Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2016

  • How health-care reform affected America, in 51 graphs, By Philip Bump, September 14, 2017, Washington Post: “Last year, 8.6 percent of Americans lacked health insurance. Three years earlier, that figure was 14.5 percent, meaning that the rate dropped by 5.9 percentage points over the period that the Affordable Care Act went into effect, a 40 percent decline from the 2013 figure. In real terms, that’s about 19 million fewer people lacking health insurance, per estimates released Tuesday by the Census Bureau…”
  • States with the highest and lowest uninsured rates, By Mattie Quinn, September 13, 2017, Governing: “As discussions about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue on Capitol Hill, at least one thing is certain: The law has led to a record number of people having health insurance. According to data released this week from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 8.8 percent of Americans were uninsured in 2016. That’s down from 13.3 percent in 2013, the year before much of the ACA took effect. Since then, every single state has seen their uninsured rate drop…”
  • Obamacare keeps shrinking the ranks of N.J.’s uninsured, Census data shows, By Disha Raychaudhuri, September 12, 2017, NJ.com: “About 66,000 more people in New Jersey had health insurance in 2016 than the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest data shows that the number of uninsured N.J residents has continued to drop, a trend that policy analysts attribute to the success of the Affordable Care Act…”
  • Uninsured rate continues to drop in Indiana under Obamacare, By Maureen Groppe, September 13, 2017, Indianapolis Star: “The number of Hoosiers without health insurance fell 41 percent after the coverage expansion elements of the Affordable Care Act went into effect, according to new federal data. The 8.1 percent of residents who still lacked insurance last year is now lower than the national 8.6 percent rate, the Census Bureau reported. But Indiana still has a higher share of its population uninsured than do its neighboring states, which expanded their Medicaid programs before Indiana did…”
  • Young, low-income Kansans more likely to be uninsured than counterparts in other states, By Jim McLean, September 14, 2017, KCUR: “Low-income Kansans are less likely to have health insurance than their counterparts in other states, according to an analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The uninsured rate among Kansans living below the federal poverty level has been worse than the national rate for many years. But the gap has widened in recent years, mainly because of the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion, said Robert St. Peter, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Kansas Health Institute…”

Prison Diversion Programs for Mothers

Breaking the  cycle of incarceration by keeping mothers and children together, By Rebecca Beitsch, September 13, 2017, Stateline: “When Stephanie Petitt was arrested for violating probation for prior drug and robbery convictions, she learned two things: She was 16 weeks pregnant, and she would probably deliver her baby while incarcerated at an Oklahoma prison. In most places, an incarcerated woman who gives birth almost immediately hands over her newborn to a social worker, who places the child with a relative or with foster parents. Petitt said she was told she would have an hour to hold her newborn. Just a few states offer alternatives that allow mother and child to stay together longer. At least eight states have so-called prison nurseries where nonviolent female offenders live with their children for a few months to several years…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Oregon removes nearly 55,000 people from Medicaid after they failed eligibility checks, By Hillary Borrud, August 31, 2017, The Oregonian: “Oregon has kicked nearly 55,000 people off its Medicaid program, after the state found they no longer qualified or failed to respond to an eligibility check…”
  • How much Health-care freedom should Trump give states?, By Mattie Quinn, September 2017, Governing: “From the onset of the Affordable Care Act, critics protested that it amounted to federal overreach and was too strict on states. That fight has besieged the two political parties for the past decade. Now, much of the federal battle over health care has coalesced around how much freedom states should have in crafting their Medicaid programs…”
  • As health care debate simmers, Mead laments lack of Medicaid expansion in Wyoming, By Seth Klamann, August 27, 2017, Casper Star-Tribune: “Gov. Matt Mead lamented the $100 million that Wyoming left on the table by choosing not to expand Medicaid, and he expressed concern for the state’s hospitals while discussing health care with the Star-Tribune recently…”

