MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Healthcare coverage on the upswing

Added September 16th, 2014 by Judy Putnam | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Judy Putnam

There is some good news out today in terms of health insurance.

The share of uninsured people in Michigan fell from 11.4% in 2012 to 11% in 2012, according to today’s Census Bureau release, with major additional improvements expected ahead due to the Affordable Care Act.

Still, more than 1 million in Michigan were without health insurance in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. That number is expected to decline dramatically as the Healthy Michigan Plan (Michigan’s Medicaid expansion), Marketplace enrollment and other provisions in the Affordable Care Act get counted in the numbers that will be released next fall.

One big driver of that will be the unexpectedly high number signing up for the Healthy Michigan Plan. In last than six months, starting April 1, nearly 386,000 uninsured adults were enrolled, well beyond the state’s year-long goal. In addition, nearly 273,000 have enrolled for health coverage through the federally facilitated Marketplace. And let’s not forget the popular Affordable Care Act provision that allowed parents to cover their adult children until age 26.

Two new studies are documenting the positive impacts already.

The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey finds that states such as Michigan that have expanded Medicaid are making far greater progress in covering parents of children in low-income families than states that have not expanded Medicaid.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today also indicates a 3.8 million drop across the country in the number without health coverage in 2014, a period not yet covered in today’s census release.

Last year, Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature voted to expand Medicaid, one of 27 states that have now taken that step.

As the League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said in a news release today: “This is good not only for the people getting the coverage they need, it’s also good for our state’s businesses, communities, and economy.’’

– Judy Putnam

World class colleges, sluggish financial aid

Added September 10th, 2014 by Peter Ruark | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

It is a point of pride among Michiganians that we have great public universities and private colleges.

We have two Top Ten universities that are friendly rivals, and high-quality regional universities. In addition to providing an excellent education for Michigan residents, our universities attract respected scholars and cream-of-the crop students from all over the world. We have a number of widely respected private colleges as well.

So why does Michigan lag behind most other Midwestern states and much of the country in providing financial aid that makes such great education affordable?

Per capita, Michigan spends $194 on need-based financial aid grants per undergraduate student — lower than every other Midwest state except Ohio, and is only one-quarter what Indiana and Illinois spend.

According to the Project on Student Debt, in 2011-2012, Michigan private 4-year college graduates owed an average of $32,672 in student debt, 74% more than similar graduates owed in 2003-2004. For public university graduates, it was $28,147, a 50% jump during the same period.

Having highly skilled people in our state is great for business and the economy, but when our graduates spend years paying off debt, it takes a little of the blush off the bloom. High college debt limits the upward mobility of those graduates and restricts the money they can spend in their communities. At worst, it can contribute to severe financial difficulty.

Michigan needs to make the affordability of education as high of a priority as the quality and prestige of our institutions:

 

League supports Michigan’s move to cleaner energy

Added September 8th, 2014 by Shannon Nobles | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Shannon Nobles

The Michigan League for Public Policy has recently added clean energy as a focus area in our policy and advocacy work.

Clean energy is an important issue for the organization, as well as our state, as Michigan looks to implement Environmental Protection Agency’s policy to reduce carbon emissions nationwide. While the state has been on the way to supplying some of its electricity with renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bioenergy with a goal to meet 10% by 2015, we need to do more.

Michigan currently has nine coal-fired electricity generating units, with health-related costs associated with emissions from these facilities totaling $1.5 billion annually. These health issues range from asthma to cancer, and heart and lung disease.

According to a 2011 study by the Michigan Environmental Council, 180 premature deaths, 680,000 cases of asthma irritations and 140 asthma emergency room visits are attributed to pollution from burning coal in Michigan every year.

People of color and those who are economically vulnerable are most likely to suffer these health complications. This is because the coal-fired power plants tend to be in neighborhoods of low- to moderate-income people, affecting those populations disproportionately.

By transitioning from coal to clean energy, we can reduce pollution and improve the health of Michiganians across the state.

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a common sense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. EPA’s proposal builds on those actions that states such as Michigan are already taking, and will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations. Michigan can meet the expectations put forth in this proposal, while improving the health of its citizens by increasing our use of clean, renewable energy, such as wind and solar, as well as reducing energy waste through increased energy efficiency.

Please support clean energy by commenting in favor of this proposal. You have until Oct. 16, to do so through the EPA site. See the League’s fact sheet for more information.

– Shannon Nobles

Holy smoke Batman! We can reduce poverty

Added September 5th, 2014 by Judy Putnam | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Judy Putnam

Like Batman and Robin, raising the state Earned Income Tax Credit and minimum wage are best when working together, a new report concludes.

The two strategies are better than one, according to State Income Taxes and Minimum Wages Work Best Together, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The dynamic duo complement one another to boost income, widen the path out of poverty and reduce income inequality.

Michigan has increased the minimum wage modestly, starting with a 75-cent an hour bump on Monday to $8.15 an hour. It will eventually go to $9.25 by 2018.

While a positive move, the motivation behind the increase was to sidestep a popular ballot initiative to take it to $10.10 an hour, index it to inflation, and eventually raise the tipped wage to that level, meaning that waiters and other tipped workers would earn the regular minimum hourly wage from employers, not count on tips to make up the difference. Polls showed the public supported the proposal, which narrowly missed the November ballot.

Michigan could and should do more. The state EITC was slashed from 20% of the federal credit to 6% of the federal credit, starting in 2012. That means that more than 1 million children living in households qualifying for the EITC have less income and more than 15,000 families fell below the poverty line because of that decision.

Restoring the state EITC and raising the minimum wage even more than planned would lift families from poverty, reward work and get our economy moving.

