State Medicaid Programs – Iowa, Maine

  • Medicaid cuts to roughly 40,000 Iowans approved by the feds, By Clark Kauffman, October 31, 2017, Des Moines Register: “Over the protests of hospitals and medical providers, Iowa has received federal approval to reduce coverage for new Medicaid beneficiaries. An estimated 40,000 Iowans are expected to be affected by the change, which will reduce their coverage for medical care delivered in the days and weeks before they are officially declared eligible for Medicaid…”
  • Maine voters to decide if state will expand Medicaid, By Casey Leins, November 1, 2017, US News & World Report: “On Nov. 7, Maine voters will be the first in the nation to determine the fate of Medicaid expansion in their state. The issue has been a contentious one in Maine since the 2012 Supreme Court ruling granting states the power to decide whether to expand the program to more low-income Americans. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed the legislature’s five attempts to expand Medicaid, arguing that it is a measure of ‘pure welfare’ that would significantly impact taxpayers, according to The New York Times…”

Rural Mental Health Center – Iowa

Rural mental health center draws plenty of praise, but it’s faltering for lack of money, By Tony Leys, September 8, 2017, Des Moines Register: “An innovative program that provides mental-health help in a rural area desperate for such services is on the cusp of closure, partly because state officials haven’t arranged a way for it to bill Medicaid. Numerous southern Iowans who’ve used the Oak Place center are stepping forward to explain why they want it to stay open, pushing aside fears about being identified publicly as people who were hamstrung by depression or anxiety — and who sought help…”

State and Local Minimum Wages – Iowa

GOP’s minimum wage rollback headed to Branstad’s desk, By William Petroski, March 27, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that freezes the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although Democrats angrily denounced the bill, accusing Republicans of failing to support poor Iowans. House File 295 rolls back minimum wage increases already approved in four counties, including Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello. In addition, Lee County supervisors have been in the process of approving a minimum wage hike…”

Medicaid Privatization – Iowa

Medicaid firms spending less on care for Iowa’s poor, disabled, By Tony Leys, March 15, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The three private firms running Iowa’s Medicaid program have found ways to trim spending on care for the poor or disabled Iowans they cover, a new report suggests. But all three continue to lose tens of millions of dollars on the controversial project.  The companies’ per-member monthly spending on health care for adults fell by as much as 28 percent from the three months ending in September 2016 to the three months ending in December 2016, the new report shows…”

State Minimum Wage – Iowa

Branstad to explore statewide minimum wage hike, By William Petroski, October 24, 2016, Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he will explore a statewide increase in the minimum wage, replacing minimum wage hikes being approved on a county-by-county basis throughout Iowa.  The Republican governor didn’t offer a specific figure for a uniform increase in Iowa’s minimum wage, but he suggested he would consult with experts for help in determining an appropriate figure. The state and federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2008, and there is no indication Congress will act soon to raise it…”

Minimum Wage – Des Moines, IA

Des Moines’ minimum wage is higher than you think, By Kevin Hardy, June 14, 2016, Des Moines Register: “S. Ahmed Merchant isn’t too worried about Polk County possibly raising the minimum wage above Iowa’s mandated $7.25 an hour.  By December, he plans to pay every employee at his 40 Iowa Jimmy John’s sandwich shops at least $10.50 per hour. Merchant started raising workers’ beginning pay after Johnson County supervisors decided last year to phase in a new minimum wage of $10.10 per hour…”

Racial Achievement Gap – Iowa, Kentucky

  • Preschool — The solution to black achievement gap?, By Mackenzie Ryan, May 23, 2016, Des Moines Register: “It’s mid-morning, and Evevett Fugate has been up all night. After clocking out of her overnight McDonald’s shift at 6 a.m. and returning home, she readies her four children for school, making sure the oldest three catch the bus in the morning. She takes her youngest, Ovalia, to preschool class for 4-year-olds, then picks her up at 11 a.m.  Although Fugate’s overnight work allows her to attend school activities, she has enrolled Ovalia in early childhood programs since age 2 because she knows how vital is it for children to get an early jump on kindergarten, whether it be learning letters or picking up social skills…”
  • Despite advances, racial achievement gap widens, By Luba Ostashevsky, May 23, 2016, Louisville Courier-Journal: “The second-graders in Sarah Bowling’s class at Dunn Elementary were on a mathematical scavenger hunt. Students cradling clipboards moved around the room matching groupings of things and learning the concept that three groups of five things total the same as five groups of three things. In the middle of the room,  three students received individualized instruction because they had fallen short of academic expectations. While Dunn has students of all skill levels, there remains a gap in student achievement, particularly between the school’s African-American students and the rest of the students. Such gaps were a major consideration for state educational leaders more than five years ago, when Kentucky became the first state to adopt the Common Core…”

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.

