Health and Poverty News

The Baltimore Sun, September 2, 2014: (Op-Ed) Smarter approach to food stamps

“We've watched food stamps pull millions of Americans out of deep poverty; improve the health and nutrition of children, veterans and seniors; and boost the economies of urban and rural areas. When we moved from actual stamps to electronic cards, the process became more efficient and less stigmatized, which resulted in more low-income working families participating, with a low fraud rate that is the envy of other programs.”

The Charlotte Observer, September 1, 2014: Putting teeth in health reform: Dental clinics aren’t enough

“When hundreds of desperate dental patients converge on the Charlotte Convention Center next week, it will be a testament to civic generosity and systemic failure. Over the past decade, North Carolina’s Missions of Mercy program has become one of the nation’s largest providers of free mobile dental clinics. The work is done by dentists and support staff working without pay, aided by community volunteers and donors. People in pain stand in line for hours or even days, grateful for help they can’t otherwise afford. But dentists say the demand for free emergency clinics signals the state’s failure to develop a network of affordable dental care that would avert much of the damage that sends people here. So far the Affordable Care Act has made little difference, several dentists say.”

Tampa Bay Times, August 31, 2014: Hillsborough clinic offers needed dental care to children

“Florida's dental care crisis is a long-standing problem, earning the state a failing grade from a national foundation that looks at how well states provide dental care for children. Less than 15 percent of dentists accept Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor, notorious for its low reimbursement rates and high paperwork. In 2011, less than a quarter of Florida's children on Medicaid saw a dentist. Last year, Florida shifted all Medicaid dental patients into managed care, a move that state officials said would save money so dentists could get better rates. But that hasn't happened so far, said Dr. Richard Stevenson, president of the Florida Dental Association.”

Idaho Press-Tribune, August 31, 2014: (Op-Ed) Closing health insurance gap imperative for Idaho

“Last year Idaho lawmakers wisely decided that our state should roll up its sleeves and build its own health insurance exchange rather than defer to the federal exchange. The staterun marketplace has forced insurance companies to compete in a fair way and given 76,000 Idahoans access to affordable coverage. Many received tax credits to help pay for their premiums. Unfortunately, some Idahoans were left out. When they shop for coverage through the exchange, they learn that their incomes are "too low" for them to qualify for help. Meanwhile those with slightly higher incomes receive help with their premiums. Approximately 70,000 Idahoans fall into the "coverage gap." They earn too little to qualify for discounted coverage, but earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid.”

Chattanooga Times Free Press, August 31, 2014: (Editorial) Food stamps at 50: Help needed

“But what's now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), now employed through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards instead of the stamps it started with, is also rife with abuse. Benefits, transferred to EBT cards, are supposed to be used only for healthy foods such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, according to the United State Department of Agriculture. Supposedly verboten are hot food, pet food, soap, household supplies, beer, cigarettes and wine. But SNAP historically has not been good at enforcing its own rules. Thus, as enrollment in SNAP rose from 26 million Americans (one in 12) in 2007 to nearly 47 million (one in seven) in 2012, abuse of the program in an increasingly technological world did not abate.”

The Virginian-Pilot, August 31, 2014: (Op-Ed) A way forward on Medicaid

“Medicaid expansion is nothing new in the commonwealth. The General Assembly has been expanding Medicaid almost every year for decades. What has resulted is an unsustainable Medicaid program that consumes over 20 percent of our state budget, an amount that continues to grow. Studies show that the cost to Virginia taxpayers for low-income, uninsured Virginians not only includes over $1.2 billion in the past decade, but is also responsible for up to 10 percent of their health insurance premiums. Continuing with our current Medicaid system is no longer an option. Further expansion doesn't make sense. What is needed is reform. Everything from the expectations of those in the system, to how services are delivered, to creating a path off Medicaid, needs to be addressed and reformed.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 30, 2014: Increased Medicaid pay for doctors set to end this year (Subscription Only)

“For the past two years, Lynch and other Georgia doctors have received more money for treating Medicaid patients as part of a program created by the Affordable Care Act. Its goal: increase access to primary care services for the poor. The pay bump has enabled some doctors to see greater numbers of people on Medicaid, which doesn't pay enough to cover the actual cost of care. But the reimbursement hike --- fully paid for by the federal government for two years --- is set to end on Dec. 31 unless the state opts to extend the increase with its own money. Six states plan to do that, including Alabama and Mississippi. Like Georgia, both Southern states have refused to expand Medicaid as called for by the health care law. But Georgia leaders have not yet decided whether to continue the pay increase. Maintaining it would cost the state an estimated $70 million annually, state legislators say.”

