Ex-Offenders and Occupational Licenses

To help ex-offenders get jobs, some states reconsider licenses, By Sophie Quinton, March 8, 2017, Stateline: “Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft.  Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.  ‘I was a whole other person back then,’ Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Study: Medicaid expansion made it easier to get a doctor’s appointment, By Michelle Andrews, March 6, 2017, Governing: “More than 14 million adults have enrolled in Medicaid since the health law passed, and that has caused some hand-wringing over whether there would be enough primary care providers to meet the demand. But a study out this week suggests that the newly insured people are generally able to get timely appointments for primary care…”
  • Stakes high in Illinois as Congress rethinks Medicaid, By Lisa Schencker, March 3, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Soccer coach Lesly Durand noticed last fall that he was running out of breath more easily on the field, and getting unusually tired carrying bags of equipment.  The 61-year-old Evanston man didn’t know why, so he called his doctor. That call led to tests, which led to the discovery of five blocked arteries and then, ultimately, bypass surgery.  ‘The doctors said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still alive,”said Durand, who gained insurance a couple of years ago under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid…”
  • U.S. House ACA reform may turn up heat on N.C. Medicaid expansion, By Richard Craver, March 8, 2017, Winston-Salem Journal: “North Carolina Republican legislative leaders may have more incentive — but likely no new motivation — to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of a proposal in the U.S. House for repealing and replacing the federal Affordable Care Act…”

Drug Overdose Deaths and Indigent Burial

Drugs are killing so many people in West Virginia that the state can’t keep up with the funerals, By Christopher Ingraham, March 7, 2017, Washington Post: “Deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed a state program providing burial assistance for needy families for at least the fifth year in a row, causing the program to be nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Funeral directors in West Virginia say the state’s drug overdose epidemic, the worst in the nation, is partly to blame…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • State alternatives to Obamacare, expanded Medicaid to get tested, By Jayne O’Donnell, December 22, 2016, USA Today: “Blocked sweat glands turn into searingly painful growths that send Brittany Young rushing back to the emergency room at Upson Regional Medical Center here.  Young also has the chronic intestinal disease Crohn’s to contend with. Without a job or health insurance, the single mother can’t get the ongoing treatment needed to keep her Crohn’s from progressing. She’s visited the ER six times since losing her Medicaid coverage after her baby was born in June.  Young says she has no money, so she pays nothing.  ‘I guess someone ran the numbers and figured out it saves money to do it this way,’ says Anthony Marchetti, an Upson emergency physician who has treated Young…”
  • Montana may be model for future Medicaid work requirement, By Eric Whitney, December 23, 2016, National Public Radio: “Montana State Senator Ed Buttrey is a no-nonsense businessman from the central part of the state. Like a lot of Republicans, he’s not a fan of the Affordable Care Act and its expansion of Medicaid, health insurance for the poor and disabled…”

Medicaid Expansion – Indiana

Indiana’s Medicaid experiment may reveal Obamacare’s future, By Alana Semuels, December 21, 2016, The Atlantic: “Nearly 20 governors turned away the federal funding to expand Medicaid offered under the Affordable Care Act. Their states’ opposition to Obamacare meant that tens of thousands of low-income people in their states continued to live without health insurance.  But Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, was not one of them. After two years of negotiation, Pence in January 2015 reached an agreement with the Obama administration granting Indiana a waiver to try its own form of Medicaid expansion, called Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0. The state would become one of the 31 that participated in the Medicaid expansion, receiving federal money through the Affordable Care Act to cover people between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line. (Medicaid already covered a limited number of people living below the poverty line.) But it could also add its own modifications, the most salient being that participants would be required to contribute monthly fees to continue to receive access to health care…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Minimum wage going up in 21 states, 22 cities, By Jeanne Sahadi, December 19, 2016, CNNMoney: “Come the new year, millions of the lowest-wage workers across the country will get a raise.  Some of those raises will be very minor — a cost of living adjustment amounting to an extra nickel or dime an hour. But in several places the jump will be between $1 and $2 an hour…”

Head Start Programs

  • Head Start is underfunded and unequal, according to a new study, By Joe Helm, December 14, 2016, Washington Post: “Head Start, the federal program that provides education, nutrition and health services to low-income children and their families, is not adequately funded and is administered so differently from state to state that children do not benefit equally, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research…”
  • Head Start’s state-to-state gaps noted in most comprehensive report card yet, By Ellen Powell, December 14, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Head Start just received its first nationwide report card – and improving consistent quality is at the top of the agenda.  In the most comprehensive study of the program yet, ‘State(s) of Head Start,’ released Wednesday, researchers from the National Institute for Early Education Research, at Rutgers University, looked at data on Head Start programs from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories. The study calls for a revived discussion of how Head Start can serve all children in poverty. Increasing funding is a significant part of that conversation, the study’s authors say, noting that programs cannot serve all children – and serve them well – with their current limited resources…”
  • Is Head Start working for low-income latino kids? Depends on the state, By Suzanne Gamboa, December 14, 2016, NBC News: “Quality preschool can greatly benefit low-income children and families, yet the three states with the greatest numbers of Latino residents fell below national averages on enrollment and other measures in a state-by-state report of Head Start programs. On some measures, though, the states beat the national average. The evaluation by the National Institute for Early Education Research, NIEER, and Rutgers Graduate School of Education found great inconsistency among states in Head Start and Early Head Start programs, products of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty…”

