States and Medicaid Expansion

3-state study sizes up gains via Medicaid; coverage soars in Arkansas, Kentucky, less so in Texas, By Andy Davis, May 23, 2017, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “Three years after their states expanded Medicaid, low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky continued to be more likely to have a doctor and less likely to have trouble paying medical bills or to delay seeking care because of the cost, a study has found. The study, conducted annually since 2013 by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found those and other improvements in Arkansas and Kentucky continued to be significant compared with smaller or nonexistent gains in Texas, which did not expand Medicaid…”

US State Unemployment

  • Unemployment rates hit record lows in 3 states, By Josh Boak (AP), May 19, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Solid hiring nationwide led unemployment rates to touch record lows in three U.S. states last month. Unemployment rates declined in 10 states in April, increased in one — Massachusetts — and held relatively stable in the other 39, the Labor Department said Friday. A significant number of the job gains occurred in nine states, led by Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Indiana was the only state to see a significant decrease in jobs last month…”
  • 9 years after recession began, some states still unrecovered, By Jeff Amy (AP), May 18, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Call them the unrecovered — a handful of states where job markets, nine years later, are still struggling back to where they were before the recession. That’s true in Mississippi, where job numbers and the overall size of the economy remain below 2008 levels. Unlike states that have long since sprinted ahead, Mississippi is struggling with slow economic growth and slipping population in a place that’s rarely at peak economic health…”

States and Medicaid Coverage

  • Medicaid is helping poor patients get needed care, even as Republicans push to cut it, study finds, By Noam N. Levey, May 17, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “As the Trump administration and congressional Republicans push for sweeping cuts to the Medicaid safety net, a study released Wednesday provides new evidence the program is significantly improving poor Americans’ access to vital medical care. Low-income patients in Arkansas and Kentucky, two states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, are getting check-ups more regularly and delaying care because of cost less frequently…”
  • Nebraska’s new Medicaid managed care system blamed for problems with billing and getting approval for care, By Martha Stoddard, May 15, 2017, Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska’s new system for administering the bulk of its Medicaid program has gotten off to a rocky start. Nearly five months after its launch, the system has left behavioral health and home health providers fuming over unpaid claims and frustrated about getting care authorized for patients…”
  • Medicaid spending caps in Republican proposal would cut coverage for Florida children, By Daniel Chang, May 18, 2017, Miami Herald: “Low-income children in Florida gained Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act despite the state’s refusal to expand eligibility for the public health insurance program, according to a study published Wednesday by the non-partisan Urban Institute, a health policy think tank. But those gains may end if the American Health Care Act — the Republican-sponsored bill to repeal and replace the health law known as Obamacare — creates spending caps for Medicaid, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health in a separate report this week…”
  • Big health gains in Medicaid expansion states elude Texas’ poor, By Jenny Deam, May 18, 2017, Houston Chronicle: “The health of Texas’ poor is worse – at times significantly so – than those who live in two Southern states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. A report Wednesday in Health Affairs, a health policy journal, examined four years of medical outcomes in Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky and found that health measurements in the latter two states, both of which expanded Medicaid, dramatically improved in nearly all categories…”

Health Insurance Coverage in the US

Progress reducing U.S. uninsured rate comes to a halt, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), May 16, 2017, Seattle Times: “Five years of progress reducing the number of Americans without health insurance has come to a halt, according to a government report out Tuesday. More than a factoid, it shows the stakes in the Republican drive to roll back the Affordable Care Act. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 28.6 million people were uninsured in 2016, unchanged from 2015. It was the first year since passage of the health care overhaul in 2010 that the number of uninsured did not budge…”

Wage Theft – Ohio

Wage theft report finds many in Ohio paid below minimum wage, By Olivera Perkins, May 11, 2017, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ohio ranked second among large states for the share of workers whose employers failed to pay them minimum wage, according to a recently released report. In Ohio, 5.5 percent of workers experienced this type of ‘wage theft,’ according to the analysis released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Ohio’s current minimum wage is $8.15 an hour…”

States and Job Training

Why some states are making short-term training free, By Sophie Quinton, May 3, 2017, Stateline: “Community colleges are known for their associate degree programs. But these days, many community colleges award more certificates than degrees. Certificates typically take less than two years to complete and promise to prepare students for entry-level jobs in fields such as medical insurance coding or welding. Now Kentucky and Indiana have created scholarships that would make some certificates tuition-free. The new grants draw inspiration from the free college idea pushed by Democrats like former President Barack Obama and embraced by Oregon, Tennessee and New York. But they’re less focused on reducing soaring tuition prices and more focused on training students for jobs that are sitting open…”

