State-run health insurance marketplaces showing early signs of success
The 16 states that opted to run their own health insurance exchanges have experienced early signs of success. As Governing Magazine reports, officials in Hawaii announced 1,200 completed applications in its first day and Connecticut said 1,000 applications have been processed since its exchange went online Oct. 1. Experts and officials attribute the success of state-based exchanges to simpler design, simpler services, more thorough testing and a lower volume of visitors. Meanwhile, technical difficulties continue to plague the federal insurance marketplace serving 34 states – including Louisiana – hampering enrollment in those states. For example, Kentucky officials successfully processed 7,000 applications through their state-run marketplace after two days, while only a dozen applications were completed in Louisiana in the opening days of the marketplace. In order to help alleviate the problems with the federal system, multiple groups have created online resources to help people navigate the process of complying with the Affordable Care Act.
Growing number of congressional Republicans say default wouldn’t be too bad
From the Department of Willful Ignorance: A growing number of congressional Republicans are telling the public that failing to raise the nation’s debt limit before the Oct. 17 deadline will not seriously harm the U.S. or world economy. They think the U.S. has enough money to pay off interest rates until Nov. 1, while others say the theory of economic collapse is simply a plot to scare the markets. They are wrong, and failing to raise the artificial limit on U.S. sovereign debt would almost certainly have disastrous consequences, a broad array of economists and other experts agree. For a closer look at the potential consequences, here is an interview with a former chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department. Here is a helpful article that refutes the notion that federal officials can simply pick and choose which bills to pay (hint: It’s a lot more complicated than that). Here is The Advocate’s report on how Louisiana’s delegation is reacting to the mess.
LFO: State colleges facing a cash crunch
The federal government isn’t alone in facing a cash crunch these days. So are Louisiana’s public colleges and universities, thanks to the Legislature’s decision to finance much of their 2013-14 budgets using one-time money. The Legislative Fiscal Office reports that the Louisiana State University System could run through its entire year’s allotment of state general fund support by Dec. 18 at current rates, with other university systems close behind. The problem stems from legislators’ decision to use $340 million in “one-time” money from various sources to fund higher education, to complement the $423 million in state general fund support. Because the one-time dollars materialize at uneven intervals throughout the year, the state allowed colleges to burn through their general-fund dollars at twice the normal rate, which means that funding pool will be depleted roughly halfway through the fiscal year. That, in turn, means colleges will be depending on money from hospital lease payments, property sales, legal settlements and various state funds to make ends meet through June 30. Should the money fail to materialize, the LFO reports that colleges can request funding from a “treasury seed” to make sure payrolls are met and professors get paid.
State shuffles dollars to pay for Bayou Corne sinkhole
Louisiana officials are using a combination of state general fund dollars, emergency funds and treasury loans to cover the costs of the day-to-day expenses related to the Bayou Corne sinkhole. As The Advocate reports, the largest expense is paying CB&I to discover the cause of the a 25-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish. To date, the state has spent nearly $10 million on sinkhole-related expenses. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is hoping to recoup the state’s expenses by suing the two companies responsible for the disaster.