The Districts Dime

25,000 People: What the latest Census figures have to say about DC’s remaining uninsured

September 23rd, 2016 | by Jodi Kwarciany

Nearly 96 percent of District residents now have health insurance, leaving 25,000 people left to cover, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week. The latest numbers on health coverage are great news for DC, which continues to have one of the lowest rates of uninsured of any state in the country. To achieve universal health coverage, the District should work to address barriers that prevent eligible residents from accessing care.

DC’s uninsured rate continues to shrink since the enactment of health reform, through which the District expanded its Medicaid program and set up a marketplace for residents to more easily and affordably purchase private insurance, DC Health Link. Compared to 2013, about 17,000 more residents now have health coverage.

There’s more good news. The share of children who lack health coverage continues to drop, and now stands at just 1.5 percent. Most racial and ethnic groups experienced a decline in the uninsulated rate. For the first time since health reform was enacted in 2010, the District’s white and African American residents now have the similar levels of health coverage. This is an important sign that DC’s efforts to expand affordable health insurance options have helped close the “coverage gap.”25000

Yet gaps in health coverage still remain, with some groups facing higher uninsured rates than others. Although many more Hispanic and Latino residents have health insurance, just over 12 percent still don’t have coverage – roughly three times the rate of the District at large. While DC residents who were born outside the US were in general more likely to have health insurance in 2015 than in 2014, people who are non-citizens still lack coverage at higher rates than people who are naturalized citizens. In addition, people who are unemployed, or who lack a high school degree, are also more likely to be uninsured.

There are steps the District should take to drive down uninsured rates further. District leaders should continue promoting the public and private health coverage programs available to residents, like DC Health Link, Medicaid, and the Healthcare Alliance. Leaders should also work toward reducing the barriers that prevent residents from enrolling, re-enrolling, and accessing care, like restrictive eligibility processes within Healthcare Alliance, which appear to have led thousands of eligible residents to forgo health insurance.

With health insurance options available to virtually all ages, incomes, and citizenships statuses, no one should have go without coverage. District leaders should be applauded for expanding coverage options for nearly all residents, and should be encouraged to continue this important work.

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DCFPI Welcomes Chaz Rotenberg to Our Team!

September 20th, 2016 | by DCFPI Staff

We’re excited to introduce you to Chaz Rotenberg, DCFPI’s new research policy intern!

Chaz is a DC native who grew up in the Woodley Park area. He attended Oyster Bilingual Elementary School and Georgetown Day School.

Prior to joining DCFPI, Chaz worked in the office of At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, where he researched a variety of pressing local issues such as gender pay equity, jury duty reform, community investment tax credits for affordable housing, and special education and early intervention programs.

chaz-photoBefore working for Councilmember Grosso, Chaz worked for the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where he tackled issues including education, poverty, immigration, infrastructure, and tax systems.

Chaz’s interest in inequality stems from his upbringing and college coursework in contemporary American politics. He has a strong interest in Washington, DC and education issues, and particularly in addressing the growing achievement gap in the city.

Chaz graduated from the University of Michigan in May 2015 with a B.A. in economics and organizational studies.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing recreational soccer and basketball, following college and professional sports, and watching movies.

Please join us in welcoming Chaz!

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Tomorrow Morning, Come Out to Show Your Support for Universal Paid Leave and Fair Scheduling!

September 19th, 2016 | by Ilana Boivie

Tomorrow, when the DC Council returns to work after a month and a half long recess, a rally will be held at the Council office building to show support for two bills that are very crucial to job quality in the District: the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 (UPL) and the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015.

Before recess, the Council decided to hold off on voting on tPaid Family Leavehese bills in order to take the time needed to craft the strongest legislation possible. Now that they are back in session, it is important to show as much support as possible for these bills, since District workers strongly need family leave and fair scheduling policies. Specifically:

  • The Universal Paid Leave would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers in DC to care for themselves, a new child, or an ill family member.
  • The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act would require retail and restaurant employers to offer additional hours to current employees first, before they look for a new hire. It also would ensure that employees get advance notice of their schedules.

Rally Details

Date:               Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Time:              8:15 AM to 9:30 AM

Location:      The John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Invited:         All generations of concerned DC residents and workers.

Babysitting will be available!

You can RSVP for the rally here. At the event, please post to social media—with photos, if possible—using the hashtags #PaidLeave4DC and #JustHours.

Please join us to show your support for workers in DC!

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DC’s Racial Inequality Continues to Widen, Even as the City Sees Substantial Economic Growth

September 15th, 2016 | by DCFPI Staff

The District’s economy has grown substantially since the Great Recession, but the city’s economic rebound hasn’t lifted more residents above the poverty line, or boosted the incomes of people of color, as new data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau show. These trends point to the need to ensure DC residents can more equally benefit from the city’s growing prosperity.

