State Medicaid Programs – Texas, Maine

  • How Medicaid expansion could help Texas mothers, By Behrouz Zand, August 3, 2017, Houston Chronicle: “Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. Between 2010 and 2012, the rate doubled. And the rate in Texas between 2012 and 2014 remained high, with approximately 35 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Texas’ rates are about seven times greater than in Canada and European countries. As a result, the Texas Legislature established the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force in 2013. This 15-member task force of mostly physicians and healthcare experts set out to find out why pregnancy-related deaths have skyrocketed and what can be done to decrease them…”
  • Maine moves ahead with plan to charge Medicaid recipients, make them work, By Patty Wight, August 3, 2017, Bangor Daily News: “People who receive MaineCare — the state’s version of Medicaid — may soon have to work and pay monthly premiums in order to get benefits. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services officially filed an application this week to the federal government to make those changes. Critics say Maine’s plan would erect barriers to health care that will drive up costs for everyone…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Maine

Federal official says LePage’s threat puts food stamps at risk, By Eric Russell, June 22, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned Wednesday that if Maine Gov. Paul LePage follows through with his threat to halt the state’s administration of the food stamp program, nearly 200,000 Mainers could go without benefits.  Matt Herrick said in an interview Wednesday that LePage’s recent suggestion that he could either ban food stamp recipients from purchasing sugary drinks and candy without federal approval or end the state’s oversight of the program could be catastrophic…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Feds OK Medicaid privatization, with another delay, By Tony Leys and Jason Clayworth, February 23, 2016, Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad gained federal approval Tuesday for his controversial plan to turn Medicaid over to private managers, but not until April 1.  Branstad originally planned to make the massive shift on Jan. 1. Federal administrators determined in December that Iowa was not ready to turn the 560,000 poor or disabled people who use the program over to three private management companies. They ordered the state to wait until at least March 1…”
  • New twists as Maine lawmakers again consider Medicaid expansion, By Joe Lawler, Feburary 23, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “Sen. Tom Saviello’s Medicaid expansion bill received a chilly reception from his fellow Republicans and the LePage administration Tuesday. The Wilton lawmaker received support from Democrats, however, and remained undeterred…”
  • Bill would block Medicaid expansion for another two years, By Laura Hancock, February 23, 2016, Casper Star-Tribune: “The state Legislature, which recently defeated Medicaid expansion, is debating a bill that would create a two-year state study of health coverage for low-income Wyomingites – a measure critics call a delay tactic for helping the poor and the hospitals who serve them.  But Sen. Charlie Scott, one of the sponsors of Senate File 86, said the measure is a compromise to Medicaid expansion, since the Legislature appears unwilling to extend the federal program to 20,000 low-income Wyoming adults under the Affordable Care Act.

Food Insecurity in Maine

  • Persistent hunger fuels sprawling food supply system for needy Mainers, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “A multimillion-dollar food distribution network is expanding in Maine to meet the needs of more than 200,000 residents who otherwise would be hungry, a condition that’s worsening despite an overall improving economy. Federal figures show the level of food insecurity, a measure of a household’s inability to afford enough food throughout the year, has been escalating in Maine to a level that’s the highest in New England and above the national average. The latest government survey shows roughly 16 percent of Maine households are food-insecure, compared to a national average of 14 percent. Hunger relief advocates blame a combination of reasons, including stagnant wages, Maine’s higher cost of living and an aging population…”
  • Hunger drives more Mainers to soup kitchens, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “A handful of people were lined up at dusk in the 29-degree chill behind the Calvary United Methodist Church on a recent Wednesday, waiting for the door to open so they could eat. Each Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, 50 or more people come to the Calvary City Mission for a free, hot meal in a warm place…”
  • Food that has lost its looks doesn’t have to go to waste, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “Brian Cunningham comes to work at 4 a.m. to squeeze peppers and tomatoes. It takes Cunningham, the produce shift leader at Hannaford supermarket in Westbrook, two hours to perform a ‘deep cull,’ in which he scrutinizes or handles the cornucopia that greets shoppers in the modern American food store…”
  • Food pantries filling critical need, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “Portland has gained a national reputation as a ‘foodie’ town, where the latest restaurant openings are followed with interest. Less publicized, in a city which also had 14 food pantries or free meal programs last year, was the launch of a new place that’s attracting a loyal following. It happened last August, when members of the Stroudwater Christian Church in Portland sensed a need in their suburban corner of the city, which borders Westbrook. So they started a modest food pantry. By the end of December, they were regularly serving 173 families every Wednesday afternoon…”

