Nola.com: Medicaid expansion would strengthen Louisiana’s budget
The New Orleans Times-Picayune continues to push for the state to expand Medicaid. The latest installment is a weekend editorial noting that the state wouldn’t need to rely on short-term gimmicks to balance the budget – such as borrowing $50 million from the New Orleans Convention Center and draining a nursing home trust fund – if Louisiana would accept federal dollars to cover low-income uninsured adults. “Neither move is sound policy,” the newspaper wrote. “The governor, though, seems to prefer budget contortions to admitting that it would be smart for Louisiana to take the Medicaid expansion money. His stance has become more and more mind-boggling.” The state’s own budget estimates show that expanding Medicaid could save as much as $134 million in state general funds next year as the financial burden of treating the uninsured would be reduced. In addition to improving the budget outlook, expansion would bring nearly $16 billion in new health care dollars to Louisiana over the next ten years and create 15,600 jobs.
Federal Reserve study finds that expanding health coverage reduces bankruptcy
In debates over health care policy, it often goes unsaid that the primary reason for health insurance is to protect families from fiscal calamity when illness or injury strikes. And with tens of millions of Americans uninsured or under-insured, it comes as no surprise that medical debt is the leading contributor to personal bankruptcies. Fortunately, a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has found that Massachusetts’ health reform law, signed by Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 and the blueprint for the federal Affordable Care Act, reduced bankruptcy filings by nearly 20 percent and led to improvements in families’ credit scores.
Coming on the heels of a landmark study in Oregon that shows the uninsured had fewer unpaid medical bills and less financial stress when they gained Medicaid coverage, the study provides further evidence that expanding coverage is essential to not only improve Louisiana’s dismal health outcomes, but to strengthen families’ financial security and the state economy.
Six food stamps recipients terminated from program for fraud
Six people who took advantage of a computer outage last year to overspend their SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, also known as food stamps) have been disqualified from the program by the state Department of Children and Families, and another two dozen people are slated to be kicked off as well, the Advocate reports. The alleged fraud did not cost state or federal taxpayers a dime, but was absorbed by the retailer Wal-Mart, which did not follow standard procedures for a computer outage.
However, the actions of a few bad apples are not representative of the entire food stamp program, which has incredibly low rates of fraud and abuse. Last year, nearly one in five Louisianans received food stamp benefits, which are instrumental in mitigating the harmful impacts of poverty, especially among families with children. The average benefit is modest: around $4.50 per person, per day. In Louisiana, one in six households struggle with food insecurity, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Louisiana needs to focus on training for future jobs, says new 2-year college head
Speaking to the editorial board of the Lafayette Advertiser, the incoming president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) said the number one priority must be workforce development to prepare Louisianans to fill well-paying jobs in new high-tech industries. Monty Sullivan, who was previously the chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans, cited the Jindal administration’s proposed $40 million Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) initiative as an example of the state putting an emphasis on job training.
While the WISE initiative is certainly a welcome change after years of cuts in state support for higher education, a recent report from the Legislative Fiscal Office found that state support for 2-year colleges has failed to keep pace in Louisiana since the system was created in the late 1990s. While enrollment has increased an impressive 184 percent since 2000, per-student funding is down 53 percent, and tuition and fees have gone up in recent years as state support has dropped.
Despite widespread agreement that investing in higher education is key to Louisiana’s future, the bottom line is that students are paying more for less and the state is falling behind due to a failure to commit adequate resources to education and job training.