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…”

Career Pathways Program – Arkansas

This welfare reform program could be a model to help impoverished college students, By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel,  August 31, 2016, Washington Post: “When Will Bradford enrolled at Northwest Arkansas Community College in January 2015, it had been 15 years since he had stepped foot in a classroom. He had taken a few college classes after high school but dropped out in a matter of weeks.  ‘I just didn’t have the motivation,’ Bradford, 35, recalls. But with two young boys to care for, getting an education took on a new importance, especially if it meant earning more money. Even with his newfound motivation, Bradford was no less intimidated. ‘I was nervous about how much work would be involved and whether I was overdoing it with a full-time job, but a lot of it was just getting back into the school system,’ he said.  Enter Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative, a program funded by the federal welfare program, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF, that provides academic and social services to low-income parents attending state community colleges and technical centers…”

Child Welfare Systems – Arkansas, Arizona

  • Children in foster care in Arkansas reaches all-time high, By Brian Fanney, August 22, 2016, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “The number of children in foster care has reached an all-time high in Arkansas, straining state officials who have long referred to the growth as a crisis.  But the state has reversed a trend of losing foster families every quarter, according to reports prepared by the Division of Children and Family Services…”
  • Critics say Arizona is cheaping out on child-welfare services, By Mary Jo Pitzl, August 21, 2016, Arizona Republic: “Social-service providers are warning that children could linger longer in foster care if the state of Arizona follows through with a new round of contracts they say will cut rates, lower standards and deter qualified applicants.  The complaints arise as the state is on the verge of awarding new contracts for services the Department of Child Safety insists will get kids out of foster care and into permanent homes more quickly, without increasing costs to the state…”

Medicaid Expansion – Arkansas

Arkansas GOP governor uses veto to save Medicaid program, By Andrew Demillo (AP), April 21, 2016, Washington Post: “Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday effectively saved Arkansas’ first-in-the-nation hybrid Medicaid expansion by voiding part of a budget bill that would have ended the subsidized insurance for more than 250,000 poor people. The Republican governor vetoed a provision in the Medicaid budget that ordered a Dec. 31 end to the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

Welfare drug tests to start in state, By Spencer Williams, March 24, 2016, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “State officials soon will start a statewide program of drug screening and testing for the heads of thousands of needy Arkansas families who apply for and receive government aid.  On Wednesday, the head of the Department of Workforce Services, Daryl Bassett, said he expects the state to begin statewide screening and testing within ‘seven to 10 days.’ Supporters claim the program will improve the quality of the workforce, send those in need to drug treatment and safeguard government money from being spent by drug users. But critics argue the program could cost too much for its return…”

Medicaid Expansion – Arkansas, Pennsylvania

  • Arkansas governor wants to keep Medicaid expansion, but with changes, By Abby Goodnough, August 19, 2015, New York Times: “Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Wednesday told an advisory group weighing the future of the state’s alternative Medicaid expansion that he favored keeping it — but only if the federal government allowed changes that seemed intended to appeal to conservative legislators who continue to oppose the program. Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican who took office in January, created the advisory group to recommend whether to change or replace the state’s ‘private option’ version of Medicaid expansion. The program’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Republican-controlled legislature, which is likely to meet in a special session this year to vote on it…”
  • Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion simplifies enrollment, By Adam Smeltz, August 20, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Low-income families who might have waited months for medical assistance last winter are enrolling within weeks under Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion, sailing through simplified applications that help them see doctors faster. ‘People are able to get the care and treatment they need much sooner. Folks are able to get preventive care much sooner,’ said Antoinette Kraus, state director at the nonprofit Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which urged policymakers to broaden traditional Medicaid. Still, critics remain cautious whether the expanded program could overburden the state budget…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Some Iowans will face premiums for Medicaid expansion, By Catherine Lucey, February 1, 2015, Des Moines Register: “As Iowa’s modified Medicaid expansion hits the one-year anniversary mark, some enrollees will be asked to pay small monthly premiums because they have not yet completed a required physical exam and health questionnaire. For Gov. Terry Branstad, setting these health requirements was a key provision for expanding Medicaid in Iowa using funding from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. The state received federal approval to make modifications to the traditional Medicaid terms, including setting health requirements and charging contributions…”
  • US’s 1st program using federal funds to buy private insurance for poor survives in Arkansas, By Andrew DeMillo (AP), February 5, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Arkansas’ first-in-the-nation program using federal funds to buy private health insurance for the poor will survive another year after the Legislature reauthorized the program Thursday, despite an influx of new Republican lawmakers elected on a vow to kill the hybrid Medicaid expansion. The Arkansas House voted 82-16 to reauthorize funding through June 2016 for the ‘private option’ plan, which was crafted two years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law. Arkansas was the first state to win federal approval for such an approach, touted as a compromise for Republican-leaning states…”
  • Medicaid could dump 500,000 Ohioans in 6 months, By Catherine Candisky, February 6, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “The state will send out letters to 107,000 Medicaid recipients today telling them that their health-care benefits will be terminated on Feb. 28 for failure to verify their income. ‘They should consider this as a final notice,’ said Sam Rossi, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. ‘There is personal responsibility. You need to report income for a program like Medicaid.’ An additional 140,000 recipients will receive termination notices next week, with 100,000 scheduled for March. The Ohio Job and Family Services Association and advocates for the poor have urged state officials to delay terminating benefits because fewer than half of those sent renewal notifications in December have responded, and many never received them…”
  • Few lawmakers supported Haslam’s Insure Tennessee, By Dave Boucher, February 4, 2015, The Tennessean: “In 21 months, Gov. Bill Haslam and his administration spent countless hours crafting a health care plan they thought could thread the political needle: satisfy Democrats in Washington, D.C., Republicans in Tennessee and help the working poor. It took considerably less time for the plan to unravel in the General Assembly. After a little more than two days, a few state Senators officially killed Haslam’s plan to provide 280,000 low-income Tennesseans with federally funded health care…”
  • Governor’s panel again urges Medicaid expansion in Idaho, By Bill Dentzer, February 6, 2015, Idaho Statesman: “Members of the governor-appointed group that developed options for expanding Medicaid to cover Idaho’s poorest adults told lawmakers Thursday that opposition to the expansion has blocked money that taxpayers are due under federal health care reform. The panel’s alternative funding plan provides greater accountability, saves money and gives the state more control over how funds are spent, they said. The federal government already has approved similar alternative plans in other states where Medicaid expansion has been politically or ideologically unpopular…”

