Archive for the ‘poverty’ tag
Daily equity news
“Deficit Complicates Push on Jobs,” - The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders pressed President Barack Obama on Wednesday to extend more elements of the existing economic-stimulus package, and to possibly add tax cuts that were rejected the first time around, despite a record budget deficit that is giving some lawmakers pause.
On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal deficit for fiscal 2009 will be $1.4 trillion. That is somewhat better than the nearly $1.6 trillion the CBO projected in August, but much of the change stems from different accounting treatments for losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies the government took over last year.
“Putting America’s Diet on a Diet,” - The New York Times
On his first day in Huntington, W. Va., Jamie Oliver spent the afternoon at Hillbilly Hot Dogs, pitching in to cook its signature 15-pound burger. That’s 10 pounds of meat, 5 pounds of custom-made bun, American cheese, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard and mayo. Then he learned how to perfect the Home Wrecker, the eatery’s famous 15-inch, one-pound hot dog (boil first, then grill in butter). For the Home Wrecker Challenge, the dog gets 11 toppings, including chili sauce, jalapeños, liquid nacho cheese and coleslaw. Finish it in 12 minutes or less and you get a T-shirt.
So much for local color. Earlier that day, Oliver met with a pediatrician, James Bailes, and a pastor, Steve Willis. Bailes told him about an 8-year-old patient who was 80 pounds overweight and had developed Type 2 diabetes. If the child’s diet didn’t change, the doctor said, he wouldn’t live to see 30. Willis told Oliver that he visits patients in local hospitals several days a week and sees the effects of long-term obesity firsthand. Since he can’t write a prescription for their resulting illnesses, he said, all he can do is pray with them.
“Universal healthcare coverage appears elusive,” - Los Angeles Times
As a key Senate committee prepares today to pass its plan to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, senior Democrats are acknowledging that it may be impossible to provide coverage to all Americans — a central goal of President Obama and his congressional allies.
That is fueling growing alarm among hospitals and insurance companies, which have made universal coverage a condition of their support.
“Reducing poverty with the guidance of the poor,” - Philadelphia Inquirer
Never underestimate the power of an old blue sweater - even one with a cheesy design of two zebras in front of Mount Kilimanjaro. Maybe especially one with zebras and a mountain.
That very sweater launched Jacqueline Novogratz’s career as an international social investor, and it is the inspiration of her recently published book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World (Rodale, $24.95).
“States not meeting renewable energy goals,” - USA TODAY
Across the USA, states are falling short of their goals to increase the use of renewable energy as Congress weighs a national renewable-energy standard.
Thirty-five states have set goals to use more electricity from solar panels, windmills and other renewable forms of energy, according to a database funded by the Energy Department. There is no central clearinghouse of states’ compliance records, but USA TODAY research and interviews with state and power company officials found nine states that have failed or expect to fail to meet their energy goals.
“A Better Way to Health Reform,” - The Washington Post
The American health-care system suffers from three serious problems: Health-care costs are rising much faster than our incomes. More than 15 percent of the population has neither private nor public insurance. And the high cost of health care can lead to personal bankruptcy, even for families that do have health insurance.
These faults persist despite annual federal government spending of more than $700 billion for Medicare and Medicaid as well as a federal tax subsidy of more than $220 billion for the purchase of employer-provided private health insurance.
Daily equity news
“Detroit: The Death — and Possible Life — of a Great City,” - TIME MAGAZINE
If Detroit had been savaged by a hurricane and submerged by a ravenous flood, we’d know a lot more about it. If drought and carelessness had spread brush fires across the city, we’d see it on the evening news every night. Earthquake, tornadoes, you name it — if natural disaster had devastated the city that was once the living proof of American prosperity, the rest of the country might take notice. (See pictures of the remains of Detroit.)
But Detroit, once our fourth largest city, now 11th and slipping rapidly, has had no such luck. Its disaster has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country. Even the death rattle that in the past year emanated from its signature industry brought more attention to the auto executives than to the people of the city, who had for so long been victimized by their dreadful decision-making.