Health Insurance Coverage in the US

  • More people remain insured since Obamacare, CDC says. But many pay more out of pocket, By Daniel Chang, August 29, 2017, Miami Herald: “More Americans had health insurance during the first three months of 2017 than before the Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, according to the National Health Interview Survey released Tuesday — but more have coverage with high out-of-pocket costs, which can discourage patients from visiting the doctor and filling a prescription…”
  • Bipartisan group of governors calls on Congress to shore up elements of Affordable Care Act, By Amy Goldstein, August 31, 2017, Washington Post: “A bipartisan group of governors is trying to jump-start efforts to strengthen private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, urging Congress to take prompt steps to stabilize marketplaces created by law while giving states more freedom from its rules…”

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…”

Health Disparities in Appalachia

  • Report: Appalachians’ health ‘dramatically’ poorer than the US as a whole, By Kristi L. Nelson, August 24, 2017, Knoxville News Sentinel: “Heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, drug overdose, diabetes, stroke and suicide – they’re all killing Appalachians at a higher rate than the rest of the country as a whole. On Thursday, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky issued a report, ‘Health Disparities in Appalachia,’ outlining what it called ‘dramatic disparities’ in both health issues and outcomes in the 420-county Appalachian Region, compared to nationwide numbers…”
  • Death comes sooner in Appalachia. It comes much sooner in Eastern Kentucky, By Bill Estep, August 24, 2017, Lexington Herald-Leader: “The years of life Appalachian Kentucky residents lose to health maladies such as heart disease and cancer is 63 percent higher than the national average, according to a report released Thursday. The news was not good in Eastern Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia on just about every indicator of health: heart disease deaths were 17 percent higher in Appalachia than the country as a whole; cancer deaths were 27 percent higher; stroke deaths were 14 percent higher; and the rate of deaths from poisoning, which mostly means from drug overdoses, was 37 percent higher…”

SCHIP Reauthorization

Deadline looms for Congress to reauthorize insurance program for low-income kids, By Jennifer Brooks, August 22, 2017, Star Tribune: “Time is running short for Congress to fund a program that covers health care for more than 100,000 Minnesota children. When federal lawmakers return to work in September, they will have until the end of the month to hammer out the entire 2018 federal budget, avoid a government shutdown, reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, prevent the National Flood Insurance Program from lapsing and tackle tax reform…”

Minimum Wage – Minnesota

Minnesota minimum wage set to rise with inflation in 2018, By Erin Golden, August 17, 2017, Star Tribune: “Minnesota’s minimum wage will increase next year by 15 cents to keep up with inflation, rising to $9.65 per hour for workers at many businesses across the state.  The increase, announced Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, is effective Jan. 1, 2018. It’s the result of a 2014 law that boosted the minimum wage to $9.50 and required the state to begin calculating automatic inflationary increases for each year, starting with 2018…”

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…”

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…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

How Detroit factory workers get charged more than lawyers for auto insurance, By Chad Livengood, August 2, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “It costs more for the undereducated working poor or unemployed who rent homes to buy auto insurance in Michigan than homeowners with white collar careers living and driving in the same city. That’s the charge from a new study by a California insurance researcher who has examined the impact on quotes insurers give Michigan motorists based on their job title, level of education and whether they rent or own a home — factors that have nothing to do with whether they’re safe drivers…”

Medicaid Coverage

  • States that expanded Medicaid saw drop in medical debt, U study finds, By Christopher Snowbeck, July 24, 2017, Star Tribune: “The federal health law’s Medicaid expansion delivered a degree of economic stability to low-income Americans in states that adopted the program, according to a new report from University of Minnesota researchers. Low-income residents in states like Minnesota that expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage saw a bigger decline in unpaid medical bills between 2012 and 2015 than people living in states that didn’t expand coverage, according to the study published in a blog by the journal Health Affairs…”
  • How crisis pregnancy center clients rely on Medicaid, By Sarah McCammon, July 24, 2017, National Public Radio: “When Taylor Merendo moved to Bloomington, Ind., nearly two years ago, fleeing an abusive marriage, she needed help. ‘I was six months pregnant and at that point in time, I really didn’t have a stable place to live,’ Merendo says. That’s where the Hannah Center in Bloomington stepped in. It’s what’s known as a crisis pregnancy center, where women are counseled against abortion and often get support after their babies are born…”
  • Alabama officials abandon Medicaid reform plan, By Amy Yurkanin, July 27, 2017, al.com: “State officials have abandoned a plan to transform Medicaid in Alabama from a fee-for-service model into managed care system led by local healthcare organizations due to uncertainty about funding and high start-up costs…”

