GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump may have to testify shortly before November’s election in a case accusing his now-defunct Trump University of fraud. A New York judge ruled (4/26) the New York Attorney General’s case against Trump University will go to trial.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the lawsuit in 2013 and only recently received the go-ahead from a New York Appellate Division.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump University “repeatedly deceived students into thinking that they were attending a legally chartered ‘university,’” the New York Daily News reported. Allegations against Trump University in its many legal battles include the charge that Trump pretended to “hand-pick” the professors and manipulated people into spending thousands of dollars on seminars — sometimes maxing out their credit cards.

Schneiderman wants Trump and the organization to pay back the 5,000 students nationwide as much as $35,000 each they invested to “participate in live seminars and mentorship programs with the promise of learning Donald Trump’s real estate investing techniques,” USA Today reported (4/26)

The AG says the university deceived students into thinking the school was a legally charted “university.” In 2010, after cease and desist letters from New York, the organization changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative and later in the year ceased its operations.

Trump has battled the legal claims publicly and in court. He launched the website 98percentapproval.com to boast of the positive appraisals provided by students.

Trump’s attorney, Jeffrey Goldman, said the trial could be held in the fall, according to Fox News. This isn’t the only Trump University lawsuit that could gain steam and go to trial during the election.

At least two other cases allege fraudulent practices by Trump University, USA Today reported. Art Cohen v. Donald Trump is moving through federal court in California. Another case, Tarla Makaeff et al. v. Trump University alleges fraud in California, Florida and New York and could go to trial this year.

FORMER SANDERS STAFFERS SEEK TO CHANGE CONGRESS. Some of Bernie Sanders’ former staff and volunteers have formed a political action committee dedicated to giving the senator “the ability to make real change from the White House,” Samantha Lachman reported at HuffingtonPost.com (4/27).

Brand New Congress, which was launched 4/25, is looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections to “replace Congress all at once” with lawmakers who agree with Sanders’ policy positions. The PAC won’t be able to fully accomplish that goal in 2018, however, since just 468 of the 535 lawmakers in the House and Senate will be up for re-election.

A timeline on the PAC’s website (BrandNewCongress.org) says that it plans to form local search committees to recruit organizers and candidates who are new to politics. (Sanders, for his part, has served in Congress for 26 years.) The PAC says it will codify various progressive policies in a platform that its slate of candidates must support.

Zack Exley, one of the PAC’s founding organizers and a senior Sanders adviser until a few weeks ago, said Brand New Congress can accomplish its goals because Sanders has shown that grassroots candidates who weren’t taken seriously in the past can recruit thousands of volunteers and raise tens of millions of dollars online. The senator has out-raised Clinton in each of the last three months, and has now matched her total fundraising haul, helping him stay in the race much longer than anyone anticipated before the primaries.

“We learned … that the grassroots are better qualified to run electoral campaigns than Democratic party operatives,” Exley told HuffingtonPost.com in an email. “They just need to be given the tools, the data, the offices and the structure to succeed.”

VA. GOV. RESTORES EX-CONS’ RIGHTS. More than 200,000 convicted felons will be able to cast ballots in the swing state of Virginia in November’s election under an executive order by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) that restores their rights to vote and run for office, the Associated Press reported (4/22). McAuliffe said the action would help undo Virginia’s long history of trying to suppress the black vote.

“Virginia will no longer build walls and barriers to the ballot box. We will take them down,” he said.

Virginia is one of 12 states that permanently disenfranchise residents with a felony record. In 38 other states and D.C., most ex-felons automatically regain the right to vote when they complete their sentence, Alice Ollstein noted at ThinkProgress (4/22).

But reforms implemented by McAuliffe over the past two years have loosened those restrictions and made it possible for thousands of Virginians with non-violent drug convictions to have their rights automatically restored. He also abolished the practice of withholding civil rights from those who can’t afford to pay their court fees — which affected Virginians have called a modern-day poll tax.

Local faith leaders speaking at the order’s signing emphasized that felon disenfranchisement laws like Virginia’s were created with the explicit intent of preventing African Americans from gaining political power, Ollstein noted. In fact, one state senator who pushed for the policy more than 100 years ago noted that it would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor” and ensure the “complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.”

