Health care squeezes the middle class

Health care squeezes the middle class

Middle-income workers in Louisiana who get health coverage through their jobs devote almost 16% of their pay to health insurance premiums and deductibles. That’s the second-largest percentage in the country, just behind Mississippi, according to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund. Two main factors are to blame: Louisiana’s high poverty rate, which drags down the state’s median income; and the fact that Louisiana companies pass along more costs to their workers than employers in other states. The Advocate’s Emily Woodruff

Other experts noted that long-held employer practices in a state with few major international corporations — which often spend more on employee benefits to attract workers — and a relatively weak labor movement have contributed to more costs being passed to employees as health care costs overall have risen. “What you can get away with as an employer really depends on what people up the street are doing,” said (Stan) Dorn (director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation). “Employers have more leverage, more power and unions are weaker.”


Anatomy of a victory
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Nov. 16 re-election was due in large part to heavy turnout among African-American voters, particularly in the population centers of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. As Chris Kromm writes in The Guardian, that turnout didn’t happen by itself, but rather as a result of targeted outreach by grassroots organizations.  

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a group of progressive community organizations in Louisiana, contacted 900,000 voters in the fall elections – mostly in communities of color – through door visits, phone calls and text messages. National Groups like Black Voters Matter raised visibility about the elections in African American communities. And teachers, a key force in Edwards’ first victory in 2015 as well as Democratic governor-elect Andy Beshear’s recent win in Kentucky, also mobilized tens of thousands of voters.

The Power Coalition’s Ashley Shelton (full disclosure: LBP is a member and Shelton is a member of LBP’s board) explains why the outreach will reach far beyond the election: 

The Power Coalition’s success is also another example of what happens when Women of Color build and lead social justice movements, especially in the South. By focusing on statewide coalition-building, direct contact with voters, and outreach to HBCUs and faith communities, PCEJ is building a foundation for long-term progressive change in Louisiana that’s led by the people who are most directly impacted by bad policy and traditional power dynamics, namely, People of Color.


The second-term agenda
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ top priorities for his second term look a lot like his priorities in the first four years:  raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women and increased investments in early childhood education. Speaking to reporters for the first time since winning reelection, Edwards also discussed the need to continue the progress that has been made to stabilize the state budget, increase teacher pay and protect the historic gains that have been made through Medicaid expansion. But the governor will have to work with a much more conservative Legislature to accomplish these goals. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports: 

“I just hope that the Legislature this time, if they want independence, that’s great, but obstructionism and independence are not the same thing,” he [Edwards] said. “So I’m just looking to have a speaker with whom I can work and leadership in the Legislature that I can work with. And that’s true for the Senate as well.” … Still, Edwards at a press conference at the Governor’s Mansion Thursday morning said he hopes to have a good working relationship with lawmakers of both parties, and he indicated he has an opportunity to invest in several areas because of the state’s current financial situation. 


Personal income up in every state
Louisiana’s personal income grew 2.6% in the second quarter of this year over the previous year. That’s lower than the national growth of 3.2%, according to new analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts. However, the Bayou State fared better than two of its neighbors, with Arkansas and Mississippi only seeing growth of 2.3% and 1.9% respectively. Texas’ personal income grew by 4.2%. This is the second consecutive quarter, and the fifth time over the past year and a half that  personal income grew in every state. 

Growth in personal income should not be interpreted solely as wage growth; wages and salaries account for about half of U.S. personal income. Likewise, growth in total state personal income should not be seen as a measure of how much the income of average residents has changed. Other measures should be used to approximate income growth for individuals, such as state personal income per capita or household income based on different data. Looking at state gross domestic product, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within a state, would yield different insights on state economies.


Note: The Daily Dime is taking its annual two-week hiatus so the staff can take a Thanksgiving breather and pursue some professional development. We’ll be back Dec. 9. If you value the information in the Dime, please consider making a contribution to LBP. 


Number of the Day
68% – Percent of  Medicaid expansion population that had at least one emergency room visit by the end of 2018. While emergency room visits among Medicaid recipients have increased in recent years, they have decreased among the expansion population. (Source: Medicaid annual report via Lafayette Daily Advertiser)