The sick and the unemployed are suffering in the poorly-performing US economy.
In the news today:
Tuesday marked the expiration of a pair of federal programs that had extended unemployment benefits anywhere from 34 to 73 weeks on top of the 26 weeks already provided by the states. ….
Some recipients have already received their final checks. If the impasse remains unresolved, others will see their payments lapse in the coming days or weeks, depending on how long they have been receiving benefits.
By the end of December, more than two million are set to lose their extended benefits, according to estimates by the National Employment Law Project, and about a million more by the end of January.
Michael Luo, “Millions Bracing for Cutoff of Unemployment Aid”, New York Times, 4 December 2010.
With enrollments exploding, revenues shrinking and the low-hanging fruit plucked long ago, virtually every state has had to make painful cuts to its Medicaid program during the economic downturn.
What distinguishes the reductions recently imposed in Arizona, where coverage was eliminated on Oct. 1 for certain transplants of the heart, liver, lung, pancreas and bone marrow, is the decision to stop paying for treatments urgently needed to ward off death.
The cuts in transplant coverage, which could deny organs to 100 adults currently on the transplant list, are testament to both the severity of fiscal pressures on the states and the particular bloodlessness of budget-cutting in Arizona.
Kevin Sack, “Arizona Medicaid Cuts Seen as a Sign of the Times”, New York Times, 5 December 2010.
Cuts in transplant coverage are outrageous. Even Republicans, who are worried about government “death panels”, would agree. As for extension of unemployment benefits, most economists favour this, not only because of humanitarian concern, but also because it provides a much-needed stimulus of demand. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, however, is not sure about the worth of extending unemployment benefits in a prolonged recession.
A few readers have asked me to opine on the current debate over the extension of unemployment insurance benefits. I have avoided commenting on the topic because I am ambivalent on the issue, largely because I am agnostic about what economists know about optimal UI. ….
[E]conomists who strongly favor the extension of UI benefits … also tend to favor more income redistribution in general. I suspect, therefore, that the foundation of their support comes not from having weighed the specific pros and cons of UI per se, but rather from a more general desire to “spread the wealth around.” That issue is, as I tell my students, more a matter of political philosophy than it is of economics.
Greg Mankiw, “My Agnosticism about UI”, Greg Mankiw’s Blog, 4 December 2010.