By Tom Loftus
The release of new U.S. Census Bureau data confirms Kentucky’s decision to expand Medicaid is drastically lowering the number of uninsured in the Commonwealth, leading the nation with the highest percentage point decline in the share of uninsured.
According to the Census, 250,000 more Kentuckians had health insurance coverage in 2014 than in 2013. The state’s uninsurance rate in 2014 was just 8.5 percent, down from 14.3 percent in 2013. This 5.8 percentage point drop is the biggest in the country (Nevada’s is 5.5 percent and West Virginia’s is 5.4 percent, although the difference between the change in uninsurance rates in Kentucky and these states isn’t statistically significant). States that have expanded Medicaid – like Kentucky – to include more people who otherwise couldn’t afford health insurance collectively had a lower uninsurance rate than states that did not expand Medicaid and that gap is growing.
“This data confirms Medicaid expansion and Kynect are commonsense solutions for helping Kentuckians be healthy and more productive members of their communities,” Ashley Spalding, research and policy associate at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said. “We already knew Kentucky was seeing huge benefits from those solutions, but the country’s official data on health insurance rates reaffirms the impact.”
The new Census data substantiates other findings from a Gallup poll and National Health Interview Survey released earlier this year that showed Kentucky’s dramatic drop in uninsurance rates between 2013 and 2014.
For states that decided to expand Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays all the costs of providing coverage to people making up to just $32,500 per year for a family of four (138 percent of the federal poverty line) through 2016 and then no less than 90 percent of the costs thereafter. So far more than 400,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid through the expansion.
Kentucky is beginning to reap the rewards of its decision to expand Medicaid. The state has reported large numbers of Medicaid participants utilizing preventive care services, which are expected to improve health and reduce costs to the state in the long term. In addition, an independent study by Deloitte and the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute show expansion is creating jobs and is expected to have a cumulative economic impact of $30.1 billion by 2021.
“While the state is already seeing the positive impact of the Medicaid expansion, as more low-income Kentuckians have health coverage and can seek care, the long-term benefits are still to come as our state becomes healthier and more productive,” Spalding said.
For more information contact Kenny Colston at email@example.com.
By Tom Loftus
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) help hundreds of thousands of low-income working Kentuckians make ends meet. These tax credits have been shown to reduce poverty and encourage employment. Children of recipients are more likely to be healthier, do better in school, go to college and gain employment as adults.
Unfortunately key provisions of the EITC and CTC are scheduled to expire at the end of 2017, which will result in a cut in these tax credits unless federal policymakers act to save them.
Approximately 279,000 Kentucky workers are scheduled to lose all or part of their tax credit/s in 2017. These are people who make little money, but contribute greatly to all of our lives — harvesting, cooking and serving us food; caring for our children and sick/elderly family members; and manufacturing the goods in our homes.
Selected Kentucky Workers in Range of Jobs Losing Some or All of EITC or CTC if Key Provisions Expire
Source: CBPP estimates based on Census Bureau and Treasury data
If Congress doesn’t act, the earnings to qualify for even a very small CTC will increase from $3,000 to $14,600; many married couples will face higher marriage penalties and cuts to their EITC; and larger families will also face an EITC cut. This means, for instance, that a single home health aide with two children working full-time at the minimum wage (and earning $14,500) would lose their entire CTC of $1,725.
When federal policymakers return after Labor Day, they have an important opportunity to support the millions of Americans working for low wages by passing legislation to save these key provisions of the EITC and CTC.
It’s a time-honored tradition to do as little work as possible on Labor Day. So many of us will spend the time off work at the lake, with family cooking out or relaxing on the couch.
Whether or not we pay homage to what Labor Day was created to celebrate – five-day work weeks, a ban on child labor, fair labor laws – the reality is that American workers still face many barriers when it comes to being treated fairly.
Since the end of the Great Recession, stocks have soared, unemployment has dropped and it appears everything is back on the up and up. But for workers, there are many problems that haven’t improved.
One challenge is the quality of jobs coming out of the recession. The single industry in Kentucky with the most job growth since 2009 is called employment services. It’s largely made up of temporary agencies that don’t offer the benefits, wages or stability of permanent jobs. These agencies are responsible for one in five of the net new jobs created.
This growth in temporary jobs reflects a lack of full confidence from employers in sustained economic growth as well as restructuring of the job market that has been happening at workers’ expense.
While job security is a challenge in some parts of the state, finding any jobs at all is still a challenge in others. Though Kentucky’s officially unemployment rate is now low, it overstates how good the job situation is by not counting those who aren’t currently seeking work. Job growth has been concentrated in the urban areas of the state and along interstate corridors and many rural counties including parts of eastern Kentucky hit by the loss of coal jobs are still in far worse shape than before the recession. Efforts like the Power+ Plan proposed by the President and supported by a growing number of local governments in eastern Kentucky are a good way to jumpstart real job growth in those areas.
Another issue workers face is wages. The cost of living has risen since the recovery began but wages have been largely stagnant for the majority of workers. With a $7.25 an hour minimum wage, Kentuckians are having to work long hours and multiple jobs yet still fall short of meeting basic needs. The Economic Policy Institute’s “Family Budget Calculator” shows that a two-parent, two-child household needs at least $58,000 to cover basic needs anywhere in Kentucky, yet two full-time minimum wage workers make only roughly $30,000 a year.
In Kentucky, Louisville is the only city with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Lexington is also considering a higher minimum wage and workers await the city council’s action. Kentucky should raise the minimum wage statewide to $10.10 an hour, as has been proposed in the legislature the last few years, as well as raise the tipped minimum wage.
Another important issue is the attack on the right of workers to stick together for better job quality and working conditions. So-called “right-to-work” legislation threatens collective bargaining and, as research shows, means lower wages, worse benefits and working conditions. There’s nothing right about that.
Misclassification also harms workers by illegally naming them independent contractors, allowing businesses to be absolved of the many protections and responsibilities they are obliged to provide employees. Construction workers and those in other industries deserve the overtime pay, safe working conditions, medical and family leave benefits as well as worker’s compensation granted to employees. It’s time state lawmakers tightened down on businesses that abuse our laws and misclassify their employees.
There are a couple bright spots on the horizon. For the increasing number of workers hired indirectly as contractors or through temporary agencies and franchises, a recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board means that the companies these employees work for may be jointly responsible for job quality and conditions.
And for the many workers who have been putting in extra time on their jobs but not getting paid for it because of overtime rules that haven’t been updated in decades, pending changes will bring relief. Under a proposal from the White House, 70,000 more Kentucky workers will be able to receive time and a half pay for working extra hours.
This Labor Day, not only should we honor the progress we’ve made so far, but commit to the work that still needs doing to protect the rights and needs of Kentuckians who work for a living.