Job Searching and the Unemployed – Illinois

More jobless Illinoisans are giving up the job search, study finds, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, May 10, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Though people often focus on unemployment rates as a measure of economic health, another telling data point is how many people are so discouraged with the job search that they’re dropping out of the labor force altogether. A newly released survey found good news: Fewer unemployed Americans are giving up looking for work. But that’s not the case in Illinois, where more people seem to be throwing up their hands…”

April 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • Economy adds strong 211,000 jobs, unemployment at 10-year low, By Paul Davidson, May 5, 2017, USA Today: “The labor market bounced back in April amid milder weather as employers added 211,000 jobs, providing evidence that weakness the prior month was a blip that likely won’t keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates in June. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, fell from 4.5% to 4.4%, a new 10-year low, the Labor Department said Friday…”
  • Unemployment rate drops to lowest level in a decade in April as economy adds 211,000 jobs, By Ana Swanson, May 5, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. job market rebounded strongly last month and the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level seen in a decade, government data released Friday morning showed, calming fears that had bubbled up in the past month about the state of the economy…”

Financial Stress Among Native Americans

Study shows high levels of financial distress among Native Americans, By David Erickson, May 2, 2017, Missoulian: “The use of high-cost borrowing methods such as payday loans and a lack of retirement and college savings plans may be keeping many in Montana’s Native American population in an endless cycle of poverty. There are more than 62,000 Native Americans in Montana, making up 6.6 percent of the state’s population, and a new national study has found that they are more likely to have high levels of financial distress compared to other demographic groups…”

State Medicaid Programs – Florida, Ohio, Indiana

  • Florida deal would reverse key part of Obama’s Medicaid expansion, By Robert Pear, April 30, 2017, New York Times: “The Trump administration appears to have scrapped one of the key tools the Obama administration used to encourage states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The shift involves funding that the federal government provides to help hospitals defray the cost of caring for low-income people who are uninsured. Under a deal with Florida, the federal government has tentatively agreed to provide additional money for the state’s ‘low-income pool,’ in a reversal of the previous administration’s policy…”
  • Ohio GOP renews fight over Medicaid, By Jessie Balmert, May 1, 2017, Cincinnati Enquirer: “Republican lawmakers have backed off from an attempt by some to kill Gov. John Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid to lower-income Ohioans, but they are battling to rein it in. A new Ohio House proposal would force the Medicaid director to get approval for Medicaid expansion money every six months. To get the money, the director would go before the Controlling Board, a panel of six lawmakers and a Kasich appointee – the same group Kasich leveraged in 2013 when his party would not move the Medicaid expansion portion of Obamacare through the Legislature…”
  • How Medicaid can help you find a job, or get a ride, or land a free cellphone, By Shari Rudavsky, May 4, 2017, Indianapolis Star: “When Leona Cullen moved to Noblesville from Hawaii in December, she knew she would need health insurance in her new home. She also knew she would need a job. What she didn’t know was that an Indiana Medicaid provider could help her achieve both those goals. One month away from giving birth, Cullen, 42, visited a hospital emergency room in January, where staff helped her sign up for CareSource’s Healthy Indiana Plan. Not only did the plan cover the medical expenses associated with the birth of her daughter at the end of January, it also connected Cullen with Jessica Rockhill, a life coach who helped her organize her life…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

New St. Louis minimum wage goes into effect Friday, By Kevin McDermott, May 4, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The city’s new minimum wage of $10 per hour for most jobs will take effect Friday, Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office announced today. The ordinance for the new wage — which is well above the minimum of $7.70 in the rest of Missouri and $8.25 in neighboring downstate Illinois — was passed in 2015 but held up in court until now. Under the ordinance, the wage will rise again on Jan. 1, 2018, to $11 an hour…”