Medicaid Expansion

  • In Texarkana, uninsured and on the wrong side of a state line, By Annie Lowrey, June 8, 2014, New York Times: “On a hazy, hot evening here, Janice Marks ate a dinner of turkey and stuffing at a homeless shelter filled with plastic cots before crossing a few blocks to the Arkansas side of town to start her night shift restocking the dairy cases at Walmart. The next day, David Tramel and Janice McFall had a free meal of hot dogs and doughnut holes at a Salvation Army center in Arkansas before heading back to their tent, hidden in a field by the highway in Texas. None of the three have health insurance. But had Ms. Marks, 26, chosen to sleep on the side of town where she works, or had Mr. Tramel and Ms. McFall, who are both in their early 20s, made their camp where they had eaten their dinner, their fortunes might be different. . .”
  • Long waits persist for those applying for Medicaid coverage in many states, By Phil Galewitz, June 7, 2014, Washington Post: “While an unprecedented 6 million people have gained Medicaid coverage since September, mostly as a result of the Affordable Care Act, more than 1.7 million more are still waiting for their applications to be processed — with some stuck in limbo for as long as eight months, according to officials in 15 large states. The scope of the problem varies widely. California accounts for a lion’s share of the backlog with 900,000 applications pending as of early June. The next-biggest pileup is in Illinois, with 283,000 cases, while New York has no backlog at all. All three states have implemented the health law’s expansion of Medicaid . . . “

State Minimum Wages

  • In Arkansas, voters may get chance to raise minimum wage, By Scott Horsley, April 2, 2014, National Public Radio: “President Obama travels to Michigan Wednesday to tout his proposal to boost the minimum wage. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour is one of the top agenda items for Obama and his fellow Democrats during this mid-term election year. The White House says the move would put more money in the pockets of some 28 million workers. One test of that strategy will be in Arkansas, where proponents are trying to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in November. Arkansas has some of the lowest wages in the country and it’s also home to one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats…”
  • With Obama’s push, momentum on minimum wage moves to states, By Michael D. Shear, April 2, 2014, New York Times: “The more President Obama talks about the need to raise the federal minimum wage, the less likely it appears that Republicans in Congress are inclined to do it. But the stalemate matters less and less. In the last 14 months, since Mr. Obama first called for the wage increase in his 2013 State of the Union address, five states have raised their own minimum wages and 34 states have begun legislative debates on the matter. Activists in an additional eight states are pursuing ballot referendums this year to demand an increase in wages for their lowest-paid workers…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • At Capitol, fight is on to expand Medicaid, By Chuck Lindell, February 17, 2013, Austin American-Statesman: “Adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had seemingly squelched efforts this legislative session to insure an additional 1.1 million low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act. But a determined campaign, targeting legislators with public pressure and private persuasion, has kept the issue alive by framing Medicaid expansion as an economic bonanza and tax-relief opportunity that would bring $79 billion in much-needed federal money over 10 years. The arguments, pitched to Republican ears, have carved out a small space in which lawmakers can work toward an agreement that once appeared impossible…”
  • Medicaid takes a back seat in the 89th General Assembly, By Andrew DeMillo (AP), February 17, 2013, Arkansas Business Online: “What happened to the Medicaid session? Despite all the talk before lawmakers gathered at the Arkansas Capitol that Medicaid’s finances and future would overshadow just about every other issue, there’s been scant attention paid to the $5 billion program and efforts to expand it under the federal health care law. Medicaid is instead taking a backseat to a growing number of conservative causes — new abortion restrictions, relaxed gun rules and voter ID, to name a few — that are easily winning support now that Republicans control the House and the Senate. As this year’s session enters its sixth week, those GOP-backed proposals have taken center stage, rather than discussions on whether Arkansas should expand the Medicaid program by 250,000 people under the federal health care law…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Medicaid expansion rejected by Louisiana may be pursued in New Orleans, By Bruce Alpert, September 25, 2012, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “With Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration opting out of the Medicaid expansion offered in the federal Affordable Care Act, New Orleans officials say they are looking for ways to go it alone. Jindal announced his decision after the Supreme Court in June upheld the constitutionality of the health-care overhaul legislation but ruled that states can’t be compelled to expand Medicaid, a key component of President Barack Obama’s goal of providing near universal health coverage by 2014…”
  • Report: Medicaid boost would save Arizona money, By Mary Reinhart, September 26, 2012, Arizona Republic: “Expanding Medicaid under federal health reform would save state tax dollars, create thousands of jobs and provide government-paid health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans, according to a new report from a bipartisan think tank. Research from the Grand Canyon Institute, whose board includes former Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, shows that with a $1.5 billion investment over the first four years the state would collect nearly $8 billion in federal funding and insure an additional 435,000 people by 2017…”
  • In Arkansas, governor changes course on health care to help uninsured, struggling Democrats, Associated Press, September 25, 2012, Washington Post: “President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has never been popular in Arkansas, a state where even most Democrats regard the law as politically toxic. But with a quarter of the state’s working-age population uninsured, a governor who once said he would have voted against the law now wants to use it to widen government-funded coverage to thousands of additional families. And he’s relying on the move to help prevent a Republican takeover of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Gov. Mike Beebe, the first Southern governor to back the law’s expansion of Medicaid, has become an unlikely advocate for a central part of the overhaul that would expand Medicaid, a position made easier by the fact that he’s not seeking re-election…”