Steve Benen of MaddowBlog noted (4/22) that 200,000 people is a significant number. In Virginia, where 4 mln people voted in the 2012 presidential election, 200,000 people would be roughly 5% of the electorate. And in 2012, President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the commonwealth by less than 4 percentage points.

Virginia Republicans complained about the new policy, but Benen noted that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation to restore voting rights to non-violent felons in federal elections.

N.C. VOTER SUPPRESSION LAW COULD SWING ELECTION. North Carolina’s sweeping package of voting restrictions will likely be in place for this fall’s general election, thanks to a decision from conservative federal Judge Thomas Schroeder (4/25). Voting rights groups are already sounding the alarm about the damage the policies could cause in a high stakes election year, Alice Ollstein reported at ThinkProgress (4/26).

Judge Schroeder, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled that eliminating same-day voter registration, cutting a full week of early voting, barring voters from casting a ballot outside their home precinct, ending straight-ticket voting and scrapping a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day does not overly burden voters of color. He also upheld the state’s strict voter ID requirement, which residents argued was passed with the intention of suppressing African-American votes.

North Carolina voters of color and the groups supporting them said that they will “immediately” appeal, in hopes of reversing the damage before the general election in November.

“We know that people, particularly African Americans and students, have been disenfranchised by this monster voter suppression law,” said Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Yet the court upheld the most sweeping retrogressive voter suppression that we have seen since the 19th century and Jim Crow. Their decision is wrong.”

This November will be the first election in more than 50 years without a functioning federal Voting Rights Act. Before the US Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, North Carolina would have had to prove both that they had a compelling reason to pass the host of voting restrictions, and that it wouldn’t disproportionately harm voters of color. But now, absent those federal protections, the burden of proof is on the voters, and the state does not have to support its dubious claim that the intent is combating voter fraud.

Barber told reporters (4/26) that the ruling has motivated him to redouble his efforts to pressure Congress to reauthorize the gutted section of the Voting Rights Act.

“We must demand that the Ryan-McConnell Congress hold hearings and votes to restore Section 5 protection,” he said. “For two years they have refused to do their duty and restore it.”

The lead plaintiff in the case was 95-year-old Rosanell Eaton, who grew up under Jim Crow voter suppression laws. In her elderly years she found herself once again unable to vote in her home state. Because Eaton was delivered by a midwife at home — like many African Americans were at that time — the names on her birth certificate, driver’s license and voter registration card don’t exactly match. It took her nine trips to the DMV, totaling more than 250 miles of driving, to get the ID she needed to vote under North Carolina’s new law.

Her daughter, Armenta Eaton, told ThinkProgress last year, “Both she and I believe she should not have to have gone through these difficult times to exercise her right to vote as a citizen of these United States.”

Fewer than 14,000 voters won the state for President Obama in 2008. Since an estimated 218,000 voters lack the proper ID, the laws could sway both the presidential and governor’s races — where the man who signed the voting restrictions, Gov. Pat McCrory (R), is seeking reelection.

TWO-THIRDS OF KANSAS VOTER REGISTRATIONS HELD BACK. Voting rolls in Kansas are in “chaos” because of the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements, the American Civil Liberties Union has argued in a court document, noting that about two-thirds of new voter registration applications submitted during a three-week period in February are on hold, the Associated Press reported (4/25).

Kansas is fending off multiple legal challenges from voting rights activists, and just months before the state’s August primary, the status of the “dual registration” system remains unclear. Federal judges in separate voter-registration lawsuits unfolding in Kansas and Washington, D.C., could rule at any time. There’s also greater urgency because registrations typically surge during an election year.

Kansas is one of four states, along with Georgia, Alabama and Arizona, to require documentary proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers — to register to vote. Under Kansas’ challenged system, voters who registered using a federal form, which hadn’t required proof of US citizenship, could only vote in federal races and not in state or local races. Kansas says it will keep the dual voting system in place for upcoming elections if the courts allow its residents to register to vote either with a federal form or at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship.

Of the more than 22,000 submitted voter registration applications submitted between 2/1 and 2/21, only 7,444 were completed with proof of citizenship, State Elections Director Bryan Caskey said. That meant the majority of those registrants were put on the suspense list, and their voting registrations will be purged after 90 days unless proper documents are submitted.

