National: Healthcare [Cuts] For All

The GOP is preparing to repeal portions of the law funding Obamacare as early as January 3rd, but do not have a plan in place to replace it. Experts are warning that a January move to eliminate funding for subsidies and cost-sharing will leave consumers unable to purchase plans, drive up insurance costs and chase carriers from the marketplace. These impacts will be portrayed by Republicans as “proving” Obamacare was a failure, and set the stage for whatever replacement they land on. It’s a politically precarious move based on a cynical plan to deceive the public about the source of the chaos it will create.

Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to propose vouchers for Medicare and major cuts to Medicaid. One expert suggests Democrats not get so distracted by the Medicare fight that they allow the much more likely dismantling of Medicaid to proceed:

“If Democrats focus too much of their attention on Medicare, they may inadvertently assist the quieter war on Medicaid — one that could deny health benefits to millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities,” Sperling wrote.

While these fights will take place at the national level, there are major implications for Ohio, including how state lawmakers will deal with changes to Medicaid funding, which is primarily paid for by the federal government. Without funding, the over 600,000 Ohioans who currently access healthcare thanks to Medicaid Expansion are at risk of losing coverage, and rural hospitals in the state may be forced to close.

Ohio: Online Voter Registration, Lame Duck and a Look Ahead

Today’s news provides a few sneak peeks at what may (or may not) be coming in the Ohio legislature next session…

In January, Online Voter Registration Will Be Available – For Some Voters Anyway. Thanks to a new state law, the implementation of which Republicans specifically delayed until after the general election, Ohio voters will be able to register to vote online for the first time in 2017. Unfortunately, the system is only available to applicants who currently hold a valid state identification card or driver’s license, putting it out of reach for the thousands of low-income, elderly and minority Ohioans who are less likely than others to hold state-issued ID. The legislation also requires a voter’s address to match that printed on state identification, preventing anyone who may have relocated within the state from registering to vote at their new address. This will prevent many college students whose IDs carry their home address from registering online.

Looking Back, Lawmakers Passed More Bills in Lame Duck Than In the Two Years Leading Up To It. The Dayton Daily News reviews the recent lame duck session in which 50 separate new laws were passed:

covering assisted suicide, concealed weapons on college campuses, abortion bans, housing discrimination, chronic school truancy, property tax breaks, pawnbroker and towing service regulations, mandatory insurance coverage for children with autism, minimum wages and more

The article describes a process that allows special interests to get last-minute additions to bills in the middle of the night without public hearings and or time for most legislators to understand what they’re voting on. One lawmaker – Republican Terry Boose of Norwalk – has proposed legislation to end lame duck sessions. This might be a bipartisan effort worth supporting.

Looking Forward, Lawmakers To Tackle Jobless Benefits, Dating Violence, Abortion (again) and Drug Epidemic. Today’s Gongwer Report, available to subscribers only, highlights priorities of the incoming legislature, including calls from GOP leaders to revisit legislation on unemployment compensation and dating violence. Last month, a push by business groups to cut unemployment benefits and impose small employer contribution increases was short-circuited when small business lobbyists balked at any additional costs. While labor organizers claim the delay as a victory, cuts to employee benefits are almost certain to be a major component of whatever solution business-friendly lawmakers will draft. Meanwhile, the House Speaker indicated that long-awaited legislation on dating violence will finally be enacted, as would a controversial plan to regulate the disposal of fetal remains by abortion clinics. Minority Democrats say they will fight for real solutions to the state’s opioid addiction crisis, as well as for worker-friendly policies like paid family leave and equal pay for women.

Ohio: What Economic Recovery?

Homelessness Down Statewide, Up In Columbus. Mixed data from COHHIO on progress to address homelessness in Ohio. As the situation improves in some Ohio cities – namely Cincinnati and Toledo – the capital city is seeing the ranks of its “unsheltered” population rise dramatically.

Household Incomes Down From Pre-Recession Levels. Throughout the state, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks recently reported that while employment has rebounded, fewer Ohioans are earning enough to be “self-sufficient” today than in 2009 – the height of the great recession. Fully 34 percent of Ohio households have incomes low enough to qualify for food assistance – a 31 percent increase from 2009. The income decline was highest in the Columbus metro, with 23% more families living below self-sufficiency in 2015 than in 2009. Combined with homelessness data, the findings suggest Ohio’s economic recovery may have restored jobs to pre-recession levels, but incomes are far lower.

Kasich Administration Can’t Decide On Economic Message. Recently Governor Kasich said Ohio is on the verge of a recession because tax revenue is well short of his administration’s estimates thanks to years of tax cutting. That’s not actually the definition of a recession, it’s just a budget hole. Then, yesterday, a spokesman for Kasich’s jobs department argued the employment situation is improving, citing a declining number of unemployment applications in 2015:

“Overall this year, we are running 7.3% below last year’s pace,” Mr. Keeling said. “That means by the end of the year, we will likely have had the fewest number of initial claims on record, and that means more people are staying on the job.”

If fewer people are out of work, but are earning smaller incomes and less able to afford housing and food, it’s hardly surprising that state tax collections are down. The question is, does the upcoming state budget offer more tax cuts for the rich, or actual solutions to keep working Ohioans from falling further behind?

Progressive Jobs

Finally, two job postings worth checking out. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is looking for a field and political director, while the Ohio Poverty Law Center is seeking a Legislative Specialist. Both postings can be found here.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) is a mostly-daily look at news about state and federal policies that informed progressives need. ICYMI aims to alert and empower current and future activists about the threat of dangerous policies while there’s still time to fight back.