SNAP Asset Test – Maine

Maine plans to deny food stamps when applicant’s assets top $5,000, By Noel K. Gallagher and Joe Lawlor, September 16, 2015, Portland Press Herald: “The LePage administration on Wednesday announced a new ‘asset test’ that would make people ineligible for food stamps if they have more than $5,000 in the bank or own certain other items worth more than that amount, such as a snowmobile, boat, motorcycle or ATV. Critics of the rule change say the asset test creates a disincentive for low-income people to save money…”

Bangor Daily News ‘People Next Door’ Series

Living in a house of cards: A look back at people in Maine who are just scraping by, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, January 30, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “Ramon Perez works full-time at a job to which he walks the 2 miles since he doesn’t have a car. Still, his family of four in Augusta struggles to make ends meet. Helen, 45, works seven days a week caring for people with chronic health conditions but lacks health insurance herself. Wendall Hall of Milo, who recently lost his wife of several decades to heart and lung disease and then became guardian for his nine-year-old grandson, struggles to keep them fed and properly housed. Robert fled his native Angola and came to Maine to escape torture and death. He speaks nine languages and is fluent in English. With his wife and children, he expects to contribute to his community, but first he needs a job. Emergency funding through General Assistance enables them to stay afloat to give them that chance to succeed. For the past 18 months, we have profiled individuals and families struggling to make ends meet in Maine. These are people we know, who live in our communities, sometimes next door to us. We often mistakenly think they’re doing OK when in fact they are not…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance – Maine

With AG’s approval, LePage administration to start drug testing some welfare applicants, By Mario Moretto, January 14, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “After changes were made to protect the state from potential lawsuits, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is moving forward with a plan to drug test some welfare applicants as a condition of eligibility. The new rule, approved recently by Attorney General Janet Mills, requires applicants convicted of a drug felony in the past 20 years to take a written test designed to determine their risk for further drug use. If the applicant is determined to be at risk, he or she would be required to take a drug test…”

General Assistance and Immigrants – Maine

  • For couple who escaped from Angola, General Assistance ‘gives us a chance’, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, September 26, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “Robert and Elena (not their real names) live in Lewiston with four of their five children. They escaped from their homeland of Angola having lost their livelihood, enduring torture and fearing for their lives. Elena came first, one year ago, with their three daughters, ages 7 through 11, having experienced physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the government after being falsely accused of connections to an anti-government separatist group. Robert followed eight months later, when the government started pursuing him. He brought their five-year-old son, but could not afford to bring along his elder, eight-year old son, who remains with family in Angola. They hope to bring him to Maine as soon as possible. General Assistance provided Robert and his family needed emergency assistance when they arrived…”
  • Governor candidates on the issues: Welfare and immigration, By Randy Billings, October 16, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Welfare has emerged as a high-profile issue in the 2014 gubernatorial race, with ads about illegal immigrants receiving tax dollars filling the airwaves and mailboxes. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center has conducted two polls for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. In June, 46 percent of poll respondents believed that welfare did more harm than good. By September, that sentiment was 50 percent. Maine’s welfare system is a complex web of programs, including MaineCare – the state’s Medicaid program – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The programs are mostly funded by federal money…”

Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards and Fraud – Maine

  • A Maine family’s struggle to beat back welfare fraud allegations, By Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler, May 2, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “There has been much discussion recently about fraud among Maine residents receiving government assistance. The LePage administration claims fraud is rampant, yet Maine’s attorney general notes that she has prosecuted only 37 Department of Health and Human Services cases in the last three years. Advocates for the poor also disagree, noting that claims of fraud are ill defined and greatly overblown…”
  • Despite federal warnings, program to put photos on EBT cards begins in Bangor, By Mario Moretto, April 28, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “A pilot program intended to strengthen the integrity of Maine’s welfare programs kicked off Monday in Bangor, where some recipients of public assistance funds traded in benefit cards for new ones featuring photo identification. The new project adds a photo ID to electronic benefits transfer cards, which are used like debit cards by welfare recipients. The cards carry funds that can be used to buy food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and cash benefits through a program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”

TANF Work Participation – Oregon, Maine

  • Oregon welfare audit says state should increase job training, accountability to move recipients into work, By Yuxing Zheng, April 16, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit of the welfare program in Oregon says that state officials need to boost job training, hold recipients accountable, provide more subsidized child care and make other changes in order to move more recipients into jobs. The audit, released Wednesday from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, found the state had made ‘little to no progress’ in moving recipients off of welfare. Program managers failed to hold recipients accountable for missed jobs appointments and sometimes went years without significant contact with recipients…”
  • Maine fined $7 million over welfare work participation rates, By Steve Mistler, April 17, 2104, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage said the federal government will penalize the state $7 million because its welfare cash assistance program doesn’t meet federal work participation standards. The governor’s announcement comes as lawmakers are set to finish their work for the legislative session and after the Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected one of his proposals to align work participation requirements within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with the federal law. The administration has previously said that the state was on the hook for $13 million in fines from the federal government because its work participation rate among TANF recipients was far below federal standards…”

Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Welfare Reform – Louisiana, Maine

  • Louisiana bans welfare benefits usage at lingerie shops, jewelry stores, tattoo parlors, By Renita D. Young, March 21, 2014, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “State welfare officials are tightening the reins on how residents can use cash benefits they receive from assistance programs. Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) issued an emergency rule Thursday (March 20) that would eventually ban the use of welfare benefits at jewelry stores, lingerie shops and other establishments that don’t allow customers under 18 years of age…”
  • LePage pushes new legislation to control, curb welfare cash, By Chris Williams, March 23, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “As promised earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage filed four bills Friday aimed at tightening restrictions on the use of electronic benefit cards used by welfare recipients. Democrats said certain elements of the governor’s proposals raise red flags; they urged him to instead focus his administration’s efforts on enforcement of current welfare fraud crimes…”

Medicaid Expansion – Maine, Nebraska

  • Maine House takes up struggling Medicaid expansion bill, By Mario Moretto, March 18, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “About a week after it passed the Senate, but with less than the two-thirds support needed to muscle past a certain gubernatorial veto, the Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday will consider a bill aimed at expanding Medicaid to more than 70,000 low-income Mainers as part of the federal Affordable Care Act…”
  • Nebraska lawmakers won’t expand Medicaid this year, By Christine Scalora (AP), March 19, 2104, Centre Daily Times: “A proposal to expand health care coverage to low-income Nebraskans won’t make it out of the Legislature this year. Lawmakers fell six votes short of stopping the filibuster on the bill Wednesday after debating the measure for eight hours. It will not be taken up again in this legislative session. The ‘Wellness in Nebraska Act,’ laid out a plan to help cover health care costs for about 54,000 residents by mid-2015 through a combination of Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance. It would cost an estimated $62 million between July of this year and June 2020…”

Parents as Scholars Program – Maine

First a parent, then a scholar: How this Maine woman finally completed college, By Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler, February 21, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “One-third of American women are living at or near the brink of poverty, often working low-income jobs and raising their children, according to a recent Shriver Report. It underscores the well-established fact that higher education is essential to lifting women out of poverty. But access to education is often difficult…”

