More than 17,500 Louisianans sign up for health coverage
New figures from the White House show 17,548 Louisianans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as of Dec. 28, which is significantly greater than the nearly 2,200 who were enrolled at the end of November but far less than the 400,000 who would benefit if Gov. Bobby Jindal were to extend Medicaid coverage to the working poor. More than 26,000 additional Louisianans completed insurance applications but have not selected a final plan. Nationwide, nearly 2.2 million people enrolled in health coverage through the new law. But the new enrollees are, on balance, older and sicker than the law’s supporters were hoping for – raising fears that premiums could rise faster than expected. Young people aged 18 to 34 comprise 24 percent of enrollees nationally and 27 percent of enrollees in Louisiana. The goal is to raise those numbers closer to 40 percent by the end of the open enrollment period (March 31). Enrolling younger, healthier people keeps insurance prices lower for everyone else, especially because people with preexisting medical conditions can no longer be denied coverage.
Meanwhile, former state Health and Hospitals Secretary David Hood said the push for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana will continue in 2014, even though it faces an uphill battle at the Legislature with opposition from the governor. Hood told the Baton Rouge Press Club that Louisiana is acting foolishly by rejecting $18.5 billion in federal health-care assistance over the next decade. Expansion would cover 242,000 currently uninsured Louisianans, while another 298,000 would be eligible for tax credits to reduce costs of plans purchased through the health exchange.
Federal spending bill includes provision to delay flood insurance hikes
House and Senate negotiators agreed to a $1.1 trillion spending bill on Monday, which included a provision that stops FEMA from hiking federal flood insurance rates for grandfathered property owners whose properties are now included in higher risk designations. The new rate hikes were not scheduled to begin until Oct. 1, but the provision now effectively delays implementation well beyond that date. Still, the deal does not provide relief to homeowners who want to sell their properties. FEMA will be allowed to hike rates for homes that are sold after July 2012. You can read more about the $1.1 trillion spending bill here.
Public weighs in on $3.5 billion school funding proposal
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is holding a public hearing this morning regarding its $3.5 billion school funding proposal. Nola.com reporter Danielle Drellinger writes that the task force is recommending four changes to how schools are funded: increasing overall funding, spending more money for students with severe special needs, and boosting support for career classes and the Course Choice program. The board is also proposing a technology overview for school districts and longer-term studies of special education. As Drellinger notes, The consensus of the politically loaded Minimum Foundation Program Task Force … was considered crucial to avoid the boondoggle of the last two years. The state Supreme Court struck down the 2012-13 formula in May, saying it didn’t receive enough votes. The following month, the Legislature rejected the 2013-14 formula. About one-third of the state’s school systems are now suing the state for more than $200 million they say they are owed retroactively.
Schools begin accepting voucher applications despite program’s poor performance
The state Department of Education announced Monday that 114 schools will accept new voucher students for next academic year. While the Jindal administration touts the governor’s signature public school “reform” law as a step in the right direction, a January report from the state Department of Education showed 45 percent of voucher students attended a D or F school in the program’s first year. In addition, a scathing review from the Legislative Auditor’s Office documented 35 instances where voucher schools overcharged the state for tuition.
LBP hosts free screening of “Inequality for All,” featuring Rob Reich
LBP invites you to attend a free screening of the film “Inequality for All.” A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, the film features former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich as he shows how the massive consolidation of wealth by a few has a devastating impact on our economy and on the foundation of American democracy. With the 2014 legislative session fast approaching, this is a unique opportunity to discuss solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time. The screening will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Baton Rouge Kress Gallery (447 3rd St. Baton Rouge, LA 70802; entrance on Main St. between 2nd St. and 3rd St.). You can join us for light refreshments beginning at 5 p.m. The film will start promptly at 5:30 p.m., followed by a post-screening Q&A. Seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis. Please RSVP here so we can provide an adequate amount of refreshments. Note that an RSVP does not ensure a seat at the event.