Wednesday, Oct. 30

Wednesday, Oct. 30

Feds, Kennedy question hospital privatization deals; Momentum for flood insurance fix; Congress begins Farm Bill negotiations Wednesday; Do we invest in preschools or prisons? And New school grading policy prompts concerns about school performance. 29,100 – The number of Louisiana veterans receiving food stamp benefits in Louisiana (Source: CBPP)

Feds, Kennedy question hospital privatization deals
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration insists the financial arrangements undergirding the privatization of the state’s safety-net hospitals falls within federal rules. But Treasurer John Kennedy is questioning the arrangements, and fears that the state could end up with a large bill to pay if the schemes are disallowed by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “It’s undeniably clever. The question is whether it’s legal,” Kennedy told The Advocate. His concerns, outlined in a recent opinion column, center on the state’s use of lease payments from the hospital’s private operators as “state match” to generate federal Medicaid dollars. Kennedy fears that the arrangement amounts to laundering federal dollars to generate even more federal dollars – the kind of trickery that has landed the state in trouble several times in years past:

Under the Charity Hospital privatization, the state will “lease” the charity hospitals to private hospitals, which then will be responsible for treating our low-income and uninsured citizens. The state will pay the private hospitals to do this with large amounts of federal money from our Medicaid program. The private hospitals will then return some of those federal dollars to the state as “lease payments.” The federal dollars paid to the state as “lease payments” now become new state dollars, which the state can use to draw down even more federal money. 

But state officials insist that the concept has been thoroughly researched, and they’re confident it will get ultimately get final approval from Washington. “It’s the cost of doing business,” Health and Hospitals Undersecretary Jerry Phillips told the newspaper.

Momentum for flood insurance fix
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and House members have signed on to legislation that could delay large federal flood insurance program increases under the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act. As reports, the bill unveiled on Tuesday calls for delaying many of the rate increases being implemented under the new law for four years. Benefactors of the proposed law would include owners of homes and businesses that are currently grandfathered into their current rates, owners who bought a new flood insurance policy after July 6, 2012, before they were legally required to buy insurance, and owners of properties purchased after July 6, 2012, when Biggert-Waters took effect. The latter group will receive the same treatment as the property’s previous owner unless they trigger another provision in Biggert-Waters such as severe repetitive loss claims or substantial damage, or they use the property as a non-primary home.

Congress begins Farm Bill negotiations Wednesday
Members of Congress will begin negotiations Wednesday to reach a compromise on two vastly different versions of the Farm Bill. As The Advocate reports, the final bill will have large ramifications on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) recipients. The Senate-passed bill proposed reducing funding for the SNAP program by $4 billion, while the House bill axes $40 billion. The final Farm Bill will also impact the Pelican State’s $500 million rice industry by potentially eliminating direct payments for farmers. In place of direct payments, both the House and Senate propose giving rice farmers the option of receiving price-controlled insurance funds, which could support the industry during global price drops.

Do we invest in preschools or prisons?
Investing in early childhood education programs might be the best way to address America’s growing economic inequality, poverty and crime. That’s the conclusion of Nicholas Kristof, who New York Times column makes the case for the expansion of early childhood education programs: Look, we’ll have to confront the pathologies of poverty at some point. We can deal with them cheaply at the front end, in infancy. Or we can wait and jail a troubled adolescent at the tail end. To some extent, we face a choice between investing in preschools or in prisons. We just might have a rare chance in the next couple of months to take steps toward such a landmark early education program in America. But children can’t vote, and they have no highly paid lobbyists — so it’ll happen only if we the public speak up.

New school grading policy prompts concerns about school performance
Nearly a week after the Louisiana Department of Education released new school performance scores, some peoples are raising concerns about a new policy that they say possibly resulted in grade inflation. At the core of the debate is a new policy that rewarded schools and school districts for showing significant gains on key tests even if student scores remained below grade level. State Education Superintendent John White said the new policy is designed to give credit to schools that take hard-to-serve kids and make great gains. But critics call the new measure “bonus points” and say 67 percent of Louisiana’s school districts were rewarded the maximum number of extra points. They want the new rule to undergo review by the Accountability Commission, an advisory panel for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

29,100 – The number of Louisiana veterans receiving food stamp benefits in Louisiana (Source: CBPP)