Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

St. Louis gave minimum-wage workers a raise. On Monday, it was taken away, By Melissa Etehad, August 28, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Ontario Pope has long struggled to stretch his McDonald’s paycheck to cover the basics and provide for his four young children. But even after more than nine years with the fast-food chain, the 31-year-old St. Louis man said he still lived with relatives or in motels, the fear of becoming homeless never far from his thoughts.  Pope was hopeful when the city passed an ordinance in May that raised the minimum wage from the state’s $7.70 to $10…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • In Florida, Medicaid is a matter of life and death, By Noreen Marcus, August 14, 2017, U.S. News & World Report: “The first thing Kristina Iavarone wants to buy when her son gets Medicaid is an asthma inhaler. He and his sibling lost their health insurance six months ago due to family finances. ‘They’ve been off health care for six months and six months is long enough,’ says Iavarone, a waitress in Tampa. Fortunately her son, 16, hasn’t had to go to the emergency room.  Since the teenaged Iavarones should be able to qualify for Florida KidCare, the state’s main Medicaid program for residents under 19, they shouldn’t have to wait much longer…”
  • Climbing cost of decades-old drugs threatens to break Medicaid bank, By Sydney Lupkin, August 14, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Skyrocketing price tags for new drugs to treat rare diseases have stoked outrage nationwide. But hundreds of old, commonly used drugs cost the Medicaid program billions of extra dollars in 2016 vs. 2015, a Kaiser Health News data analysis shows. Eighty of the drugs — some generic and some still carrying brand names — proved more than two decades old…”
  • With changes approved, Nebraska will continue Medicaid program that pays premiums for some, By Martha Stoddard, August 15, 2017, Omaha World-Herald: “Federal officials have approved changes that will allow Nebraska to continue a program in which Medicaid helps pay private health insurance premiums for some people…”
  • New life for Medicaid after GOP’s health care debacle, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), August 14, 2017, Washington Post: “It may not equal Social Security and Medicare as a ‘third rail’ program that politicians touch at their own risk, yet Medicaid seems to have gotten stronger after the Republican failure to pass health care legislation…”

Reform of Safety-Net Programs

  • GOP challenge: Reforming widely accepted ‘safety net’ programs, By Mark Turnbull, July 19, 2017, Christian Science Monitor: “The failure of Senate Republicans to close ranks on health-care reform this week put on display an old challenge: How conservatives can reform social safety-net programs when there’s a growing acceptance of them – even among Republican voters…”
  • Small tweaks to existing policies could make a huge difference for poor families, By Karen Weese, July 20, 2017, Washington Post: “It wasn’t much — just five bucks apiece — but both boys’ eyes sparkled when Carol Moore told them they could spend it on anything they wanted. ‘Meet me back here in 10 minutes,’ Moore told the boys, whom she’d met a few months ago when they came to her church’s homeless shelter. As the boys set out into the aisles of Walmart, she called after them: ‘Just get something you really want, okay?’ Ten minutes later, they came back and held out their treasure. It was deodorant…”

Drug Testing and Medicaid – Wisconsin

Wisconsin submits request to drug test Medicaid applicants, By Scott Bauer (AP), June 7, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Wisconsin submitted a federal request Wednesday to become the first state in the country to drug test applicants for Medicaid health benefits. Republican Gov. Scott Walker expects President Donald Trump’s administration to approve the waiver, which would also impose new requirements on able-bodied, childless adults receiving Medicaid in the state. The request comes as Walker, a one-time GOP presidential candidate, prepares for a likely re-election bid…”

Drug Testing and Medicaid – Wisconsin

Wisconsin seeks to mandate drug tests for Medicaid recipients, By Astead W. Herndon, April 25, 2017, Boston Globe: “Low-income residents seeking government help in Wisconsin often slog through a frustrating, outdated bureaucracy at a run-down state building in Milwaukee, enduring a process that generates complaints about the difficulties of signing up for food assistance, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid. Now, in a first-in-the-nation experiment, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to raise the bar higher for people seeking Medicaid, with an expansive program of mandatory drug screening, testing, and treatment as a condition of receiving benefits…”

State SNAP programs

Republicans hope Trump amenable to food stamp restrictions, By Marina Villeneuve (AP), April 8, 2017, Denver Post: “Maine resident Zak McCutcheon says he likes soda but acknowledges he’d drink less of it if his governor convinced Republican President Donald Trump to put restrictions on the approximately $200 a month he receives in food stamps. He thinks it may even make recipients healthier and less overweight.  ‘If I was more restricted to what I could buy, I would become more of a veggie eater,’ said McCutcheon, who recently perused grapes and packages of pre-chopped vegetables at an Augusta food bank with his pregnant girlfriend.  But another one of Maine’s 180,000 food stamp recipients, Samantha Watson, said she believes a ban from using food stamps on soda and candy won’t make low-income people any healthier. It would take more than that to change eating habits, she said, since food stamps cover only a fraction of the monthly grocery bill for herself and her 3-year-old daughter…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

  • Want Medicaid coverage? A drug test should come first, Wisconsin governor says, By Paige Winfield Cunningham, April 2, 2017, Washington Post: “Now that House Republicans have squandered their shot at reordering Medicaid, governors who want conservative changes in the health program for ­low-income Americans must get special permission from the Trump administration. Near the front of the line is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse…”
  • In need of public assistance? You might need $40 and a drug test to get it., By Michael Auslen, March 13, 2017, Miami Herald: “Welfare recipients with a history of drug convictions could have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits under legislation pushed by two Tampa Bay lawmakers, a narrow rewrite of a much-maligned 2011 state law that federal judges threw out as unconstitutional…”
  • Few Maine welfare recipients tested for drugs despite state law, By Maria Villeneuve (AP), Portland Press Herald: “Republican Gov. Paul LePage has long contended that drug-testing welfare recipients will help protect taxpayers’ dollars, but only a handful have submitted to tests under the current law. His administration blames Democrats for the scant results…”