Medicaid Privatization – Iowa

Will Iowa’s poor face Kansan fate of Medicaid denials?, By Jason Clayworth, January 10, 2016, Des Moines Register: “Two of the corporations Iowa has picked to manage its Medicaid program face new accusations of trying to pad their profits by systematically denying payments to medical providers serving poor and disabled people in Kansas. Similar allegations of denied payments and unjust delays hounded both companies for years in other states.  The companies — UnitedHealthcare and Amerigroup — have each paid tens of thousands of dollars to settle similar problems in other states, a Des Moines Register Investigation has found.  But the new accusations in Kansas are particularly relevant to Iowa because the model used by Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration for privatized Medicaid management is similar to the Kansas plan in many ways, critics contend…”

State Medicaid Programs – Iowa, Michigan

  • Feds tell Iowa: Delay Medicaid privatization by 60 days, By Tony Leys, December 18, 2015, Des Moines Register: “Federal administrators have ordered Iowa to wait at least 60 days before shifting its Medicaid program to private management.  The delay, announced Thursday, will affect 560,000 poor or disabled Iowans who receive health care under the $4 billion program. Gov. Terry Branstad has been pushing to transfer Medicaid management to national, for-profit companies on Jan. 1.  The governor says the shift would save money and provide more flexible benefits. But federal officials have heard from hundreds of Iowa critics who say Branstad is courting chaos by rushing to make the switch before the managed-care companies are ready…”
  • Feds approve Medicaid waiver for Michigan, By Karen Bouffard and Melissa Nann Burke, December 17, 2015, Detroit News: “More than a half million Michigan residents will get to keep their expanded Medicaid health insurance next year and beyond after the federal government Thursday approved the final waiver required under state law.  Under terms approved Thursday by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, starting in April 2018 about 110,000 participants in the Healthy Michigan Plan will be required to adopt healthier behaviors or be kicked off the expanded Medicaid program…”

Foster Care System – Iowa

Iowa 6th in nation for share of kids in foster care, By Erin Jordan, May 4, 2015, The Gazette: “Iowa is among states with the highest share of children in foster care — with six kids out of every 1,000 entering the system in fiscal 2013.  Some decry the numbers as a sign child advocates are too quick to yank children from biological families. But others say Iowa’s laws give judges more latitude to remove children from dangerous environments, such as houses in which drugs are manufactured…”

Kids Count Reports – Michigan, Indiana, Iowa

  • Saginaw County above state averages for child poverty, low birth weight, child abuse investigations, Kids Count 2015 reports, By Heather Jordan, February 19, 2015, MLive: “When it comes to the overall well-being of Michigan children, Saginaw County ranked 59th of 82, with No. 1 being the best.  Saginaw County has a greater percentage of young children who are eligible for food assistance than the state average, a greater percentage of low birth weight babies than the state average, a higher rate of children living in families investigated for abuse or neglect than the state average and a greater percentage of students who did not graduate high school on time than the state average.  All of this is according to the 2015 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released Thursday, Feb. 19, by the Michigan League for Public Policy…”
  • Data: Indiana has highest rate in U.S. of teens who considered suicide, By Marisa Kwiatkowski, February 17, 2015, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana has the highest rate in the country of teens who have considered suicide and the second-highest rate of those who attempted it, according to a report from the Indiana Youth Institute.  The Institute’s ‘2015 Kids Count in Indiana data book,’ which was released Monday, pulled data from hundreds of national and state sources to analyze the state of Hoosier children and families. It tackled concerns such as a high rate of teen drug use, a low student-to-school counselor ratio and the fact that 22 percent of Indiana children live in poverty…”
  • Mixed results for Iowa’s children in Iowa Kids Count Report, By Chelsea Keenan and Andrew Phillips, February 11, 2015, The Gazette: “The health and education of Iowa’s children has generally improved since 2000, according to the 2013 Iowa Kids Count report. But the economic well-being that their families face has not.  The report, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has data looking at 20 different indicators of child and family well-being, including child poverty, food assistance, high school graduation rates and teen births.  It also provides data on a county, state and national level as well as compares rural with urban areas…”