Child Care Subsidies

Child care subsidies, vital for many workers, are dwindling, By Sophie Quinton, December 9, 2016, Stateline: “Before she heads to her shift at a nursing home in New Haven, Connecticut, every morning, nursing assistant Elisha LaRose drops her 4-year-old son off at a day care center. She’s grateful he’ll be in a safe, educational environment all day. LaRose, 30, is a single mother and could never afford to send her son to day care without a child care subsidy. The subsidy, a mix of federal and state money (combined with a separate Connecticut program), cuts her weekly day care costs to $48. Without the help, she said, she’d probably have to leave her son with an unlicensed baby sitter.  In many states, subsidies may be about to get scarcer…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Signed out of prison but not signed up for health insurance, December 5, 2016, National Public Radio: “Before he went to prison, Ernest killed his 2-year-old daughter in the grip of a psychotic delusion. When the Indiana Department of Correction released him in 2015, he was terrified something awful might happen again.  He had to see a doctor. He had only a month’s worth of pills to control his delusions and mania. He was desperate for insurance coverage.  But the state failed to enroll him in Medicaid, although under the Affordable Care Act Indiana had expanded the health insurance program to include most ex-inmates. Left to navigate an unwieldy bureaucracy on his own, he came within days of running out of the pills that ground him in reality…”

US Children in Foster Care

5 states struggle with surging numbers of foster children, By David Crary (AP), November 23, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “The number of U.S. children in foster care is climbing after a sustained decline, but just five states account for nearly two-thirds of the recent increase. Reasons range from creation of a new child-abuse hotline to widespread outrage over the deaths of children who’d been repeatedly abused. Addictions among parents are another major factor…”

Homelessness in the US

  • US homelessness declines: What’s working?, By Amanda Hoover, November 17, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Chester Ross may soon be a rarity on the sidewalks of Boston.  ‘There’s too many homeless people out here,’ says Mr. Ross, bundled in a winter jacket on Boston’s Newbury Street, holding out an emptied plastic cup from 7-Eleven where coins and crumpled dollar bills gather. Sitting with his back against a fence, he’s propped a cardboard sign against his knees that reads: ‘I believe people help people in need and I am in need of help. Thank you, God Bless.’  As he looks down the tree-lined street in Back Bay, one of the city’s wealthiest downtown neighborhoods, he adds: ‘The housing is too expensive.’  But Boston may yet hold some lessons for solving homelessness…”
  • Homelessness in the U.S. was down slightly over the past year, By Pam Fessler, November 17, 2016, National Public Radio: “Homelessness in the U.S. declined over the past year. Even so, there were large increases in several cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle.  Overall, almost 550,000 individuals were homeless on a single night earlier this year, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development…”
  • Homelessness drops across nation, but California count rises, By Steve Rubenstein, Jenna Lyons and Kevin Fagan, November 17, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle: “Homelessness across the United States fell slightly last year but increased in California and other West Coast states, largely due to a shortage of affordable housing, federal officials said Thursday.  Around the nation, homelessness was down 3 percent amid growing scrutiny of the problem. In California, however, homelessness climbed 3 percent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual snapshot assessment of homelessness in America…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Minimum wage boosts: Did low-income workers win?, By Amanda Hoover, November 9, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Workers in several more states will receive a pay raise thanks to a handful of successful ballot measures seeking to raise the minimum wage. Voters in four states chose to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour or higher by 2020, joining a growing number of states and cities that have announced wage hikes in the past few years as a tactic to boost the economy and close the growing income gap. As the slogan ‘Fight for $15’ has gained ground and shed light on the millions of people making minimum wage rates that are frequently not enough to support a family, more advocates are stepping forward to lead their own movements…”
  • Four states ok minimum wage hikes to at least $12, By Kevin McCoy, November 9, 2016, USA Today: “The lowest-paid hourly workers in four states won a boost in their minimum wage to at least $12-an-hour in Tuesday’s election.  Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington approved increases in their states’ respective hourly pay rates to at least $12 by 2020, according to late election results compiled by the Associated Press and Ballotpedia, a non-partisan online encyclopedia of elections and politics…”

State Minimum Wages

4 states will vote on raising minimum wage, By Jeanne Sahadi, November 1, 2016, CNN Money: “On November 8, voters in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington — will vote on ballot initiatives calling for a higher minimum wage. None are calling for $15 an hour, the Holy Grail of many minimum wage campaigns these days. But the four initiatives are aiming to raise their state’s base hourly pay by between 43% and 60%. The increases would be phased in gradually over a few years, and recent polls show a slim majority of support for the wage hikes…”