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Voices Speaking

September 23, 2016

Investing in Connecticut: taxes and economic prosperity

If you read what some commentators are saying about our state, you might think that Connecticut having one of the nation’s highest standards of living is just an accident. To mark the anniversary of the income tax last month, observers presented a story of doom and gloom entirely attributable to state income taxes.

What these columns are missing, however, is any thought to what those taxes translate into in terms of services, investments and economic prosperity. Grover Norquist, for instance, pointed to Texas and Florida – which have no state income taxes – as examples of what states can accomplish if they liberate themselves from the responsibility of investing in the future. Well, let’s take a look.

The poverty rate in Connecticut is fourth lowest in the nation. In Texas and Florida it’s much higher. Connecticut is fourth in the share of the population holding a graduate or professional degree. Florida and Texas are well below the national average. In only three states do a higher percentage of people lack health insurance than in Florida; one of them is Texas, which leads the nation in this shameful statistic. Meanwhile only nine states have a lower share of people without health insurance than Connecticut. You get the point. Connecticut may have higher taxes, but that is because the state invests in the services essential to sustained economic success.

If Connecticut were to follow a low-road model, it would jeopardize the competitive advantage it has in a highly educated and highly productive workforce that is attractive to high-wage and high-skill employers, who in turn benefit from a return on the investment of their business tax dollars in the form of roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure, safe neighborhoods, and education.

But Norquist and other commentators are not just wrong about what makes a state’s economy strong; he also errs when he and others claim that taxes in Connecticut drive residents to leave.  Norquist inaccurately characterizes a net loss of roughly 8,000 households per year as an escape from the state income tax. In fact, net annual movement from Connecticut declined steadily in the first 10 years after the tax was enacted – hardly consistent with Norquist’s argument. And, more than eight in 10 of the households that left Connecticut between 1992 and 2014 were replaced by households moving in. If taxes are as significant a driver of state-to-state moves as Norquist wants to believe, why would so many people be moving to Connecticut?

In fact, 38 percent of all residents leaving the state moved to Florida, the leading destination for virtually all northeastern and rustbelt states – including New Hampshire, which doesn’t have any broad-based income tax. Common sense says many of these people leaving Connecticut are retirees seeking warmer weather, who likely would move regardless of Connecticut tax levels.

Norquist errs again when he asserts that those who moved out of the state took billions of dollars of income with them, further depleting the state’s finances. It’s a claim that former Tax Foundation economist Lyman Stone has written rests “on an egregiously wrong use of the data” by analysts who “have either failed to perform the most basic due diligence . . . or else actively mislead their readers.”  Think about it: the vast majority of people who leave a state hold jobs that will be filled by people joining the labor force from within the state or moving in, resulting in no “loss of income” at all.

You can throw as many arguments you want against the wall and none of them stick. Connecticut is a better place to live because of the public investment that comes from everyone pitching in for the common good. Neither residents nor businesses are “damaged” by our state’s income tax. To the contrary, it’s the children growing up in poverty in states that don’t invest in shared prosperity and quality of life that will have a hard time reaching their full potential.

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
Connecticut, education, insurance, investments, services, taxes
June 29, 2018

Children’s needs at risk: An update on federal attempts to cut programs for children

 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”) update:

On June 29, the Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that preserves SNAP (formerly food stamps) without imposing new burdens on families. However, the House Farm Bill, which passed on June 13, dramatically cuts SNAP and imposes an enormous administrative burden on states and enrollees. SNAP remains at risk until Congress comes to a final agreement. Children and families rely on SNAP to ensure they have adequate nutrition when finances are tight. Without healthy and consistent meals, children have trouble concentrating in school, can experience developmental delays, and are more prone to illness. Creating new administrative hurdles will add to the state’s expenses and likely cause many eligible families to lose their benefits. See our fact sheet on SNAP in CT.

What can you do?  The farm bill is expected to move to conference negotiations between the House and Senate, and our work to ensure that the final bill protects SNAP begins in earnest. Thank your senator (both CT senators voted against harmful amendments and for the Senate bill) and urge them to call for a final conference agreement that includes the Senate’s strong bipartisan SNAP provisions and rejects the addition of harmful work requirements.

ACA Repeal: The zombie returns 

On June 19, Senator Rick Santorum and others released a new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plan would cause tens of millions to lose health coverage, increase costs for others, and do away with consumer protections—like allowing insurers to charge some people more. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, including the protections for pre-existing conditions. Both steps put vital progress and the financial and physical health of millions of Americans at risk. Learn more here and here.

What can you do? Ask your state and federal candidates how they plan to keep Connecticut’s HUSKY (Medicaid and CHIP) programs strong. Call your federal representatives to urge them to work together to improve our nation’s health systems.

 

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
Tags:
ACA, Federal, Food Security, health, insurance, SNAP
January 15, 2019

Healthcare in 2019 - What to Expect

Karen Siegel, M.P.H.

Health insurance coverage rates are slipping

Connecticut’s HUSKY (Medicaid and CHIP) programs are key to our state’s health and economic success. Medicaid coverage has an enormous impact: it reduces poverty, provides lifelong benefits for children, and helps to reduce infant mortality rates. Children are more likely to have insurance and to see a doctor when their parents are insured; so, covering whole families is especially important. Being insured means parents with chronic conditions can stay healthy enough to work and parent well. It also means freedom from exposure to catastrophic medical debt for families and less uncompensated care for hospitals and clinics. Further, Connecticut’s HUSKY program is fiscally efficient, boasting the lowest per member per month Medicaid costs nationwide.