The city’s median income reached $75,600 in 2015, an increase of about $4,000 over the previous year, and $13,000 above the pre-recession 2007 level, after adjusting for inflation. This gain follows the nationwide trend that median incomes are increasing.

poverty-rate-2007-2015-revised Yet this growth has not reduced the city’s poverty rate. Overall, 110,500 District residents lived below the federal poverty line in 2015 (income below $24,000 for a family of four)—that’s 18,500 more residents living in poverty than in 2007. The city’s poverty rate stands at 17 percent.

The city’s Black residents are bearing the brunt of the city’s persistent poverty—moreover, they are the only racial or ethnic group to see an increase in their poverty rate since 2007. Some 27 percent of the city’s Black population lived in poverty in 2015, up from 23 percent in 2007. And nearly three-quarters of all District residents who live in poverty are Black.

There also is a growing gulf between the incomes of white and Black residents. The median income for white DC households was $120,000 in 2015, compared to just $41,000 for Black households. While incomes have risen for white residents since 2007, the income of Black residents has been stagnant.

The large differences in poverty and income mirrors the city’s racial disparity in educational attainment, which in large part reflects the history of discrimination and limited educational opportunities for Black Americans. While nearly 90 percent of white DC residents have a college degree, just 26 percent of Black residents do. Black residents are also much less likely to have a high school diploma: 15 percent of Black residents aged 25 and older do not have a high school credential, compared to less than 2 percent of white residents.

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Poverty is correlated with educational attainment, because without a high school diploma or a college degree, it is difficult to find and hold a good quality job. The poverty rate for DC residents with less than a high school degree was 33 percent in 2015, versus just 5 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree, and twice the rate of the population overall. These differences have been largely unchanged over time. DC residents without a college degree have seen falling wages, while college-educated residents have experienced an increase in pay, previous DCFPI research has found.

These data underscore the fact that the city’s new and growing prosperity has left many poor residents and people of color behind.

The city should do more to ensure that all of DC’s residents—including communities of color—share in the city’s recent economic growth. These policies can include:

  • Reforming the TANF time limit. TANF provides necessary monetary assistance to some of DC’s lowest income families. A rigid time limit scheduled to go into effect next year will put these already vulnerable families at risk of losing all assistance. This endangers the financial and mental well-being not only of parents, but also their children. If reforms to the TANF time limits are not made, some 5,800 District families—approximately 98 percent of whom are Black—will lose their TANF benefits next year.
  • Improving the quality of jobs for all working residents. Policies include requiring employers to offer additional hours to existing employers rather than hiring additional staff; giving workers advance notice of their weekly schedules; and creating a system to provide paid leave to workers who take time off for a personal illness or to care for a family member.
  • Expanding early childhood education subsidies. This will improve the ability of providers to serve infants and toddlers in DC while sustaining their businesses for the long-term. This will benefit low-income working families by helping to prepare their children for success.
  • Reforming the city’s job training system. Efforts should focus on offering entry-level jobs and career pathways for workers without advanced education. Given the large number of residents without a high school credential, reforms should focus on adult literacy as well as training and credentialing.

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More DC Residents Have Health Insurance, New Census Data Show

September 13th, 2016 | by Jodi Kwarciany

For the second year, the share of District residents without health insurance got smaller, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 3.8 percent of DC residents lacked health coverage in 2015, compared with 6.7 percent in 2013. While there’s still progress to be made, that’s equivalent to about 17,000 more residents having health coverage.

District leaders should be applauded for leading the way in providing affordable insurance options for nearly all residents, resulting in DC having the second highest rate of insured in the country, behind only Massachusetts. Much of DC’s success can be attributed to its array of insuranStock Photo 14852ce options that have expanded as a result of federal health reform. DC’s Medicaid program now covers nearly all adults with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line (less than $40,320 for a family of three). Nearly a third of DC residents get their health coverage from Medicaid, including two out of every three children. In addition, low-income DC residents not eligible for Medicaid can get coverage through the Healthcare Alliance program, and others may qualify for subsidies to pay for private insurance through DC Health Link, the city’s health insurance exchange.

There is no doubt that having health insurance makes a difference, according to a growing body of research. Having Medicaid coverage improves health, increases use of preventive care and screenings, and reduces financial hardship. It also improves children’s long-term educational outcomes and earnings as adults.

Despite these gains, there are 25,000 District residents who still lack health coverage, and there are steps the District should take to reduce that number over the next year. We previously noted that certain individuals are more likely to lack insurance, such as people who live outside, face language barriers, or have less than a 9th grade education. In addition, many residents face challenges in applying for or renewing benefits, especially in the Healthcare Alliance. The Alliance’s restrictive eligibility processes appear to have led thousands of eligible residents to go without health insurance. More work is needed not only to reach those who remain uninsured, but also to reduce the potential barriers that prevent them from enrolling, re-enrolling, and ultimately accessing care.

The 2015 health insurance coverage estimates are the first of two data releases from the U.S. Census Bureau this week. For more information on poverty trends in the District, tune in to the District Dime this Thursday for our extended commentary.

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.

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