New report shows costs of Obamacare insurance premiums
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new data today detailing the cost of health insurance premiums in the 36 states where the federal government will operate online “marketplaces” as part of the Affordable Care Act. About 95 percent of those eligible for the Marketplace live in a state where their average premium is lower than earlier projections by the Congressional Budget Office. Out-of-pocket costs in the new marketplace, which goes online Oct. 1, will vary by a person’s age, income and the cost-share that’s required by the plan they choose. But the majority of Louisianans using the marketplace will end up paying less than they would pay without reform, thanks largely to federal tax credits designed to make coverage more affordable. For more details on the cost of various plans, the HHS released a data book that breaks down premium and plan cost by age.
States ponder costs, benefits of film incentives
While movie, television and other film productions spend millions of dollars in communities where they film, a hefty portion of that economic activity is financed by taxpayers. In fact, many states that offer movie tax credits end up paying far more money to film producers than they ever recoup in tax receipts. That is certainly true in Louisiana, where the state spent $231 million on film and TV productions in 2011, and spent more than $7 for every $1 in new tax revenue. Minnesota Public Radio reports several studies from think tanks across the political spectrum concluded states could get more bang for their buck with a general tax cut. Several states have already taken notice of these findings. Arizona, Iowa, Connecticut and Idaho have each stopped funding their film subsidy programs, and North Carolina’s package will expire in December 2014.
Shifting college financial aid away from needy harms states
Many state university systems are shifting financial aid away from need-based aid in favor of merit-based programs like TOPS. Because performance on standardized tests like the SAT correlates closely with family income, the shift means more help for wealthier students, whose families can afford college, and less for the poor. While supporters of merit-based aid argue providing financial assistance to students with high GPAs and test scores is a way to combat brain drain, there is no evidence supporting this claim. There is, however, plenty of evidence that financial aid has a hugely positive impact on whether low-income students graduate. Thus, The New York Times’ economic reporter Catherine Rampell writes, “By devoting more aid dollars to the likely college students rather than to more marginal ones, states are limiting the overall pool of residents who will be able to obtain college-level skills. Perhaps just as important, they are also limiting the economic prospects of their entire populations.”
Louisiana needs to stick with Common Core standards: Editorial
As more far-right politicians join the rush to denounce higher standards in K-12 education, the Common Core State Standards drew a hearty defense from nola.com. Noting that Louisiana played a prominent part in developing the standards, which have been adopted by 45 states, the news website urged Gov. Bobby Jindal to reject calls from legislators to abandon the effort. “This is not a plot by the Obama administration to take over Louisiana schools. It’s not a federal initiative at all,” the editorial reads. Teachers, parents and school administrators from across the nation developed the standards under the umbrella of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. Each state that adopts the standards is given flexibility to create its own curriculum.