Kids Count Report – Maine

  • Report: More Maine kids living in poverty may lead to later needs, By Eric Russell, November 21, 2013, Portland Press Herald: “The number of children living in poverty in Maine continues to increase, as does the number who are getting social services such as food stamps. That trend is unsurprising but it could be leading to more cases of what experts call adverse child experiences, which often lead to problems in adulthood such as crime and drug abuse and could be contributing to a higher number of children in state custody. A 52-page report released Thursday by the Maine Children’s Alliance highlighted data used to track the well-being of Maine’s children. Most of the revelations were grim…”
  • Despite financial hardships, Maine teens smoking and drinking less, committing fewer crimes, By Seth Koenig, November 21, 2013, Bangor Daily News: “Maine teenagers smoke and drink less than four years ago, are more likely to graduate high school and have access to quality health care than the national average, and are less likely to have been arrested or physically abused than their peers in other states, according to a report released Thursday. But other trends in the nonprofit Maine Children’s Alliance’s 19th annual KIDS COUNT study showed cause for concern. The report reinforced statistics indicating more Maine children are living in poverty than in past years…”

ACA and Health Insurance Coverage

  • Uninsured find more success via health exchanges run by states, By Robert Pear and Abby Goodnough, October 8, 2013, New York Times: “Robyn J. Skrebes of Minneapolis said she was able to sign up for health insurance in about two hours on Monday using the Web site of the state-run insurance exchange in Minnesota, known as MNsure. Ms. Skrebes, who is 32 and uninsured, said she had selected a policy costing $179 a month, before tax credit subsidies, and also had obtained Medicaid coverage for her 2-year-old daughter, Emma…”
  • Oregon’s low-income health plan primed for growth under reform law, By Nick Budnick, October 3, 2013, The Oregonian: “Bruce Lovan makes no bones about it, he’s a member of the working poor. He sleeps on a mattress on the living room floor of his father’s La Grande duplex and lives on food stamps while pulling a couple of graveyard shifts a week as a $9-an-hour security guard. He’s also one of more than 200,000 low-income Oregonians who will newly qualify for the Oregon Health Plan starting in January, as its waiting list and lottery to enroll become a thing of the past…”
  • One Maine family’s struggle for health care, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, September 27, 2013, Bangor Daily News: “The Daniels-Perez family is, like many Maine families, struggling to make do despite full-time employment. Samarali ‘Sam’ Daniels, her husband Ramon Perez, and their two children, Hector, 5, and Marrianna, 3, live in Augusta. Ramon works 40 hours a week at Sam’s Club, walks two miles to and from his job every day, as they do not own a car, and makes about $11 per hour. That’s more than the state minimum wage of $7.50 but far less than the $17.15 calculated by the Maine Department of Labor in 2010 as a livable wage for a family of four…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Wisconsin, Maine

  • Assembly passes bill requiring that most food stamp benefits go to purchasing healthy foods, By Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, May 7, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Food stamp recipients would have to spend most of their benefits on healthy food, and more kinds of food stamp fraud would be explicitly subject to state sanctions, under separate bills approved Tuesday. The Assembly approved, on a bipartisan vote of 68-26, a bill requiring at least two-thirds of the purchases in the state’s FoodShare program to come from a list of state-defined healthy foods, with Republicans arguing that the benefits outweighed the opposition of some business interests and advocates for the needy. The measure now goes to the state Senate…”
  • Odd coalition opposes Wisconsin bill limiting junk food purchases for food stamp users, By Jason Stein, May 6, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “An odd coalition of advocates for the needy, local retailers and big corporations is opposing a fast-moving bill limiting junk food for food stamp recipients. The bill on Wisconsin’s FoodShare program comes before the state on Tuesday in the Assembly, where it is expected to pass despite the unusual opposition…”
  • LePage proposal would bar food stamp use on junk food, By Matthew Stone, May 3, 2013, Bangor Daily News: “A proposal by Gov. Paul LePage that would bar food stamp recipients from spending their benefits on soft drinks and certain snack foods made its way to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Friday with bipartisan support. The LePage bill, LD 1411, is sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, the assistant Senate Republican leader, and is co-sponsored by five Democrats and four Republicans…”