“Geoffrey Canada’s initiative, Harlem Children’s Zone, has grown to reach 8,000 children across nearly 100 city blocks,” - The Christian Science Monitor
Geoffrey Canada still remembers the saddest day in his first nine years on earth. Back then, Mr. Canada clung to superheroes – and to Superman especially. He liked the guy, but he especially liked the idea he symbolized: immediate and dramatic salvation. In his earliest days, Superman was a social-justice hero, saving a man from a lynch mob, fighting fires, stopping robberies – rescuing people from the same kinds of dangers that seemed to lurk, in the 1960s, in Canada’s rough South Bronx neighborhood. Superman, Canada had decided, was just the guy to fix a neighborhood full of poverty and drugs, to rescue Canada and his friends, to bring a little optimism to the merciless streets.
“A Brooklyn of Wealth and Needs Gets a Major Charity All Its Own,” - The New York Times
Brooklyn, which never fully recovered from merging with Manhattan and losing the Dodgers, is about to get new fuel to stoke its stubborn brand of local pride: It is now rich enough to support a major charity of its own.
The Independence Community Foundation, long the largest private charity based in the borough, is changing its tax status so it can raise money rather than simply rely on income from its roughly $50 million endowment.
Given the lag in official poverty statistics, this increase comes as no surprise. The recession has pushed more and more people below the poverty line. (Keep in mind, the current measure is in desperate need of updating.)
When we look at a sample of the different villages, cities, and counties throughout our state, we see a wide range of poverty rates:
Peoria - 21.4%
Arlington Heights - 3.4%
Rockford - 23.3%
Decatur - 16.3%
Vermilion County - 12.3%
Schaumburg - 6.1%
Elgin - 14.8%
Sagamon County - 11.3%
These numbers demonstrate one consistent fact - poverty is everywhere. Higher concentrations in some areas than others for sure, but no place is immune to poverty. No place is free of hardship.
So, what does this mean? A couple of things.
1) Now, more than ever, we need to focus on poverty.
When this Campaign was launched back on Human Rights Day in 2006, our world looked different. Rod Blagojevich was governor. George W. Bush was president. The economy was roaring. Unemployment was incredibly low. Poverty rates were holding steady, with some jumps and some declines.
Now, in 2009, we have a different Governor and a different President. Our economy has screeched to a halt. The state's budget woes are the worst they have been in years. Unemployment is the highest it has been in decades. And poverty is up.
As a result, our work to directly address poverty is all the more important. More people are facing lives without opportunity. Long-term solutions, that strengthen the infratructure for protecting families and human rights, are critical. People that were experiencing poverty before the recession hit are that much further from self-sufficiency, and the compliment of human services they turn to in tough times has been undermined.
There has been a curious shift during the recession. Before the recession, we commonly heard that those experiencing poverty had no one to blame but themselves. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, too many people felt poverty was simply the result of an individual making bad choices.
There has been a shift - some of it good, some of it bad. Many are now ready to acknowledge that larger forces and systems push families into poverty. This realization has opened the door to new thinking about what as a society can do. On the flip side, there are those that say we cannot focus on poverty now. We need to focus on recovery. Well, the people that were living in poverty before the recession hit were waiting for recovery back then. If we are going to get our economy back in shape, we cannot set one group of people to the side and say we will worry about them later. It is all hands on deck. Everyone that is given true opportunity to move towards self-sufficiency helps themselves and society as a whole.
2) There are concrete things we can and are doing about poverty.
We can make a real difference in our communities and our state. Simple acts and innovative programs can go a long way to ensuring individuals and families have real opportunity. The pieces of the stimulus funding that has focused on supports has had a real impact, and we can and should continue those policies beyond the recovery act.
Here in Illinois, the most important thing we can do is fix our structural deficit. As we documented many, many, many times over the past few months, inadequate revenue has caused the programs and services that help the most vulnerable in Illinois to be threatened.
