MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

CREC yourself before you wreck yourself

Added May 19th, 2017 by Alex Rossman | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alex Rossman

“CREC yourself before you wreck yourself.” For the last 11 years, I have been trying to slip that joke into my work in the Legislature and now the League. And I had an epiphany yesterday that I might finally be able to do it…as long as I put my own name on it.

I also need to give it a proper explanation, as there’s probably a small sliver of people who know what CREC is AND get 90s Ice Cube lyrics. CREC stands for Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. Held in January and May of every year, CREC is comprised of the directors of the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies and the state treasurer or budget director.

These fiscal experts analyze and report on economic indicators and state revenue projections. The consensus that is reached during the January conference becomes the revenue basis for the governor’s budget proposal, and the consensus reached during the May conference become the revenue basis for the budget bills passed by the Legislature.

The May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference was earlier this week, and the news on state revenues is not great. But there is a silver lining, at least to me—it makes “wreck yourself” particularly relevant.

Since January, some Michigan legislators have been really hot on cutting the state income tax. This is a bad idea on its face, but especially in this current context. As League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said, “Given the fluctuations in state revenues, it was and continues to be foolhardy to consider tax cuts that would further jeopardize state services.”

if-only-i-had-checked-myselfSee! “CREC yourself before you wreck yourself” is not just a (bad) pun—it’s a valid point. The very intent of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is for lawmakers to check themselves and incorporate these estimates into their state spending and budgets. And if they don’t take these forecasts seriously and make poor fiscal decisions, they stand to wreck our state budget, our state services and ultimately our state.

The Legislature needs to let talk of an income tax cut die. And when the House and Senate budget committees begin meeting soon, lawmakers should be sensible and strategic with our state dollars, investing in the programs and services that support our workers and families and get the most bang for our state bucks. For example, increasing state funding for child care and heating assistance can leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

The next few weeks are critical to the state budget and the priorities you and I value. To help you get involved, the League has put together a timeline and advocacy tips on the state budget. We also continue to produce budget briefs on some of the issues that are most important to us and to you: supporting education, including child care, K-12 schools and colleges and universities, protecting healthcare and the Healthy Michigan Plan, and reducing incarceration and providing adequate support for prisoners.

Whether you can work a rap reference in or not, I hope you will join the League in standing up for these budget priorities and urging lawmakers to make smart investments in our state’s future.

Alex Rossman

Trump’s tax plan is wrong for the nation

Added May 12th, 2017 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

When the Trump administration released its tax plan in April, it was light on the specifics. If I were a teacher, I would give the vague outline an “I” for incomplete. But what is clear is that the president’s tax plan will provide huge tax breaks for the wealthy and businesses, fuzzy promises for the rest of us, and will do nothing to help our nation grow.

The tax plan, by cutting the federal business tax rate from 35% to 15%, will be a huge tax break for businesses. Currently, most businesses don’t pay the top statutory rate due to other tax breaks, and the effective corporate tax rates are in line with other high-income developed companies. Additionally, by making this rate available to all types of businesses and not just corporate entities, wealthy individuals can recharacterize their incomes to take advantage of the lower business rate. This will also do nothing for most small businesses, since many of them already pay taxes at a lower individual effective rate.

tax cuttingThe Trump tax plan is a huge tax break for the wealthiest taxpayers. Along with cutting top marginal tax rates, the plan completely eliminates the alternative minimum tax, allowing wealthy taxpayers to avoid paying taxes by taking advantage of tax breaks. Additionally, the estate tax, which is only paid on the portion of an estate that exceeds $5.5 million per person, would be repealed. Only the heirs of the wealthiest 2 out of every 1,000 estates currently pay the estate tax, and very few small businesses and farms have to pay the estate tax. These changes would allow the wealthiest taxpayers to drastically reduce their taxes.

The details as it relates to the rest of us are hazy. The plan calls for reducing the number of tax brackets and reducing the top marginal rate to 35%, but does not provide the income ranges for those brackets. The standard deduction would be doubled, and all tax breaks except for the mortgage interest deduction and the deduction for charitable giving would be eliminated. And the plan promises to provide tax relief for families with child care expenses but does not explain how. Given the lack of specifics, it’s unclear whether taxpayers with low to middle incomes would actually benefit under the plan.

