get food assistance are alarmed by a recent drop in the number of immigrants seeking help. Some families are even canceling their food stamps and other government benefits, for fear that receiving them will affect their immigration status or lead to deportation. Many of the concerns appear to be unfounded but have been fueled by the Trump administration’s tough stance on immigration…”
  • Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are scaring eligible families away from the safety net, By Annie Lowrey, March 24, 2017, The Atlantic: “As the evening rush hour peaked, Blanca Palomeque stationed herself by the carts selling roasted corn, tamales, and ice cream at the exit to the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue subway stop in Queens. She spotted a woman pushing a baby in a pink stroller and tugging along two school-aged girls with pigtails. ‘Excuse me, good afternoon, how are you?’ Palomeque said in Spanish. ‘Do you have food stamps for your children? Here is some information.’ She pushed a flyer into the mother’s hand before rushing over to a pregnant woman to speak with her as well. Palomeque repeated this process over and over again until the trains became less crowded, urging mothers and fathers and grandparents to look into their eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, for themselves, for their children, for a friend, for a neighbor…”

Refugee Resettlement – North Dakota

Federal funds give refugees a start, but communities offer local safety net, By Andrew Haffner, March 28, 2017, Grand Forks Herald: “When she’s not behind the counter at Al Amin Grocery in Grand Forks, Ilhaam Hassan is helping fellow members of the local Somali refugee community find their way in a new land. Hassan, a native of Somalia, came to the U.S. in 1999 when she was just a child. Now in her early 30s, Hassan’s fluency in English has opened a role for her as an interpreter with the local office of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the agency tasked with resettling refugees, many of whom are Somalis, in the state’s most populous cities: Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks. With her own passage a distant memory, Hassan now works with those refugees from Somalia who now find themselves in northeast North Dakota. Even with help from the federal government and local civic groups, she says the transition is difficult for new arrivals…”

Rural Employment

  • In search of rural jobs, states weigh strategy with checkered past, By Jen Fifield, March 30, 2017, Stateline: “In rural communities across the country, jobs are disappearing and people are moving away, driving a desperation that helped elect Donald Trump president. But as state lawmakers look for ways to bring life to these long-struggling areas, many are falling prey to a complex economic development approach, pushed hard by investment firms that stand to benefit, that has failed to live up to its promises…”
  • Disabled, or just desperate?, By Terrence McCoy, March 30, 2017, Washington Post: “The lobby at the pain-management clinic had become crowded with patients, so relatives had gone outside to their trucks to wait, and here, too, sat Desmond Spencer, smoking a 9 a.m. cigarette and watching the door. He tried stretching out his right leg, knowing these waits can take hours, and winced. He couldn’t sit easily for long, not anymore, and so he took a sip of soda and again thought about what he should do.  He hadn’t had a full-time job in a year. He was skipping meals to save money. He wore jeans torn open in the front and back. His body didn’t work like it once had. He limped in the days, and in the nights, his hands would swell and go numb, a reminder of years spent hammering nails. His right shoulder felt like it was starting to go, too…”

Bail System – California

Here’s how state lawmakers plan to reform the bail system in CaliforniaBy Jazmine Ulloa, March 26, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “State lawmakers have unveiled an ambitious plan to reform how counties in California set bail for defendants while they wait for their cases to be resolved or go to trial.  New language added Friday to bills by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) would prevent criminal defendants from having to post money as a condition of release from jail and would shift some power from judges to pretrial services agencies to assess the risks they would pose if allowed out in the community…”

SNAP Work Requirements – Georgia

Able-bodied food stamp recipients could lose benefits, By Craig Schneider, March 27, 2017, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Days from now, thousands more Georgia food stamp recipients would lose their benefits if they fail to find a job. The April 1 deadline applies to nearly 12,000 adults – all deemed able-bodied and without children – in 21 counties, including many in North Georgia and several in the Atlanta area such as Forsyth, Bartow and Barrow. A wave of people is expected to lose benefits in Georgia because of the mandate. When work requirements have been introduced in other states, more than half the affected people often lose their food stamps. And three counties in Georgia that put the work mandate in place last year have seen their rolls significantly decline…”