Medicaid Programs

  • Montana faces double quandary over Medicaid expansion, By Bobby Caina Calvan (AP), July 17, 2017, Washington Post: “For all the uncertainty over the fate of a health care overhaul in Washington, tens of thousands of Montana’s working poor are already in a double quandary: Even if Congress leaves Medicaid expansion mostly intact, the future of the state’s program remains uncertain…”
  • Holcomb asks feds to allow Medicaid work requirements, Associated Press, July 21, 2017, Indianapolis Star: “Gov. Eric Holcomb has submitted a finalized proposal allowing for changes to the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 serving low-income Hoosiers…”
  • Study suggests why more skin in the game won’t fix Medicaid, By Don Sapatkin, July 19, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “As patients and partisans of all stripes take a deep breath after the latest Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare, they might consider how trying to save health-care dollars can have unintended consequences. In the Netherlands,  the government sought to give people more ‘skin in the game’ in its national health system. The idea —  long supported by U.S. conservatives, even for poor people on Medicaid — is that when patients have to shell out some cash for their care, they won’t seek unnecessary services…”

Medicaid Coverage

State and Local Minimum Wages

  • In many states, a long-awaited raise for low-paid workers, By Tim Henderson, July 14, 2017, Stateline: “In 44 states, jobs paying roughly $30,000 were among those that got the largest salary bumps since 2010 — evidence that the steady but modest economic growth of the past half-decade may be reaching people at the bottom of the income ladder…”
  • St. Louis businesses pressured to keep $10 minimum wage, By Jim Salter (AP), July 13, 2017, Washington Post: “The $10 per hour minimum wage law in St. Louis will be short-lived, but an effort launching Friday will encourage and pressure businesses to honor the higher wage even if state law doesn’t require it…”

State Medicaid Programs

States move to tighten Medicaid enrollment, even without a new health law, By Charles Ornstein, July 6, 2017, National Public Radio: “No corner of the health care system would be harder hit than Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, if Republican leaders in Congress round up the votes to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. GOP lawmakers have proposed winding down the Medicaid expansion that added 17 million people in 31 states and the District of Columbia under the ACA, and also eventually capping the program’s spending per capita…”

Foster Care and the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is straining the nation’s foster-care systems, By Perry Stein and Lindsey Bever, July 1, 2017, Washington Post: “Deb McLaughlin’s 3-year-old grandson climbed all over her, pleading to play trucks, restless as always. Her 1-year-old foster daughter, who had just woken from a midday nap, sat in her lap, wearing a frilly dress and an irresistible smile. At least McLaughlin doesn’t have to worry about the daily shots of methadone anymore, at least these babies no longer scream and shake for the opioids to which they were born addicted. This isn’t what McLaughlin envisioned for her empty nest years in rural Maine, trading camping and four-wheeling trips for social-worker check-ins, meetings with behavioral therapists and supervised visits with the drug-addicted biological parents who had to give up these children. McLaughlin’s daughter, who once dreamed of being a lawyer, is one of the millions of Americans addicted to opioids and one of thousands of parents whom state governments have deemed unfit to care for their own children…”

