Congress can lock in health coverage gains

Congress can lock in health coverage gains

The percentage of people without health insurance – in Louisiana and the rest of the nation – fell to record lows in 2021. A major reason for the recent gain is a pandemic relief law that gave states extra federal money for Medicaid, that came with a provision that they could not terminate anyone’s coverage as long as the federal public health emergency remains in effect. But the emergency declaration is likely to end early next year, and millions of Americans are at risk of losing their coverage when that happens. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Allison Orris lays out the steps Congress can take, such as extending postpartum coverage to 12 months and requiring continuous eligibility for children, to lock in the recent gains in health coverage. 

Recognizing the importance of uninterrupted coverage after giving birth, the American Rescue Plan gave states the option to extend postpartum coverage for 12 months after childbirth, rather than the 60 days otherwise required by law. To date, 33 states and the District of Columbia have taken up the option or have announced plans to do so. But the American Rescue Plan coverage option is available only through March 2027. … Even before the PHE continuous coverage requirement, states had the option to provide “continuous eligibility” to children, meaning that children remain eligible for Medicaid (or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP) for a 12-month period regardless of changes in their family’s income. As of January 2022, some 32 states (including D.C.) provided 12 months of continuous eligibility for children under 19 in Medicaid and/or CHIP.

In April, Louisiana became the first state to take advantage of extended postpartum coverage, which is welcome news in a state that has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the country. Louisiana also provides 12-month continuous eligibility for children in Medicaid or CHIP.

Louisiana parishes led nation in missing 2020 Census data
Hurricane-ravaged Allen and Calcasieu parishes led the nation in missing information for the 2020 Census, the once-a-decade counting process that determines the number of Congressional seats a state receives and how – and where –  hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are spent. The AP’s Mike Schneider reports how the Census Bureau was forced to use a last-resort statistical technique to fill in data gaps: 

Along with rural Logan and Banner counties in Nebraska, the parishes had rates of homes with missing information that required the statistical technique to be used ranging from 8.4% to 11.5%. The technique called count imputation uses information about neighbors with similar characteristics to fill in data gaps in the head count. Nationwide, 0.9% of households were counted using the technique during the 2020 census.

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau paints a complicated picture of how Louisianans fared during the Covid-19 pandemic. A new chartbook by LBP’s Deputy Executive Director, Stacey Roussel, analyzes the data and explains why it matters. 

A presidential pot pardon 
President Joe Biden on Thursday pardoned federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, a move that will remove barriers for more than 6,500 people when they try to get a job or housing or apply for college or federal benefits. There are currently no people serving in federal prison for simple possession. The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report  how the move will help to dismantle decades of systemic racism in our drug possession and sentencing laws. 

“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter on Thursday. “That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.” In a video, he added: “While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.”

Biden also urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to review why marijuana is legally categorized in the same group as drugs like heroin and LSD, and in a higher category than fentanyl. As The Advocate’s Sam Karlin notes, marijuana’s Schedule 1 status was a hindrance to legalization efforts in Louisiana during last spring’s legislative session. 

Prison staffing shortages create dangerous conditions 
A nationwide staffing shortage in America’s prisons is creating unsafe working and living conditions for guards and inmates. The dangerous nature of the job and low wages, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, were the main drivers of the exodus of correctional officers. But as Pew’s David Montgomery explains, the shortage is making unlivable conditions worse in many state prisons, including ones in Louisiana, that lack air conditioning in some prison cells: 

People incarcerated in Texas have told family members that staff shortages have impeded the delivery of ice and water to un-air-conditioned cells and dormitories and prevented the speedy transfer of heat-stressed inmates to air-conditioned respite areas. Brian Dawe, a former Massachusetts state corrections officer and director of One Voice United, a nationwide organization that supports corrections officers and other staff, called the shortages “the worst I’ve seen” in more than 40 years of involvement in corrections issues. “This is a staffing crisis across the country right now.”

Programming note: Child Tax Credit event in Baton Rouge
Parents in Louisiana are eligible for $3,000 – $3,500 per child in benefits under a temporary expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit. But thousands of eligible families have yet to claim the credit, and the deadline for filing is fast approaching. The Louisiana Budget Project and The Middleburg Institute are hosting an outreach event on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Carver Branch Library in Baton Rouge to raise awareness about the tax credit, and other state and federal benefits. The public is invited and you can  click here to register

Number of the Day
263,000 – Number of jobs the U.S. economy added in the month of September, the lowest monthly increase since April 2021. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)