Lowell Sun, August 30, 2014: Billions in balance as Mass. waiver talks drag on

“A federal waiver critical to the efforts in Massachusetts to pursue universal health-care coverage, rein in cost increases and deploy payment delivery reform is hung up in secret talks between outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's administration and the Obama administration. In late 2011, when Patrick announced the current $26.7 billion, three-year waiver, he said more than 98 percent of Massachusetts residents were insured and predicted the waiver would help the state tame health-care cost growth. Now, as his time in office winds down and with the state's Medicaid rolls growing, negotiating details of a new waiver represents one of his biggest remaining responsibilities.”

The New York Times, August 29, 2014: Pennsylvania to Purchase Private Care for Its Poor

“Pennsylvania will become the 27th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration announced Thursday, using federal funds to buy private health insurance for about 500,000 low-income residents starting next year. Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, had proposed the plan as an alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid under the health care law, which he opposes. Now that federal officials have signed off, Pennsylvania will join Arkansas and Iowa in using Medicaid funds to buy private coverage for the poor.”

Chattanooga Times Free Press, August 29, 2014: Haslam to present Medicaid expansion plan in fall

“Like many Republican governors, Haslam so far has declined to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that became available on Jan. 1, 2014, absent a special waiver of federal rules that he says will save money and result in better health outcomes. Eighteen months ago he outlined a ‘Tennessee Plan.’ It would allow the state to use the federal money to buy private insurance through the federal law's health coverage. But Haslam has yet to submit a formal request. Instead, state officials and sometimes the governor himself quietly sounded out their federal counterparts on what might be acceptable.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2014: Program to boost insurance for pregnant women takes effect

“A Missouri program to expand Medicaid to more pregnant women officially took effect Thursday, but in the absence of state funding it could be months before people can take advantage of the health plan. The Show Me Healthy Babies program was passed by the Legislature this year and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon in July. It is designed to provide insurance for pregnant women who earn too much to currently qualify for Medicaid, but not enough for a private health plan. Like many Missouri laws, it was formally enacted on Thursday.”

Pittsburgh Tribune Review, August 30, 2014: Healthy PA plan reduces benefits

“Fewer benefits, a reduction in the number of plans offered through the state's existing Medicaid program and moving about 59,000 Medicaid recipients into private coverage should produce about $4.5 billion in savings over eight years, Branstetter said. Pennsylvania spends 27 percent of its budget on Medicaid, which costs state taxpayers and the federal government a combined $19 billion annually. Critics of Corbett's Healthy PA plan called attention to the cuts, saying they would harm the health of the most vulnerable people in the state.”

The Tennessean, August 29, 2014: Judge hears arguments in TennCare case Friday

“The legal dispute centers on TennCare's decision to stop staffing state offices with personnel to help people fill out Medicaid applications that went directly to the stage agency. Instead, TennCare last year began requiring that all applications go through the federal health insurance marketplace, A behind-schedule $35.7 million state computer system was supposed to accept and process application files transferred from the marketplace, but the system is still not operating. The Tennessee Justice Center, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Health Law Program, is asking the court to force the state to set up a better system for processing Medicaid applications and deciding eligibility.”

The Boston Globe, August 28, 2014: Aid to disabled children now outstrips welfare

"A controversial federal benefits program provided about $20 billion to low-income families with disabled children over the last two years, quietly eclipsing traditional welfare programs to become the biggest source of monthly cash for the nation’s poorest families, new data shows. The dramatic growth of the children’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has led some researchers to suggest it has simply replaced welfare as a primary source of cash for many families who lost benefits due to the much-touted welfare reforms of the mid-1990s."

The New York Times, August 28, 2014: Expansion of Mental Health Care Hits Obstacles

“The Affordable Care Act has paved the way for a vast expansion of mental health coverage in America, providing access for millions of people who were previously uninsured or whose policies did not include such coverage before. Under the law, mental health treatment is an ‘essential’ benefit that must be covered by Medicaid and every private plan sold through the new online insurance marketplaces.”

USA Today, August 28, 2014: Mental disorders strand thousands on the streets; Illnesses untreated among homeless

“’There are so many people out there who are mentally ill that need to be treated,’ says Deborah Zelinsky, 45, of Pacoima, Calif., who spent more than two decades homeless before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, getting treatment and finding an apartment. ‘On the streets, you don't have time to get treated. You are trying to survive.’ As they cycle between street corner, jail cell and hospital bed, the homeless who are mentally ill cost local, state and federal agencies millions of dollars a year. This fiscal year, the federal government will spend $5 billion on programs for the homeless. Next year, that figure is likely to grow to nearly $5.7 billion.”

