Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at the Prospect.

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Indiana to Join Kentucky in Tying Medicaid to Work

The new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, will announce today that Indiana will follow Kentucky's lead and receive approval to implement work requirements in the state’s Medicaid program, according to a Politico report. Last month, the Trump administration signaled they’d allow requiring work for low-income people seeking health-care assistance, and Kentucky quickly became the first state to receive the greenlight to radically change their Medicaid model.

Indiana actually inspired some parts of Kentucky’s plan, as the state has included aspects of “consumer-driven” health insurance, like premium payments, in its Medicaid program since 2015. Data show that 25,000 Medicaid recipients were dropped from Indiana’s Medicaid program between 2015 and 2017 for failing to pay their premiums.

Now, like Kentucky, Indiana will be adding work requirements to the mix.

But not so fast. Three organizations have brought a lawsuit against the state of Kentucky on behalf of 15 Kentucky Medicaid recipients, alleging that forcing Medicaid recipients to work to continue receiving health care is a violation of federal law. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Health Law Program are arguing that the Trump administration’s willingness to allow work requirements and their approval of Kentucky’s plan to restructure Medicaid “are unauthorized attempts to re-write the Medicaid Act.” As I reported in September, nearly 100,000 Kentuckians are expected to lose Medicaid as a result of the approval to change the state’s program.

The Obama administration resisted allowing work requirements in Medicaid, reasoning that such requirements, which would reduce coverage, were inconsistent with the purpose of the program: to provide health care to low-income people.

As more states add a work requirement to Medicaid receipt, the benefits of Medicaid expansion (more people accessing preventive care and folks getting healthier) will begin to erode. While states with conservative governors may be willing to expand Medicaid if it means they can require poor people to work, this would be a Pyrrhic victory for the left: Work requirements mean that the neediest people won’t receive care, and they reinforce the idea that assistance should be given only to (a harmful assumption of) who is most “deserving.”

The Poverty on Disney’s Doorstep

TAP Goes to the Oscars: The Florida Project is a film about life as a poor kid. It doesn’t erase the innocence of childhood—or the harshness of poverty.

Rex Features via AP Images
Rex Features via AP Images Actors Christopher Rivera, Brooklynn Prince, and Valeria Cotto in The Florida Project This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . T he opening credits of The Florida Project introduce us to a cotton-candy world, soundtracked to “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang—fitting for a summertime setting of Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, the ideal vacation destination for nearly every American child. Reinforcing the cheeriness, the colors of this film from director Sean Baker (who previously made Tangerine ) are heavily saturated—shades of pink and lavender and blue—just like the buildings along Route 192, where Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), the six-year-old who carries the movie, stays with her mom at the Magic Castle Inn and Suites, a short hitchhike away from Disney’s own Magic Kingdom. Moonee and her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), live in a world quite different from “the happiest place on earth”—...

Baseball’s Chief Wahoo Is Out on Strike Four (Sort Of)

Under pressure from Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians announced this week that beginning in 2019, they’ll retire the Chief Wahoo mascot—the cartoonish, red-faced figure that’s meant to depict a Native American chief—but only from on-field team uniforms.

“We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion,” said Paul Dolan, the owner of the team. And in fact, they are trying to please “both sides” by retiring Wahoo on the field, but not from merchandise sold by the Indians organization, allowing it to keep profiting from the logo.

Opponents argue that these depictions “honor” Native Americans, but studies have shown that stereotype-based mascots and related imagery in sports have real, damaging psychological and social consequences for Native Americans—and they especially impact the development and self-esteem of Native youth.

In a statement, MLB, which will no longer be selling Wahoo apparel in its official shop, said the mascot “was no longer appropriate.” Was it ever? Native Americans have been calling for the removal of Wahoo for decades, most recently with the #NotYourMascot campaign. And while this move is a step in the right direction, activists were quick to point out that the team name itself needs changing, too. (There’s a movement in Cleveland to change the name to the Spiders, the name of the city’s baseball team in the late 1800s.)

There’s a certain football team that I’ll only call “the Washington team” that might want to revisit its branding next.

Bank of Whose America?

By eliminating a popular free checking account, Bank of America only reminds us that traditional banking is for everyone—except the poor.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan Customers use an ATM outside a Bank of America branch in New York trickle-downers_35.jpg B ank of America has recently faced a backlash over the elimination of a basic checking account that required no monthly fee or minimum balance. The eBanking account, introduced in 2010, allowed customers to waive the monthly fee if they only used digital banking services. In 2013, Bank of America began slowly moving depositors from the eBanking account to a standard account that came with a $12 monthly fee (waived if a person has a monthly direct deposit of at least $250 or $1,500 in the account). That process was just completed, and the free eBanking account is no more. The elimination of the basic, no-fee account has sparked anger from people who see the move as pushing low-income people away from traditional banking services. A Change.org petition currently has over 50,000 signatures for Bank of America to bring the account back. Low-income people do tend to use...

Republicans Suddenly Want to CHIP In

As time winds down for Congress to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, Republicans have another plan in the works—not only to place the blame for a shutdown squarely on Democrats but to blame them for a failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Early Friday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan had this to say:

Republican Representative Martha Roby of Alabama had this to say:

It’s a clever, albeit diabolical, strategy. CHIP is an extremely popular program—88 percent of Americans say it is important to reauthorize the health insurance program. But it couldn’t be clearer that House Republicans are using CHIP’s popularity as leverage against the Democrats, hoping that by including CHIP’s reauthorization in the spending bill that Democrats will be forced to vote for it.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes recently tweeted,

Given many Republicans’ views on CHIP in the past, one tends to side with Hayes over Ryan and Roby.

While it’s true that the program largely enjoys bipartisan support (Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and his good friend Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah sponsored the creation of CHIP in 1997) there are many Republicans who are ambivalent about the program and support it grudgingly. A standalone bill that funds CHIP would easily pass, especially considering CHIP expired in September.

But it’s not as if all Republicans have always supported health care for low-income kids. In 2009, President Obama signed a bill that expanded the program to cover an additional four million low-income children; for the most part, the bill passed on party lines. Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa said the program would be the “foundation stone for socialized medicine in the United States.” President George W. Bush had vetoed two similar expansion bills in 2007, believing, as Bush said, that those measures went too far toward “the federalization of health care.”

Compared to poor adults, most people view poor children as worthier of government assistance. Though CHIP may resemble just another abhorrent entitlement program for some conservatives, the reality is that Americans say that want to support poor kids. (The same often cannot be said about supporting poor children’s care providers, their poor parents or guardians: witness the current state of the Medicaid debate.) That’s why Republicans have moved to use CHIP’s reauthorization as a political football to try to bring the Democrats to heel on other issues, including DACA. How the Democrats respond will be instructive: Will they cave into the pressure in an election year or will they forcefully refuse to compromise on protecting DREAMers? 

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