Helping women helps children

I’ve always been interested in how our society treats women. Women are impacted negatively in almost every sphere of their lives: social, personal, economic, professional. Women are less likely than men to be in the labor force, and more likely to live in poverty. And it’s even worse for women of color who face a number of institutional barriers.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about how women are affected in policy: maternity leave and child care policies in the Trump budget that benefits the rich, the American Health Care Act’s negative affect on women, access to equal pay … and the list goes on. All of these policies that impact women usually have consequences—positive and negative—for our children. If women can’t afford healthcare, housing and basic necessities, it’s often children who suffer. We can only work to help our children through the equal support of their mothers.

Kids mom brushing teethData shows that a family’s struggles are a child’s struggles. In Michigan, 22% of our children are in poverty, 54% of third graders aren’t reading proficient, 9.1% have dropped out of high school and 15% live in households that were food insecure in the past year. The average median income for Michigan families with children is $61,600, and for Black/African-American households that number is less than half: $27,200. Ten percent of children live in extreme poverty, and 24% of Black/African-American children experience extreme poverty. All of these factors of children’s well-being are directly influenced by parents’ economic standing.

Parents often face significant obstacles in their daily lives. And when families can’t afford to provide food or buy school lunches, don’t have reliable forms of transportation, or have to work multiple jobs during teacher office hours, students experience challenges outside their control.

If you want to help children, you have to help the people in charge of them: parents. And often in cases of poverty, their mothers. Fifty-two percent of Michigan children living in one-parent (mother) households are in poverty.

Women and families need to be fully supported if they’re going to be successful and if we’re going to have a successful society. Our government needs to accept responsibility for better supporting our families and our children.

My experience as a woman, and as a child in a household with income instability, pushed me towards policy and political science, because disadvantaged and vulnerable people need to be heard in our world and our culture. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work. The League works tirelessly to improve the economic security of those living in Michigan, and to improve the lives of children.

To take care of children we must take care of their families.

As a new member of the League, this is why I do the work that I do. As a data lover, I hope to help inform work that improves the lives of kids, mothers and all families in Michigan.

— Harriet McTigue

Department of Health and Human Services budget has bright spots, but misses many opportunities

For Immediate Release
June 8, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Positives include funding for “heat and eat” fix, Healthy Michigan Plan and healthy food incentives for Flint

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Department of Health and Human Services budget passed out of conference committee today. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Health and human services have always been a focus for the League, especially in the context of the major cuts to federal programs that the president has proposed. Using our human services budget priorities as a scorecard, today’s legislation is mostly a draw.

“One of our focal points since last year’s budget has been fixing ‘heat and eat’ to secure additional food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities, bringing in more federal dollars in the process, so we are very happy to see that continue on in this budget. Another positive in today’s budget is funding for double-up food bucks in Flint, which enables residents who receive food assistance to stretch their dollars further when purchasing healthy fruits and vegetables that help combat the effects of lead exposure. Another big win is that the state continued to fund the Healthy Michigan Plan that provides healthcare for 660,000 residents—though the shadow of the federal American Health Care Act that will eliminate it still looms.

“We are disappointed that there was no funding included today for the expansion of the Pathways to Potential program that places ‘success coaches’ in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families and make appropriate referrals for needed services. The program is currently in 259 schools in 34 counties and has been proven to be effective, and we had hoped the Legislature would follow the governor’s recommendation to expand it to other parts of the state. There was also no increase for the clothing allowance for children in families that receive cash assistance, which is another area we emphasize each year and another area that we hoped would see an increase per the governor’s request.

“Pieces of this budget still reflect some of the growing sentiment in Washington that ‘poverty is a state of mind’ and health and human services for people who are struggling are the ideal places to cut. Our various reports and analyses show that many people in Michigan are working but still living in poverty and are one unexpected expense away from financial disaster. They are doing their best to get by but still need this support to survive. We will keep fighting to support all people in Michigan, especially our most physically and economically vulnerable residents.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Trump budget is anti-poor people, not anti-poverty

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This past month saw two disastrous pieces of public policy come out of Washington: the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal.

three fifths cuts in trumps budgetWe provide a more substantive update on the AHCA below, but here’s what you really need to know: It raises costs, reduces coverage and slashes funding for states. In short, it’s bad, and we’re hopeful that leveler heads in the U.S. Senate will agree.