Maintaining the HUSKY programs is a key part of working towards ensuring all of our state’s residents have health insurance coverage. HUSKY expansion helped raise the rate of Connecticut residents who have health insurance to one of the highest in the nation. Yet, recently released 2017 American Community Survey data suggests that while insurance coverage rates in the nation continue to improve, in Connecticut they are at best stable and likely decreased by roughly 20,000 individuals from 2016 to 2017.

Since 2015, the legislature has twice voted to cut Medicaid income eligibility levels for parents/caregivers. We cannot afford to balance the state budget by putting families at risk of preventable disease and economic instability.

Health insurance quality at risk

Having health insurance helps people access care, but being insured alone is not enough. For Connecticut’s families to avoid preventable illness or complications, health insurance must pay for services that families need to stay healthy. Proposals at the state and federal levels threaten to erode what it means to have health insurance coverage. These include allowing short-term and “junk” insurance plans, consolidation of providers through hospital mergers and the Aetna/CVS merger—which could limit access and increase costs, and efforts to trim the state budget by covering fewer benefits for Medicaid enrollees. 

When parents have to choose between paying out of pocket towards a high deductible or paying a utility bill, they are likely to forgo or put off treatment. Inexpensive measures that could prevent a crisis—like a vaccination or a checkup—keep health care costs down.

Recent attempts to trim the Medicaid budget have targeted dental coverage and primary care provider rates. When Connecticut raised Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care, provider participation increased, meaning more Medicaid patients were able to make appointments for routine care. Given the state fiscal crisis, Medicaid is likely to be targeted again. Additional cuts will cause real harm to real families.

Connecticut should join nearby states by adopting paid family and medical leave

Paid parental leave leads to a host of positive life outcomes for both parents and children, including decreased infant mortality, decreased child behavioral problems, decreased rates of maternal post-partum depression, and increased rates of father involvement throughout childhood. Children begin building vital brain architecture from the time they are born. By giving parents time to develop secure attachments with their new child, family and medical leave plays an important role in nurturing healthy child development for biological and adoptive parents.

Often, workers lacking paid family and medical leave hold low-income and/or multiple part-time jobs, and so cannot afford to take time off. Workers who take time off with no pay or reduced pay report borrowing money, enrolling in public assistance, putting off paying bills, and cutting their leave short. Family medical leave strengthens families’ economic stability and alleviates stress by allowing parents to care for their children without financial hardship.

Further, paid family medical leave is a smart way to improve Connecticut’s workforce. Access to paid family medical leave results in workers taking better care of their health, taking fewer risks, taking fewer and shorter sick leaves throughout the course of their careers, and having less inpatient care. Further, leave is paid for by employees, as detailed in the plan Connecticut has come close to adopting.

Opportunities to promote healthy, stable, and safe communities

Racial and ethnic disparities in health cannot be addressed in the clinic or hospital alone. To promote health equity, it is necessary to enhance community-based services and connect people to what they need in the places where they live, play, study, and work. For example, by connecting the parent of a child with chronic asthma to resources that can remove mold or offer pest-control for the family home, emergency room visits can be decreased while the family’s wellbeing increases. Community health workers can help bridge the gap between doctors’ visits and life at home, helping to identify non-medical causes of health issues and find resources to address these. Community health workers can also help empower families to play a bigger role in their care or help families to incorporate lifestyle changes in response to a diagnosis or addiction.

Opportunities to promote these strategies and to link communities to medical providers and vice versa include soon to be released proposals by the Office of the State Health Innovation Model, the recently announced federal Integrated Care for Kids grant and recently passed federal funding to address opioid addiction.

Opportunities to promote lifelong mental health starting at birth

In the first thousand days of life, children’s brains develop rapidly, making this period an especially important one for promoting health and preventing illness. Identifying and addressing children’s and families’ needs early on can prevent a lifetime of struggling to learn or coping with mental health challenges. Whole-family approaches can support children in developing resilience and other protective factors while supporting caregivers to respond to challenges in productive ways.

Opportunities to access additional federal funding mentioned above and through the Families First Prevention Services Act could also be used to bolster our state’s behavioral health system, especially for young children. Connecticut is poised to take advantage of these resources and to leverage the State Health Innovation Model to promote positive outcomes for children by improving the links between pediatricians’ offices and the state’s home visiting and community-based early childhood efforts.  Connecticut is the birthplace of robust, best-practice initiatives like Help Me Grow and Birth to Three and home to an array of home-visiting and screening programs, but these programs remain underfunded and links between programs, schools, and medical care providers could be improved.   

Issue Area:
Health
Tags:
health, Healthcare, HUSKY, insurance
January 17, 2019

Health coverage in Connecticut: HUSKY Health fact sheets

We have created a series of fact sheets to document how Connecticut’s HUSKY Health programs impact a wide range of the state’s residents and services. You can download them below:


Husky Health Programs for Children and Families in Connecticut - an Overview


How Medicaid Supports Work and the State Economy


Medicaid and Education


Medicaid and the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems

We also have created a fact sheet with links to more sources.

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
Tags:
coverage, Fact Sheets, Healthcare, HUSKY, insurance

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