Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Maximum Minimum - Part 2

Today Oregon governor, Kate Brown, has signed the new minimum wage bill into law. That means that it's time for the sequel to The Maximum Minimum. I received positive feedback on my last post, despite having a relatively low view count. I attribute the latter part of that partly to the lateness of posting. As I had mentioned, I did have a few more things to discuss with regards to minimum wage.

Wages vs. Welfare
I work daily in the world of public assistance in the form of Medicaid. Eligibility for this program and many others such as SNAP (food stamps), TANF, etc. are based on federal guidelines, not state. Currently Oregon already has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, $2 above national. A single person working a full time job (40 hours a week) at minimum wage in Oregon does NOT qualify for Medicaid. Same job at the national minimum wage would be within the qualifying income range.

So, the higher the wage, the fewer people getting public assistance. That's great, right? In terms of health insurance, it can be the difference between getting free healthcare via Medicaid, or having to pay for private insurance. It's not just the premiums, which could be as low as a few dollars a month, to a few hundred depending on certain factors. What about deductibles and co-pays? If a person actually has to use the insurance, they could end up spending more total than the increase in pay that disqualified them from Medicaid.

What about someone receiving SNAP benefits? Again, this is a federal program, based on federal guidelines. The more money someone earns, the less they can receive in benefits. Now, more of the wage increase goes to the food budget therefore nullifying the increase.