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The SAVE Plan for Student Loan Repayment: Which Fields and Colleges Benefit Most?

October 18, 2023

The Biden administration launched a new income-driven repayment (IDR) plan for federal student loans this year called Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE). The plan cuts borrowers' monthly payments compared with current IDR plans, provides earlier loan forgiveness for smaller debts, and prevents unpaid interest from accumulating.To better understand how borrowers from different degree programs and higher education institutions will benefit from the new SAVE plan, this report uses College Scorecard data to examine loan repayment patterns for more than 25,000 postsecondary programs. 

Increasing Financial Access to Contraception for Low-Income Americans

June 27, 2023

Access to contraception is fundamental to reproductive autonomy and economic mobility for parents and their children. Today in the U.S., the cost of contraception severely limits access for those without health insurance. Although the Affordable Care Act eliminated cost-sharing for contraception for those with health insurance, substantial cost-sharing remains for uninsured individuals who seek care through Title X—a national family planning program that offers patient-centered, subsidized contraception and reproductive health services to low-income individuals. I propose two changes to Title X to increase the affordability of contraception for uninsured Americans: (1) make contraceptives free for low-income clients through a change to the guidelines issued by the Office of Population Affairs and Health and Human Services and (2) increase congressional  appropriations for the Title X program to fund this change in guidelines. Similar to the Affordable Care Act's elimination of cost-sharing for contraception for Americans with health insurance, this proposal eliminates cost-sharing requirements for contraception for uninsured, low-income Americans through the Title X program. This policy proposal is supported by highly relevant evidence from a randomized control trial conducted at Title X providers. Eliminating costsharing for contraception through Title X would increase use of preferred contraceptive methods; reduce pregnancies that are mistimed or not desired, including those ending in abortion; and generate substantial enough savings in other government spending that the program would more than pay for itself.

Out of Reach: How Gaps in Medicare Coverage of Substance Use Disorder Care Harm Beneficiaries

June 23, 2023

Retirement should mark an exciting new chapter, not a health care nightmare! More than 4.3 million adults 65+ have a substance use disorder, but very few receive treatment through Medicare. As leaders of the Medicare Addiction Parity Project, Legal Action Center developed an issue brief that includes stories from beneficiaries who have struggled to get the lifesaving addiction treatment they need and recommendations for how to close these dangerous gaps in Medicare coverage.In 2022, RRF Foundation for Aging awarded a two-year grant to Legal Action Center of the City of New York. Inc. in support of advocacy efforts to bring parity in healthcare coverage for older adults on Medicare experiencing substance use disorders.Click "Download" to access this resource.

Implementing State-Level Policy and Operational Processes That Enhance Access to Medicaid Family Planning Program Services

June 7, 2023

Medicaid provides a critical source of health care coverage for low-income individuals in the United States, including 13 million women of reproductive age. Medicaid is also the primary source of family planning coverage, accounting for 75% of public expenditures for family planning services in the United States. State Medicaid programs have a long-standing requirement to provide family planning services in the benefits package that is provided to people enrolled in full-scope coverage. In order to expand the number of people who can access family planning services, states have also taken the option to establish Medicaid family planning programs that cover a suite of family planning services for individuals not otherwise eligible for full-scope Medicaid.States have considerable flexibility in designing their Medicaid family planning programs. As a result, access to and utilization of Medicaid family planning programs are largely impacted by the policies and operational processes a state Medicaid program chooses to implement. The decisions a state makes related to its application process, consumer outreach, confidentiality policies, scope of covered benefits and provider network are all critical programmatic features that determine how easy or difficult it is for an individual to enroll in and receive services through Medicaid family planning programs.To promote access and utilization, this issue brief provides an array of best practice strategies in place across the nation to serve as an actionable road map for states that might be considering adopting such a program as well as states with existing programs looking to bolster participation and utilization rates. The strategies are derived from a review of national literature and policies and practices across the country and informed by an analysis of participation rates and utilization of services in 22 of the 30 states with programs in place.

Social Insurance during the Pandemic: Successes, Shortcomings, and Policy Options for the Future

June 1, 2023

In June, 2023, the National Academy of Social Insurance (the Academy) published the report, Social Insurance during the Pandemic: Successes, Failures, and Policy Options for the Future. The report describes and evaluates the ways in which our nation's social insurance system performed during the pandemic, highlights the successes and shortcomings, and provides lessons that can be applied in anticipation of future crises.The good news is that the study found that the U.S. social insurance system, including programs like Social Security and Medicare, performed well during the pandemic. The significant drop in economic activity during the crisis did not undercut the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds as had been feared. However, the pandemic did result in reductions in the number of people who received important benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance due to the closing of Social Security field offices and employees' transition to remote work. The pandemic also exacerbated inequalities across race and ethnicity and took a disproportionate toll on the lives of older people, particularly those residing in nursing homes. This comprehensive report provides 44 policy options that fall into three categories: options that would make permanent or automatically trigger new programs established during the pandemic such as automatic increases in the federal share of Medicaid spending and lowering administrative burdens for programs like Supplemental Security Income and SNAP during economic downturns; new policies where the pandemic uncovered a need for improvements such as closing the digital divide; and recommended improvements in data collection and research to understand the consequences and shortcomings of the pandemic.The Academy launched the report first with its members this summer at a webinar in which RRF made opening remarks. The Academy will follow up this fall with webinars for advocates and policymakers to roll out a series of fact sheets and a toolkit for their use in seeking policy reforms. The Academy's members include 1,200 elected social insurance experts, affiliated with universities, think tanks, business, labor, legislative and executive branches of federal or state government, and advocacy and interest groups. Its work is widely regarded as unbiased and authoritative, and its members are often called upon by journalists and citizen groups to explain issues that come up in policy debates.RRF is proud to be a funding partner with the Academy on this seminal work. Click "Download" to access this resource.

