Month: December 2012

Recent HHS Medicaid Decision Offers Important Protections for AAs and NHPIs

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Recent HHS Medicaid Decision Offers Important Protections for AAs and NHPIs

December 12, 2012

WASHINGTON—The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) applauded the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent announcement that states will have to either fully expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or not at all.  The move is aimed at extending insurance coverage to millions of low-income Americans.  A number of governors had suggested a partial expansion of their Medicaid programs after the Supreme Court’s decision in June, which removed the federal government’s enforcement power to require all states to fully expand their Medicaid programs to persons earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

“We applaud HHS’ decision to hold firm and not allow partial Medicaid expansions,” said Kathy Lim Ko, APIAHF president and CEO. “The ACA’s Medicaid expansion offers the most significant opportunity to expand coverage to low-income and vulnerable communities, including many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs).  HHS should do everything in its power to encourage all states to fully expand their Medicaid programs and receive the generous federal funding.”

Nearly one in seven, or 2.8 million AAs and 162,000 NHPIs are uninsured.  Expanding Medicaid could make a significant dent in these numbers and expand access to affordable care for millions.  If every state expands Medicaid, then nearly one in 10 AAs and one in eight NHPIs would qualify for coverage in 2014.  Click here to learn more about why Medicaid matters for AA and NHPI communities and how the ACA will expand coverage for these communities nationally.  Read our Medicaid expansion infographic covering key states.

With its partners, APIAHF is working to ensure full implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s significant coverage expansions, including the Medicaid program expansions and individual and small employer health exchanges.

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The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Learn more at http://www.apiahf.org/.

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On Dec. 11, tell Congress: No benefit cuts for seniors!

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National Council on Aging

Dear Advocate,

Please join NCOA and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations for:

No Benefit Cuts for Seniors! Fiscal Cliff Call-In Day: Tuesday, Dec. 11

Medicare, Medicaid, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), the Older Americans Act, Section 202 housing, energy assistance, and more are at serious risk in the budget negotiations now happening in Washington. The recent proposal from House Republican leaders would cut all of these programs. See what’s at stake.

Congress needs to hear from you why these programs must be protected for millions of older Americans, workers, and families in need!

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, please call toll-free 888-876-6242 (line provided by Families USA) and tell your members of Congress:

  • Reduce the deficit through a balanced approach without increasing poverty or income inequality
  • No benefit cuts to Medicare or Medicaid or shifting costs onto beneficiaries
  • No cuts to Social Security COLAs
  • No additional cuts in Older Americans Act and other domestic discretionary programs below the current caps
  • Include increases in revenue so the wealthy pay their fair share

Any budget agreement should have the overarching goal of building economic security for older Americans and their families, strengthening the middle class, and promoting job growth.

Then amplify your voice!

  1. Share this alert with your friends and colleagues.
  2. Tell a story of a senior threatened by cuts.
  3. Contact your Representatives and Senators via Twitter or Facebook using the #seniors hashtag.

Thanks for your support!

 

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Eliminating Asset Limits

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The short article below helps explain why eliminating asset limits is a good idea.

Click here for the article.

Data Show Eliminating Asset Limits Works

Posted on November 29, 2012 by Karen K. Harris

Building blocksThere are many different types of poverty, but the Asset Opportunity Unit at the Shriver Center focuses on asset poverty. Asset poverty means having insufficient funds to meet one’s needs for three months if income were to disappear for those three months. Focusing on asset poverty is important because assets are the building blocks for economic mobility and financial stability. While income poverty looks at whether people have enough to get by, asset poverty looks at whether people have enough to get ahead.

One way to measure the asset poverty level of a family of four, for example, is to multiply the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) by three months. Based on this calculation, an Illinois family of four would need $5,762.50 in savings to live for three months if they had no other source of income. Putting aside whether the current FPL is a sufficient measure of poverty, the question is whether most families, let alone low-income families, have even this much set aside.

For low-income families receiving public benefits the answer is likely no. This is because asset limits in public benefit programs prevent such families from building a level of resources necessary for future needs. For instance, in Illinois, the asset limit for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) is $2,000. Thus, if a family has more than $2,000 in savings, they are not eligible for TANF. In other words, Illinois’s TANF asset limit is only about one third of what a family would need to stay above the asset poverty level. Given such archaic limits, it is no wonder that families remain in poverty and reliant on public benefit programs.

