A major reason for record-low uninsured rates in 2021 was a pandemic relief law that gave states extra federal money for Medicaid. But the law came with a provision: States could not terminate anyone’s coverage as long as the federal public health emergency remained in effect. But the budget package Congress passed in late December includes a provision that requires states to start reviewing Medicaid eligibility on April 1. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how states can ensure everyone who’s eligible stays enrolled during this process. 

States now have the certainty they have needed to act. They have almost three months to prepare and should pursue changes to streamline processes, improve communication with enrollees, and increase staffing capacity even if they can’t fully implement them by April 1. While agency workloads will spike when unwinding begins, they may increase further in subsequent months as enrollees lose coverage and reapply or if the agency falls behind on paperwork, which will make administrative improvements valuable throughout the unwinding period. …  As states begin to prepare for the task ahead, they should prioritize solutions that they can act on most readily and that will have the greatest impact in keeping eligible people covered.

Almost 2 million Louisianans—more than 40% of the state’s population—will have their Medicaid eligibility reviewed in the coming months. In the coming weeks, the Louisiana Budget Project will be releasing guidance on how state health care leaders can keep eligible people covered. 

U.S. to hit debt ceiling
The United States is expected to hit the debt ceiling – the amount of money the federal government is legally allowed to borrow to pay its bills – on Thursday. While Treasury officials will be able to take “extraordinary measures” to ensure the government can fulfill financial obligations until at least June, the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips and Matthew Brown explain how breaking through the debt ceiling could lead to a fiscal calamity in the United States and abroad. 

The government would be forced to prioritize among various expenditures it’s already legally bound to make — but wouldn’t be able to borrow money for — such as paying for Social Security, issuing tax refunds and paying the salaries for federal workers and members of the military. Such a scenario could immediately plunge the United States into a recession, The Post’s Jeff Stein reported at the time: “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, found that a prolonged impasse over the debt ceiling would cost the U.S. economy up to 6 million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9 percent from around 5 percent.”

Anti-hunger measures in farm bill
The top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee discussed anti-hunger initiatives that could be included in the upcoming farm bill. The farm bill is a multi-year law that includes funding and rules for agriculture and food programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. States Newsroom’s Ariana Figueroa reports on Rep. Jim McGovern’s comments during a panel discussion to protect SNAP from devastating cuts. 

As the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcommittee, McGovern said he is against rolling back any benefits to SNAP and his goal is to protect any cuts to the program. “My priority on the nutrition section is to make sure that no one screws around with SNAP,” he said. Those who qualify for SNAP have an income level less than or equal to the federal poverty level, and the amount of benefits is different in each state.

Several U.S. mayors, including Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, attended the panel and explained how their cities battled food insecurity. 

The mayor-president of Baton Rouge, Sharon Weston Broome, said in her community alone, 1 in 4 children are affected by childhood hunger. “There’s a correlation with poverty,” she said, adding that poverty in her state remains too high.  Louisiana has a poverty rate of 19.6 percent.

Bipartisan support for paid family leave in U.S. House
Earlier this month 16 Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to include $547 billion in funding for a 12-week paid leave program in his upcoming 2024 budget. Now there appears to be a bipartisan movement in the House to provide this much needed benefit to families. The Washington Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer report on the new paid leave task force in the lower chamber, which includes Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow. 

When you find somebody across the aisle who doesn’t dismiss you out of hand, then that’s a treasure, you know, that’s somebody to hold on to. And so I think that that’s kind of how we found each other on this,” [Rep. Chrissy] Houlahan said of [Rep. Stephanie] Bice. Next week Houlahan and Bice will announce the formation of a new task force that will also include Reps. Julia Letlow (R-La.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) and Colin Allred (D-Tex.). Letlow, the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Louisiana and a mother of two young children, whose husband died of covid in 2020 just days before being sworn into office, was invited by Bice, as was Miller-Meeks. Allred has had two children since he was elected to Congress and has taken two parental leaves. 

Number of the Day
0.91 –
Average number of vehicles per Louisiana household adult from 2017 to 2021. New York had the lowest number of vehicles per household adult at 0.63, while Wyoming had the highest at 1.20. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via the Washington Post)