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Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

When researchers test a new medicine or even a new program design, they often devise a study comparing results between a treatment group and a control group. People in the control group receive no treatment, and forgo any benefits if it is proven to work and avoid any side effects if proven harmful.

A trial is going on regarding healthcare in this country, and right now Oklahoma has put itself in the control group. In this case, being in the control group may not be in our state’s best interest. However, it will provide useful comparisons between our state and states that chose to expand Medicaid.

medicaidIn 2012, in the same decision where the Supreme Court ruled the bulk of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was constitutional, the court also ruled that the federal government could not force the states to accept the Medicaid expansion. The Medicaid expansion was intended to provide healthcare coverage for Americans whose income fell below 133% of the poverty level.

While the court ruled the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid eligibility, it did keep the option alive for states willing to accept federal money for the expansion. In essence, the final decision on expanding Medicaid fell to the individual states.

However, declining the expansion does not leave states in the same situation they were in before the ACA was passed.  In 2014, all states will begin to see a decline in the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments the federal government grants to states to fund care for indigent patients.

States used DSH payments to help hospitals deal with unpaid medical bills, and DSH payments are decreasing because Medicaid was supposed to fill the gap. So it is important to understand that declining additional Medicaid funds leaves many hospitals at a financial disadvantage. (more…)

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School will soon be out for many Tulsa students, and for families struggling with food insecurity this can mean an added strain on the budget. To address this need, the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides meals during the summer break.

Nationwide, 2.28 million children participated in the program in 2012 and 39,000 sites across the country helped distribute nutritious meals to children. Participation has grown in recent years. Yet, studies estimate the program still does not reach the majority of children who qualify for assistance under the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year.

2012-summer-food-service-program

The USDA allows for different types of eligible sites under the Summer Food Service Program. Both types of sites depend on standards for free and reduced lunches set by the National School Lunch Program. Students are eligible for free lunches if their household income is at or below 130% of the poverty level. Students from households with income between 130% and 180% of the poverty level qualify for reduced priced lunches.

Under the Summer Meal Service Program, there are “Enrolled Sites,” where each family must fill out an application and the site must (more…)

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An estimated 681,834 Oklahomans are currently uninsured, according to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The Tulsa World’s recent coverage of the issue states that in many Tulsa County neighborhoods, as few as 1 in 3 residents have health insurance coverage.

U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office

U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office

Statewide, approximately 18.6% of individuals in Oklahoma are uninsured. To put this in perspective, the 2008-2012 ACS Health Insurance Coverage estimates put Oklahoma in seventh place for the highest rate of uninsured individuals in the country. Texas has the highest, at 23% uninsured. Massachusetts has the lowest rate, with only 4% of their population uninsured.

Education and income are among the factors that predict insurance coverage. Around 62% of our state’s uninsured adults have attained the equivalent of a high school diploma or less. Educational attainment is a contributing factor to household income, and lower incomes seem to be a trend among the uninsured. Nearly 65% of Oklahoma’s uninsured, an estimated 440,072, live in households with an annual income of (more…)

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Poverty is not isolated to families where adults are unemployed or underemployed. According to 2011 data from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 33% of children living in poverty in Oklahoma have at least one parent who works full-time, year-round.

Oklahoma also has one of the highest proportions of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage in the country, at 7.2%. Only Idaho and Texas have higher rates. And escaping poverty level wages is not as easy as applying for a new job. The Alliance for a Just Society released a report December 4th that found,

“For every projected job opening above a low-wage threshold of $15 an hour, there were 7 job-seekers in 2012.”

Furthermore, while jobs lost during the Great Recession were not exclusive to any one sector, a 2012 report from the National Employment Law Project confirms most job losses were concentrated in mid-wage occupations. In contrast, the recovery has seen gains in the number of lower-wage occupations.

Jobs Lost in Recession_ NELP

Low-wage occupations that increased during and after the recession include “retail salespersons, food preparation workers, laborers and freight workers, (more…)

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As I write this, we are less than 3 days away from dramatic spending cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly 48 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits, and every one of them will see a decrease in monthly benefits beginning November 1st.

           nov snap cuts cbpp

Dottie Rosenbaum, writing for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ (CBPP) Off the Charts blog, puts the real life cost into perspective.

A household of three, such as a mother with two children, will lose $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014…That equals about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

Of course, the potential for further cuts does not end at the first of November.  The much debated Farm Bill is still being considered (more…)

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Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report on annual poverty data from the American Community Survey. Last month, the Census Bureau reported the poverty rate for 2012 was 15%, virtually unchanged since 2011. For Oklahoma, the rate was 17.2%, also the same as last year.

9-20-13pov-f1

When the current poverty rate is measured against the historically low rate of 11.1% in 1973, the news seems disheartening. Yet, as Sheldon H. Danziger points out in a recent New York Times opinion piece, comparing 2012 to 1973 without further context can give people the wrong idea about the true state of the war on poverty.

One thing to keep in mind is that poverty measures do not capture all the relief provided to low-income families under current safety net policies. Non-cash benefits, (more…)

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