This tax plan does nothing to help the economy. Costing between $3 and $7 trillion over the next decade, according to recent estimates, it will increase our deficit and require steep budget cuts that will likely disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents—working families, seniors and children. And any revenue lost won’t be made up through economic growth. Research has repeatedly shown that providing tax breaks to wealthy individuals and businesses don’t provide the job boost that is promised.

Instead of cutting taxes, we need a federal tax plan that can help our nation and our economy grow. Tax reform should raise revenue so that we can increase investments in things that help our economy—education, roads and access to healthcare—while also continuing to provide a social safety net for those who fall on hard times. The plan should deliver tax relief to our working families and those who need it most, such as expanding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit for working adults that aren’t raising children in their homes. A tax plan that works for all American taxpayers, helps grow the economy and allows us to pay for our most basic needs is one that will work for our nation.

— Rachel Richards

State budget exploits the Unemployment Insurance crisis

Added May 10th, 2017 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Remember when we blogged about the tens of thousands of workers wrongly accused of Unemployment Insurance fraud, with 93% of computer-generated fraud determinations in the initial investigation found to be in error? And how those workers were socked with huge repayment charges and penalties for those instances of fraud they did not actually commit? And how families subsequently had wages garnished, lives disrupted and dreams deferred as a result?

Well, the well-worn self-help adage about turning crisis into opportunity seems to be at play—although in this case it is twisted to mean turning working families’ ongoing crises into an opportunity to free up state dollars in the budget. The House Appropriations Committee decided that the huge increase in penalties paid from the pockets of workers who did no wrong provided an opportunity to supplant some General Fund dollars with that money, and the full House adopted the committee’s proposal. This is not the first time in recent months that this has been done; the Legislature and governor also used $10 million of that money last January to make up for a budget shortfall, and the state is currently being sued to return the money.

sources of funding for going pro and community venturesWhen a worker who has received Unemployment Insurance (UI) is determined to have received it fraudulently, they pay back the benefits they wrongly received plus penalties and interest. The repaid benefits are put back into the UI Trust Fund from which they came, and the penalties and interest are put into the UI Contingent Fund’s Penalty and Interest Account (PIA). Money from this account is not used for benefits, but for administration of the UI program, and may also be used for job training programs. The PIA balance swelled from $3.1 million in 2011 to $154.7 million in 2016, largely due to money collected wrongly from workers in response to false fraud determinations.

The current year budget pays for a training program, Going Pro, with $25.6 million from the PIA and $5.3 million from the General Fund. The governor’s proposed 2018 budget continues to fund Going Pro with $25.6 million in PIA dollars, and increases General Fund funding for the program to $15.3 million, to put total funding for the program at $40.9 million. In other words, the governor’s budget continues to draw from the PIA but does not pull any “new” money out of the account to fund the increase for the program.

The House budget proposal, on the other hand, increases funding for Going Pro to the same level as the governor’s proposal but funds it entirely with PIA dollars: $25.6 million equivalent to current funding and $15.9 million in “new” PIA dollars. The House budget also takes another $9.8 million from the PIA to fund another existing training program, Community Ventures, so the House’s total raid on the money taken from penalties and interest on workers is $51.7 million (House budget summary, pages 45-46). The Senate budget also takes “new” dollars out of the PIA to fund training, but at the significantly lower level of $5 million for Going Pro (Senate budget summary, page 15).

The appropriations bills will now go to conference committee, and the conferees (who have not yet been named) will have a choice regarding job training programs and the Unemployment Insurance Penalty and Interest Account:

  • Go with the House proposal to take out $51.7 million;
  • Go with the Senate proposal to take out $30.6 million;
  • Go with the governor’s proposal to take out $25.6 million; or
  • Take out a different amount, or none at all.