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…”

States and Medicaid Coverage

  • The adults a Medicaid work requirement would leave behind, By Abby Goodnough, February 25, 2017, New York Times: “On a frigid morning here, Nancy Godinez was piling bread and other staples into her car outside a food pantry. She had lost her job as a custodian, her unemployment checks had run out, and her job search had proved fruitless.  One thing she still had was health insurance, acquired three years ago after Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The coverage, she said, has allowed her to get regular checkups and treatment for tendinitis in her foot.  But unless she finds a new job, Ms. Godinez, 55, could be at risk of losing her insurance, too…”
  • Obamacare 101: What’s going to happen to 70 million Americans who rely on Medicaid?, By Noam N. Levey, March 2, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “It’s the program that everyone confuses with Medicare.  But Medicaid, the half-century-old government health plan for the poor, is actually bigger than its more famous cousin, covering some 70 million Americans at any one time.  Expanding Medicaid was a central pillar of the Affordable Care Act, helping to bring health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured people…”
  • Who are the 700,000 Ohioans receiving health insurance under Medicaid expansion?, By Rich Exner, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Who are the 700,000 Ohioans who have received health insurance under Medicaid expansion? And has the insurance really made a difference?  A state report conducted for the Ohio General Assembly provides a snapshot, based on questioning of new Medicaid recipients added as a result of Obamacare…”
  • Texas brings ‘disadvantages’ to debate of federal Medicaid spending caps, study warns, By Robert T. Garrett, February 28, 2017, Dallas Morning News: “For years, Texas GOP leaders have said they’d gladly give up open-ended flows of federal Medicaid money for a set ‘block grant’ that lets them run the health insurance program for the poor the way they want.  They may get their wish.  As part of repealing and replacing Obamacare, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican House leaders such as Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands have proposed that states choose between Medicaid block grants and per capita caps. President Donald Trump and Senate Republican leaders have called for similar changes…”

Medicaid Expansion – Maine

Mainers to vote on whether to expand access to Medicaid under ACA, By Scott Thistle, February 21, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed Tuesday that a campaign asking voters to approve an expansion of the state’s Medicaid system under the federal Affordable Care Act has submitted enough valid signatures to place the question on the November ballot…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

Medicaid Coverage

As Medicaid loses stigma, election may cloud its future, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), October 24, 2016, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Medicaid, often stigmatized among government health care programs, is finally coming into its own.  The federal-state program for low-income people has been scarcely debated in the turbulent presidential election, but it faces real consequences depending on who wins the White House in the Nov. 8 vote.  Under President Barack Obama, Medicaid has expanded to cover more than 70 million people and shed much of the social disapproval from its earlier years as a welfare program. Two big industries – insurers and hospitals – have a declared stake in the future of the program, which costs more than $530 billion a year. Insurers are leading a new ‘Modern Medicaid Alliance’ to educate lawmakers about how the program has moved closer to private coverage…”

Health Insurance Coverage

  • The states with the biggest Obamacare struggles spent years undermining the law, By Noam N. Levy, September 7, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “As insurers exit Obamacare marketplaces across the country, critics of the Affordable Care Act have redoubled claims that the health law isn’t working.  Yet these same critics, many of them Republican politicians in red states, took steps over the last several years to undermine the 2010 law and fuel the current turmoil in their insurance markets…”
  • Obamacare pushes nation’s health uninsured rate to record low 8.6 percent, By Dan Mangan, September 7, 2016, CNBC: “Low enough for you yet?  The rate of Americans who lack health insurance has hit a record low — again — as a result of Obamacare.  In the first quarter of 2016, there were 8.6 percent of Americans — or about 27.3 million people — who were uninsured, the first time in history that the nation’s uninsured rate fell below 9 percent…”

Politics and Poverty

How do Americans view poverty? Many blue-collar whites, key to Trump, criticize poor people as lazy and content to stay on welfare, By David Lauter, August 14, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Sharp differences along lines of race and politics shape American attitudes toward the poor and poverty, according to a new survey of public opinion, which finds empathy toward the poor and deep skepticism about government antipoverty efforts.  The differences illuminate some of the passions that have driven this year’s contentious presidential campaign.  But the poll, which updates a survey The Times conducted three decades ago, also illustrates how attitudes about poverty have remained largely consistent over time despite dramatic economic and social change…”

Politics and Poverty

  • The millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton barely mention: The poor, By Binyamin Appelbaum, August 11, 2016, New York Times: “The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, also abides the deepest poverty of any developed nation, but you would not know it by listening to Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump, the major parties’ presidential nominees.  Mrs. Clinton, speaking about her economic plans on Thursday near Detroit, underscored her credentials as an advocate for middle-class families whose fortunes have flagged. She said much less about helping the 47 millions Americans who yearn to reach the middle class.  Her Republican rival, Mr. Trump, spoke in Detroit on his economic proposals four days ago, and while their platforms are markedly different in details and emphasis, the candidates have this in common: Both promise to help Americans find jobs; neither has said much about helping people while they are not working…”
  • Trump, Clinton largely avoid talking about poverty on the 2016 campaign trail, By Chris Baker, August 11, 2016, Syracuse Post-Standard: “Can we talk about poverty for a minute? Because no one on the national campaign trail is.  In the lead-up to the presidential election this year, there has been a noticeable lack of discussion about one of America’s most persistent struggles. We’ve heard about jobs, walls, ISIS, Russia and emails, but both candidates have largely skirted large scale issues affecting the poor…”