Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Louisiana needs a raise; House bill to cap payday lending APR dies in committee; Affordable Care Act reduces number of uninsured Americans; LSU professors lag behind their peers in pay; and Quote of the day. 15.6 percent — The percentage of Americans without health insurance, the lowest in six years. (Source: Newsweek)

Louisiana needs a raise
The Louisiana Legislature has a chance this week to create jobs, reduce dependency on government and build the middle class by following states like Maryland and Connecticut and giving its workers a raise, LBP Director Jan Moller writes in an op-ed for Nola.com. Several bills have been filed in the Louisiana Legislature to create a minimum wage, raise the standard above the federal minimum and tie the wage to inflation. These actions have broad support across demographics, and would be a boon to Louisiana. An $8.50 minimum wage would provide an immediate raise for 184,000 workers, create an estimated 1,400 new jobs and pump more than $187 million into Louisiana’s economy. Raising the wage to $10.10 per hour would have even bigger benefits for workers and the overall economy.

House bill to cap payday lending APR dies in committee
The House Commerce Committee voted narrowly Monday to kill House Bill 239, which would have capped interest rates payday lenders are allowed to charge at 36 percent. After several hours of testimony about how payday loans trap consumers in cycles of debt, drain money from the Louisiana economy and result in closed bank accounts, lost jobs and bankruptcy for families, representatives of the industry testified that the bill would make it impossible for them to operate in the state. The committee voted 10-8 against the bill.

Last week, the same committee approved a House Bill 766, an industry-backed bill that lacks any real protections for consumers. The Senate Judiciary A Committee passed a bill from Sen. Ben Nevers that also sought to cap the rate payday lenders are allowed to charge. However, that bill was amended to remove the rate cap and replace it with a cap on the number of loans a customer is allowed to take out in a year.

Read LBP’s statement on HB 239 here.

Affordable Care Act reduces number of uninsured Americans
The percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped to its lowest point in six years, in part thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday. Some 15.6 percent of Americans lacked health insurance in the first three months of 2014, down from a high of 18 percent in late 2013, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey.”‘Obamacare’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the LA Times continued its outstanding series about regional health disparities with a look at Hawaii, where near universal coverage has given residents the best health outcomes in the country. Hawaiians live longer than their counterparts on the mainland. They die less frequently from common diseases, such as breast and colon cancers, even though these cancers occur more often here than in most other states. They also pay less for their care; the state’s health care costs are among the lowest in the country.

LSU professors lag behind their peers in pay
Years of cuts to higher education have taken their toll on the state’s flagship university. A new poll shows that Louisiana State University professors are paid less than their peers nationwide, and the state spends about 35 percent less per student than the national average. And despite promises of more resources – including a new $40 million incentive fund for training in high-demand fields, nola.com reports that overall higher education funding is actually slated to shrink by $11 million next year.

“‘What we spend per student, that really matters, and we are 35 percent below the national average,’ said F. King Alexander, LSU’s chancellor and president, speaking before the House Appropriations Committee Monday morning.  

“The state’s colleges and universities continue to fall behind when it comes to faculty and staff compensation, making it more difficult for the state systems to compete with for high-quality employees, said higher education presidents. Tenured professors at Louisiana public colleges and universities make an average of $92,667, while people in the same position nationwide make $112,815 on average, according to the House budget office.”

Quote of the day
“What I hear from those hospitals and community physicians being called in, they have seen a dramatic increase (in uninsured patients),” Buffington said. “Who are those patients? Are they the same patients going from one hospital to another or are they different patients? I feel like we are asking these hospitals to hold their breath and hope they don’t drown.”
Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Shreveport, in The Advocate.

Gee, if only there were some policy the state could adopt that would help ensure that hospitals get paid for treating low-income adults.

15.6 percent — The percentage of Americans without health insurance, the lowest in six years. (Source: Newsweek)