Health Insurance Coverage

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

Politics and Poverty

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

Politics and Poverty

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

State Medicaid Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Disability group calling for federal investigation of Medicaid backlog, By Gabriella Dunn, July 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle: “A state disability organization is calling on the federal government to investigate the state’s handling of the application backlog for Medicaid. And this week, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit will begin an investigation into the backlog issue. The backlog was caused in part by the state switching its computer system that processes Medicaid applications about a year ago. And then in January, it switched the agency that oversees the applications, furthering the problem…”
  • Alabama’s Medicaid crisis: Four ways out, By Brian Lyman, July 15, 2016, Montgomery Advertiser: “Legislators don’t lack options to address a shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program.  But what they do lack — for now — is leadership in the Alabama House and a certainty about whether the will exists among legislators to reopen the General Fund budget…”

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…”

Marriage Promotion

Politicians push marriage, but that’s not what would help children, By Eduardo Porter, March 22, 2016, New York Times: “Should the government push poor people to marry? The urge to do so has a long pedigree, dating perhaps as far back as 1965. When serving as a Labor Department official in the Johnson administration, Daniel Patrick Moynihan — who was later a top adviser to President Richard M. Nixon and ultimately one of the most influential Democrats in Congress as a senator from New York — argued that the surge in African-American families headed by single mothers was condemning many black children to fail in school and in life…”

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…”

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.

Local Minimum Wage Laws

When a state balks at a city’s minimum wage, By Alan Blinder, February 21, 2016, New York Times: “Veronica Roscoe, who earns $7.75 an hour working at a Burger King here, thought last August that she had won: This city had become the first in the South to approve a local minimum wage.  “It was, ‘Wow, victory,’ “ Ms. Roscoe, 55, said. “I was running around the job, acting a fool.”   But that was before the Alabama Legislature met, and before a showdown between state lawmakers and city leaders about who should have the authority to set wage policy in Birmingham. The dispute is a particularly ferocious version of a divide playing out nationally as cities increasingly move to raise their minimum wages and some states, particularly those controlled by Republicans, try to restrict their ability to set floors on pay…”

TANF Benefits – New Jersey

Should N.J. raise welfare grants to reduce child poverty?, By Susan K. Livio, February 12, 2016, Star-Ledger: “After decades of pleading with state leaders to raise the value of welfare benefits in New Jersey, anti-poverty groups joined with top lawmakers at the Statehouse Thursday who vowed to phase-in a 30-percent increase over the next three years…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

  • Drug testing for benefits in Tennessee yields only 65 positives, By Anita Wadhwani, February 7, 2016, The Tennessean: “A Tennessee law requiring drug screening and testing of public benefit seekers has yielded few positives for illicit drugs — and no one has been denied benefits for failing a drug test, though scores of people have walked away from the application process.  Just 65 of 39,121 people applying for a cash assistance program known as Families First in Tennessee tested positive for illegal substances or drugs for which they had no prescription since the law was implemented July 1, 2014, according to data provided by the Department of Human Services to The Tennessean…”
  • Alabama would be allowed to drug test food stamp recipients under proposal by Rep. Robert Aderholt, By Leada Gore, February 12, 2016, AL.com: “Food stamp recipients could be subject to drug testing under a plan unveiled Thursday by Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt. Rep. Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said his  proposal would allow states to opt into mandatory drug testing as a requirement for receiving food stamps…”

Health Insurance Coverage – Kentucky

Kentucky’s newly insured worry about their health under next governor, By Amy Goldstein, November 9, 2015, Washington Post: “Amid the coal fields of eastern Kentucky, a small clinic that is part of the Big Sandy Health Care network furnishes daily proof of this state’s full embrace of the Affordable Care Act. It was here that Mindy Fleming handed a wad of tissues to Tiffany Coleman when she arrived, sleepless and frantic, with no health insurance and a daughter suffering a 103-degree fever and mysterious pain. ‘It will be all right,’ Fleming assured her, and it was. An hour later, Coleman had a WellCare card that paid for hospital tests, which found that 4-year-old Alexsis had an unusual bladder problem.  Such one-by-one life changes are the ground-level stakes ushered in by the election last week of businessman Matt Bevin as Kentucky’s next governor. The second Republican elected to the office in 48 years, he wrapped his campaign around a pledge to dismantle Kynect, the state’s response to the federal health-care law. If he follows through, the Bluegrass State would go from being perhaps the nation’s premier ACA success story to the first to undo the law’s results, razing a state insurance exchange and reversing its considerable expansion of Medicaid…”

Voter ID Law – Kansas

Voter ID battle shifts to Kansas, By Julie Bosman, October 15, 2015, New York Times: “Amelia Flores, a high school senior with plans to become an electrical engineer, eagerly filled out a form to register to vote for the first time at the Kansas State Fair last month. But she left the fair without registering, stymied by a state law championed by Republicans who dominate elected offices in Kansas that requires her to provide proof of citizenship. ‘I think it’s ridiculous and restrictive,’ said Ms. Flores, who later received a notice in the mail informing her that she must produce a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to complete the registration. ‘A lot of people are working multiple jobs, so they don’t have time to get this stuff done. Some of them don’t have access to their birth certificate…'”

