Medicaid is health overhaul’s early success story
Despite a slow rollout of the online health insurance marketplace, federal Medicaid expansion is working exceptionally well in the states that opted to expand eligibility to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for an individual or $32,499 for a family of four. NBC reports that Medicaid has signed up 444,000 people in 10 of the 25 states that accepted the expansion in the six weeks since open enrollment began. The total number of new Medicaid enrollees is likely much higher. State hospital associations, medical groups and advocates for the poor have largely come out in support of Medicaid expansion, which is fully funded by the federal government for the first three years. Despite the fact that expanding Medicaid coverage in Louisiana would cover 200,000 working citizens and save the state as much as $368 million over the next 10 years, the Jindal administration has been adamant keeping eligibility guidelines at their current thresholds.
Judge says Legislature cannot sweep dedicated funds to balance budget
A Baton Rouge judge ruled that the Legislature is not allowed to balance the state budget by sweeping dedicated funds into the general fund. According to District Judge William Morvant, sweeping dedicated funds changes the purpose of the levy from a regulatory fee to a revenues raising levy, thus creating the swept funds as tax levies. Both The Public Service Commission and the Louisiana Probation and Parole Officers Association are suing the state for fund sweeps totaling millions of dollars. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols vowed to appeal and says she’s confident that the ruling will be overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court. If the ruling stays, however, other agencies that experienced fund sweeps are likely to seek judicial relief.
More campaign finance woes for Louisiana
A new installment on investigations into state campaign finance contributions lists nine state officials who received excess contributions since 2006. According to the “Louisiana Purchased” series by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News, the officials who received excess contributions span across the political spectrum: Senate President John Alairo, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, Sen. Elbert Gullory, Sen. Eric LaFleur, Sen. Dan Martiny, Sen. J.P. Morrell, former candidate for secretary of state Francis Heitmeier, and Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. While these candidates can face hefty fines under state law, observers say the state’s ethics board is unlikely to prosecute the offenders due to insufficient personnel or legal mandates. Ethics Board Administrator Kathleen Allen says she hasn’t seen a single prosecution for this offense in the 16 years that she’s worked for the board, and noted that the board does not have the authority to randomly audit campaign reports.
Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes sue oil companies
Two parishes have filed their own lawsuits against several oil companies for damage to the Louisiana coastline. The suits are not as broadly drawn as the one against 97 oil companies filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, according to the attorney [Vic Marcello of Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello, the lead law firm in the legal action]. “They are very narrowly tailored to address only violations of coastal zone regulations and the coastal zone statute and nothing else,” said Marcello. … Marcello said the suits do not seek specific monetary damages but, rather, the remedies contained in the coastal zone statute.