And holy cow! That just makes sense.

– Judy Putnam

 

Ryan ‘Opportunity Grant’ proposal likely to increase poverty

Added September 4th, 2014 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

While it is refreshing to have a top Republican leader bring the issue of rising poverty in America to the forefront and advocate for some of the policy changes the League has sought, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a key component of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s antipoverty plan is to create the “Opportunity Grants” program, which may actually result in higher poverty rates.

In his proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America, House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan recommends the consolidation of 11 safety net and related programs into an ill-advised single block grant to states. The new “Opportunity Grant” would include programs for food assistance, child care, energy assistance, housing assistance, and more.

Block grants could backfire

Since many of these programs slated to be merged are currently only modestly funded and only serve a small portion of those who are eligible, providing additional services to some would leave fewer “Opportunity Grant” resources available for others in need. Food and housing assistance combined make up more than 80% of the “Opportunity Grant,” so it is likely that access to these important programs would become limited as resources in the block grant became scarce.

Adding to the problem, block grants are unable to respond to local demands during times of rising need, a recession, a major plant closing, or severe weather. On the other hand, entitlement programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP –formerly food stamps) kept 4.9 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 2.2 million children, because assistance could be provided immediately and did not require action from Congress to appropriate additional grant funds.

And, although Chairman Ryan contends that funding levels would be maintained, history reveals that when it comes to block grant programs: 1) Total antipoverty funds would likely decline as states struggling with their own budgets use these grant funds to replace funds they currently are spending; and, 2) Federal funding for block grants typically decreases — often dramatically — over time due to the difficulty of pinpointing specific levels of needed funding.

In shifting a critical program such as SNAP, which served more than 1.6 million individuals in Michigan during the month of July, the Chairman’s “Opportunity Grant” proposal puts people at risk of losing their needed food assistance and goes against the great strides that have been made towards ending hunger and malnutrition.

If Congressman Ryan supports a plan that is research driven and evidence based, it is unclear why he would promote an antipoverty proposal that makes cuts to proven programs and would likely cause an increase in poverty.

– Alicia Guevara Warren

Flood waters: a taxing problem

Added September 2nd, 2014 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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My family and I were unfortunate enough to experience the recent flooding in Southeast Michigan. Despite the fact that we lost appliances, some precious photos and an assortment of stuff we had accumulated over the past 37 years, we will be OK. We had insurance and were able to get a company to clean and sanitize our basement very quickly. And we will not need to go into our retirement funds to make our losses whole.

But the 100-year flood event reminded me about Hurricane Sandy almost two years ago in New York and the devastation and damage it wrought. For those of you who read my First Tuesdays religiously, you may remember I wrote about my experience in New York, helping my daughter and her husband with their newborn son, Jacob, who was a Hurricane Sandy baby.

I was struck then, as I am now, about the importance of our public infrastructures, as well as our first responders, and government services such as garbage collection and public transportation. I am also struck and concerned about the devastating losses and public health issues that might arise from this flooding catastrophe, which has been dubbed “Latrina” — losses and health issues that impact those that have no insurance, are underinsured or who don’t have the means or information to adequately clean up their living spaces so that mold or the fallout from contaminated water don’t affect them and their family in the future.

I am also reminded how important taxes are to making sure we have the resources to build a strong infrastructure, and how cutting taxes and/or not increasing revenues has greatly reduced the ability to have updated or state-of-the-art systems to handle such catastrophes. Our taxes pay for Michigan State Police divers who free people from their underwater cars, adequate roads that aren’t crumbling and a public health system that provides information and care. Our taxes pay for police officers who patrol our streets after catastrophic events. Our taxes pay the salaries of garbage collectors who are literally handling tons of contaminated household goods.

The private sector can’t address these needs, but a strong public sector can. Next time you see a police officer, a garbage collector or a woman filling potholes, say thank you. And next time a conversation comes up about taxes, think about what you would do without those folks who are working around the clock to make sure we are safe, sound and healthy.

I am thankful every day that I pay taxes.

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

Wage gaps plague Michigan

Added August 27th, 2014 by Yannet Lathrop | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Yannet Lathrop

Happy Labor Day? Not quite.

The League’s Labor Day report, Pay Falls for Low-Wage Men yet Women Still Far Behind, released today, looks at the growing income disparities in Michigan.

Under pressure by a ballot campaign to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and to eventually bring tipped workers up to minimum wage, the Michigan Legislature in May voted to increase the wage to $9.25 in four steps. The first step, from $7.40 to $8.15 an hour, takes effect Monday, which is also Labor Day.

While a step in the right direction, the new wage is not enough to raise many families out of poverty or close the wage gaps that plague Michigan.   (more…)

Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

Added August 26th, 2014 by Jan Hudson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jan Hudson

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high. (more…)

Back to college — but what if you’re older?

Added August 20th, 2014 by Peter Ruark | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Before the month is over, more than 755,000 Michigan residents will begin classes at a public university or community college and many will get financial aid.

Many of these students will be over 30 years old, but as a new paper from the Michigan League for Public Policy shows, those older students at public campuses will not be eligible for any of the three financial aid grants offered by the state. (more…)

Erratic work schedules create erratic family life

Added August 15th, 2014 by Peter Ruark | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

A new bill in Congress reflects growing awareness that work scheduling can make or break a family’s well-being.

It is easy for those of us who enjoy regular work hours to take for granted that we can plan our days and paychecks with stability. We know when we need to drop off or pick up our children at school activities or child care, and we can plan other important aspects of our lives—college classes, social or civic activities or even second jobs—around a predictable work schedule. We also know that we will be compensated for the same number of work hours every week. (more…)

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