It is not an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing. There are other policies that need to be put in place, other changes that should be done, but until we fix our state's budget, we are tinkering around the edges.
3) We cannot be discouraged.
When you are working towards the goal of ending poverty, and you see the number of people in poverty increasing instead of decreasing, you may want to throw your hands up in the air and give up. That is, on some level, a rational response.
But here's the thing - we just can't.
Too many people are counting on us to keep trying. Too much good work has been done to date to stop now. Think about how much larger the number of people in poverty would be today were it not for the hard work and perseverance of dedicated people who refused to give up in the face of adversity.
No one said it would be easy. We cannot stop simply because some numbers are reminding us of this point.
We will make progress. We will work together to give families real opportunity. We will end poverty.
Daily equity news
“Cash Incentive Program for Poor Families Is Renewed,” - The New York Times
An experimental antipoverty program that pays poor families up to $5,000 a year for going to regular medical checkups, attending school and keeping jobs has been extended for a third year.
Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services, said she was encouraged by some early results in the education component of the program that showed students improved their attendance and passed more exams when they were rewarded with cash.
“Experts: Penny per ounce soda tax to fight obesity, health costs,” - Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — In a bid to ramp up the public health battle against obesity, a group of nutrition and economics experts are pushing for a tax of 1 cent on every of ounce of sodas and other sweetened beverages.
Proposals for a hefty soda tax though have repeatedly fallen flat. The idea was even floated as a way to help pay for health care reform, but government officials on Wednesday said that’s not likely to happen.
”As farm incomes drop, grocery deals rise,” - USA TODAY
Consumers are reaping some benefits as farmers take their biggest hit in 35 years: lower food prices at the supermarket. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts farm income of $49.1 billion in 2009 when adjusted for inflation. That would be a 39% drop from 2008, a record year when U.S. farmers earned $80.4 billion after expenses.
It would also be the worst annual percentage drop since 1983. In dollars, it would be the worst since 1974, adjusted for inflation.
Given the expansive scope of health reform, 1,000 page reform bills and media focus on specific aspects of health care reform, it can be immensely difficult to determine what health care reform will actually accomplish.
Thankfully, the good folks over at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation have analyzed all of the major health care reform proposals and provided a side-by-side comparison of each one. Below is an analysis of the House Tri-Committee Proposed Plan, The Senate Finance Committee's Proposed Plan and the Senate HELP Committee's Proposed Plan as compared to three of our key principals. Those three principles: health coverage for everyone, prevention and wellness services and expanded primary care are key components in realizing health care as a human right.
Coverage For Everybody
All three of the bills propose to expand health care coverage by lowering eligibility requirements for Medicaid and offering health care subsidies for individuals and families who otherwise could not afford coverage.
The Senate HELP Committee's plan expands Medicaid to families who make up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), The House Tri-Committee's plan expands it to 133% and the Senate Finance Committee increases coverage to families up to 115% of the FPL.
This initiative is important because Medicaid does not currently cover everybody. According to Families USA 43 states do not provide Medicaid for low-income childless individuals, and only 16 states provide the program to individuals who live up to 100% of the FPL. Simply decreasing eligibility requirements could provide coverage to 17 million more citizens.
Each of the three bills would provide subsidies for individuals and families who make below 400% of the FPL. Currently, families who are ineligible for either Medicare or Medicaid receive no assistance from the government to purchase health insurance. This reform would aid this very population.
Prevention and Wellness
Each of the three bills plan to bolster prevention and wellness by providing incentives for health care providers to administer more preventative services while also increasing the amount of professionals who provide these services.
Primary care providers are the most effective at administering preventative treatments. Unfortunately, payment for Medicaid services is usually slow in coming, overly-complicated, and does not match the cost of services provided. This, combined with a lack of regulations forcing doctors to treat Medicare patients has created massive disincentives to treating Medicare clients. The House Tri-Committee's plan would fix this by increasing Medicaid payment rates to 100% of Medicare rates and providing bonuses for primary care practitioners.