States and Medicaid Expansion

On Medicaid expansion, a question of math and politics, By Christine Vestal, July 8, 2015, Stateline: “With its ruling in King v. Burwell last month, the U.S. Supreme Court likely settled the question of whether President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act will survive. Whether and when the health law will be fully implemented in all 50 states is a different question.  ‘With the King decision behind us, the drumbeats for Medicaid expansion are increasing,’ said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. ‘There is movement in every state. They’ll get there. Maybe not today and maybe not this year, but they’ll get there soon.’  That’s the hope of health care industry groups and legions of consumer advocates. Major business organizations and local and county governments are also onboard. Following the high court’s decision, President Obama vowed to do all he can to persuade states to opt in before he leaves office in 18 months. But in the mostly Southern and Midwestern states that have rejected expansion, opposition shows little sign of abating…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

$25 ATM limit for Kansas welfare recipients may violate federal law, By Lindsay Wise and Dion Lefler, May 16, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “A first-of-its-kind provision that prevents welfare recipients in Kansas from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM might violate federal law – and could jeopardize the state’s federal funding if not amended. The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, ‘have adequate access to their cash assistance’ and can withdraw money ‘with minimal fees or charges.’  At stake is about $102 million in TANF block grant money that Kansas receives every year from the federal government.  The ATM limit was added as an amendment to a welfare overhaul bill signed in April by Gov. Sam Brownback…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • State legislatures quarrel over whether to expand Medicaid, By Annie Feidt, May 12, 2015, National Public Radio: “Five years after the Affordable Care Act passed, the law’s provision allowing the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more people is still causing huge fights in state legislatures.  Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia said yes to Medicaid expansion when the law went into effect. Since then, just six more have signed on. States that say yes get billions of additional federal dollars, but many Republican lawmakers are loathe to say yes to the Obama administration…”
  • More managed care, more problems?, By Jordan Shapiro, May 15, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Gov. Jay Nixon recently approved an expansion of Medicaid managed care and now the difficult work begins to shift 200,000 Missourians onto private health plans.  Around the country more and more states are shifting to the managed care model. It differs from traditional Medicaid in that a private corporation receives a flat amount from the state to manage and pay for various aspects of a recipient’s care. Under traditional Medicaid, the state directly reimburses providers for each test and treatment…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Bill tightening restrictions on welfare recipients advances in Kansas Senate, By Bryan Lowry, April 2, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “The Kansas Senate is moving forward with a bill that limits people to 36 months of welfare benefits, bans repeat drug offenders from food assistance for life and restricts the amount recipients can withdraw from an ATM using a welfare benefits card.  Senators passed HB 2258 by voice vote Wednesday after a heated debate that lasted most of the day. The bill will be up for a final vote Thursday and is expected to pass easily. The bill makes changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly called welfare, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. The programs are federally funded but administered by the states…”

Poverty Measurement

Who’s poor? Depends how you measure it, By Amy Crawford, March 1, 2015, Boston Globe: “As Mitt Romney flirted with the idea of a third presidential run in January, the former Massachusetts governor called for a new war on poverty in America. Romney’s remarks, which briefly got both parties talking about the issue, were surprising not only because he had drawn flak during his 2012 campaign for claiming that he was ‘not concerned about the very poor,’ but also because American political discourse has always focused more on the frustrations of the middle class than the struggles of the least fortunate.  One reason politicians target their appeals to people in the middle of the socioeconomic scale is pragmatic: They are more likely to vote than those at the bottom. But it’s also because poverty is a particularly intractable and confounding problem. As a culture, we’re not sure how to explain who ends up in poverty—whether they’re disadvantaged by the system, lazy, or just unlucky. In fact, we can’t even agree on what poverty means…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Deep cuts could be on table as Congress re-evaluates food stamp program, By Michael Marks, February 24, 2015, Dallas Morning News: “Eat or fix the car.  That was one of the choices Dylan Carter faced before signing up for the federal Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The 24-year-old from Frisco received $200 per month while looking for a job until, after two months, he became a door-to-door salesman.  ‘You can actually pay your bills,’ Carter said. ‘It’s $200 in your pocket that normally you wouldn’t have. It’s tough out there, so every little bit helps.’  Advocates say that’s the kind of assistance the program is designed to provide: helping people stay on their feet in tough times. And they’re concerned about potential cuts and changes as the U.S. House begins a series of hearings Wednesday to re-evaluate the program…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Republicans eye changes to food-stamp program, By Tennille Tracy, February 11, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a revision of the food-stamps program after its sharp expansion during the recession. The effort kicks off Feb. 25 when the House Agriculture Committee holds the first of several hearings scheduled this year on food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”