Health Reform’s Success Grows; House Budget Chair Promises Repeal

March 17, 2015 at 12:48 pm

A day after the Administration announced that 16.4 million uninsured people have gained coverage under health reform, lowering the uninsured rate from 20.3 percent all the way to 13.2 percent, the House Republican Budget Chairman unveiled a budget that would reverse this remarkable progress by repealing health reform, including its Medicaid expansion.

In the run-up to Supreme Court arguments in King v. Burwell, in which plaintiffs seek to invalidate subsidies for health coverage for people in 34 states using the federal marketplace, House and Senate Republicans said they had plans to maintain coverage for the 8 million people at risk of losing it should the plaintiffs prevail. … Read more

Proposed Medicaid Block Grant Would Add Millions to Uninsured and Underinsured

March 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Update, March 17:  We’ve updated this post to reflect that the House Budget Committee used the Congressional Budget Office’s January 2015 baseline in preparing its plan rather than CBO’s March 2015 baseline.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price’s budget plan proposes to radically restructure Medicaid by converting it to a block grant and cutting federal funding for it steeply, by $913 billion over the next decade. It would also repeal health reform’s Medicaid expansion. The combined Medicaid cut would reach $1.8 trillion over ten years, relative to current law, adding tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.… Read more

Safety Net Lifted 39 Million Americans out of Poverty in 2013

March 17, 2015 at 8:01 am

As the House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing today on empirical evidence for poverty programs, it’s worth recalling that safety net programs cut poverty nearly in half in 2013, lifting 39 million people out of poverty.  The figures rebut claims that government programs do little to reduce poverty.

Our analysis of Census data shows that, in 2013:

  • Government policies cut the number of poor Americans by 39 million — from 88 million to 49 million.

    Of the 39 million people, “universal” assistance programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance, which are widely available irrespective of income, cut poverty by 19 million.

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Medicaid Expansion States Are Saving Money

March 16, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Health reform’s Medicaid expansion has produced significant state budget savings, two new reports covering five states show. Savings are expected to continue — and grow — in coming years. These reports provide strong evidence that claims that the expansion will harm state budgets are misplaced.

Expanding Medicaid saved Arkansas and Kentucky nearly $31 million and $26 million, respectively, in just the first six months of 2014, according to a report prepared for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They expect to save $89 million and $84 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30.… Read more

WIC: Critical Support at a Critical Period of Life

March 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

As we explained this morning, evidence continues to mount that lack of adequate food, stable housing, health care, and other essentials in infancy and early childhood can affect children’s brain development, with long-term consequences for their physical, mental, academic, and economic well-being.  WIC is one of several programs that give very young children and their families critical support during this critical period of life.

Extensive research over the past four decades shows that WIC — formally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — contributes to positive developmental and health outcomes for low-income women and young children. … Read more

Key Programs Lay Building Blocks for Kids’ Success

March 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

As Congress begins its budget deliberations, lawmakers should be concerned not only with how they’ll allocate funds next year but also with the long-term implications of their decisions.  Cuts to effective programs that ensure children start life on a positive path, such as WIC and home visiting, and those that help families meet their basic needs, like SNAP, rental assistance, and Medicaid, could prove costly in the long run.

A compelling and growing body of scientific research indicates that children living in unusually stressful situations (such as not having enough food to eat or living in unstable housing) may experience chronic stress levels severe enough (i.e., “toxic stress”) to damage the developing neural connections in their brains, impeding their ability to succeed in school and develop the social and emotional skills they will need to function well as adults. … Read more

In Case You Missed It…

March 13, 2015 at 2:31 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the federal budget and taxes, state budgets and taxes, the safety net, and health reform.

  • On the federal budget and taxes, Chuck Marr countered the Tax Foundation’s claim that the new tax plan from Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio is tilted toward low-income people. We explained that two likely goals of the budget plans that the House and Senate Budget Committees are due to consider next week are severely flawed.
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Setting the Right Budget Goals

March 13, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Two likely goals of the budget plans that the House and Senate Budget Committees are due to consider next week — balancing the budget in ten years and doing so with no new revenues — are severely flawed, our new paper explains.  Here’s the opening:

The House and Senate are expected to consider their respective budget resolutions starting next week.  Press reports suggest that the resolutions will likely be shaped in substantial part by two fiscal goals:  balancing the budget over the next ten years, which would likely require roughly $4½ trillion in policy savings, and using no new revenues to help achieve those large savings. 

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A Diminished Future: Tax-Cut States Shortchanging Education

March 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Legislation is on a fast track in Kansas — poster child of the “slash income taxes for the wealthy and everything will be great” approach — that would replace the time-tested way of supporting schools with an arbitrary one that would fall far short of meeting growing needs. And unfortunately for the nation’s students, Kansas isn’t alone in shortchanging its schools.

Under the traditional school funding formula, Kansas — and nearly every other state — bases K-12 school funding in part on the number of students in a given school district and other needs. … Read more

Lee-Rubio Tax Plan Heavily Tilted Toward Top, Contrary to Tax Foundation Claims

March 11, 2015 at 4:22 pm

The Tax Foundation (TF) took issue with our post explaining that the new tax plan from Senators Mike Lee (R-CO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) would give the highest-income people a large windfall while leaving many low-income working families behind.  TF argues that the plan “actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.”  Count me as a skeptic.  Let’s take a closer look at the plan’s effects at the bottom and top of the income scale.… Read more

Arizona Experience Shows Risks of Further Expanding State Role in Helping Poor

March 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Update, March 11:  We’ve made corrections to this post.

To save $9 million a year beginning in July 2016, Arizona policymakers have cut families’ time limit for cash assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to 12 months in a lifetime, the shortest in the country.  Shortening time limits hurts the very families that need this assistance the most, research shows — those with limited work experience, low levels of education, and other barriers to employment.

The move also exemplifies the risk of further expanding states’ already considerable responsibility for assisting the poor, such as by block-granting programs like Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps) or allowing states to experiment with alternative strategies for providing assistance to the poor, as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed in his Expanding Opportunity in America plan last summer.… Read more

60,000 Jobless Veterans May Lose Food Assistance Due to Time Limit

March 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm

An estimated 60,000 veterans may lose SNAP (food stamp) benefits over the course of 2016 as a three-month limit on benefits for unemployed, nondisabled adults without children returns in many areas.  The House and Senate Budget Committees can help protect these veterans — and the rest of the estimated 1 million people facing the loss of food assistance — by providing the resources in the budget resolutions planned for release next week.  At the very least, they shouldn’t make matters worse by assuming deep cuts to SNAP.… Read more