Risk Averse and Disinclined: What COVID Prison Releases Demonstrate About the Ability of the United States to Reduce Mass Incarceration

May 23, 2023

"Risk Averse and Disinclined" builds upon prior findings produced last year through the Institute's publication "Examining Prison Releases in Response to COVID: Lessons Learned for Reducing the Effects of Mass Incarceration." Through this new report, researchers present case studies of six states — Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington — to gain a more in-depth view of what legal mechanisms were available to jurisdictions and the factors that influenced whether they were willing or able to use those mechanisms to release people from prison during the pandemic. The findings of this report show that although jurisdictions have the power to make releases from prison using back-end discretion, they are unlikely to use it due to risk aversion stemming from the fear of public and political backlash should anyone who is released go on to commit a serious crime. Thus, the authors continue to conclude that back-end release mechanisms offer only a modest opportunity to reduce mass incarceration. Instead, state-level carceral policies that focus on diffusing responsibility for back-end release and reduce incarceration in the first place have the greatest chance of achieving long-term reductions in prison populations.

Visualizing Firearm Mortality and Law Effects: An Interactive Web-Based Tool

February 23, 2023

The Firearm Law Effects and Mortality Explorer is designed to provide users with information about the distribution of firearm deaths across states and demographic subgroups. In addition, it allows users to explore how those deaths might be affected by the implementation of a set of commonly enacted state firearm laws using estimates of those effects produced by the RAND research team. In the documentation that accompanies the tool, the research team describes the data sources used to produce the visualizations in the tool, the assumptions underlying the visualizations, and the statistical models that produce the law effect estimates the visualizations depict.

The Science of Gun Policy: A Critical Synthesis of Research Evidence on the Effects of Gun Policies in the United States, Third Edition

January 17, 2023

In this report, part of the RAND Corporation's Gun Policy in America initiative, researchers seek objective information about what scientific literature reveals about the likely effects of various gun laws. In the third edition of this report, the authors incorporate more-recent research in their synthesis of the available scientific data regarding the effects of 18 state firearm policies on firearm deaths, violent crime, suicides, the gun industry, defensive gun use, and other outcomes. By highlighting where scientific evidence is accumulating, the authors hope to build consensus around a shared set of facts that have been established through a transparent, nonpartisan, and impartial review process. In so doing, they also illuminate areas in which more and better information could make important contributions to establishing fair and effective gun policies.

Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops

October 10, 2022

Stark racial inequity has long been a deeply troubling aspect of our criminal justice system. In recent years, traffic stops have emerged as a key factor driving some of these inequities and an area of potential reform. Are there opportunities to identify kinds of traffic stops that could be enforced in alternative ways—potentially improving officer and civilian safety, enhancing police efficiency, and reducing racial disparities—without jeopardizing road safety?To explore this question, in this report we use data on 3.4 million traffic stops made in 2019 by California's 15 largest law enforcement agencies to examine racial disparities in stop outcomes and experiences across time of the day, type of law enforcement agency, and type of traffic violation.

Justice System Disparities: Black-White National Imprisonment Trends, 2000 to 2020

September 14, 2022

Although significant gaps remain, disparities between Black and White people continued to narrow at nearly every stage of the criminal justice process between 2016 and 2020. In some cases, the pace of the decline slowed; in others, the disparity gap closed entirely.These trends extend patterns from 2000 to 2016 that were identified in CCJ's first report on correctional control by race and sex. Subsequent reports will explore trends in disparity among female populations and by ethnicity, assess trends in multiple states, and seek to identify what, if any, policy changes may have contributed to reductions in racial disparities.

Reimagining Restitution: New Approaches to Support Youth and Communities

July 14, 2022

Courts began ordering youth restitution in the 1960s as a less restrictive sanction than probation or incarceration for mostly white youth. Since then, restitution has been linked to higher recidivism rates and heightened racial and economic disparities in the juvenile justice system. This report provides an overview of the historical and current landscape of restitution imposed on youth, the impact of restitution on youth, victims and communities, and provides recommendations for how jurisdictions can reimagine restitution.

Evaluating the Effects of Ranked-Choice Voting

March 30, 2022

As ranked-choice voting (RCV) continues to spread across America, activists, voters, election officials, and state lawmakers want to know more about the effects of adopting RCV and other voting systems on participation, processes, partisanship, policy, and power. Recognizing the need for more—and more publicly accessible—research on electoral reform, New America's Political Reform program formed the Electoral Reform Research Group (ERRG) with partners at the American Enterprise Institute, the Unite America Institute, and Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.This collection of ERRG research includes 15 original studies, presented here as a series of briefs. The full papers are available to download for free on the Social Science Research Network website.