Membership Messages

Fahe Advocacy Update: Debate question highlights opioid epidemic; Federal funding process may advance this week; Census participation red flags; The challenge of housing affordability for seniors; Health insurance lowers eviction rates

The Latest

  • Presidential debate puts spotlight on opioid epidemic, including challenges of rural communities
  • Federal appropriation process may get moving again this week
  • New research reinforces some worries about census participation, fails to address others

Longer Term

  • A new report highlights the impact of housing costs on seniors
  • Study indicates Medicaid expansion leads to fewer evictions

The Latest

Last week’s presidential primary debate included a question about the opioid epidemic with a focus on rural areas. This is a positive sign, even if the results were mixed. Asking the question draws attention to the ongoing need for resources to combat the opioid epidemic. The specific framing also focused the challenges rural communities face in addressing the opioid epidemic through medical as well as nonmedical means. The fact these issues are being discussed in a national election is helpful in establishing their relevance for funders and policymakers when we discuss our communities specifically. Unfortunately, the responses from the candidates left much to be desired. Candidates did not address the complexities of rural areas, and instead focused on corporate accountability for pharmaceutical companies, decriminalization of drugs, and recitations of data about the issue.

Leadership in the U.S. Senate has indicated that they are trying to reach an agreement between the parties which would allow the passage of the first two appropriation bills out of the Senate this week. On Monday, they began the process of moving two bills towards a floor vote later in the week. As of Tuesday morning, it remained to be seen if either of the bills would make it to the floor, let alone be passed by the full Senate. 

Recent data indicates that advocates and community leaders are right to be concerned about the upcoming 2020 Census. Evidence in a newly-released survey by the Pew Research Center found that the lower a family’s income, the less likely they are to participate in the Census. That pattern also holds true for families who are even aware of the Census. With federal investments assisting low-income families predicated on population, it is especially important to be counted. Although breaking out their findings among a variety of demographic factors, this study failed to take the location of a respondent into account, ignoring the likelihood of small towns and rural areas under-responding to the Census. This is even with the Census Bureau itself stating that rural response rates are ten percent lower than urban response rates.

Longer Term

A report from Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies highlights the challenges seniors face in securing affordable housing. More than a third of households 65 or older are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, and income and wealth inequality among households near retirement age continues to grow. This situation is especially challenging for senior renters, but homeowners are also faced with the need to invest in aging-in-place solutions. The population of seniors with very-low incomes will nearly double in the next two decades – creating significant demand for housing that’s affordable and suitable for seniors. With our region undergoing these broad demographic shifts, investments in housing will allow our communities to meet the evolving housing demands.

A study of eviction rates in areas that have expanded Medicaid has noted a relationship between increased health insurance rates and improved housing stability. Published in the journal Health Affairs, the study found a 2.9% reduction in evictions per capita associated with Medicaid expansion. The effects were most concentrated in counties that had the highest rates of un-insurance before the Medicaid expansion. Many of us already understood this connection, but an academic study to point to can be a useful tool in advocacy. In this instance, the results not only support Medicaid expansion, but also efforts to increase health insurance coverage more broadly.

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