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 and Managed-Care – Iowa

Iowa to hire private firms to help run Medicaid, By Tony Leys, January 20, 2015, Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad plans to hire a private managed-care company or companies to help run the state’s Medicaid program, legislators and administration officials said Tuesday. Details are scarce on how the plan would work, but Branstad projects it would save $51.3 million from January through June 2016, its first six months. Managed-care arrangements generally involve private companies that oversee large health care programs and that share savings they obtain by making care more efficient. Iowa already has two such contracts for some services under Medicaid. The new arrangement apparently would involve a broad array of services, legislators said…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Iowa minimum wage trails neighbors, but hike unlikely, By Matthew Patane, January 11, 2015, Des Moines Register: “In South Dakota, a worker earning minimum wage gets paid $8.50 an hour — $1.25 an hour more than in Iowa. In Nebraska, the minimum wage is $8 an hour, and in Illinois, it’s $8.25 — both higher than Iowa’s $7.25 minimum. In fact, except for Wisconsin, Iowa is surrounded by states that offer a higher minimum wage. And the difference can be substantial — adding up to an additional $800 to $2,600 a year for full-time workers earning a higher minimum…”
  • Minnesota restaurant owners want break on tipped workers, By Patrick Condon, January 13, 2015, Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune: “Minnesota restaurateurs, sensing an opportunity with the new Republican House majority and fresh signs of sympathy from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, plan to push for an exemption to last year’s minimum wage increase that would allow them to pay a lower base wage to tipped employees. ‘This last year has been a test for us,’ said Ed Fong, owner of David Fong’s, a Bloomington Chinese restaurant his parents opened in 1958. ‘With the minimum wage increase, and big increases in food costs — those are my two biggest costs, and I seem to have less and less control of those items.’ When the Legislature boosted the state minimum wage last year, a proposal to add the so-called ‘tipped employee tier’ nearly became part of the package. The idea had bipartisan support, but failed by one vote in the DFL-controlled House. Then Dayton, who strongly backed the minimum wage law, said shortly after signing it that he saw the logic behind an exemption for restaurants…”
  • Minimum wage increase in Colorado still leaves some workers short, By Greg Ruland, January 10, 2015, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “The 23-cent increase in Colorado’s minimum wage provoked mixed reactions from local business owners and county officials, but did little to close the gap between full-time pay and the cost of living in Mesa County. The raise from $8 to $8.23 per hour — or for tipped employees, from $4.98 to $5.21 per hour — took effect Jan. 1. Spokesmen for two area restaurants employing minimum wage workers voiced different points of view about the increase…”

Aging Out of Foster Care – Iowa

In transition: Teens aging out of foster care system battle stigma, need support, By Holly Hudson, December 22, 2013, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier: “Every child who comes through Iowa’s foster care system has a story of their own, and each story is as varied as the children themselves. Laura is a mother of six from Evansdale and asked that her full name not be used. She is decades removed from her experience with the foster system, yet she talks about it like it was yesterday. Laura’s odyssey began when she was removed from her mother’s custody at age 12. Her father had passed away years earlier. Stays in a youth shelter, group homes and even a psychiatric ward followed…”

Kids Count Report – Iowa

Polk County child poverty rate rose in ’11, By Mary Stegmeir, December 12, 2013, Des Moines Register: “Polk County saw one of the largest shifts — up or down — in its childhood poverty rate from 2010 to 2011, according to an Iowa Kids Count report released today. In Iowa’s most populous county, 17.5 percent of youngsters now live below the poverty line, up from 14.5 percent in 2010. It is among seven counties in Iowa to record a poverty rate change of at least 3 percentage points…”

