Healthcare coverage on the upswing

There is some good news out today in terms of health insurance.

The share of uninsured people in Michigan fell from 11.4% in 2012 to 11% in 2012, according to today’s Census Bureau release, with major additional improvements expected ahead due to the Affordable Care Act.

Still, more than 1 million in Michigan were without health insurance in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. That number is expected to decline dramatically as the Healthy Michigan Plan (Michigan’s Medicaid expansion), Marketplace enrollment and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act get counted in the numbers that will be released next fall.

One big driver of that will be the unexpectedly high number signing up for the Healthy Michigan Plan. In last than six months, starting April 1, nearly 386,000 uninsured adults were enrolled, well beyond the state’s year-long goal. In addition, nearly 273,000 have enrolled for health coverage through the federally facilitated Marketplace. And let’s not forget the popular Affordable Care Act provision that allowed parents to cover their adult children until age 26.

Two new studies are documenting the positive impacts already.

The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey finds that states such as Michigan that have expanded Medicaid are making far greater progress in covering parents of children in low-income families than states that have not expanded Medicaid.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today also indicates a 3.8 million drop across the country in the number without health coverage in 2014, a period not yet covered in today’s census release.

Last year, Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature voted to expand Medicaid, one of 27 states that have now taken that step.

As the League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said in a news release today: “This is good not only for the people getting the coverage they need, it’s also good for our state’s businesses, communities, and economy.’’

– Judy Putnam

Flood waters: a taxing problem

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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My family and I were unfortunate enough to experience the recent flooding in Southeast Michigan. Despite the fact that we lost appliances, some precious photos and an assortment of stuff we had accumulated over the past 37 years, we will be OK. We had insurance and were able to get a company to clean and sanitize our basement very quickly. And we will not need to go into our retirement funds to make our losses whole.

But the 100-year flood event reminded me about Hurricane Sandy almost two years ago in New York and the devastation and damage it wrought. For those of you who read my First Tuesdays religiously, you may remember I wrote about my experience in New York, helping my daughter and her husband with their newborn son, Jacob, who was a Hurricane Sandy baby.

I was struck then, as I am now, about the importance of our public infrastructures, as well as our first responders, and government services such as garbage collection and public transportation. I am also struck and concerned about the devastating losses and public health issues that might arise from this flooding catastrophe, which has been dubbed “Latrina” — losses and health issues that impact those that have no insurance, are underinsured or who don’t have the means or information to adequately clean up their living spaces so that mold or the fallout from contaminated water don’t affect them and their family in the future.

I am also reminded how important taxes are to making sure we have the resources to build a strong infrastructure, and how cutting taxes and/or not increasing revenues has greatly reduced the ability to have updated or state-of-the-art systems to handle such catastrophes. Our taxes pay for Michigan State Police divers who free people from their underwater cars, adequate roads that aren’t crumbling and a public health system that provides information and care. Our taxes pay for police officers who patrol our streets after catastrophic events. Our taxes pay the salaries of garbage collectors who are literally handling tons of contaminated household goods.

The private sector can’t address these needs, but a strong public sector can. Next time you see a police officer, a garbage collector or a woman filling potholes, say thank you. And next time a conversation comes up about taxes, think about what you would do without those folks who are working around the clock to make sure we are safe, sound and healthy.

I am thankful every day that I pay taxes.

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

F for no effort: Michigan fails working families

Workplace policies have been on the minds of many over the past two years, with minimum wage and right-to-work rising to the top of debate in Michigan.

Yet, two important labor issues have not received nearly as much thought, despite their relevance to a wide number of Michiganians: paid sick days, and family and medical leave.

A new report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws that Help New Parents, could bring this issue the attention it requires. According to the report, Michigan is one of 17 states to score an F in family-friendly workplace laws for new parents, and it is the only Great Lakes state to receive this grade. Other states in the failing grade category include Alabama and Mississippi. (more…)

A stronger Michigan economy is within reach

Yes we can grow Michigan’s economy, create good jobs and expand opportunities for all Michiganians with the right public policy decisions. A new report by Erica Williams at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines how policymakers can make that happen.

Williams explains that states need to invest adequately in education, healthcare, transportation and workforce development. And in order to do that, they need to make decisions about how to raise and spend revenues with an eye toward the future. (more…)

Vets lose benefits as we celebrate Fourth of July

Just as we head into one of our most patriotic celebrations of the year next week (the Fourth of July), a new estimate out shows that 285,000 unemployed veterans will lose jobless benefits by the end of June, including thousands of out-of-work vets in Michigan.

Extended benefits known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation expired Dec. 28. Congress’ failure to extend the benefits means that 1.3 million workers were cut off from unemployment benefits nationwide at the end of last year, with an additional 1.6 million exhausting their regular state benefits in the first six months of this year. Included in those numbers are nearly 300,000 jobless vets, Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates. (more…)

Maternal and infant risks in Michigan’s legacy cities

Roughly one of every four children in the state lives in one of Michigan’s legacy cities located across the southern half of the state’s Lower Peninsula. These legacy cities, once economic and social powerhouses, are now, in many cases, struggling with population loss and high unemployment.

Perhaps, not so surprising, risks to maternal and infant well-being are generally worse within these cities than the out-county areas in the counties where they are located.

The latest analysis of Right Start in Michigan, an annual report from Kids Count in Michigan, examines eight indicators to assess maternal and infant risks across the 15 so-called legacy cities. Only Ann Arbor, which has actually thrived in the new post-industrial economy, shows lower risk on almost all indicators than the out-county. (more…)

A Mother’s Day minimum wage story

Imagine being a single mother, working full time and still living in poverty. Imagine losing your job after calling for a higher minimum wage so you can earn enough to care for your children.

That’s what happened to Donyetta Hill, a hardworking mom to three children who, prior to finding work as an organizer for ROC-Michigan, was working full time at a fast food franchise in Detroit.

Donyetta’s wage was exactly the state’s minimum of $7.40 an hour, or just $1,184 monthly before taxes. This amount left her unable to put food on the table without assistance, and pay rent or other bills on time. (more…)

Michigan a ‘comeback state’ — for whom?

With much talk about Michigan as a “comeback state,’’ it’s important to delve a little deeper to answer the question – a comeback state, for whom?

It’s certainly not a comeback state for Lori, an older worker with a part-time retail job in the Lansing area. Like many others, she struggles with an income that barely covers the bills.

According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, inflation-adjusted income in Michigan doubled for those at the very top – the top 1% — while falling a bit for the rest of us between 1979 and 2007. (more…)

Ramp up pressure on Unemployment Insurance

“I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”  ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders after his election in 1932.

“I don’t think there is a great sense of pressure on our members.”  ~ Deputy Whip Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., responding to a question about renewing long-term Unemployment Insurance benefits, 2014.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill to extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation Monday evening with bipartisan support and with benefits retroactive to Dec. 28 when the program expired. Yet U.S. House leaders show little interest in bringing it up for a vote. (more…)

Attorney general needs to move on

Attorney General Bill Schuette continues his fight to harm Michiganians by pursuing frivolous lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act.

First he fought to have the law declared unconstitutional and lost — the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ACA does not violate the Constitution. Now he is fighting to end the premium tax credits for more than 144,000 Michiganians who have so far qualified for them.

Nearly 87% of those who have enrolled in a health plan in Michigan are eligible for premium tax credits to help them pay their insurance premiums. Why would he want to harm more than 144,000 people in his state — his neighbors, his friends, his constituents? (more…)

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