In normal circumstances, when penalties and interest are taken only from UI claimants that actually committed fraud, it could be argued that using dollars from the account for training programs when the balance is high is defensible—although the ability to do so creates a perverse incentive to collect as much in penalties as possible and that in itself is problematic. In this case, however, it is morally wrong to use money unjustly taken from working families even as those families are still struggling from the fallout of the state’s mistakes. This crisis should not be used as an opportunity to free up dollars in the state budget.

Regarding UI and the high PIA balance, Michigan needs to focus on one thing: making restitution to the tens of thousands of workers and families who were wrongly accused of fraud. We urge the conference committee to refrain from using surplus PIA dollars for any purpose other than restitution for the workers from whom the dollars were wrongly taken in the first place.

One additional point: in addition to the 93% of erroneous determinations in the first investigation, which looked at only computer-generated fraud determinations, an investigation into a more recent batch of fraud determinations that involved some human oversight showed that 44% were wrongly determined to be fraudulent. Because even with human involvement nearly half of claimants determined to be fraudulent were wrongly accused, this problem cannot be blamed solely on computers; it is a far-reaching structural problem in which claimants appear to be “guilty until proven innocent.”

— Peter Ruark

Highlights and upcoming challenges in state budget

Added May 3rd, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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We are likely in the last month of the state budget process and there are many issues of great importance to our state’s most vulnerable residents still to be decided. The League is fighting hard for those who have not experienced the economic comeback. Our voice, and your voice, are so important.

As we have highlighted in the past few months, Governor Rick Snyder’s budget recommendation included a number of the League’s priorities. We need to ensure that those recommendations end up in the final budget.

MI Capitol and MI FlagInitially some of the budget bills passed out by the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees had left much to be desired and missed the mark on many of our top priorities. But negotiations continued and lawmakers ended up including some important funding increases in the budget bills that have been passed out of the House and Senate Appropriations committees and sent to the floor.

The House and Senate budget bills both include $6.8 million in funding necessary to fix the “Heat and Eat” issue, leveraging millions of dollars in federal funding and extending food assistance to 338,000 kids, families, seniors and persons with disabilities.

The House and Senate budgets also included funding for Double Up Food Bucks in Flint that will enable Bridge Card recipients to receive a matching amount (up to $20 per day) when they use their food assistance benefits to buy Michigan-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. In general, urban residents in Michigan have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables. But healthy foods are even more essential in Flint because the nutrients in fresh produce help counteract the impacts of lead exposure.

Education is another focus of ours, especially increasing necessary funding for at-risk students. The governor proposed a $150 million increase to at-risk funding, and the House budget passed out of committee included the same. The Senate education budget included $100 million for at-risk funding.

The League also supports payment increases for child care providers, as well as a boost in income eligibility levels. The House agreed with the governor to include $27.2 million for rate increases for child care providers, while the Senate provided $23.8 million for increased child care provider rates and $5.8 million to increase the income eligibility threshold from 125% to 130% of poverty.

Protecting the Healthy Michigan Plan is another top priority for the League, at the federal level and in the state budget. Both the House and Senate budgets continued funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan.

The League continues to push for increased funding in the Department of Health and Human Services budget to support kids and families in need, and the House and Senate budgets differ on several line items that we will be weighing in on in conference committees, including increasing the annual clothing allowance for children in families that receive cash assistance from the Family Independence Program.

The House and Senate budget bills are still disconcerting in many areas, especially when compared with the governor’s budget proposal. With state revenues stable for the time-being, the governor’s budget sought to counter the years of cuts and disinvestments to many programs. But the House and Senate did not follow suit. The House’s drastic cuts to the governor’s proposed budget are especially frustrating, as they are likely being done to help pay for a meaningless state income tax cut that has already failed once.

The Legislature raided unemployment funds to supplant General Fund dollars for job training programs—with much of that money coming from workers who were falsely accused of committing fraud in the first place. The House and Senate budget bills increased the amount of money that is being diverted from the School Aid Fund and K-12 schools to postsecondary education, and failed to increase funding for adult education that enables workers to complete high school. The House also cut the governor’s recommended increases for two adult financial aid programs in half, and did not include any money for the Part-Time Independent Student Grant in its Higher Education budget.