Juvenile Justice System – Arkansas

Study praises juvenile justice reforms, says more work needed, By Rob Moritz, March 14, 2012, Arkansas News: “A new study presented to lawmakers today praises recent reforms in Arkansas’ juvenile justice system and recommends additional strategies to save money. ‘There really has been remarkable work done to reform juvenile justice in this state,’ said Pat Arthur, the study’s co-author, a California-based consultant and former attorney at the National Center for Youth Law in San Francisco. ‘It’s truly been an amazing collaboration of stakeholders to behold over the last four years who have come together and collaboratively worked to change what was four years ago safe to say a sinking ship, the Division of Youth Services,’ Arthur told a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs.
In 2008, following a series of problems within the juvenile justice system, including poor facilities, overcrowding and physical and emotion abuse of youths, a task force of judges, state officials, advocacy and community groups formed to find solutions…”

Medicaid Reform – Arkansas

State officials identify priorities for Medicaid reform, By John Lyon, August 22, 2011, Arkansas News: “State officials working on revamping Arkansas’ Medicaid program have identified nine priority areas for reform. In an Aug. 10 letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, Gov. Mike Beebe said the nine areas ‘appear to hold significant potential for early success and impact in moving from fee-for-service to episodic payments,’ or payments based on an entire course of treatment for a single health issue. The areas are pregnancy and neonatal care; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; type 2 diabetes; back pain; cardiovascular disease; upper respiratory infections; developmental disabilities; long-term care; and prevention…”

2011 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

Child Poverty – Arkansas

Children in poverty worsens, By John Lyons, June 11, 2010, Fort Smith Times Record: “More Arkansas children are living in poverty now than a generation ago, according to a report released Thursday. Based on 2008 data, 24.9 percent of Arkansas children live in poverty, compared to 22.6 percent 31 years ago, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families reports in ‘Child Poverty in Arkansas 2010: A Deepening Problem.’ The report draws on U.S. Census data and uses the federal poverty level. In 2008, a family of four earning less than $21,000 a year was considered to be living in poverty. In 1979, a family of four earning less than $7,412 was considered poor. The report notes that Arkansas’ child poverty rate is higher than the national rate of 18.2 percent…”

Poor States and HPV Vaccinations

Poorer girls not getting HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, By Liz Szabo, March 18, 2010, USA Today: “A cervical cancer vaccine is not getting to many of the girls who need it the most, a new study shows. Mississippi and Arkansas, two of the nation’s poorest states, also have the highest death rates from cervical cancer – a result of poor access to basic screenings and health care for a large number of women, says Peter Bach of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Yet in Mississippi, where the vaccine could perhaps save the greatest number of lives, only 16% of teen girls in 2008 received the shot, called Gardasil, according to Bach’s paper in Saturday’s The Lancet. About 22% of Arkansas girls ages 13 to 17 got the vaccine, which costs $390 for three shots…”

EITC and Tax Refund Anticipation Loans – Arkansas

Tax refund loans cost Arkansans millions, By John Lyon, November 3, 2009, Fort Smith Times Record: “Arkansans spend about $100 million a year obtaining loans against anticipated tax refunds, according to a report released Monday by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. The report also estimated that Arkansans miss out on as much as $110 million a year by failing to claim the federal earned income tax credit. ‘Low-income tax filers are paying tax preparation fees, in many cases exorbitant tax preparation fees to have their taxes done, when in fact most low-income families could receive free tax assistance through an existing VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site,’ Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates, said at a news conference to announce the report…”