State Minimum Wage – Iowa, Massachusetts

  • Minimum wage must increase, Iowa panelists say, By Victor Epstein, June 5, 2013, Des Moines Register: “Romain Turner has been out of prison for five months and has run up a $1,800 tab for rent at the halfway house on the former grounds of Fort Des Moines while looking for work. The 33-year-old Des Moines native said he wants to live a law-abiding life after a criminal history that includes a burglary conviction two years ago. He is trying to figure out how he’s going to pay that new debt off, along with $300 in court fees, $2,000 in victim restitution, child support and rent once he lands a minimum-wage job…”
  • Mass. will consider minimum wage hike, By Meghan E. Irons, June 11, 2013, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts legislators are considering a substantial increase in the state minimum wage for the first time in four years, setting up a showdown between advocates backing low-wage earners and business activists, both still struggling from the slow economy…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • States urged to expand Medicaid with private insurance, By Robert Pear, March 21, 2013, New York Times: “The White House is encouraging skeptical state officials to expand Medicaid by subsidizing the purchase of private insurance for low-income people, even though that approach might be somewhat more expensive, federal and state officials say…”
  • Sebelius: GOP governors will eventually expand Medicaid, By Kelly Kennedy, March 21, 2013, USA Today: ” Republican governors and GOP-controlled legislatures will eventually decide to expand Medicaid in their states because the financial benefits are too big to ignore, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview Thursday with USA TODAY…”
  • Iowa Senate expected to OK Medicaid expansion plan, By William Petroski, March 21, 2013, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate is expected to approve a plan Monday to provide Medicaid health insurance to thousands of additional low-income Iowans, despite opposition from Republican Gov. Terry Branstad…”
  • Republicans in Tallahassee back alternative Medicaid expansion plan, By Tia Mitchell, March 20, 2013, Miami Herald: “Top Senate Republicans, who last week said no to expanding Medicaid, want to instead use the $55 billion offered as part of President Barack Obama’s health care law to funnel poor Floridians into subsidized, private health insurance. The plan, crafted by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would expand the state’s Florida Healthy Kids program to cover qualifying adults 18 and over. People in the expanded plan would be required to pay small premiums and co-pays, and they would have access to health reimbursement accounts to help cover out-of-pocket expenses…”
  • State House Republicans reject Snyder’s Medicaid expansion proposal, By Kathleen Gray and Paul Egan, March 21, 2013, Detroit Free Press: “Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to expand Medicaid to nearly 500,000 Michigan residents, is not getting a warm reception in the state House of Representatives. The Appropriations subcommittee handling the Department of Community Health budget passed the funding document without the Medicaid expansion, as well as other Snyder proposals, including: dental services for low-income children, health and wellness initiatives, mental health and substance abuse services for veterans and an infant mortality program…”

“Iowa Kids,” Des Moines Register Special Report

Unprecedented Challenges for Iowa Kids, special report homepage, Des Moines Register:

  • In child care, struggles with cost and quality, By Sara Sleyster, March 17, 2013, Des Moines Register: “Lindsay Trumblee spent a month searching for child care she thought would keep her toddler daughter safe, happy and learning. ‘I had checked out centers and just was really discouraged — there were too many kids. It was not organized,’ said Trumblee, 24, who eventually found an in-home provider where Avri, now 3, has thrived. Like Trumblee, parents around the country have long found the search for child care to be a time of high anxiety. Often, parents struggle to match their desire for the best care for their children with what they can afford. In Iowa, the search can be especially difficult. The state licenses child care centers before they open, but in-home child care businesses that care for fewer than six children can start without any state oversight. Parents must navigate a patchwork of providers with varying education levels and experience who offer uneven care…”
  • ‘Child care cliff’ makes it tough for working poor to get ahead, By Sara Sleyster, March 17, 2013, Des Moines Register: “The parents of 4-year-old Jocelyn Fernandez last month faced the threat of losing $600 a month in state child care assistance and having to pull their daughter from the center she attends. The problem? Her mother, Leslie Ortiz, had taken a new job last fall with better pay to help the family make ends meet. With the income of her husband, Luis Fernandez, who works at Auto Zone, the family was earning $200 a month over the eligibility limit for child care assistance. Keeping the job and keeping their daughter in child care would have left the family worse off financially. Iowa experts call the situation the Ortiz family faced ‘the child care cliff.’ All state child care assistance for a family ends abruptly when they reach a certain income. Critics say the sharp cutoff has the unintended consequences of hindering working-poor families who want to climb the ladder of self-sufficiency. Earn even a few more pennies an hour, and a family’s financial situation is suddenly worse…”