How One Michigan City Is Sending Kids To College Tuition-Free

collegePaying for college presents a tremendous hurdle to many families, from wading through paperwork andnavigating financial aid to understanding the long-term implications of college debt.

But what if the city you lived in footed the bill for college? That’s what Kalamazoo, Mich., has been doing for almost a decade. In 2005, a group of anonymous donors launched an ambitious program. They pledged enough money to pay the tuition of most students who graduate from the district’s public high schools to attend any of Michigan’s public universities or community colleges.

The effort, called the Kalamazoo Promise, has spent about $50 million assisting more than 3,000 students from the city.

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Newly Enrolled, but Not Counted by Insurance Exchanges

aca-obamaMillions of newly insured people are hiding in plain sight. They are the people who have bought new health insurance since the start of this year but have chosen for one reason or another to bypass the state and federal exchanges that opened last year under the Affordable Care Act. While the exact number is unknown, some health care experts estimate that it may be in the millions.

Politicians and policy makers have focused on the number of people who signed up through the exchanges — at nearly seven million and counting a day after the March 31 deadline — but they have largely overlooked the group that did not use the exchanges, even though it could have a major impact on the program’s financial success in the years ahead.

Because insurers place customers in the same risk pool, regardless of how they enrolled, “these lives count every bit as much as the ones that came in through the exchange,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president and health care expert at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Obamacare Enrollment Is Far From Over

obamacare-loveWith the recent closure of the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is enormous jockeying around interpreting the number of enrollees in state and federal exchanges. Proponents and opponents of the law are interpreting the preliminary numbers in the way that best makes their case. But what neither side is emphasizing enough is that enrollment in the ACA is far from over now that March 31st has passed. This is because millions of individuals will lose their insurance during 2014 – and Obamacare will be there to catch them.

An underappreciated fact about insurance status is that it is very dynamic. Every year, millions of Americans move into and out of insurance coverage. Since most people obtain coverage through an employer, the most common reason for losing coverage is a loss or change in jobs. But as anyone who has applied for COBRA coverage surely knows, the premium requirements to maintain generous employer coverage can be prohibitively expensive, particularly in the months when a job loss triggers a sharp income decline. Moreover, for Americans with any medical history who sought plans on the individual insurance market prior to the ACA, there were few affordable places to turn for protection against medical bankruptcy. In most states, insurers could deny coverage, or could charge sick individuals many multiples of their healthy counterparts to buy insurance.

The ACA’s state Marketplaces, in contrast, provide a non-discriminatory home for those losing their insurance coverage. In many cases, the loss of insurance coverage is what is known as a “qualifying event” that allows individuals to purchase insurance on their state Marketplace even after the open enrollment deadline. And for those seeing a sharp drop in income due to job loss, the tax credits available through the ACA exchanges can provide a much more affordable option than COBRA; in about half of the states, Medicaid will also be available for those suffering the largest income losses.

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A New Report on Obamacare Says It’s $104 Billion Cheaper Than Expected

doctor-babyRepublicans and their allies keep saying the Affordable Care Act will bankrupt the taxpaying public.  Now there’s one more reason to think they are wrong. It comes from the Washington’s official accountant, the Congressional Budget Office, which on Monday released a newly updated projection on how the Affordable Care Act will affect the deficit and insurance coverage. In February, the last time CBO addressed these issues comprehensively, it predicted that the net cost of the law’s coverage provisions would be about $1.4 trillion over ten years. Now, CBO says, it’s likely to be about $1.3 trillion, or $100 billion less.

It’s actually the latest in a series of revisions, each one suggesting the law would cost less money than the previous projection had suggested. (See graph above.) And why this latest change? It doesn’t appear to be because the law will reach fewer people. CBO now expects slightly more people to end up with health insurance, at least over the long run. The CBO’s primary explanation for lower costs is that health insurance premiums on the new exchanges—what the administration calls “marketplaces”—are lower than CBO had originally expected they would be.

That may sound hard to believe, given all the stories in the last few months about people who lost their old coverage and now must pay more for it. But there’s no inconsistency here. In the transition from the old system, in which insurers could charge higher prices to the sick or avoid them altogether, to a new system, in which everybody pays the same price regardless of pre-existing condition, some young and healthy people must now pay more for their individual policies. In addition, the law requires that all new plans include a set of essential benefits—including things like maternity coverage and mental health that the old policies frequently excluded. That, too, tends to make insurance more expensive than it was last year.

