health care

The Middle Class ‘Under Attack’

A blog post from Mark Price, originally published on Third and State.

At the Keystone Research Center, we have been chronicling for years the forces that are putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on middle-class Pennsylvanians.

Last week, we released a new report in partnership with the national policy center Demos that takes the temperature of the state's middle class in the wake of the Great Recession. I'm sorry to say, once again, the patient is not well.

The state's annual unemployment rate is the highest it has been in nearly three decades and the cost of going to college is on the rise.

According to the report, times are particularly tough for Pennsylvania's young people, with state budget cuts to 18% of public university funding and a 7.5% tuition hike in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. Pennsylvania's young people already bear the seventh highest rate of student debt in the nation — at approximately $28,000 on average.

Study Shows Medicaid Has Positive Health, Financial Impacts

A blog post from Emma Lowenberg, originally published on Third and State.

This just in: providing the poor with medical insurance has a positive impact!

This isn’t news, exactly, but the argument for insuring low-income people has gotten a big boost from a groundbreaking new study in Oregon. This is good news for advocates of affordable health insurance, especially at a time when many are fighting state efforts to trim health care services for the poor.

As The New York Times reports, the study became possible because of an unusual situation in Oregon:

In 2008, the state wanted to expand its Medicaid program to include more uninsured people but could afford to add only 10,000 to its rolls. Yet nearly 90,000 applied. Oregon decided to select the 10,000 by lottery.

Economists were electrified. Here was their chance to compare those who got insurance with those who were randomly assigned to go without it. No one had ever done anything like that before, in part because it would be considered unethical to devise a study that would explicitly deny some people coverage while giving it to others.

But this situation was perfect for assessing the impact of Medicaid, said Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Baicker and Amy Finkelstein, professor of economics at M.I.T., are the principal investigators for the study.

A Detailed Look at Pennsylvania's 2011-12 Budget

A blog post from Sharon Ward, originally published on Third and State.

Two weeks ago, the Pennsylvania General Assembly completed work on a 2011-12 state budget that achieved Governor Tom Corbett’s primary objective — to meet a target spending number of $27.3 billion or lower, regardless of the impact.

The budget spends $27.249 billion, the lowest amount since the 2008-09 enacted budget, with cuts totaling more than $960 million.

Still trying to piece it all together? Well, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has you covered. On Wednesday, we released a detailed analysis of the new budget. Check it out and get all the details.

Here are a few highlights:

Third and State Recap: Marcellus Jobs, Pa.'s Budget, Paid Sick Days & a Misleading Health Care Study

Over the past two weeks, we blogged at Third and State about Pennsylvania's state budget, Marcellus Shale job creation, paid sick days legislation in Philadelphia, and a thorough debunking of a misleading study on the Affordable Care Act.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Pa.'s 2011-12 Budget: Doing Less with More

The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved a 2011-12 General Fund budget that makes deep cuts to education, health care and other cost-effective local services, while cutting taxes for business and leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus untouched.

You can view our budget highlights post here. I also issued the following statement on the budget's passage:

The Legislature has adopted a budget that does less with more, cutting services to children while leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus on the table.

The budget reflects a set of priorities that few Pennsylvanians share. It reduces the number of teachers in the classroom, raises college tuition, and increases local property taxes in order to meet an artificial spending number.

This budget provides tax breaks to businesses but cuts funding to homeless shelters and Meals on Wheels. It gives natural gas drillers a free pass, once again.

Pennsylvania’s economy grew more quickly than the nation in 2010, but that growth has begun to stall. Cutting jobs and services will have a ripple effect through our communities that will make a robust recovery even harder to achieve.

This budget fails to put people first. It continues a pattern in Harrisburg of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and shifting more state costs onto local taxpayers. That’s bad news for middle-class families, taxpayers and the economy.

An Overview of Pennsylvania’s 2011-12 State Budget

State legislative leaders and Governor Tom Corbett agreed on a 2011-12 state budget deal this week, and on Tuesday, the state Senate approved it on a 30-20 party-line vote. The bill heads to the House of Representatives next.

It would spend just $27.2 billion, down $962 million, or 3.4%, from the 2010-11 budget.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will have a detailed analysis of the budget later in the week, but for now we will highlight funding levels for major programs. You can view budget tables detailing funding levels by major department and highlights of education funding levels.

Education

The biggest cuts, in both dollars and percentages, are in education programs, including PreK-12 and higher education. While the budget makes some funding restorations from the Governor’s original budget proposal, the cuts are still significant:

  • Basic education funding, at $5.35 billion is cut $421.5 million, or 7.3%, from the current year.
  • Funding for Accountability Block Grants, at $100 million, is cut by $159 million, or 61%.
  • Special education is flat-funded for the third year at just over $1 billion.
  • Charter School reimbursements are fully eliminated (a loss of $224 million).
  • Funding was also eliminated for Educational Assistance (a tutoring program) and school improvement grants.
  • Both Head Start and PreK Counts were cut by about 3%.