Affordable Housing Projects

Talk of federal tax cuts chills affordable housing market, By Elaine S. Povich, April 25, 2017, Stateline: “The planned A.O. Flats housing development in this city’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood was billed as an oasis for low- and middle-income families, a place where they could get affordable housing in an increasingly affluent area. Financing was nearly in place and construction was set to begin until President Donald Trump and Congress started talking right after the election about delivering the biggest overhaul of the federal tax code in more than 30 years. Those plans include simplifying tax law as well as cutting taxes, especially for the better-off and for corporations. Suddenly, because of the proposed slash in corporate tax rates, federal low-income housing tax credits, the key to financing almost every affordable housing project in the nation, looked like they might be worth less to investors…”

Basic-Income Program – Ontario, CA

4,000 Canadian families will soon get paid by Ontario for doing nothing, By Alan Freeman, April 27, 2017, Washington Post: “The government of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is joining the basic-income bandwagon with the launch of a three-year pilot program that will test how paying people an unconditional basic wage works in practice…”

Health Insurance Coverage in the US

  • Uninsured rate for poor, childless adults declines, By Michael Ollove, April 10, 2017, Stateline: “As the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress explore ways of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, a new study shows how beneficial the law has been to poor adults who don’t have children.  The study by the Urban Institute found that between 2013 and 2015, the rate of poor, childless adults without health insurance fell by 47.1 percent…”
  • Maps show a dramatic rise in health insurance coverage under ACA, By Alyson Hurt, Juan Elosua and Rebecca Hersher, National Public Radio: “New data from the U.S. Census Bureau presents the most detailed picture yet of the dramatic rise in the number of people covered by health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. County-level data going back to 2010, when the law was signed, shows a patchwork of people living without health insurance that ticked down slowly for the first three years under the ACA. But, once the online insurance exchanges opened at the end of 2013 and Medicaid expanded, the population living without coverage dropped noticeably…”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Series on Childhood Trauma

From generation to generation, By John Schmid, March 23, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “When Joseph and Eva Rogers moved to Milwaukee from Arkansas in 1969, there was no better city for African-American workers to find employment. Neither had made it past grade school, but Joe found a job on the bottle line at Graf Beverages, known for root beer, and Eva worked at a rag factory. They were part of what turned out to be the last chapter of the Great Migration, in which 6 million Southern laborers moved north for a better life, and reshaped the nation.  Their daughter Belinda remembers the city at its industrial zenith. For the first time, she says, ‘I saw African-Americans owning homes and businesses.’ She married at 18 and had three children by age 22. Her Louisiana-born husband worked at A.O. Smith, the biggest employer in the city, with 10,000 workers in cathedral-sized factories welding the undercarriage of just about every American-made car. Then a global economic upheaval hit Milwaukee’s industrial core, and engine-makers, machine shops, tanneries, even heralded breweries shut down in rapid-fire succession…”

Medicaid Expansion – Louisiana

Poll: Louisiana residents largely support Medicaid expansion but find ‘Obamacare’ unfavorable, By Elizabeth Crisp, April 11, 2017, Baton Rouge Advocate: “Nearly three-fourths of Louisiana residents approve of the state’s decision to expand Medicaid, a new poll suggests, even as President Donald Trump, who remains widely popular in the state, continues his quest to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act that made expansion possible.  The 2017 Louisiana Survey’s findings on health care suggest a disconnect in the relationship between Medicaid health care coverage and the ACA…”

March 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. hiring slumped in March as employers added only 98,000 jobs, By Ana Swanson, April 7, 2017, Washington Post: “The momentum in the U.S. labor market flagged in March, new government data showed Friday, with the private sector and the government adding only 98,000 jobs, the lowest gain in nearly a year, as winter storms weighed on economic activity…”
  • Job growth loses steam as U.S. adds 98,000 in March, By Nelson D. Schwartz, April 7, 2017, New York Times: “Job growth turned in a disappointing showing in March, according to data released on Friday by the Labor Department. It is the latest official snapshot of the state of the American economy…”

Working Households and Basic Needs – Michigan

Report: Michigan makes little progress in lifting working poor to financial stability, By Lindsay VanHulle, April 4, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “To make ends meet as a four-person family in Michigan, with a child in preschool and a baby at home, it’s practically mandatory that both parents work full time and make at least $14 per hour each. A single breadwinner in that same family would have to make at least $28 per hour. And that’s just to afford basic living needs, like housing, child care, transportation and medical bills. Yet Michigan’s job market is disproportionately made up of low-wage jobs — 62 percent of the state’s jobs in 2015 paid less than $20 per hour, according to new research on the state’s working poor to be released Tuesday by the Michigan Association of United Ways…”

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…”

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…”