The 2017 Louisiana Health Insurance Survey results released Monday revealed the first substantial drop in the percentage of uninsured adults since LSU researchers began conducting the survey in 2003. The percentage of uninsured adults was actually cut in half – from 22.7 percent without insurance in 2015 to 11.4 percent in 2017. Medicaid expansion is to thank for the large gains in access to health insurance and health care services according to the report’s authors, Dr. Stephen R. Barnes, Dr. Mike Henderson, Dr. Dek Terrell and Stephanie Virgets. They go on to point out just how important the expansion has been to areas of the state struggling with poor economic conditions:
The low uninsured rates in Houma-Thibodaux are particularly remarkable given the challenging economic conditions facing the region as the oil and gas industry has suffered from low oil prices and unemployment has spiked. The expanded availability of Medicaid as a source of coverage helped offset the deteriorating economic conditions and lowered uninsured rates within the region. The marked regional differences in previous years is much more muted in 2017 as rates in regions of the state that historically had higher uninsured rates have decreased as a result of the Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid expansion is also reducing racial inequities in access to health insurance and health services, according to the survey results:
Historically, uninsured rates for black children and adults have been higher than the overall uninsured rates. While this pattern continues to be true in 2017, the overall reduction in uninsured rates among adults following the Medicaid expansion has reduced this disparity, with only 1.6 percent more black adults uninsured than white adults compared to a 5.6 percent differential in 2015
Sen. Kennedy’s problem with facts
Sen. John Kennedy has become a vocal critic of the criminal justice reforms passed by the Legislature in 2017 with support from a broad bipartisan coalition of advocates. Most recently, Kennedy made his complaints known in a letter to President Donald Trump in advance of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ visit to the White House. But two conservative organizations that backed the historic reforms – The Pelican Institute for Public Policy and Smart on Crime – say Kennedy had his facts wrong. Daniel J. Erspamer and James Lapeyre spell it out in a letter to The Advocate:
Here are selected examples of some of the material errors in Kennedy’s letter:
Claim: “22 percent of the [early release] inmates have been rearrested.”
Fact: State records show the re-arrest rate is actually 19 percent. This is below the national re-arrest average of 26 percent.
Claim: “Our recidivism is on track to exceed 50 percent.”
Fact: Per the Department of Corrections, in the nine months since the reforms were implemented, the reincarceration rate is 6 percent, behind pace of the full-year average of 15 percent before the reforms.
Claim: “Louisiana’s streets are not safer because of criminal justice reform.”
Fact: This conflicts with the data so far, and in every state that has enacted similar reforms, including neighboring Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, crime and recidivism rates have demonstrably decreased, even in states which did not allocate up-front funding for re-entry programs.
Claim: “Louisiana started freeing several thousand inmates last year by reducing the mandatory amount of time they had to serve … they were simply released from prison.”
Fact: Everyone released early was eligible for early release even before last year. The new law decreased the amount of time served, with most individuals released early through the recent reforms exiting prison 30 to 90 days in advance of their previously-scheduled release dates.
More moving into the middle class
The amount of money you need to be in “global middle class” depends on where you live in the world, according to Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas, who defines being middle class as having enough money to cover basics needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and still have enough left over for a few luxuries. More than half the people in the world will have entered the middle class by 2020, Kharas estimates, which means they will earn somewhere between $4,000 or $40,000 per person, depending on location. Despite the vasts difference in income, middle class people around the globe actually have a lot in common. Heather Long and Leslie Shapiro with The Washington Post report:
What immediately jumps out flipping through the Dollar Street photos is how remarkably similar daily life is around the world, with the exception of the very rich and poor. The vast majority of the families have electricity, running water in their home, children that attend school and some sort of transportation. That lines up with Kharas’s research. “These people in the global middle class have a lot of things in common,” he said. “They like having air conditioning, a refrigerator, a car or motorcycle to get around, and they like going on vacation and not having to work every day.”
Money isn’t everything, though, as the old adage says. Researchers have found that more money doesn’t equate to greater happiness.
There are endless debates about what amount of money and what lifestyle would maximize happiness. The consensus among researchers who have studied this extensively is that day-to-day mood doesn’t improve much after about $75,000 a year in the United States. There’s not much noticeable improvement in mood after that, even when homes and bank accounts get larger. That said, people also tend to feel better if they are moving up the income ladder, not moving down or stalled, which helps explain why the middle class in the United States and much of Europe is upset after years of stagnating income.
Click to use The Washington Post’s interactive graphic and see if you’re in the “global middle class.”
A new form of housing discrimination
The shift in federal housing policy from public housing to “housing vouchers” was meant to allow families in need of affordable housing the option of living in a neighborhood and home of their choice, rather than in a public housing project. The 2.2 million families that have a housing voucher can, in theory, use it to pay rent in any free market house or apartment that’s deemed “affordable” by their local housing agency. Unfortunately, a recent study by the Urban Institute reveals that families who are using a voucher face serious discrimination from landlords who don’t want to rent to them. The good news: local anti-discrimination policies can help to reduce discriminatory practices. Bill Lucia with Route Fifty:
Denial rates for voucher holders were found to be highest in Fort Worth, at 78 percent, and Los Angeles, at 76 percent. The denial rates in the other metro areas varied from 67 percent in Philadelphia, to 31 percent in Newark and 15 percent in Washington, D.C. It is illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act for landlords to discriminate against renters based on factors like race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, or family status. But the act’s protections do not extend to voucher holders. Newark and Washington, D.C. are among the state and local jurisdictions around the U.S. that have laws, known as “source-of-income” protections, meant to bar property owners from discriminating against people planning to use vouchers to pay rent.
Number of the Day
350,467 – Estimated number of people in Louisiana who did not have health insurance in 2017, including 29,000 children. (Source: 2017 Louisiana Health Insurance Survey)