Medicaid Cuts and State Programs

  • From birth to death, Medicaid affects the lives of millions, By Alison Kodjak, June 27, 2017, National Public Radio: “Medicaid is the government health care program for the poor.  That’s the shorthand explanation. But Medicaid is so much more than that — which is why it has become the focal point of the battle in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. President Barack Obama expanded Medicaid under his signature health care law to cover 11 million more people, bringing the total number of people covered up to 69 million…”
  • For people who depend on Medicaid, proposed federal caps in health care plans instill fear, By Guy Boulton, June 24, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Aaron Christensen was born with a condition so rare that fewer than 100 people have been diagnosed and reported with it worldwide. The boy, now 6, has Nicolaides-Baraitser syndrome, which is characterized by intellectual disability, distinctive facial and other physical features, and often seizures. When he was born, ‘everything kind of changed,’ said his mother, Sara Christensen. ‘We still don’t know what the future looks like.’ Aaron could depend on Medicaid to pay for all or most of his health care his entire life, through a special program. And that’s why they’re extremely anxious about congressional Republicans’ plans to cap what the federal government spends on Medicaid in future years…”
  • The who, what and how much of Mississippi Medicaid, By Sarah Fowler, June 28, 2017, Clarion-Ledger: “Each morning, Samantha Manning rushes to get her family ready for the day. Her eldest, 13-year-old Kennedy, is involved in a number of sports. Combine that with twin 8-year-old boys, and each day is different. Kennedy is a type 1 diabetic and goes to a small school that doesn’t have a nurse on staff. Because of the teen’s diabetes, the school’s policy demands one parent is present at all of her games…”
  • Veterans helped by Obamacare worry about Republican repeal efforts, By Stephanie O’Neill, June 28, 2017, National Public Radio: “Air Force veteran Billy Ramos, from Simi Valley, Calif., is 53 and gets health insurance for himself and for his family from Medicaid — the government insurance program for lower-income people. He says he counts on the coverage, especially because of his physically demanding work as a self-employed contractor in the heating and air conditioning business…”

State and Local Minimum Wages

  • The minimum wage is going up in D.C., two states. How California’s compares, By Nick Perez, June 28, 2017, Sacramento Bee: “On July 1, the minimum wage will increase in Oregon, Maryland and Washington, D.C. – but California will still have fourth-highest minimum wage in the country. The District of Columbia pays minimum wage workers the most – $12.50 per hour, as of July 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nineteen states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of 2017…”
  • A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals, By Max Ehrenfreund, June 26, 2017, Washington Post: “When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they’d hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect. The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They’ve cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found…”

Medicaid Cuts and State Programs

  • Republicans’ proposed Medicaid cuts would hit rural patients hard, By Bram Sable-Smith, June 22, 2017, National Public Radio: “For the hundreds of rural U.S. hospitals struggling to stay in business, health policy decisions made in Washington, D.C., this summer could make survival a lot tougher. Since 2010, at least 79 rural hospitals have closed across the country, and nearly 700 more are at risk of closing. These hospitals serve a largely older, poorer and sicker population than most hospitals, making them particularly vulnerable to changes made to Medicaid funding…”
  • G.O.P. health plan is really a rollback of Medicaid, By Margot Sanger-Katz, June 20, 2017, New York Times: “Tucked inside the Republican bill to replace Obamacare is a plan to impose a radical diet on a 52-year-old program that insures nearly one in five Americans. The bill, of course, would modify changes to the health system brought by the Affordable Care Act. But it would also permanently restructure Medicaid, which covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans, including millions who are living in nursing homes with conditions like Alzheimer’s or the aftereffects of a stroke…”
  • Republicans’ Medicaid rollback collides with opioid epidemic, By Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar (AP), June 20, 2017, ABC News: “The Republican campaign to roll back Barack Obama’s health care law is colliding with America’s opioid epidemic. Medicaid cutbacks would hit hard in states deeply affected by the addiction crisis and struggling to turn the corner, according to state data and concerned lawmakers in both parties…”
  • How states like Kansas punish the poor for being both too poor and not poor enough, By Max Ehrenfreund, June 19, 2017, Washington Post: “Obamacare was designed to make it easier for poor Americans to buy insurance. In many states, though, the law has left a hole where less needy households can receive benefits, while millions of Americans living in poverty cannot. They are, in effect, too poor to get help…”
  • In expanding Medicaid, Utah wants to make some enrollees work and cap their lifetime coverage, By Alex Stuckey, June 20, 2017, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah health officials are proposing lifetime limits and work requirements for childless adults who would gain coverage under a Medicaid expansion plan, hoping the changes will help persuade the federal government to approve it…”
  • With Medicaid under the gun, new study highlights program’s successes in Cheshire County, By Ethan DeWitt, June 23, 2017, Keene Sentinel: “Amid fierce national clashes over the future of health care, and a new Republican bill unveiled Thursday, one federal program has proven a particular emotional flash point: Medicaid. Efforts to pare back the program, which provides coverage to low-income adults and children, have drawn alarm from Democrats and some Republican senators representing rural states…”