But that was just the appetizer. On May 23rd, President Trump released his budget proposal, and it is an all-out assault on people who are struggling in our state and our nation. We were expecting significant cuts to vital programs based on the president’s “skinny budget,” but it is far worse than anyone could imagine.

If the president is looking to make history and leave his mark, this awful budget will certainly do that. Our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities say that his budget “contains the largest dollar cuts to programs for low- and moderate-income people proposed by any president’s budget in the modern era,” cutting these programs by an estimated $2.5 trillion over the next decade. About 59% of the president’s budget cuts would come from programs and services that help struggling families build a better life and keep food on their tables, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads.

SNAP cutsFood assistance through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be slashed by $193 billion over 10 years, targeting the elderly, working families and workers struggling to find a job. On top of the massive cuts to Medicaid in the House-passed AHCA, Medicaid would be cut by an additional $600 billion over 10 years. Possible per capita caps on Medicaid would make it even worse.

People who are struggling economically are not the only vulnerable residents who are being exploited by this budget. Disability programs would be cut by $72 billion, including Social Security Disability Insurance for workers with disabilities and their families and Supplemental Security Income, which provides income assistance to individuals with low incomes, including children, with disabilities.

There are also significant cuts to Great Lakes funding, other protections for our air, land and water, and other programs that are essential to our quality of life and our way of life in Michigan.

As our recent 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book and Making Ends Meet report show, millions of people and kids in Michigan are either living in poverty or barely getting by. Many families have yet to feel any economic recovery and are one emergency or unexpected expense away from financial disaster. More people are working, but in lower-paying jobs, and they depend on food assistance, Medicaid and other programs to survive—programs that would be decimated under President Trump’s budget. Michigan is particularly vulnerable to President Trump’s budget cuts, as we’re the second most reliant on federal funds of any state in the nation.

Our congressional delegation must oppose this budget and any others that follow in this same direction of harming our state’s most vulnerable residents, especially our children. They need to hear from the people that these appalling cuts will hurt and put names and faces to the lives that hang in the balance. If you or someone you know depends on food assistance, Medicaid, disability services or other federal programs, I urge everyone to share their story at Handsoff.org. And whether you use these programs yourself or just know that they are vital to a better Michigan for all, I encourage you to contact your congressperson directly and tell them to oppose the Trump budget or any other proposal that includes massive cuts to these programs.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

U.S. House GOP health bill would end the Healthy Michigan Plan and leave 660,000 uninsured

For Immediate Release
June 7, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

New reports reaffirm similar approach under consideration in Senate would shift massive costs to Michigan

LANSING—The Healthy Michigan Plan would effectively end and the 660,000 people who depend on it would lose coverage under the health bill passed by the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new report from the nonpartisan, Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. An additional report released by the Center today shows that delaying or phasing in the House bill’s massive cost shifts to states, as the Senate is reportedly considering, would have no effect on the ultimate outcome.

Michigan is one of eight states that have laws that effectively require their Medicaid expansions to end if federal financial support for the expansion falls. In these states, Medicaid expansion—and the Healthy Michigan Plan—would thus end in 2020 under the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The House bill would shift $582.5 million in costs to Michigan, which is more than the state spends on child welfare ($445M GF), early childhood programs ($258M SAF) and at-risk programs ($379M SAF) respectively. The $582.5 million strain on the state budget also is approximately more General Fund money than the state spends combined on the departments of Talent and Economic Development, Education, Military and Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality, Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Natural Resources, Civil Rights, Transportation and the Attorney General’s office.

Michigan would almost certainly be unable to absorb these additional costs, especially as more state General Fund money starts going to roads in the years ahead. As a result, Michigan would likely be forced to end its expansion and eliminate the Healthy Michigan Plan, leaving 660,000 adults with low incomes who have gained Medicaid coverage under the expansion at severe risk of becoming uninsured.

“Yesterday, I sat alongside the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director and Budget Director, representatives from Michigan’s businesses, and doctors and hospital officials to talk about the success of the Healthy Michigan Plan and the importance of protecting it,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Yet here we are today with a new independent report showing how the U.S. House’s American Health Care Act will decimate the program and leave more than half a million state residents without coverage. Our state budget can’t afford these costs, and Healthy Michigan enrollees can’t afford to lose their coverage.”

As the U.S. Senate considers changes to the House GOP health bill, some have claimed that phasing the repeal out more slowly or delaying it by two years would avoid these harms. But neither of these proposals change the ultimate outcome: a huge cost-shift to states ending the Medicaid expansion and causing millions to lose coverage.