The Senate Finance Committee's plan is more patient-based, with a focus on providing incentives to individuals, business' and states to provide and participate in prevention and wellness programs. Medicaid and Medicare recipients would receive "rewards" for completing behavior modification programs. Small businesses would receive grants for implementing wellness programs, while states would get grants to implement innovative wellness programs
The Senate HELP Committee's bill requires hospitals to report preventable readmission rates; hospitals with high re-admission rates will be required to work with local patient safety organizations to improve their rates. It also requires health insurers to provide financial incentives to providers to better coordinate care through chronic disease management.
Primary Care/Primary Care Workforce Development
Due to the increasing pay rates of specialty care, the USA is on the verge of a Primary Care Provider Shortage, that is only going to get worse. Primary care providers play a key role in providing holistic services that prevent chronic sickness and disease; therefore it is important to increase this dwindling population. Each of the health reform bills has specific language that addresses this shortage.
The Tri-House Committee and the Senate HELP Committee propose to reform the sustainable growth rate for physicians, with incentive payments for primary care services and for services in efficient areas while also reforming Graduate Medical Education to increase training of primary care providers by redistributing residency positions and promote training in outpatient settings and support the development of primary care training programs.
The Senate Finance Committee's proposal would provide bonus payments to certain primary care providers and providing reimbursements for certain care management activities for patients with hospital stays related to a major chronic condition.
Where We Go From Here
Although these health reform bills are on the table, consensus on what this health reform will actually look like is far from definitive. If these three bills are any indication, the reformation of this countries health care system would increasingly coincide with Heartland Alliance's principles for realizing health care as a human right. However, until the Senate, Congress and President agree upon reform and sign it into law, nothing is certain and nothing is guaranteed. It is important to continue the fight for health care as a human right. If you believe that health care needs to be reformed, let your voice be heard!
August is quickly turning into September, and school is beginning for students all across Illinois. While students are surely worrying about new clothes, new books, preseason sports, and socializing with fellow classmates, there is one thing that many kids won't have to worry about: staying healthy.
Thanks to School-Based Health Centers, Illinois students across the state have access to 46 high-quality diverse health resources that are located right on their school grounds. These centers provide an array of different services, such as primary care, medication distribution, mental health, health education and preventive services.
These centers need to be promoted for three reasons: Filling Service Gaps, Providing Dignified Services and Opportunity for Expansion.
Filling Services Gaps
Given that 16.6% of all Illinois children liven in poverty, School Health Center's play a vital role in ensuring that the state's youth are adequately prepared to succeed in school.
According to the Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers, last year Illinois School Health Centers provided services to 25,825 different children, totaling 117,985 visits. Of those youth, 6,793 of them did not have health insurance. That is almost 7,000 children who got treated for things like depression, respiratory diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injury who otherwise would have gone without treatment.
For example, imagine a child who has undiagnosed attention-deficit disorder who is also suffering from symptoms of depression as a result of bullying. Or picture a child who has severe asthma, but does not have the means to purchase an inhaler. Is it realistic to think that either of these children is mentally or physically prepared to reach his or her full academic potential while battling these untreated ailments?
Advocates for School Health Centers don't think so, and they have done the research and have also found evidence to prove it. The 2007 Illinois Kids Count shows that:
The Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers also cited a 2003 report done by the Illinois Children's Mental Heal Task Force that found that:
- Only half of Illinois children have a “medical home,” or access to a primary care provider from whom they receive comprehensive medical care.
- 38 counties have no pediatricians, 84 counties have no pediatric dentists, and 39 counties have no psychologists or psychiatrists
Nearly one-quarter of Illinois adolescents and one-third of Chicago adolescents self-reported signs of depression for two or more weeks in a row. Untreated mental health problems impact students’ ability to learn and increase their propensity for violence, alcohol and substance abuse and other risky behaviors that are costly to treat.Illinois School Health Centers directly combat these barriers to academic success that a large number of this state's youth face. Youth are not the only benefactors of these programs, however, as teacher's and their families benefit as well.