We are also very concerned about potential federal budget cuts, both general cuts and changes to federal funding for food assistance and other important programs and services. Federal funds make up 42% of the state budget, and we continue to work hard to make sure Michigan members of Congress understand the impact of budget cuts on Michigan residents.

But the state budget continues to be our greatest focus for making a difference in the lives of Michigan residents, and we urge you to stay involved as well during the Legislature’s ongoing budget negotiations. Before lawmakers head up to Mackinac Island next month to hobnob and “talk” policy, I hope they’ll capitalize on this chance to pass good policy and ensure their constituents are healthy, safe and economically secure.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

We need more, not less funding for at-risk students

Added April 27th, 2017 by Eric Staats | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Eric Staats

Not all students in the state are the same and neither are their educational needs. When a student walks into school, they carry with them all of the problems they could be experiencing at home, like poverty, abuse, malnutrition, or minimal parental support. That can make it much more difficult for them to achieve their academic potential. It is important for lawmakers to be aware of these differences and keep them in mind when allocating funds to districts, as some districts have more students who need additional support. Without sufficient funding for schools, students who need extra help could be in danger of falling behind. That’s why the state needs to fully fund the At-Risk program and expand its eligibility.

Currently under the program, districts are allocated funds based on the number of their students that are eligible for free school meals. These funds can be used to support students who are considered “at risk.” While the primary goal of the program is to make sure these students meet third-grade reading benchmarks and graduate from high school, the dollars can also support other activities proven to benefit at-risk students, like decreasing class sizes to give teachers more individual time with students who need it, providing adult high school completion programs to increase overall graduation rates, hiring support staff to assist students and investing in new curriculum geared towards helping students with additional challenges.

Helping children succeed through michigans at risk program chart 3As of now, the program is underfunded. There are currently several different proposals to increase funding going through the Michigan Legislature, but even the most generous of those would still short the program by $78 million. When it comes to supporting students in need, we need more, not less.

The need for more funding is best illustrated in the differences in graduation rates between students who are economically disadvantaged and those that are not. The 2016 graduation rate for students from families with low incomes was 67% while the rate for all other students was 88%. Additionally, there are disparities by income levels in 2016 tests for third-grade reading proficiency: nearly 69% of students whose families have low incomes are not proficient, but for students not from families with low incomes, there are almost 38% not proficient. At-risk students experience additional difficulties and barriers in attaining the same level of academic success as their peers, and the state is not doing enough to rectify this apparent imbalance.

There are multiple factors that can contribute to this difference and explain the need for additional support. Parents who live below the poverty line are less likely to be able to be involved in their child’s academic career, because many work untraditional hours or more than one job, for example, which can present challenges to being more involved. The additional stress that comes from living in poverty or moving multiple times can deteriorate the physical and mental health of students in the long-term, and their ability to focus and learn at school in the short-term. Schools need to be able to assist all students to counteract these issues; the fact that the At-Risk program can provide funding to specifically target students who need the most support is what makes it so beneficial.

The proposed increases in state budget funding to the At-Risk program are important to help those who need it most. The financial status of a student’s parents should not have such a large effect on that student’s success in school, and increasing funding for the At-Risk program is an effective way to change that.

— Eric Staats

 

Protecting food assistance to preserve our future

Added April 25th, 2017 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

While in Washington, D.C. last month for the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference (AHPC), I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. I was particularly fascinated by the exhibit on the Inka, who developed an expansive system to store surplus food for redistribution during hard times to ensure the empire’s survival. It was a timely experience since the AHPC was bringing together more than 1,300 anti-hunger advocates from all over the country just as the federal food assistance programs that so many American families rely on to survive—programs that have traditionally had bipartisan support—have come under attack by the president and congressional Republicans.

Conference presenters outlined threats to the mainstays of federal food assistance, most notably a proposal to convert funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from an entitlement structure to a block grant. Recognizing the interconnection of hunger, health and the economy, speakers also touched on feared cuts and structural changes to Medicaid and several tax credits that encourage work and empower families with low income to achieve economic independenceThemes that came up over and over again were the disproportionate impact of poverty and hunger on children, people with disabilities and people of color, and the disturbing effect that recent hateful, dishonest rhetoric and changes in immigration enforcement policy have had on access to public benefits by eligible immigrants and their children.

