Good news on health coverage

Good news on health coverage

The percentage of Americans without health coverage hit a record low in 2021 thanks in large part to pandemic relief provisions that protected people on Medicaid from getting kicked off the program if their income fluctuated. The Census Bureau reported on Thursday that the uninsured rate dropped to 8.6% last year, compared to 9.2% from before the pandemic. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Gideon Lukens examines the relief provisions that made this possible:

Administrative data show that Medicaid enrollment rose by over 15 million people between February 2020 and December 2021, while ACA marketplace enrollment also reached a record high. … In addition, administrative data show that enrollment in the ACA marketplaces reached record highs due in part to enhanced premium tax credits, along with a pandemic-related special enrollment period and substantially increased funding for outreach and enrollment assistance.

The news was even better in Louisiana, where the uninsured rate fell to 7.6%, compared to 8.9% in 2019, largely due to Medicaid expansion.

Abortion politics out at Bond Commission
The Louisiana Bond Commission reversed course on Thursday and approved much-needed financing to upgrade New Orleans’ drinking water, drainage and sewage systems. The commission’s vote came a month after Attorney General Jeff Landry blocked the money in retaliation for city leaders’ refusal to enforce the new statewide abortion ban. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that commission members  appear to have grown tired of Landry’s antics. 

(C)ommission members said Thursday that the inaction was endangering at least $120 million in other state projects and that the panel should limit itself to financial considerations. “We need to quit messing around with this and approve it,” said Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, a member of the commission and chairman of the powerful Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales and another commission member, grilled Freel on what, if any, laws New Orleans had violated. “I am still not hearing what laws they broke,” Schexnayder said after the exchange.

Rail strike averted, maybe 
Rail carriers and union leaders came to an agreement on Thursday to avoid a national rail strike, but questions remain about whether or not union members will adopt the agreement. As the Washington Post’s Lauren Kaori Gurley and Jeff Stein report, members were underwhelmed about one of the key reasons for the strike –  paid sick and medical leave.

As the president spoke, union workers across the country began processing what was in the new agreement — and what was left out. Union leaders had pushed for 15 days of paid sick leave, but the proposed deal landed on just one day. The White House and union leaders emphasized that the agreement wins concessions that removes penalties for missing time due to an illness or medical emergency. Yet, as of Thursday afternoon many workers remained confused about exactly which new benefits had been won, showing the uphill climb union officials face in selling the compromise.

Boosting economic security with state tax credits
In 2022, state lawmakers across the country advanced tax policies that will bolster the economic security of millions of low- and moderate-income working families through new and enhanced Child Tax Credits (CTCs) and Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). A pair of new policy briefs by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) detail the progress that states are making on CTCs and EITCs and point to best practices for crafting inclusive, effective state tax credits moving forward.

“State tax credits like the CTC and EITC are some of the most effective tools in the policy toolbox for lawmakers looking to help families struggling to put food on the table, pay their bills and make ends meet,” said Aidan Davis, ITEP’s State Policy Director and the author of the briefs. “Enacting or expanding these credits is a surefire way to chip away at racial and wealth inequality, blunt some of the regressivity of state and local tax systems, and help families meet their basic needs.”

Nearly two-thirds of states, including Louisiana, have their own EITC. Louisiana’s credit – the second lowest in the nation – is 5% of the federal EITC, and about 1 in 3 tax filers in our state claim the credit each year. The Pelican State does not have its own CTC, but a 2021 LBP report explains why it should offer one to its residents. 

Number of the Day
6.02% – Rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage. This is the first time that mortgage rates have risen above 6% since 2008. (Source: Freddie Mac via The Washington Post