September 11, 2009

Wonk holiday

Random animal picture.

In case you missed it, yesterday was a major policy wonk holiday. It was "Poverty Day," a movable feast during which the Census Bureau release a report on incomes, health insurance coverage and--you guessed it--poverty.

If you didn't observe it, you have El Cabrero's permission to take today off.

As one might expect during a major recession, the news wasn't good--and this was just 2008. Next year's report will show the effects of the recession at its presumed height and will be much worse.

Here's an overview of the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. One key point for the current health care reform debate is that private health coverage declined as more people lost work-based insurance.

West Virginia saw a 6.7 percent increase in the number of uninsured residents, according to West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. Those without care jumped from 254,000 to 271,000, an increase of 17,000.

Here's a good overall interpretation by CBPP's Robert Greenstein. Here's his conclusion:

Moreover, the expected increases in 2009 in poverty and in the number and percentage of uninsured people would be substantially greater if not for the economic recovery law that the Administration and Congress enacted earlier this year. Just seven provisions of that law — including tax credits for working families, expansions of unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance, and one-time payments to senior citizens, veterans, and people with disabilities — will prevent an estimated 6.2 million Americans, including 2.4 million children, from falling into poverty, according to an analysis the Center issued yesterday.[1] Moreover, these figures understate the poverty-preventing effects of the recovery act because they do not capture other provisions of the law, such as increases in housing, child care services, or the law’s effects on preserving or creating jobs. In addition, the law’s increases in medical assistance are preventing hundreds of thousands more from becoming uninsured.

Finally, today’s disquieting health insurance figures underscore the need for comprehensive health care reform. The decline in job-based health coverage is leaving millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured. As noted above, the new Census data show that last year’s economic decline did not fuel an even greater drop in overall insurance coverage only because of the expansion in coverage by public insurance programs.

Health reform bills that Congress is considering would help to address this problem by covering tens of millions of Americans who lack insurance. They would strengthen employer coverage and Medicaid, offer new health insurance choices for Americans, and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage or charging exorbitant amounts to people with medical conditions. The bills also seek to slow the growth of health care costs, which is essential to expanding coverage and sustaining progress in reducing the ranks of the uninsured over the long run.

EIGHT YEARS AGO today the US and the world received a shock that's still being felt.

EAT IT. The grassroots food revolution is still going strong. In this item, author Michael Pollan credits Wendell Berry for helping to start it.


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