Under such gloomy circumstances, what can anti-hunger advocates to do to protect the programs that have lifted so many, enabling them to contribute to the American economy and society? How can we be effective when we’re on the defensive? Conference speakers and attendees alike spoke of the power of storytelling and shared values in framing statistics in a way that humanizes the frequently maligned recipients of food assistance and connects federal policy changes to the lives of real people in our communities and neighborhoods. (Note: If you receive food assistance and would like to share your story, please email our Communications Director Alex Rossman.)

Armed with lots of new information and propelled by the energy of my fellow conference attendees, I was proud to join a well-organized group of Michigan anti-hunger advocates in visiting nearly all of the members of the Michigan congressional delegation to educate them about the impact of federal nutrition programs on their constituents’ lives and the critical need to protect the funding and structure that make these programs so effective.

As the Inka wisely recognized, a robust nutrition assistance program isn’t merely charity to people having a tough time, it’s an essential investment in the nation’s future. At this critical time in our history, it’s vital that stakeholders from all sectors, ranging from anti-hunger advocates and human service providers to the healthcare and agriculture industries, band together to defend the food programs that help today’s children grow into tomorrow’s parents, workers and leaders. To get the latest news and find out how you can get involved in the federal fight against hunger, check out the Food Research and Action Center.

— Julie Cassidy

A Michigan where all kids thrive

Added April 21st, 2017 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

I am a self-described data and policy wonk, which suits me well as the Kids Count in Michigan Director. But my work is equally informed by growing up as a kid in Michigan and now being a mom of a young child myself. And as both a parent and a child advocate, I can’t help but wonder about the type of place we are creating for our kids and our future.

My daughter’s childhood experience and that of her friends seems to be so different from the one I had. In addition to the anecdotal evidence and stories we hear, we also have data, charts and numbers that show us how kids are doing in our home state.

The 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, an annual report reviewing several measures of child well-being in the state and its communities, was released this week. It shows that while there have been some improvements since 2008 and recent policy wins for kids and families, there are still a lot of areas that should be concerning to everyone. Many kids in Michigan are struggling, and the numbers show that some kids face significant challenges based on where they live, their race or ethnicity and how much money their families make.

2017_Health-and-Safety_WebWhile most families with low incomes are not more likely to abuse or neglect their children, living in poverty causes many hardships that can impact a caregiver’s ability to provide basic needs. According to the 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, there was over a 51 percent increase in the rate of children confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect from 2009 to 2015 with over 80 percent of incidences due to neglect. This means that there was a failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care or that the child’s health or welfare was at risk.

For example, a single-parent working two jobs has difficulty affording safe and quality child care, so is forced to leave an eight-year-old child at home while he or she works to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Another example is a family who doesn’t have access to affordable housing and may be living in substandard conditions, or even a car, if a family shelter space is unavailable.

Some other key data findings from the report include:

  • Working a full-time, minimum wage job leaves a parent with a family of three $1,657 below poverty each year;
  • Nearly 20 percent of mothers report smoking during pregnancy, with higher rates in rural communities;
  • 31 percent of mothers did not receive adequate prenatal care throughout their pregnancy;
  • About 10 percent of children in Michigan are impacted by parental incarceration;
  • On average, monthly child care consumed 38 percent of 2016 minimum wage earnings; and
  • Nearly 17 percent of Michigan children live in high-poverty neighborhoods—but the rate is 55 percent for African-American kids and 29 percent for Latino children.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress, such as poverty and abuse or neglect, have profound impacts on short- and long-term well-being. The data show that some kids face significant challenges based on where they live, their race or ethnicity and how much money their families make. This is not right. If we are to truly improve outcomes for all kids, then policies must be crafted with the goal of achieving equity and targeted to help those who need it the most. Systematic reforms should include elimination of barriers that often result in inequitable outcomes.