Younger citizens were affected the most. Although those between the ages of 18 and 29 comprise only 14.9% of registered Kansas voters, that age group makes up more than 58% of applicants who registered at motor vehicle offices and are on the suspense list.

The ACLU is fighting on behalf of six voters, but the case could obviously affect tens of thousands of Kansas voters, Jen Hayden noted at DailyKos.com (4/27).

The law has had a chilling effect on current and future voters in Kansas, Hayden noted. During the 2014 election, Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office placed 37,000 voters in a “suspended registration status.” “Although his opponent, Paul Davis, didn’t think it affected the outcome of that election, it is noteworthy that Brownback won by 33,000,” Hayden wrote.

Dale Ho, an ACLU attorney, argued Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law, which went into effect in 2013, violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. In a lawsuit filed in February, the ACLU argues that Congress specifically rejected a provision that would’ve required proof of citizenship or other documentation when people register to vote.

FAST FOOD INDUSTRY SKIRTS LABOR LAW WITH STATE ASSISTS. With fast food workers on the march nationwide to assert their rights, deep-pocketed corporate interests have quietly turned to state lawmakers for help in insulating them from labor disputes at the state level, Alan Pyke noted at ThinkProgress (4/26).

The low-profile legislation to shore up a liability firewall that has made it hard for workers in some industries to pursue their labor rights fully since the mid-1980s. In March, buried in a stack of 59 different laws, Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed Wisconsin Act 203, which made Wisconsin the latest state to prohibit state labor agencies and judges from applying the same logic the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has invoked to eat away at a common corporate liability shield.

The NLRB last year revised a long-standing policy for when two businesses are so intertwined that both are legally liable for the other’s workplace employment policies. Traditionally, the “joint employer standard” applied only when a business had “direct” control over another’s workforce.

In the case involving labor complaints against McDonald’s Corp., the NLRB ruled that the franchiser corporation was legally liable for labor rights violations at its franchisees, even if those restaurants were privately owned businesses that merely rented out the corporate name. More than 80% of McDonald’s restaurants are privately owned.

Labor groups cheered the rule since it made union organizing easier. Rather than trying to organize restaurants one at a time, they could now target the corporate parent instead. The charges against McDonald’s that became the basis for the labor board rules change were the result of a campaign funded by the Service Employees International Union.

Wisconsin is the eighth state to enact a policy declaring that the federal government’s franchise rule doesn’t apply to state agencies or in state labor disputes. Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, North Carolina and Utah have all enacted similar laws in the past year. The North Carolina revision was hidden in the controversial law that set bathroom rules for transgender people and banned cities from protecting gay, bisexual and transgender people. Gov. Terry McCauliffe (D) vetoed the idea in Virginia and Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is weighing it in Georgia.

The states can’t shelter franchisers from federal agencies or offer protection from suits brought in federal court. But anyone who wants to pursue a wage theft claim or other labor law allegation will have to decide between using state-level systems that can work much faster or turning to the slower federal process that can pursue both of the firms that shape their workplace experience.

CLIMATE CHANGE EMERGES AS WEDGE ISSUE. A new public opinion survey finds that “Americans across political lines, except conservative Republicans, would support a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming,” Joe Romm notes at ThinkProgress (4/27)

The survey of 1,004 registered voters by the Climate Change Communication programs at Yale and George Mason University yielded a number of important findings consistent with earlier polling this year by Gallup.

The new survey found a growing number of registered voters understand global warming is happening: “Three in four (73%, up 7 points since Spring 2014) now think it is happening. Large majorities of Democrats — liberal (95%) and moderate/conservative (80%) — think it is happening, as do three in four Independents (74%, up 15 points since Spring 2014) and the majority of liberal/moderate Republicans (71%, up 10 points).”

The researchers point out “only 47% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening.” But then they immediately note: “Importantly, however, there has been a large increase in the number of conservative Republicans who think global warming is happening. In fact, conservative Republicans have experienced the largest shift of any group—an increase of 19 percentage points over the past two years.”

Part of the reason for this growing public awareness is Pope Francis, who released his encyclical on the environment last year. Back in November, the same researchers found that “17% of Americans and 35% of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.” The researches also believe that public awareness has likely been boosted by the the Paris climate accord, the record-smashing winter, and media coverage of climate change.