Providing Dignified Services
School Health Centers provide teachers and parents alike with vital wraparound services. If a teacher suspects that a child is ill, either physically or emotionally, the proximity of available services makes it more likely that these teachers will make sure their students access said services.
The location of these health centers reinforce a person-centered approach to providing services.
Often families without medical homes have to travel long distances to below-average facilities for the most rudimentary of care. If the services they are seeking are mental health related, this carries along with it a stigma which can perpetuate disincentives to seeking services. This entire process can strip these families of their pride and dignity, which just adds to an already long list of barriers to accessing services.
By making services readily available on a daily basis, School Health Centers effectively encourage children and families to seek help in ways that other health care providers simply cannot. As we have said before, access to health care is a human right. Illinois School Health Centers have proven to be instrumental in realizing this right for the youth, and therefore the future, of Illinois.
Opportunities For Expansion
The effectiveness of services, along with evidence of cost-effectiveness made School Health Center implementation a national priority. The Senate HELP Committee, which has penned one of three major national health care reform bills, has specific language in their health reform legislation about investing in School Health Centers by:
Improving access to care by providing additional funding to increase the number of community health centers and school-based health centers.Congress is also working to ensure that School Health Centers are eligible to be reimbursed by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Considering that 55% of all Illinois children who accessed these services had Medicaid as their primary health insurance, this legislation would be immensely valuable. Expanding payment options would increase revenue streams for the program, which could expand and improve services. This trickle down affect would in turn, aid the youth of Illinois in reaching their full academic potential.
Locally, the Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers are organizing a "Health is Academic" campaign that is designed to promote these programs throughout the state. You can find all pertinent material to help their advocacy efforts here.
Daily equity news
“Tennessee Experiment’s High Cost Fuels Health-Care Debate,” - The Wall Street Journal
In 1994, Tennessee launched an ambitious public insurance program to cover its uninsured. The plan, TennCare, fulfilled that mission but nearly bankrupted the state in the process.
”Poll: 57% don’t see stimulus working,” - USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Six months after President Obama launched a $787 billion plan to right the nation’s economy, a majority of Americans think the avalanche of new federal aid has cost too much and done too little to end the recession.
”New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Services to run $20 million home repair effort,” - The Times-Picayune
The city is negotiating a deal with the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services to run a home-repair program that would make nearly $20 million available to owners of storm-damaged property, according to a recent city memo describing the proposal.
However, in the wake of tipping our collective caps to all the volunteers and staff at RAM and calling it a day, a crucial question emerges from this story:
Why has an organization that was initially formed to help indigenous people in the depths of the Amazon shifted its focus to providing aid to Americans? An important caveat to this question: of the 2,715 people served this past weekend in Wise, Virginia, 49 percent of them had health insurance.
So why did over 1,000 people decide travel from over 16 states to wait for what was in some cases over two days, to be treated by volunteers in a run down fairground? RAM's answer to this question comes in the form of the demand for services. The recipients of RAM's services surely turn to the lack of supply when justifying their answers.
It appears families in Illinois can attest to that lack of supply.
A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that the percentage of children in Illinois living in poverty increased 13 percent between 2000 and 2007, from 15 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2007. This research, coupled with a recent report by the University of Chicago which discovered that kids born into poverty, due to medical reasons, are four times less likely to be prepared for school as their better off peers, serves as a reminder the importance of health care.
As more and more Illinois children fall into poverty they become more likely to lose their health care benefits. Illinois already has a population of over 250,000 children without health coverage. Not even the ambitious effort's of RAM would suffice in properly treating the children of Illinois who face the everyday dangers that the absence of health care presents.
The very existence of RAM and the current state of the uninsured in Illinois is an all-too-real graphic representation of the United States failure to adequately provide its citizens a crucial human right: health care. Although some may argue that health care is not a human right, United States law would disagree with them, so its a moot point.
