State insurance commissioner undecided on new ACA rule
Despite a promise by President Barack Obama to “fix” problems with the Affordable Care Act, state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is not sure whether he will allow 93,000 Louisianans to keep substandard health care insurance policies in 2014. Insurance companies planned to eliminate those plans next year because they did not meet the minimum coverage requirements under the new health-care law. Obama said last week he would let people keep their existing plans for a year, but Donelon told Nola.com that he might not implement the fix in Louisiana because of its potential impact on insurance companies’ solvency. Donelon says insurance companies already set their prices for next year and those prices didn’t account for the change announced by Obama. Allowing people to keep their current plans raises the risk pool of other plans, which could raise the cost to insurance companies of providing coverage for others.
U.S. Justice Department proposes new rules to state’s voucher program
The U.S. Justice Department proposed a new plan to ensure that the state’s voucher program does not run afoul of federal desegregation orders in 23 Louisiana public school districts. According to The Advocate, the new proposal calls for the state to provide the Justice Department with information about the students it intends to assign to voucher schools 45 days before the assignments are finalized and families are notified. The Justice Department initially demanded that voucher applications in school districts under a desegregation order be pre-approved by federal courts. The new proposal will be outlined further during a court hearing on Friday.
New preschool standards are launched in pilot classrooms
A new effort by the state to create a uniform evaluation system to compare publically funded preschools is being rolled out in 15 parishes as part of a new pilot program that will be expanded to all preschools in 2015. Under the new Teaching Strategies Gold standards, teachers must track their students’ development to ensure all students are meeting “checkpoints” throughout the year. Education officials say the new standards will allow the state to hold education centers accountable in much the same way that public elementary and secondary schools are evaluated through letter grades. Thus far, the state has spent about $3.5 million on the pilot program, with about $2.6 million being given in direct grants to the 15 participating school systems.
Cash strapped states turn to public-private partnerships
Many states with budget shortfalls and other financial woes are turning toward public-private partnerships to build highways, run prisons, bore tunnels and – in Louisiana’s case – operate hospitals. As Stateline by PEW reports, two-thirds of states have laws that allow public-private partnerships and 24 have recently considered legislation. The private-public partnership models typically require private companies to cover the upfront costs of projects in exchange for the right to operate the facilities, collect tolls and rents, etc. While privately-run toll roads existed for several decades, recent times have seen new types of partnerships occur – like the new Port of Miami tunnel and the privatizations of Virginia’s prisons. Labor unions are the most prominent skeptics of these deals, because they often result in fewer job opportunities for union members.
Upcoming LBP Events
LBP and PolicyLink are hosting a Twitter chat on “Protecting Your Paycheck: The Pitfalls of Payday Lending” 1 p.m. Dec. 12 using the hashtag #protecturpay.