From improving prenatal care, making quality child care more accessible and investing in education at all levels to changing how kids are treated in our justice system, our new report outlines solutions that can move us towards this goal to help all kids in Michigan thrive. Now it’s up for Michigan lawmakers to act on them to improve child well-being in their communities and around the state.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

On Tax Day, don’t mess with taxes

Added April 18th, 2017 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

Over spring break, my son needed to use books by a specific author for homework. Not having any of these books, my family jumped in the car, drove on our newly-paved street, passed the local fire department and stopped at the public library to see if any of these books were available. Without even thinking, we used or saw services provided by our taxes in the less than 10 minute drive.

I think about all of the amazing services taxes provide us. They provide us good public schools, vibrant communities, safe and drivable streets, public safety, parks, libraries, a trained workforce and so much more.

However, there are lawmakers who are trying to cut or eliminate our state income tax. And while paying less in taxes sounds like a good idea, what any income tax cut does is provide a big break to Michigan’s wealthiest taxpayers while providing little to our residents who need it most. Additionally, an income tax cut won’t change what residents do with their money, as the impact would be felt in small amounts throughout the year as workers receive their paychecks instead of in lump-sum payments. A $260 payment is more noticeable than $10 more in each of your paychecks.

The Upside of Taxes

The Upside of Taxes

While most Michigan taxpayers would not see a significant impact on their pocketbook, even a small cut will significantly impact our ability to provide the things that Michigan residents rely on and need. Eliminating the state income tax without a replacement could cost the state nearly $10 billion, and even a small 0.1 percentage point reduction (from 4.25% to 4.15%) could cost the state more than $250 million on a full-year basis. And the income tax helps fund our schools, our colleges and universities, clean water, roads, and all of the good things that government provides us.

It’s been said that Michigan needs a game-changer. Cutting taxes won’t do this. We know this because we’ve done it before.

  • In the 2011 tax shift, Michigan cut business taxes by about $1.6 billion, and now net business taxes only provide about 2% of our total state-sourced revenues.
  • The state has started phasing out personal property taxes, which were paid by businesses to local governments, schools and libraries, and required the state to reimburse them for their lost revenues.
  • The state is also implementing a sales tax exemption for the value of a trade-in when buying a vehicle.

And many bills are introduced and enacted that cut or eliminate taxes on specific items or for specific entities, so much so that our state and local tax revenue as a percent of personal income has dropped 12% between 2004 (10.48%) and 2014 (9.22%).

So instead of more tax cuts, Michigan should look at investing in the things that Michigan residents, communities and businesses rely on. Perhaps this will truly change the game.

So as we mark Tax Day today, don’t despair! Remember that paying taxes is what helps make Michigan great. (And if you haven’t yet done your taxes and need help, you might qualify for some free tax help. Go to http://michiganfreetaxhelp.org/ to find out.)

— Rachel Richards

Making sure all kids have access to healthcare

Added April 10th, 2017 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

When Dorothy Gale clicked her heels together and repeated “There’s no place like home” in The Wizard of Oz, she thought of her family’s farm in Kansas. Although “home” looks different to each of us, we all need a familiar place that anchors us in the world, a place to live, sleep, eat and play. We also need a medical home—a model of integrated healthcare delivery involving a collaborative relationship between a patient and a team of providers, with primary care as the cornerstone.

snip of doctor and childFor those of us without magical slippers, particularly families facing financial hardship, getting to a medical home isn’t easy. A lack of transportation is a big hurdle, especially as many areas of the state are experiencing a shortage of primary care providers. The healthcare system is complex and confusing. Some people feel intimidated talking to medical staff due to barriers in language, culture and education, and some parents may avoid doctors out of fear of judgment about their parenting skills or living situations.

On the other side of the equation, primary care providers are overburdened. In the current medical practice environment, many doctors simply don’t have the time or resources to fully understand the challenges financially stressed families face in navigating the system and adhering to medical advice, or to go beyond their core responsibilities to more effectively serve this particular population.

