The distinguishing characteristic of Tennessee’s 2019 individual health insurance market may be competition—and geography will matter.
Tennessee Reconnect, a statewide adult education initiative, could be a model to boost access to skills training in the South, per a new report that assesses whether the region is primed to close the gap that keeps workers from some well paying jobs despite historically low unemployment rates.
There aren’t enough workers in the South to fill what’s called “middle skill” jobs, which include a variety of jobs such as plumber, electrician, bookkeeper, some medical assistant positions, according to a new report from the National Skills Coalition and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis.
The open positions have put pressure on state and private sectors to work together to ensure that potential employees have the opportunity to train for and learn the requisite skills. Tennessee’s unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent in May.
“Employers are having a tough time finding skilled employees right now. They are feeling that squeeze right now. Once again it’s important to look at the causes behind that,” said Melissa Johnson, senior state policy analyst at the coalition and an author of the report.
Johnson said the organization wanted to take advantage of the tight labor market to determine what kinds of skills employers most need as a way to better understand the types of training or policies that need to be put in place.
Yet, a nuance of the tight labor market — and the state’s historically low level of education — is that many people are having to work more than one job to make ends meet. Not everyone feels like it’s a boom period, said Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee, a non-profit focused on postsecondary education.
For people with a high school degree or less, pre-recession employment never rebounded.
“The recession has continued and they are not able to take part in what this boom is about,” said Lovett.
In Tennessee, a worker would need to make $15.74 an hour, or work 87 hours a week at minimum wage, to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a new analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A one-bedroom in Tennessee would require 71 hours a week at the $7.35 minimum wage.
“We have to come to the reality that for a lot of individuals their main job doesn’t pay enough to survive and they have to take a second or third job. In most cases they are working more than one job — that drastically limits your time to achieve more education” said Lovett.
‘The cost of living is creeping up on them’
The skills report tips Tennessee Reconnect, a part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to ensure 55 percent of adults have education beyond high school, as an innovative approach that other states could follow as they try to make sure the workforce has the skills for current and future jobs. Tennessee Reconnect rolls out statewide this fall.
But it’s not clear at this point who will be able to take advantage of the program and what barriers, such as access to transportation or childcare, will impede enrollment, said Johnson.
“What we’re worried about is those below the poverty line may not be as strong in numbers as their peers,” said Lovett.
Lovett and others will be paying attention to enrollment and completion data to understand what makes successful adult education feasible.
“That is the interesting challenge that we have not just in Tennessee but across the nation,” said Lovett. “A lot of individuals would love to (go to school) but the cost of living is creeping up on them so they have to use that time to find other forms of employment to pay the bills.”
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development presented its findings from a listening tour about what businesses, education and workers need from apprenticeships.
The number of hospitals trying to treat an older, sicker population with a smaller clinical staff is set to decline, leading hospitals and health systems to spearhead the building of community partnerships to prepare for that era, health care executives said. Continue reading “LifePoint: ‘Cast of thousands’ needed to tackle problems facing health, hospitals”
What you’ll read about: Many parts of Tennessee have a shortage of dentists so free dental care at charity events is a big draw for people who may not have seen a dentist in years.
Meharry Medical College is taking a mobile clinic around to parts of the state to provide care.
While in other states, including Minnesota, legislatures have changed laws allowing a midlevel type of practitioner trained to do basic preventative and restorative work.
What you’ll read about: Change and innovation run skin deep in some corners where the status quo of in-patient admissions and fee for service reign.
Is change really going to come from the shiny pixels of apps and software that are supposed to streamline the complex annals of behind-the-scenes care?
Tennessee is fighting a war to improve people’s health — and it’s years away from being won.
What you’ll read about: The state legislature is poised to instruct TennCare to negotiate a work requirement — an unprecedented approach to Medicaid eligibility that raises questions about what happens in times of an economic downturn and how to track hours as the number of people in gig-type jobs rises.
Implementing a work requirement in a state with stringent eligibility rules spotlights a central question the U.S. is grappling with: what happens if insurance is tied to employment, but not all employers offer affordable coverage?