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…”

2017 Kids Count Data Book

  • Kentucky children make ‘undeniable’ health care gains, but advocates fear setback, By Deborah Yetter, June 13, 2017, Louisville Courier-Journal: “As a young mom, Savannah Wallace of Louisville knows the value of health care coverage for her baby boy. ‘It’s peace of mind,’ she said, holding 4-month-old William on her lap during a recent visit to the Family Health Center Iroquois clinic for a checkup. ‘You don’t have to worry where the money’s going to come from. He gets the health care he needs…'”
  • Tennessee moves to 35th for kids’ health and happiness, By Jason Gonzales, June 12, 2017, The Tennessean: “Tennessee’s push to increase the number of students who attend college has helped increase the state’s standing on a national report that looks at the well-being of children…”
  • 2017 Kids Count report on Nevada is a mixed bag, By Amber Corbin, June 13, 2017, Las Vegas Sun: “The economic conditions of Nevada households with children continue to improve following the Great Recession, but the overall well-being of kids still lags far below the national average, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation…”
  • Southwestern states rank among lowest in child well-being, By Susan Montoya Bryan (AP), June 13, 2017, US News: “Three Southwestern states are ranked near the bottom when it comes to child well-being, with New Mexico the lowest among its neighbors. The annual Kids Count report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks New Mexico 49th, ahead of only Mississippi. Louisiana, Nevada and Arizona fill in the rest of the five lowest rankings…”
  • Florida child poverty rate doesn’t budge, By Liz Freeman, June 13, 2017, Naples Daily News: “Florida children are not escaping poverty or making significant strides in school, two findings for why the state ranks 40th in overall child well-being for the second year in a row, according to a national report…”
  • D.C. has one of the highest rates of children with health insurance, report says, By Michael Alison Chandler, June 13, 2017, Washington Post: “The District has one of the highest rates of health-insured children, with 98 percent covered, according to the latest Kids Count annual survey released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation…”
  • Georgia children’s health factors improving but among U.S.’ lowest, By Ariel Hart, June 14, 2017, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia’s children rank among the nation’s least healthy, according to an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In only seven other states does a greater portion of the children lack health insurance. In only five other states are more babies born underweight. Georgia also ranked worse than the national average in several other categories related to children’s health and well-being, including deaths of minors…”
  • Report puts NC in the bottom half of the U.S. for child well-being, By Beth Walton, June 13, 2017, Asheville Citizen-Times: “A national group put North Carolina in the bottom half of U.S. states for child well-being, something local advocates say needs to change. The annual Kids Count Data book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Florida, like Trump, considered saving money by cutting food stamps, By Katishi Maake, June 6, 2017, Charlotte Observer: “It’s not just President Donald Trump trying to cut back on food stamps. Months before Trump submitted a federal budget that would ax $193 billion from the benefits program, Florida lawmakers earlier this year tried – and failed – to cut money from the state’s share of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, pushing legislation that would have cut off all but the neediest families…”
  • ‘I’ve got to make $15 stretch’: Food stamp cuts hit Alabama’s Black Belt hard, By Connor Sheets, June 10, 2017, AL.com: “Ricky Minor receives $16 worth of food stamps every month. The 54-year-old, who lives in Aliceville, a small Pickens County town in Alabama’s impoverished Black Belt region, is certified as 100 percent disabled, unable to work because he has lung cancer. ‘If you buy the chicken and the bread with the $16, you don’t have enough to get the grease to cook it,’ he said Thursday…”
  • Food stamps still heavily used in Minnesota, raising worry over Trump’s proposed cuts to program, By Maya Rao, June 15, 2017, Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Demand for food stamps in Minnesota rose dramatically in the past decade, and remains high even as the economy improved in recent years. That has anti-hunger advocates in the state preparing to fight cuts in federal food assistance proposed by the Trump administration…”

Health Insurance Coverage in the US

  • Charity care dips at Wisconsin hospitals, with more people insured; trend could end with Obamacare repeal, By David Wahlberg, June 11, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Hospitals in Madison and throughout Wisconsin have provided less charity care in recent years as more people have gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act, with some hospitals directing the savings to disease prevention. That could change if Congress overturns the law, known as Obamacare, and increases the ranks of the uninsured. And if Medicare payment cuts that helped pay for the law’s expanded coverage also remain, hospitals could end up shifting more costs to people with private insurance, officials say…”
  • What the Obamacare overhaul could mean for Texas’ terrible maternal mortality rate, By Katie Leslie, June 12, 2017, Dallas Morning News: “Texas officials were already investigating why an alarming number of Lone Star women are dying from pregnancy-related complications when a study last year ranked the state’s maternal mortality rate as the nation’s worst. That’s why many doctors and health care advocates are watching Republican-led negotiations in Washington over replacing the Affordable Care Act, with some worried about what the changes could mean for Texas’ maternal health crisis…”
  • Nevada may become first state to offer Medicaid to all, regardless of income, By Alison Kodjak, June 13, 2017, National Public Radio: “Nevadans will find out this week whether their state will become the first in the country to allow anyone to buy into Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor and disabled…”
  • In Texas, people with erratic incomes risk being cut off from Medicaid, By Shefali Luthra, June 14, 2017, Iowa Public Radio: “Worries about whether her children can still get the health care they need are never far from Dawn Poole’s mind. It’s a constant, underlying concern. Much of her anxiety is a direct result of living in Texas. To qualify for Medicaid in the state, most children must come from families with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2017, that’s $33,948 for a family of four. Texas also has one of the country’s strictest Medicaid verification systems: It runs regular checks on family finances after children are enrolled to make sure they continue to qualify…”

Drug Testing and Medicaid – Wisconsin

Wisconsin submits request to drug test Medicaid applicants, By Scott Bauer (AP), June 7, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Wisconsin submitted a federal request Wednesday to become the first state in the country to drug test applicants for Medicaid health benefits. Republican Gov. Scott Walker expects President Donald Trump’s administration to approve the waiver, which would also impose new requirements on able-bodied, childless adults receiving Medicaid in the state. The request comes as Walker, a one-time GOP presidential candidate, prepares for a likely re-election bid…”