Fortunately, Michigan has its very own Glinda the Good Witch to guide children from families with low incomes to a medical home. It’s called the Michigan Children’s Health Access Program (MI-CHAP) and it’s administered by the Michigan Association of United Ways. Through strategies employed at the family, provider and system levels, MI-CHAP aims to improve the health of Medicaid-enrolled children, improve the quality of and access to medical homes, lower healthcare costs by reducing emergency department visits and hospitalizations among children on Medicaid, and promote innovation through virtual delivery of program model components statewide.

Currently, there are nine CHAP teams covering 26 counties, including Macomb County and Wayne County. Local teams work in their communities to improve access to primary care and address other factors that affect health outside of the doctor’s office. The teams provide critical services that often complement the work of Medicaid health plans and local health departments, including:

  • Assistance finding and engaging with a medical home;
  • Education regarding when and how to utilize medical care;
  • Transportation assistance for medical appointments;
  • Assistance in navigating the behavioral health system;
  • Disease-specific education regarding asthma, obesity and other conditions;
  • Home visits to increase access to health services;
  • Translation services; and
  • Connection to community resources to address a wide variety of needs such as food, housing, and utility assistance.

Childhood health status sets the stage for health status throughout a person’s life. Programs that enhance children’s access to the basic services and education necessary for good health make a difference in the lives of individual kids and the healthcare system as a whole. Through engagement with families, providers and communities, MI-CHAP is doing transformative work to make Michigan a good home for everyone.

— Julie Cassidy

Advocacy works—Two months, two big battles, two big wins

Added April 6th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

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We did it … again! I may be sounding like a broken record, but at least we’re stuck on a good song. For the second month in a row, I get to use this column to celebrate a big win and thank you for all you did to make it possible. The efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have hit a major wall, and President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are shelving the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that would have harmed millions of Michiganians.

In their haste and partisan vigor, federal elected officials made a few significant missteps. They underestimated how “complicated” healthcare is and how effective the Affordable Care Act has been overall, especially with the Healthy Michigan Plan here in our state. Most importantly, they underestimated the power people have beyond the election process.

Congress&HealthCareThe strategy for defending the ACA and protecting the related Healthy Michigan Plan was simple. First, arm people with information. Right out of the gate, we put together a fact sheet and blog outlining all the good the Affordable Care Act has done for Michigan residents. Economist and Board Chair Charles Ballard connected universal healthcare to our conscience, our quality of life and our economy.

We quickly analyzed alternative healthcare plans and shared our findings on their flaws. This included outlining the devastation proposed block grants or per capita caps on Medicaid would cause in Michigan and exposing the real potential impact of the AHCA: 24 million fewer people with health insurance, $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid, and $600 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and big insurance and drug companies. And we made sure that this information was on the airwaves and in front of readers the week of the expected vote.

The next step was to engage and mobilize people into advocacy. We knew that the ACA had touched many lives and was important to many organizations, and that the more we could combine our efforts, the stronger we’d be. That’s why we were proud to be a part of the Protect MI Care Coalition, a diverse group of organizations and individuals working together to ensure all Michigan residents have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.

Through the coalition, we worked to get the people involved who would be most affected by a repeal or replacement of the ACA. We helped gather the stories of real people who have benefited from the ACA, even those whose very lives were saved, and shared them with the media and elected officials. And we joined in an online advocacy effort that enabled people to email and call their U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators to tell them to oppose the AHCA.

Similar efforts were undertaken by our various public policy partners at the national level and organizations similar to the League in other states. Collectively, those advocacy efforts worked!

The strong public opposition and political friction ground the bill’s progress to a halt. Despite the push from the President and pressure from the House Speaker, and despite their party having the majority, the bill did not have enough votes. When the bill’s supporters courted moderates, they lost conservatives. And when they courted conservatives, they lost moderates. This sunk the AHCA, but it also showed that Republicans in Congress will face a similar challenge with any other healthcare bill that significantly undermines or undoes the ACA.

That doesn’t mean they won’t try. This threat remains imminent and new discussions are already underway. But I hope you feel as empowered as ever that advocacy does work and that you can make a difference. We are lucky to have passionate and determined people like you on our side. The League will keep fighting and I know you will too. And together, we can keep winning.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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