MAINE GOV. SAYS DRUG USERS SHOULD DIE. TMZ reports that, six days before he passed, Prince was forced to make an emergency stop in Moline, Ill., on his way home from an Atlanta concert date for the purpose of having a “save shot” that would reverse a possible opiate overdose. It’s hard to imagine today, but this could have been worse: He could have had to land in Maine, Charles Pierce noted at Esquire.com (4/22).

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill that would allow pharmacists “to dispense naloxone to practically anyone who asks for it,” the Portland Press Herald reported (4/20). In a letter to lawmakers explaining the veto, he wrote, ”Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” repeating a contention that has caused controversy before. “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

Pierce commented, “Of all the Republican governors who have run their states into the ditch over the past seven years, human bowling jacket Paul LePage is the most perfect combination of policy ignorance and boneheaded, talk-show confidence in his own righteousness of them all. He’s an embarrassment to enlightened democracy. Hell, he’s an embarrassment to human thought. But he’s also a cautionary tale for us as a country.”

The only reason LePage was elected in the first place, Pierce noted, was because there were four candidates split the vote on the other side, and the only reason he was re-elected two years ago, is because one of them, Eliot Cutler, ran as a third wheel again.

In his concession, the Bangor Daily News reported (11/5/14), Cutler vowed to work toward ways that would improve chances for future independent candidates. About whether he’d considered running for another office after this: “Who knows? Never say never.” In his victory speech, LePage said the campaign had elevated his respect for Cutler and that Cutler would make an excellent attorney general. [That didn’t happen.]

Pierce added, “Cutler’s fans were dedicated and sincere. A lot of drug addicts are likely to die in Maine now. People should remember that.”

COLORADO GOP LOSES TOP SENATE CHALLENGER. Many Republicans believe Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is vulnerable this year in one of the country’s most unpredictable battleground states. But finding the right candidate has proven to be tricky. Colorado Republicans were turned down by Rep. Mike Coffman, Rep. Scott Tipton (R), state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) and Rep. Ken Buck (R).f

Without a top-tier contender, quite a few second-tier Republicans jumped into the race, and suddenly 13 Republicans were competing for the Senate nomination. A favorite emerged among party insiders in former state Rep. Jon Keyser (R), an Air Force Reserve major. But the Denver Post reported he’s run into some trouble, too, as state officials said (4/25) that Keyser failed to collect enough signatures to earn a place on the June 28 primary ballot.

Under state rules, Senate candidates who choose to petition their way onto the ballot must gather signatures from 1,500 or more voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts – at least 10,500 in all.

Keyser fell short by 86 signatures in Colorado’s 3rd District, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office, which reviewed his petition.

Colorado, unlike many other states, does not allow voters to sign more than one ballot-access petition, Steve Benen explained at MaddowBlog.com (4/26). If you sign a petition to get Candidate A on the ballot, and then do the same for Candidate B, the latter won’t count. If Candidate B submits the petition with your signature, it’ll be excluded from the overall count.

And as a result, the top Republican candidate in this race may be disqualified, though Keyser’s campaign team is filing an appeal and threatening “legal action.”

Only two candidates have qualified for the primary ballot – former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham and Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. Two more – businessman Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, both of whom have run failed congressional campaigns – have submitted ballot signatures and are awaiting official confirmation.

KANSAS GOV. JUSTIFIES KICKING 15,000 OFF FOOD STAMPS. For over five years now, Kansas has served as an economic policy experiment for anti-tax, small-government conservatives. Their lab work is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars, crippling public service budgets, and making life harder for low-income families without reducing the state’s poverty rate at all, Alan Pyke noted at ThinkProgress (4/25).

With his political star beginning to tarnish, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) came to Washington (4/20) to discuss his poverty policies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. At one point, the embattled governor justified his policy of forcing people off of food stamps if they can’t find a job by likening low-income and jobless people to lazy college students.

The event was convened around a policy he pioneered: Reinstating a rigid 20-hour-per-week work requirement that federal law allowed him to waive because unemployment was still high at the time in his state. The rules are duplicative — federal law requires the able-bodied adults targeted by the move to accept reasonable job offers at all times, even when a weekly work-hours waiver is in place — and run counter to a lot of policy thinking about how best to get jobless food stamps recipients back to work.