Yes, you read correctly. Even though the United States may not view housing as a human right, current law acknowledges that health care is.
This acknowledgment comes in the form of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA).
The EMTALA was enacted to:
ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual's ability to pay. Hospitals are then required to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with EMCs. If a hospital is unable to stabilize a patient within its capability, or if the patient requests, an appropriate transfer should be implemented.If a person goes into a hospital seeking aid, the hospital is required by law to provide basic services to that person regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
This sort of language sounds similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Especially Article 25 passage:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.The advent of Medicaid and Medicare also bolster the argument that health care in the United States is a human right. If health care is a right afforded to every American, than why did all those people travel for RAM's services? The people who traveled far and wide and waited for hours on end did not go to Wise, Virginia because they were denied health care. They went because they were denied, in one form or another, access to health care. Where the United States has failed its citizens is not necessarily in recognizing the right to health care, but in the actual realization of the various aspects of that right.
Take for instance the 40 million (a modest estimate) uninsured people in this country, including the 250,000 children of Illinois. What happens if they catch the flu? Sprain their ankle? Get food poisoning? Since they do not have any formal access to care, they will use the emergency room as their one stop shop for medicine. Unfortunately, this is a massively expensive one-stop shop.
Malcom Gladwell documented these expenses for three homeless residents in Reno, Nevada:
"We tracked those three individuals through just one of our two hospitals. One of the guys had been in jail previously, so he'd only been on the streets for six months. In those six months, he had accumulated a bill of a hundred thousand dollars—and that's at the smaller of the two hospitals near downtown Reno. It's pretty reasonable to assume that the other hospital had an even larger bill. Another individual came from Portland and had been in Reno for three months. In those three months, he had accumulated a bill for sixty-five thousand dollars. The third individual actually had some periods of being sober, and had accumulated a bill of fifty thousand."The emergency room is supposed to be for just that: emergencies. But if there is no alternative for the uninsured and under-insured to go, of course they will go to the ER, even for the smallest of problems. Unfortunately this scenario only compounds a rapidly growing problem: Emergency room visits are not only massively expensive, but they provide a quality of service that is much lower than other medical providers. Heartland Alliance's recent study of residents in supportive housing demonstrates both the cost-savings and beneficial effects of a more human system.
When arguing and advocating for health care reform in this country it is important to remember that health care is already a human right. How that right is fully realized is the issue. Will we maintain the status quo in the form of a system that provides minimal care to the under-represented at a great financial burden to taxpayers? Or will this country recognize that without access to quality health care, the right of health care itself is just rhetoric?
Either way, this country will continue to provide health care to all its citizens. Whether it is done in a financially and systemically efficient way that increases access for all remains to be seen.
Daily equity news
“2008 Surge in Black Voters Nearly Erased Racial Gap,” - The New York Times
In last year’s presidential election, younger blacks voted in greater proportions than whites for the first time and black women turned out at a higher rate than any other racial, ethnic and gender group, a census analysis released Monday confirmed.
As a result, in the election that produced the nation’s first black president, the historic gap between black and white voter participation rates over all virtually evaporated.
”S.C. case looks on child obesity as child abuse. But is it?,” - USA TODAY
Jerri Gray was doing all she could to help her son lose weight, her attorney says. But something had gone terribly wrong for the boy to hit the 555-pound mark by age 14.
Authorities in South Carolina say that what went wrong was Gray’s care and feeding of her son, Alexander Draper. Gray, 49, of Travelers Rest, S.C., was arrested in June and charged with criminal neglect. Alexander is now in foster care.
“Ten Questions on the Health-Care Overhaul,” - The Wall Street Journal
It is crunch time for health care. Lawmakers who are trying to fundamentally remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy say this might be the most complicated legislation they have undertaken.
Here are some basics that everyone can grasp — and probably ought to, because the health bill, if it passes, will affect almost everyone.