U.S. Census Bureau data released this morning suggest that the long national economic recovery that began in 2009 after the Great Recession has finally taken root for many middle-income American families. Median household income last year was $59,039, topping the previous record of $58,655 set in 1999. The Washington Post’s Heather Long has more:
Almost every demographic group saw an increase in income last year, Census officials found. They cautioned, however, that the Census changed its methodology in 2014, so they are hesitant to definitively say it’s the highest median ever, but they acknowledge there has been very strong growth in the past two years.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Bob Greenstein said today’s numbers mark the first time on record (going back to 1988) that incomes rose, poverty declined and health insurance coverage all increased over a two-year period.
The challenge for policymakers now is to build on the last few years’ progress and not worsen poverty, inequality, and health coverage. A number of the steps they are eyeing this fall — such as cuts in poverty-reducing programs, costly tax breaks for the most well-off, and measures that would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage gains — would raise poverty, widen inequality, and reduce health coverage.
TOPS for merit and need
The vast majority of TOPS recipients in Louisiana are “traditional” students – people pursuing four-year degrees after graduating from high school. That leaves out the majority of students at the state’s community and technical colleges, many of whom are pursuing two-year associate degrees or job certifications and hail from low-income families. Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, says more resources are required for the need-based Go Grant program. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue covered Sullivan’s remarks to the Baton Rouge Press Club:
Sullivan is particularly sensitive to the needs of poor or “nontraditional” college students because the people who attend his institutions tend to fall into these categories. The average community and technical college student in Louisiana is 27 1/2 years old, meaning most of his 68,000 students last year didn’t qualify for TOPS. TOPS recipients can only take a year off between the end of high school before they start their degree, Sullivan said. Most of his students are several years out of high school by the time they show up on one of his campuses, meaning they can’t use TOPS even if they earned high enough marks in high school to qualify for it.
Cassidy’s Hail Mary
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy hoped to reveal the latest version of his Affordable Care Act repeal legislation on Monday. But the release was delayed, as criticism of the bill piled up on Capitol Hill and a Sept. 30 deadline to pass legislation with a bare majority draws ever closer. The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports:
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) responded simply “no” on Monday when asked if he thought the bill would get a vote on the Senate floor. He said he did not think there is enough support for it. Cassidy and Graham, though, are still pushing, and plan to unveil the bill on Wednesday. Cassidy said Monday that his office has already been talking with the Congressional Budget Office on the measure, even as the final language comes together.
Health care upheaval in Shreveport
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration took the first step Monday to end the state’s troubled relationship with the operator of two north Louisiana safety-net hospitals. The governor and LSU each issued breach of contract notices to the Shreveport-based Biomedical Research Foundation, which was hand-picked by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to operate state-owned hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe despite having no prior experience in hospital administration. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn, has the scoop, which involves a potential partnership with Ochsner Health System:
The termination notice comes only days after the governor said he was hopeful BRF could partner with Ochsner Health System of New Orleans to bridge the shaky relationship among BRF, the state and LSU, which operates its med school within University Health hospitals. “This notice to BRF does not change the state’s commitment to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” Edwards’ spokesman Richard Carbo said in a statement to USA Today Network. “Gov. Edwards is committed to protecting medical education and providing for quality medical care in North Louisiana, and we are hopeful that BRF will work to resolve the issues in the notice of breach. “This notice requires that the problems outlined be addressed in the next 45 days, and we will continue those discussions.”
Number of the Day
10.3– Percentage of Louisianans without health insurance coverage, the lowest uninsured rate in the state’s history. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)