For years, advocates have argued that states should either eliminate their public programs’ asset limits entirely or, at a minimum, increase them to limits more reflective of today’s economic realities. As advocates correctly note, asset limits are a relic of entitlement program policies that no longer exist. Cash welfare programs, for example, now focus on quickly moving individuals and families to self-sufficiency, rather than allowing them to receive benefits indefinitely. Since personal savings and assets are precisely the kinds of resources that allow people to move off public benefit programs, continuing to utilize asset limits runs counter to this policy.

Nevertheless, states have been reluctant to reform asset limits. Although most states have eliminated asset limits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and some states have eliminated them in Medicaid, the majority of states still have them in TANF. Most often, fear about increased numbers of people who have significant assets enrolling in public benefit programs is given as a reason for not changing such limits. Yet, a recent study from the New America Foundation shows that in states where asset limits have been eliminated no such increases have occurred. Moreover, the study shows that eliminating asset limits actually reduces administrative costs and time per cases, which allows caseworkers to take on more cases, without increasing workload or administrative costs.

The report, which analyzed the results of interviews and surveys of public benefit administrators in eight states, confirmed previous research that found that most applicants to SNAP and TANF have very few assets anyway and that eliminating asset tests would not significantly increase eligibility. In fact, currently in the majority of states studied very few families were denied program participation due to excess assets anyway. In Idaho, only 2.2% of SNAP application denials were due to excess assets. Thus, an overwhelming increase in cases is unlikely. This is true despite widespread belief that eliminating asset tests will allow wealthy individuals to “game” the system.

The report also noted that eliminating asset limits reduces administrative costs, and the fiscal benefits to the state can outweigh any costs incurred. In Iowa, for instance, direct state costs for eliminating asset limits in its SNAP program were estimated at $702,202, but the overall benefit to the state would be $12.3 million from additional SNAP benefits and increased state employment. Oklahoma determined that eliminating the Medicaid asset limit in 1997 saved approximately $1 million in administrative costs.

The study provides powerful data that advocates can use to convince policy makers that their perceptions about the benefits of asset limits are incorrect. Additionally, these data support advocates’ assertions that, despite what states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan apparently believed when they reinstated asset limits in their public benefit programs, eliminating asset limits is not only necessary for the economic stability of low-income families, but also cost effective for. As the economy begins to improve, now is not the time for states to regress in important policy reforms that will help families become financially self-sufficient.

This blog post was coauthored by Alex Hoffman.

Tour boat captures spectacular images of Big Island lava

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KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) –

For the first time in nearly a year, lava is entering the ocean from Kilauea volcano, and Hawaii News Now has spectacular new video of the rare event.

Lava Ocean Tours says the lava has been entering the ocean daily since it first began again in November. The Big Island tour company shared this video, which was shot over a three day period in early December.  It shows lava cascading off 40 foot cliffs into the ocean.

“We have ramped up our tours and are seeing a huge increase in the number of people booking trips,” said Shane Turpin of Lava Ocean Tours.  “We have seen people from all over the world, even Hollywood actors, people from the Weather Channel and professional photographers.”

Bryan Arthur, a guide with Lava Ocean Tours, says, “We have four boats heading out this Wednesday and Friday.  In fact we added two additional boats because everyone wants to see the lava.  The sunrise tour is phenomenal.  It’s the best tour for taking photos.”

The flow is considered dangerous, and visitors are warned to observe only from approved safe distances.

There are regulations involved with these lava boat tours.

“All of our boats are Coast Guard inspected and state permitted, but there are some operators out there who are not permitted,” said Turpin.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says Kilauea, which has been erupting continuously since January 1983, has seen an increase in pressure recently. The increase also resulted in a rise in the lava lake inside a vent at the Halemaumau crater in the Kilauea caldera.

Scientists are not sure how long the lava will keep flowing into the ocean this time around.

~reposted from:  http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/20260642/tour-boat-captures-spectacular-images-of-big-island-lava