Montgomery Herald, August 28, 2014: Fayette public school students can eat free

“Fayette County Schools this school year have the opportunity to eat breakfast and lunch at school at no cost. The county is participating in a program called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, is an innovative universal free meal service option designed to make it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The CEP is an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible students in high poverty local education agencies.”

The State, August 28, 2014: Medicaid expansion effort focuses appeal on low-income voters

“The South Carolina Progressive Network plans to focus its get-out-the-vote efforts this year on the 176,530 people who didn’t get health care coverage because the state’s political leaders turned down federal Medicaid expansion. Using voter registration information and census data, the network came up with estimates on the number of registered voters in each county denied government-provided health care because the state turned down Medicaid expansion. The 176,530 statewide includes 12,018 in Richland County, 2,888 in Lexington County and 1,914 in Kershaw County.”

The Miami Herald, August 27, 2014: Advocates for poor say Jackson Health System bars needy from charity care

“Demanding onerous paperwork from low-income applicants is just one way that Jackson has barred eligible Miami-Dade residents from accessing the charity care program, according to administrative complaints filed this week with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The complaints lodged by Florida Legal Services and the National Health Law Program, nonprofit groups that provide civil legal help to the indigent, allege that Jackson fails to meet new requirements for nonprofit hospitals under the Affordable Care Act and other laws.”

The Dallas Morning News, August 27, 2014: New initiative aims to help Dallas area's working poor to help themselves

“Many nonprofits act as triage units for needy families, while others believe writing aid checks merely treats the symptoms instead of the disease. The Communities Foundation of Texas is trying to steer nonprofits toward educating the working poor in basic financial literacy, so that one medical emergency or layoff won't plunge them into poverty. The foundation is funding a new initiative called the Working Family Success model to serve those barely living above the federal poverty line. The model, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, bundles services such as job training, financial counseling and income support.”

The Houston Chronicle, August 27, 2014: (Op-Ed) Lawmakers need to stop the losses at Texas hospitals

“Emergency room doctors see critically ill poor people every day who waited too long to seek help because they lack health insurance. The ER doctors provide them with just enough care to responsibly send patients on their way, knowing full well that while the patients will likely return, they will probably never pay the bill. Hospitals have complained about this problem for at least 15 years and have coped by quietly padding the bills sent to insurance companies, driving up health care costs for the rest of us.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 27, 2014: Health-premium dip set 2% drop for state exchange needs U.S. OK

“Gov. Mike Beebe's spokesman, Matt DeCample, called the preliminary rates ‘great news for the state.’ He credited the so-called private option, which uses Medicaid dollars to buy coverage for low-income adults on the insurance exchange, with adding more young, healthy people to insurance companies' plans, thus lowering the insurers' risk. Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson agreed. About 65 percent of private option enrollees are younger than age 44, compared with 38 percent of those in non-Medicaid plans, he said. Thompson said the preliminary rates show that insurance companies ‘overshot what they thought the risk was’ in setting their initial rates for this year.”

The New York Times, August 26, 2014: (Op-Ed) How to Get Kids to Class

“For the 16 million American children living below the federal poverty line, the start of a new school year should be reason to celebrate. Summer is no vacation when your parents are working multiple jobs or looking for one. Many kids are left to fend for themselves in neighborhoods full of gangs, drugs and despair. Given the hardships at home, poor kids might be expected to have the best attendance records, if only for the promise of a hot meal and an orderly classroom. But it doesn't usually work out that way. According to the education researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes at Johns Hopkins, children living in poverty are by far the most likely to be chronically absent from school (which is generally defined as missing at least 10 percent of class days each year).”

Plain Dealer, August 26, 2014: Kasich urged to ease food stamp rules statewide

“Advocates for the poor on Monday called on Gov. John Kasich to reinstate the statewide waiver of work requirements to receive food stamp benefits. Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can receive up to three months of food stamp benefits within three years. To continue receiving benefits, able-bodied adults without dependents must work or attend job training at least 20 hours per week.”

The Montgomery Advertiser, August 26, 2014: Grant offers homeless access to health care

“Access to health care for sheltered homeless is being made possible through a grant received by The Wellness Coalition. The Wellness Coalition applied for a $27,473 grant to hire a case manager who would visit homeless shelters and help residents enroll in an insurance plan and also apply for free medication. Funding for the project is through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the city of Montgomery.”