Other proponents of the House bill have suggested that people who would lose expansion coverage could instead purchase private coverage on their own using the House bill’s tax credits. That is false, the new reports show. Adults with low incomes would face unaffordable premiums if the expansion were repealed, even after taking the House bill’s tax credits into account. For example, premiums after tax credits for Michiganians in poverty would equal a whopping 48 percent of income for 60-year-olds at the federal poverty line. And that’s without taking into account provisions in the House bill that would let insurers go back to charging people with pre-existing conditions exorbitant premiums, stop covering critical services like mental health services and substance use treatment and imposing annual and lifetime limits.

“The American Health Care Act is a bad bill that will be disastrous for the Healthy Michigan Plan and the historic gains in health coverage and access to care that we have achieved under Medicaid expansion, and tinkering with it won’t solve its fundamental flaws,” Jacobs said. “Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have been champions for Medicaid expansion and the rest of the Senate should follow suit and scrap the House bill and focus on bipartisan efforts to strengthen, not dramatically weaken, our healthcare system.”

The League is part of the Protect MI Care coalition, an organization of consumer, healthcare and insurer groups in the state who are working together to protect the ACA, the Healthy Michigan Plan and the care they provide. More information on the coalition is available at www.protectmicare.com.

To learn more, please visit:

House Republican Health Bill Would Effectively End ACA Medicaid Expansion
http://www.cbpp.org/research/health/house-republican-health-bill-would-effectively-end-aca-medicaid-expansion

People Losing Medicaid Under House Republican Bill Would Face High Barriers to Coverage
http://www.cbpp.org/research/health/people-losing-medicaid-under-house-republican-bill-would-face-high-barriers-to

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

CB…oh no?!

Earlier this month, the House Republicans in Congress passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) without an updated Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. The CBO is an independent, nonpartisan office that analyzes the cost and impact of proposed federal legislation. Wednesday, in full nerd behavior I anxiously awaited the release of the new report.

While earlier versions of the AHCA revealed that over 24 million people would lose their health coverage, the effect of amendments that allowed for waivers for essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions was not yet known … until now. (Yes, 20 days after the bill was voted on by the House). What we know from the newest CBO score is that not much has changed. According to the report released yesterday:

CBO Uninsured Rate F 448 x 457

  • 23 million more people would be uninsured by 2026;
  • $8 billion dollars allocated for high-risk pools would not be sufficient to cover the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees;
  • Medicaid enrollment (including children, people with disabilities and the elderly) would decrease by 14 million people;
  • People needing maternity, substance abuse & mental health care would incur thousands of dollars in extra out-of-pocket costs in states who apply for a waiver.
  • Premiums would go up 20 percent more than current law in 2018.
  • In states that pursue waivers, the report says that average premiums would fall but “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums.”

Last week, our national partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released two reports on the effects the AHCA has on rural America and home- and community-based services. Both of these reports once again put on display the great harm this legislation would bring.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the huge effect the AHCA would have on our rural Michiganians. In Michigan, 113,800 people in rural communities gained coverage through Michigan’s Healthy Michigan Plan. That’s nearly 20 percent of the total enrollment of the program. Those suffering from opioid addiction (of which rural Michigan has been greatly affected) have been particularly helped by the expansion of Medicaid. The coverage gained allowed these people to access the necessary treatment and education they need to fight this growing epidemic.

Home- and community-based services are optional services that states are not required to provide but many individuals rely on as a way to receive care at home rather than in a nursing home. In 2013, 102,810 Michigan residents relied on these services. Restructuring Medicaid through per capita caps and the ultimate end of Medicaid expansion would result in a significant cost shift to states, so much that states could choose to no longer provide these important services to seniors and people and kids with disabilities.

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved and as the U.S. Senate moves forward in its process, we can hope that they look at this data to develop legislation that rejects caps on the Medicaid program, continues successful Medicaid expansion programs—including Michigan’s Healthy Michigan program, and increases the number of insured individuals.

We know you are being pulled in a lot of directions right now, but we still have a lot of work to do on the healthcare front and we need you to keep fighting. We have a helpful website set up with our coalition partners so you can contact your member of Congress, and all these reports to help keep you informed on the devastating impact of the AHCA. And they come in handy when you battle your friends on the intricacies of Medicaid financing … oh wait, I’m the only one that does that?

— Emily Schwarzkopf