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…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Obamacare, Medicaid-expansion recipients in Ohio fear repeal, By Catherine Candisky, Alan Johnson and JoAnne Viviano, January 22, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “Breast-cancer survivor Susan Halpern said she is terrified about losing her health-care coverage if the Trump administration follows through with its promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Bankruptcy could be on the horizon, the Columbus woman said.  ‘I’m trying to figure out a way to survive and keep some kind of health insurance,’ said Halpern, 57, who owns a small social-media business.  Nearly 1 million Ohioans, and 20 million nationwide, are covered under the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage and creation of an insurance exchange marketplace that offers federal subsidies to help many Americans pay premiums…”
  • Republican states look to customize Medicaid expansion, not eliminate it, By Christine Vestal, January 23, 2017, Stateline: “As candidates two years ago, the Republican governors of Kentucky and Arkansas swore they would do away with ‘Obamacare’ if elected. But a funny thing happened between the campaign trail and the governor’s mansion: Reality set in.  After promising to uproot Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin simply renamed his Democratic predecessor’s health care plan for low-income adults and proposed changes designed to help people find jobs and get off the rolls…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Criticizing Kansas, feds deny extension of KanCare privatized Medicaid program, By Bryan Lowry and Hunter Woodall, January 19, 2017, Kansas City Star: “Federal officials have rejected Kansas’ request to extend its privatized Medicaid program, KanCare, saying it has failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas is ‘substantively out of compliance with Federal statutes and regulations, as well as its Medicaid State Plan’ based on a review by federal investigators in October, according to a letter sent to the state Jan. 13 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services…”
  • GOP governors who turned down Medicaid money have hands out, By Thomas Beaumont (AP), January 19, 2017, Seattle Times: “Republican governors who turned down billions in federal dollars from an expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law now have their hands out in hopes the GOP-controlled Congress comes up with a new formula to provide insurance for low-income Americans.  The other GOP governors, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who agreed to expand state-run services in exchange for federal help — more than a dozen out of the 31 states — are adamant that Congress maintain the financing that has allowed them to add millions of low-income people to the health insurance rolls…”

Health Insurance Coverage

Poor, chronically sick, unemployed most likely to lose coverage if ACA repealed, study finds, By Gillian Mohney and Dr. Darien Sutton-Ramsey, January 20, 2017, ABC News: “With Republican lawmakers promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act under the new administration, researchers have been working to understand how people who gained coverage after the ACA’s passage will be affected.  Those most at risk for losing coverage are more likely to be poor, have a chronic illness or be unemployed, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association…”

Earnings Gap by Education Level

Pay gap between college grads and everyone else at a record, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), January 12, 2017, Star Tribune: “Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.  The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground…”

Minimum Wage

  • What will a higher minimum wage do? Two new studies have different ideas, By Natalie Kitroeff, January 11, 2107, Los Angeles Times: “The federal government set its first minimum wage, at 25 cents an hour, in 1938. Since then, liberals have cheered attempts to raise the minimum as blows against worker exploitation, while businesses lament that the hikes will kill jobs.  But nearly 80 years later, economists still aren’t sure how a higher minimum wage actually affects companies and their customers…”
  • Higher minimum wage may have losers, By Noam Scheiber, January 10, 2017, New York Times: “A growing number of economists have found that many cities and states have considerable room to raise the minimum wage before employers meaningfully cut back on hiring.  But that conclusion may gloss over some significant responses to minimum-wage increases by individual employers, according to two new studies. And those reactions may, in turn, raise questions about the effectiveness of the minimum wage in helping certain workers…”

Low-Income Tax Refunds

IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income families, January 11, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “The IRS is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families this year as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud.  The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both…”

Medicaid Expansion – Michigan

  • Snyder fights for Medicaid plan in Obamacare repeal, By Jonathan Oosting, January 4, 2017, Detroit News: “Gov. Rick Snyder wants Republican President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress to spare Michigan’s unique form of Medicaid expansion as they consider dismantling the Affordable Care Act, calling it a ‘successful’ program that could serve as a national model.  Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare’ but has not made clear whether he wants to pull back state funding for expanded Medicaid eligibility. It is a key but costly provision of the 2010 law that has allowed millions of low-income residents to qualify for government-paid health care coverage…”
  • U-M study shows benefits of Michigan expanding Medicaid, By Kathleen Gray, January 4, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “Even though the state’s bills for the expansion of Medicaid to more than 640,000 low-income Michiganders is growing from $152 million this year to $399 million in 2021, the economic benefit of providing the health care will more than make up for the cost to the state, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of Michigan…”

December 2016 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. economy creates a modest 156,000 jobs in December, By Don Lee, January 6, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Job growth slowed at the end of last year while the unemployment rate ticked higher — signs that the tight labor market is resulting in diminished hiring even as it is pushing wages higher. The U.S. economy added 156,000 net new jobs last month, down from an upwardly revised 204,000 created in November, the Labor Department said Friday…”

Basic Income – Finland

Finland trials basic income for unemployed, By Jon Henley, January 3, 2017, The Guardian: “Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum, in a social experiment that will be watched around the world amid gathering interest in the idea of a universal basic income.  Under the two-year, nationwide pilot scheme, which began on 1 January, 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 will receive a guaranteed sum of €560 (£475). The income will replace their existing social benefits and will be paid even if they find work…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

A higher minimum wage in 2017, By Karl Russell, January 5, 2017, New York Times: “With the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unchanged since 2009, many states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the statewide minimum wage. While a higher floor for pay is a powerful tool for improving the lot of the least-skilled workers, some economists worry it could result in slower job creation or cuts as employers confront higher labor costs…”