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Survivors Of Domestic Violence Now Have Better Access To Obamacare Benefits

doctor_patientSurvivors of domestic violence who are living separately from an abusive spouse will now be able to claim tax credits to help them afford an Obamacare plan, thanks to new rules being developed by the federal government. Before the change, these individuals were locked out of federal assistance for health care unless they filed joint taxes with their abuser.

Obamacare’s tax credits are intended to ensure that insurance plans on the new marketplaces are affordable for the Americans who may otherwise struggle to pay for health care. Early estimates suggest that up to 80 percent of the people signing up for Obamacare will qualify for some type of federal assistance, allowing some Americans to pay less than $100 per month in premiums for their health insurance.

But in order for married people to qualify, the health law requires them to file their taxes jointly. If they file separately, they lose out on the federal assistance altogether. Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that policy ends up harming victims of abuse — particularly because domestic violence is more concentrated among low-income households, and the victims who are financially dependent on their abusers are less likely to be able to extricate themselves from the relationship.

Last week, a group of 79 lawmakers, led by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), urged the Treasury Department to change this policy and safeguard victims of domestic violence. It only took a few days for Treasury officials to agree.


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Clean Energy Generated 80,000 American Green Jobs in 2013: E2 Report – See more at:

Green-Growth(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The second annual ‘Clean Energy Works for Us’ report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says that nearly 80,000 green jobs were added to the American economy in 2013 due to clean energy. Virtually every American state benefitted from these new jobs, even as challenges to green economic growth persist, due to market and policy uncertainties.

About 78,600 new green jobs were announced at 260 locations across the country in 2013. Solar energy took the lead by contributing to more than 21,600 of the new jobs, up from 14,000 in 2012. Solar was followed by energy efficiency with 12,500 jobs, up from 9,100 in 2012.

America’s clean energy economy continues to be led by solar energy. The country saw installation of 4,751 MW of new solar PV capacity, which is good for about 29 percent of all new U.S. electrical capacity. 90 percent of states increased their number of solar-related jobs, which improved overall employment rate by 20 percent to reach a total of about 143,000 workers.

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Supreme Court Decision in U.S. v. Castleman Will Save Women’s Lives

doctor_patientOn the week of march 28th, the Supreme Court decided a case that will save women’s lives.

Back in 1996, Congress made it a crime for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess a gun. As Vice President Biden has often noted, there is a direct connection between gun violence and domestic violence: when a domestic abuser has a gun, a victim is 12 times more likely to die than when he doesn’t.

Some courts, however, have set a high bar for what counts as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” – which has meant that many domestic abusers have been allowed to keep their guns.

But in United States v. Castleman (written by Justice Sotomayor), the Court changed all that. It recognized that domestic violence is a unique kind of crime that doesn’t always fit everyone’s idea of what’s “violent”: often, it can involve pushing, grabbing, shoving, scratching, or hair pulling – and which, over time, can “subject one intimate partner to the other’s control.” The Court also recognized that, in a number of states, these acts are prosecuted as crimes of “offensive touching” – which, before this week, meant some courts didn’t consider them to be domestic violence. But now, according to the Court, that’s enough to subject a convicted domestic abuser to the federal gun ban.

This is a landmark opinion. As so many abused women know, what happens to them is a far cry from “offensive touching.” It is terrifying and debilitating, and can rob her of all manner of trust, security, and hope. It can make her – as the Vice President has also said – a prisoner in her own home. But at least now, the law recognizes that those who are convicted of these crimes have no business having a gun.

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.


Surging retail sales signal an economy on the upswing

economic-recoveryAmericans rushed out to shop as frigid weather lifted in March, propelling retail sales at the fastest pace in a year and a half.

The gauge from the Commerce Department surged 1.1% last month from February in its biggest leap since September 2012. Sales boomed 3.8% from March 2013.

The strong sales, which beat economists’ expectations for a 1% increase, bolstered hopes that the economy would continue to gain momentum after struggling through an especially harsh winter.

“One month doesn’t answer all the questions, and it’s not like we have all-over-the-place exploding growth,” said NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen. “But we’re beginning to see that the recovery is no longer segmented — it’s broader.”

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It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

homelessIt is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets.

The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors.

In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

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