The cuts in major education programs total $863 million.

Higher education fared much better under the final budget but still sustained cuts of about 18%, or $160 million. Penn State University received a cut of 19%, or $50 million, in basic support. Community colleges will see a 10% cut, or $23.6 million.

Health Care and Public Welfare

Third and State This Week: Insurance Exchanges, Marcellus Drilling Impact Fee and Unemployment Benefits

This week, we blogged about a state legislative hearing on structuring insurance exchanges, 11 things to hate about the state Senate drilling impact fee bill, the fine print on a compromise reached to continue federal extended unemployment benefits to 45,000 Pennsylvanians, and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Get a Lesson on Massachusetts' Health Insurance Exchange

A blog post from Emma Lowenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Members of the Pennsylvania House Insurance Committee heard from a national expert today on Massachusetts’ experience structuring a health insurance exchange.

States have until 2014 to create state-based health insurance exchanges that meet the criteria set forth in the Affordable Care Act. If they do not create a satisfactory exchange by then, the federal government will establish one for them.

While emphasizing that there is no “one size fits all” approach for states as they structure insurance exchanges, Dr. Jon Kingsdale said Pennsylvania can learn a thing or two from the Massachusetts experience.

Third and State This Week: Preserving Tobacco Funds for Health Care, Fasting for PA's Vulnerable and the May Jobs Report

This week, we blogged about the latest job numbers, efforts to preserve tobacco settlement dollars for health care services, paid sick days legislation and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of April 11

This week, we blogged about  adultBasic and (Not So) Special Care, a lack of accountability in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, a fact check on claims about gas drilling in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and much more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Not So Special Care

A blog post from Sharon Ward, originally published on Third and State.

It has been just about six weeks since the adultBasic program came to an end, leaving 42,000 Pennsylvanians without affordable health insurance coverage. Governor Corbett ended the program, claiming that the state, and the Blues, were too poor to continue funding it.

Never mind that the Governor took $220 million in health care money to create a new business loan fund, or that Highmark just keeps raking in the dough. (More about that later.)

After Rendell: It's Time To Mobilize the Suburbs and Their Commuters

I will vigorously defend Ed Rendell from any accusations that he is now, or ever has been, one of those all too often despised creatures known as "liberals." If anything, Governor Rendell is an extreme pragmatist who has infuriated at times the vast majority of the members of the House Democratic Caucus and many others by his repeated attempts to occupy the entire political spectrum, seeking to build a coalition that includes zillions of special interest campaign contributors, oil drillers, union bashers, government bashers, Republican loyalists, anti-environmentalists, corporate leaders, regressive tax advocates, gaming enthusiasts, and others not likely to warm the hearts of the average Democrat.

PREMIERE: Infection in Our Health Care System

MMPMain2.jpeg

This Friday, Media Mobilizing Project is premiering "Infection in Our Health Care System" at the Freedom Theatre as part of our launch of MMP TV. The hour-length investigative report focuses on the experiences of poor and working people within a health care system that places profit over people. Spanning from Pottstown to northeast Philadelphia, the hour-long special details the story of workers struggling for dignity and communities fighting for survival in the face of corporate and university greed. The launch of MMP TV also marks an important moment for Philadelphia's media landscape. At a time when the freedom of the Internet is in jeopardy and our mass media is increasingly consolidated offering the perspectives of the wealthy and well-connected, MMP TV is made by, for and from the perspective of the majority poor and working class communities of Philadelphia and beyond. It tells the stories that FOX News and the Philadelphia Inquirer will not tell, giving voice to those that have long been silenced.

COUNTDOWN...Historical, Unprecedented, Urgent! "Philadelphia Town Meeting: Our Budget, Our Economy"

AmericaSpeaks, "Our Budget Our Economy"


Philadelphia Town Meeting: Our Budget, Our Economy

Our national deficit is projected to grow at an unsustainable rate over the next 10 years. This threatens our ability to fund what’s most important to us. We remain deeply divided over what our national priorities are and what we, as a people, are prepared to do to support them. Clearly we need to do something and let our leaders know what we will support. It's time to come together as a country to make the tough choices that will ensure America's future.

Sign Up Online today!

www.usabudgetdiscussion.org or call toll free at 866-755-6263

Join Americans at meeting halls across the country linked together by satellite and the Internet! This is a chance to:

-Learn About the Issues
-Find Common Ground
-Present priorities to leaders in Washington

Temple Nurses Refuse To Back Down on Quality Patient Care and Human Rights

With less than a week before the today the March 31st strike deadline, nurses and healthcare professionals held a rally outside of Temple University Hospital to demand a contract that will not strip away their human rights or diminish their ability to provide quality care to patients.

Watch the story produced by Media Mobilizing Project.

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