“You probably went to college. You had a lot of papers you had to write. When do most people do their papers in college? My guess is most of you, if I polled you, you would say the night before it was due,” Brownback said. “That’s just kind of who we are as people. And the work requirement is much the same thing.”

When ThinkProgress asked Brownback how one person’s decision to write a paper is equivalent to a second person deciding to offer her a job, he insisted that jobless Kansans can keep their food stamps just by applying for jobs or enrolling in state work training systems.

But that’s not really how his food stamps policy works.

Brownback was the first of several governors to decide to reinstate a hard and fast 20-hours-per-week work requirement for able-bodied adults with no dependents. The Kansas economy was still in rough enough shape that federal law allowed Brownback to waive those rules, as nearly every state had done during the Great Recession.

MO. LEGISLATURE REJECTS MEDICAID FUNDS IN WAR AGAINST PLANNED PARENTHOOD. How much does the Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature loathe Planned Parenthood? The Legislature rejected more than $8.3 mln in federal Medicaid funding the state was slated to receive for family planning, sexually transmitted disease testing and pelvic exams at county health departments and other clinics, including Planned Parenthood. They replaced it with money from Missouri’s general revenues, leaving the total unchanged at $10.8 mln, and stipulated that none of it could go to organizations that provide abortions, as Planned Parenthood does.

Government money cannot fund non-emergency abortions, the Chicago Tribune reported (4/24), but states are prohibited from otherwise blocking Medicaid dollars form abortion providers for non-abortion health services, such as vaccinations and cancer screenings.

Missouri budget staffers estimated that less than $400,000 in Medicaid payments would have gone to the state’s 13 Planned Parenthood clinics for procedures and drugs. Planned Parenthood serves more than 50,000 patients per year in Missouri, and about 7,000 are on Medicaid, a spokesman said.

FCC MOVES ON CHARTER-TIME WARNER-BRIGHT HOUSE MERGER. The Federal Communications Commission (4/25) circulated an order to approve Charter Communications’ $90 bln takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

The deal, which also approved by the Justice Department with some stipulations, combines the nation’s second-, third- and sixth-largest cable-TV and Internet providers. With this approval just two Internet service providers, Charter and Comcast, would control nearly two-thirds of the nation’s high-speed Internet subscribers, Free Press noted.

The FCC is poised to impose three seven-year merger conditions, among other conditions codifying voluntary commitments made by Charter. These are focused on “removing unfair barriers to video competition,” according to a statement from Chairman Tom Wheeler. The merged entity would not be permitted to charge usage-based prices, to impose data caps, or to charge interconnection fees to services including online video providers that deliver large volumes of Internet traffic to broadband customers.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said: “There’s nothing about this massive merger that serves the public interest. There’s nothing about it that helps make the market for cable-TV and Internet services more affordable and competitive for Americans.

“Customers of the newly merged entity will be socked with higher prices as Charter attempts to pay off the nearly $27 bln debt load it took on to finance this deal. The wasted expense of this merger is staggering. For the money Charter spent to make this happen it could have built new competitive broadband options for tens of millions of people. Now these billions of dollars will do little more than line the pockets of Time Warner Cable’s shareholders and executives. CEO Rob Marcus will walk away with a $100 mln golden parachute.

“Thanks to this merger both Charter and Comcast now have unprecedented control over our cable and Internet connections. Their crushing monopoly power will mean fewer choices, higher prices, no accountability and no competition. Conditions won’t lower the monthly bills for those who’ll be hit hardest by these rate hikes: low-income households and communities of color.

“Chairman Wheeler has just tarnished his legacy as head of the FCC. As he nears the end of his term, this wasteful merger undermines his oft-stated priority of ‘competition, competition, competition.’ I guess he decided it was time for a new mantra.”

50 DONORS PROVIDE 41% OF SUPER PAC MONEY. A small core of super-rich individuals is responsible for the record sums cascading into the coffers of super PACs for the 2016 elections, a dynamic that harks back to the financing of presidential campaigns in the Gilded Age, Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy reported in the Washington Post (4/15).

Close to half the money — 41% — raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 mega-donors and their relatives, according to a Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports. Thirty-six of those are Republican supporters who have invested millions in trying to shape the GOP nomination contest — accounting for more than 70% of the money from the top 50.