Chronic Homelessness – Bergen County, NJ

Bergen County first in nation to end chronic homelessness, By Fausto Giovanny Pinto, March 28, 2017, Star-Ledger: “Bergen County has been certified as the first ‘community’ in the nation to end chronic homelessness.  The announcement was made by county and federal officials at the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center – which officials called integral in achieving the milestone…”

State and Local Minimum Wages – Iowa

GOP’s minimum wage rollback headed to Branstad’s desk, By William Petroski, March 27, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that freezes the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although Democrats angrily denounced the bill, accusing Republicans of failing to support poor Iowans. House File 295 rolls back minimum wage increases already approved in four counties, including Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello. In addition, Lee County supervisors have been in the process of approving a minimum wage hike…”

Suburban Poverty – Richmond, VA

Poverty growth in Richmond suburbs continues to outpace city’s, By Debbie Truong, Vanessa Remmers, K. Burnell Evans and Katie Demeria, March 10, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The growth of suburban poverty continues to outpace that of the city’s, radiating from Richmond into neighboring Chesterfield and Henrico counties, fresh U.S. Census data show.  From 2000 to 2015,the brunt of poverty in the region shifted from the city into the counties — mirroring a national trend…”

Rural Poverty and Crime

Report: Violent crime rate is higher for rural poor, By Sophia Tareen (AP), March 15, 2017, State Journal-Register: “People living in poverty are more likely to become victims of violent crime than higher income earners whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas, but the rural poor experience crime at higher rates, according to a Wednesday report by a Chicago research group…”

Public Defender System – Missouri

Missouri sued over low funding for public defender system, By Margaret Stafford (AP), March 9, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri’s public defender system is so badly underfunded and understaffed its lawyers are unable to provide even rudimentary representation for indigent clients, who often languish in jail or appear in court without attorneys, according to a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the state to increase funding…”

Medicaid Privatization – Iowa

Medicaid firms spending less on care for Iowa’s poor, disabled, By Tony Leys, March 15, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The three private firms running Iowa’s Medicaid program have found ways to trim spending on care for the poor or disabled Iowans they cover, a new report suggests. But all three continue to lose tens of millions of dollars on the controversial project.  The companies’ per-member monthly spending on health care for adults fell by as much as 28 percent from the three months ending in September 2016 to the three months ending in December 2016, the new report shows…”

Access to Health Clinics and Medicaid Births

Cutting Planned Parenthood would increase Medicaid births, C.B.O. says, By Kate Zernike, March 14, 2017, New York Times: “Cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood — a longstanding conservative goal that is included in the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act — would reduce access to birth control for many women and result in thousands of additional Medicaid births, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Because nearly half of all births nationwide are to Medicaid patients, and many of those babies are Medicaid patients themselves, the budget office estimated that defunding Planned Parenthood even for a year would increase Medicaid spending by $21 million in the first year, and $77 million by 2026…”

Ex-Offenders and Occupational Licenses

To help ex-offenders get jobs, some states reconsider licenses, By Sophie Quinton, March 8, 2017, Stateline: “Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft.  Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.  ‘I was a whole other person back then,’ Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application…”

Foster Care System – Idaho

‘Every phone call is a trauma.’ Idaho’s foster care system to see a boost in support, By Bill Dentzer, March 10, 2017, Idaho Statesman: “Idaho’s child welfare system, the subject of a legislative performance review released in February, is getting some of the additional resources that state evaluators said were needed to address staff burnout, underserved foster families and other issues.  Safety of children is not an issue and the system is not in crisis, evaluators and foster care workers are quick to note. Caseloads are in fact lower now than they were in 2007, the last time the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluation took a look.  But caseload is different from workload…”