Nov. 4: Coverage gains outpace expectations

Nov. 4: Coverage gains outpace expectations

The Louisiana Department of Health updated its forecast for the Medicaid program this week, and there is mixed news...

The Louisiana Department of Health updated its forecast for the Medicaid program this week, and there is mixed news: Overall spending in the program is on track to be $376 million higher this fiscal year than originally expected, mainly because more people are enrolling in the program and their health needs are greater than officials had predicted. But because the federal government is picking up nearly all the cost of the expansion population, the health agency is forecast to end the fiscal year with a $2.85 million surplus. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp breaks down the numbers.

The fiscal report also provides some additional insight into the Medicaid expansion population three months in. The state had set a target goal of enrolling 375,000 new people under the expanded criteria in its first year. Now, the state is on track to hit 402,333 new adult members by the end of June. The current tally is 331,763. The expansion population is also trending older than was initially expected, which means it’s costing the state more per month than anticipated, the report reveals and cites as one of the driving factors behind the state-side shortfall. “At the same time, fewer pregnant women and people with disabilities are enrolling in the non‐expansion program than originally estimated because they are enrolling in expansion instead, resulting in a surplus of $20.7 million in payments to managed care organizations for the non‐expansion population,” the report notes.


Helping renters

People who rent their homes receive far less federal support than homeowners, even though unprecedented rent increases in many markets are placing new strains on renters. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Will Fischer blogs about a new report that proposes a renters’ tax credit to help address this imbalance.


One of the report’s renters’ credit options includes a “targeted component” allowing states to allocate a capped amount of credits to building owners who agree to reduce rents for extremely low-income families to affordable levels. It would limit the credit’s budgetary cost but still provide subsidies that are large enough and frequent enough to enable even the poorest families to afford decent, stable housing. As a compelling body of research — including a major new evaluation — shows, assistance that lowers rental cost burdens for the lowest-income families to around 30 percent of their income can sharply reduce homelessness and housing instability.  It can also have long-run benefits such as raising children’s adult earnings and reducing the chances they will be incarcerated, a recent paper finds.  

A renters’ credit could be particularly beneficial for Louisiana families in the absence of state investment in affordable housing. Meanwhile, the city of New Orleans is looking to take steps of its own to curb the affordable housing crisis. Times-Picayune’s Greg LaRose reports that efforts in one new development could be a pre-cursor to a citywide policy.


The Mid-City complex has also been approved for a so-called density bonus. Following negotiations with the city that culminated this week, Edwards Communities can add 110 apartments — bringing the total to 382 — for setting 14 of them as affordable units. “Through the approval process, we heard loud and clear … that to meet a pressing community need, it was critical to address affordable housing,” a company statement said. The affordable apartments will be for tenants who make 30 percent of the area’s median income, which would place the qualifying amount at $12,600 based on last year’s figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This is for the person making $7.25 an hour who wants to stop sleeping on their mama’s couch,” said Andreanecia Morris, executive director for the HousingNOLA initiative, explaining that the continued development of Mid-City depends on providing housing for these workers.


Post-election winners and losers

Those who earn the minimum wage and/or rely on government subsidized health insurance have a massive stake in the outcome of the Nov. 8 election. With Republicans vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, those newly covered through Medicaid expansion and the exchanges would lose health insurance if the law were repealed wholesale. That would impact nonwhite Americans disproportionately, as would adjustments to the minimum wage. The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley reports on the connections between the election, the ACA, race, and the economy.


A majority of black workers and nearly three in five Latinos earn less than $15 an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project, compared to a little more than one in three white workers. That’s both because nonwhite workers are less likely to have completed college than whites — college-educated workers earn more, on average, than less-educated workers — and also because black workers earn less than whites at every education level, a sign of discrimination in the job market. In the past year, though, nonwhite workers have had rapid income growth. Policy decisions appear to be driving much of that growth, particularly for nonwhites. Maintaining, or boosting, that job-creation pace will be critical for low-wage workers under the next president — an effort that cuts across a lot of other policy disagreements in the campaign.


Political geography of poverty

The plight of the most impoverished Americans has largely taken a backseat in the current presidential race. Still, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Paul Ryan have both provided detailed- and distinct- agendas for supporting those struggling most to make ends meet. The Brookings Institution’s Elizabeth Kneebone believes that more rank and file members of Congress should take notice, since poverty cuts across all partisan borders.


Between 2000 and 2010-14, the poor population grew faster in red districts than blue. The number of people living below the poverty line (e.g., $24,230 for a family of four in 2014) in Republican districts climbed by 49 percent between 2000 and 2010-14 compared with a 33 percent increase in Democratic districts. As a result, Republican districts accounted for 60 percent of the increase in the nation’s poor population during that time. At the same time, poverty rates rose by similar margins in both red and blue districts (3.3 and 3.2 percentage points, respectively).



Number of the Day

2- Louisiana’s national ranking for worker safety in 2015, as the rate of work-related injuries and illnesses improved to their best level in 14 years. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Advocate)