In all, donors this cycle have given more than $607 mln to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 mln that the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections.

The staggering amounts reflect how super PACs have become fundraising powerhouses just six years after they came on the scene with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that corporations and unions could spend unlimited sums on politics as long as they did it independently of campaigns and parties. The concentration of fundraising power carries echoes of the end of the 19th century, when wealthy interests spent millions to help put former Ohio governor William McKinley in the White House, the Post noted.

OBAMACARE HAS BEEN EFFECTIVE, STUDIES SAY. Six years after passing through the House and Senate without receiving a single Republican vote, the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) remains a hotly contested piece of legislation. But outside of the political arena, there’s much less debate.

Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress notes (4/26) that a mountain of evidence confirms the law’s effectiveness — particularly in its primary goal of expanding health care coverage to some of America’s neediest populations.

In the years since Obamacare passed, many of the largest gains in coverage rates have been in communities that have previously faced barriers to health care access — such as low-wage workers, immigrants, people of color, and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Between 2013 and 2014, when the law went into full effect, every minority group saw large gains in coverage, according to an analysis by the New York Times. Now, 7.2% more Hispanics, 6.1% more Native Americans, 5.1% more blacks and 5.4% more Asians have health insurance.

Legal immigrants and naturalized citizens also saw large increases in coverage, as did groups that are more likely to be working low-wage jobs, such as high-school graduates and Americans living in non-traditional households, which can be a sign of economic distress.

Indeed, the law was so successful in lifting up undeserved populations that it stopped a decades-long expansion of the health-insurance gap between low-income and wealthier Americans.

And the people gaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act are among America’s sickest, according to a report from Blue Cross and Blue Shield that analyzed the claims for 4.7 mln Americans newly enrolled in insurance plans. New policy holders are more likely to have significant health problems, such as diabetes or HIV, which previously would have locked them out of coverage that they desperately needed.

“It’s no surprise that people who newly gained access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act needed health care. That’s why they were locked out of coverage before,” said Ben Wakana, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to a report from the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, Americans who have new health insurance through Obamacare — either through its state-level insurance marketplaces or through its expansion of Medicaid — are better off than the uninsured and in many areas comparable to those with employer-sponsored insurance plans.

Low and moderate-income Americans with marketplace and Medicaid coverage are more likely than the uninsured to have a source of medical care and to have had a checkup in the past year. They are also less likely than the uninsured to report unmet health needs, such as visits to specialists they haven’t been able to make it to.

The research also found that in most cases, marketplace plans were comparable to the employer-sponsored plans that existed before health reform. People insured through Obamacare didn’t struggle more to find new doctors or get timely appointments compared to people insured through their employers. Those with Obamacare’s marketplace plans were also no more likely to report problems paying medical bills or having high out-of-pocket expenses, and were just as satisfied with their premiums.

Those with employer plans were, however, more likely to be satisfied with their choice of providers and their protection against high deductibles, likely because employer plans usually resemble the highest level of marketplace plan.

And while those with Medicaid did report more difficulty getting doctors appointments than those with other types of plans, all groups with insurance were significantly better off than the uninsured — and were likely to have both regular care and lower levels of unmet need due to costs.

The law has also helped people pay down their bills and slash the amount of debt they carry, according to another paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Americans who signed up for the Medicaid program under Obamacare’s expansion reduced their collection balances by $600 to $1,000, according to the researchers. The report also shows that the people who benefited from Medicaid expansion then used that extra money to pay down other debts.

“Health insurance, like any type of insurance, is first and foremost a form of financial protection,” economist Robert Kaestner, one of the study’s authors, told the Washington Post. “It is a real benefit.”

According to federal data, medical bills count for more than half of Americans’ unpaid bills, which can drag down people’s credit scores and in the long run, cost them both money and opportunity. Reducing debt can thus have a ripple effect on financial well-being for years into the future.

Of course, the effect of health reform varies widely across the country. The most marked improvements are evident in states that fully implemented Obamacare, including expansion of Medicaid to cover the working poor.

Nineteen states opted not to expand their Medicaid programs — even though the majority of the cost would be covered by the federal government — after a 2012 Supreme Court case made the expansion optional. States that fully implemented the health care reform law saw an increase in residents with health insurance at nearly double the rate of the GOP-controlled states that didn’t.

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2016


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