Friday, May 1, 2014

Friday, May 1, 2014

Louisiana ACA enrollment tops 100,000; Bill increasing TOPS requirements moves out of committee; Stateline looks at payday lending in Louisiana; Another minimum wage bill dies in committee; and School aid package shelved. 101,778 — The number of Louisianans who signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act (Source: Nola.com)

Louisiana ACA enrollment tops 100,000
With the addition of more than 55,000 enrollees during the last six weeks of enrollment, the number of Louisianans who signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act topped 101,000, officials reported Thursday. The most coveted age group — those 18-34, who are less likely to need expensive care and therefore are needed to drive down premiums — comprised 32 percent of those enrolled in Louisiana compared to 28 percent nationally.

Louisiana’s coverage rates would be higher save for the 250,000 who fall into the “coverage gap” thanks to the state’s decision to refuse federal dollars for expanding Medicaid coverage.  Expansion would be good for local families, businesses and the economy. Not to mention that the federal dollars could help shore up the new public-private partnerships, and help businesses avoid a sudden tax hike.

Bill increasing TOPS requirements moves out of committee
Costs for the TOPS college tuition program have skyrocketed in recent years as tuition has risen, while funding for the need-based GO Grant program has remained flat and low-income students have lost ground as a result. The result of this disparity is that many students from poor families don’t get the aid they need to finish college, while state taxpayers pick up the tab for average students from wealthy families. But a bill that passed out of committee Thursday would increase the standards for TOPS, and hopefully level out costs. The bill goes a step further, applying 10 percent of the money saved to the GO Grant program.

Stateline looks at payday lending in Louisiana
Though lawmakers failed to enact any meaningful reform on the predatory practices of payday lenders this session, the issue is drawing national attention. This morning, Stateline highlighted the fight to limit interest payday lenders are allowed to charge. “Interest rates in Louisiana, at an average annual percentage rate of 435 percent, are among the highest in the country. About 57,000 Louisiana households—23 percent of households in the state—take out a payday loan in a given year …”

Another minimum wage bill dies in committee
Despite evidence that raising the minimum wage would help Louisiana families, boost the economy and create jobs, lawmakers once again quashed a bill that would create a higher minimum wage. “Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, had proposed the legislation, which made an exception for student employees and would have allowed tips to count toward the $10. ‘It should be embarrassing to us that we don’t pay our people $10 an hour,’ Dorsey-Colomb said.”

School aid package shelved
A proposal for public school spending submitted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March was shelved Thursday over concerns that it will not meet the needs of Louisiana schools. “The chief criticism was that the request lacks the traditional 2.75 percent increase that educators say is desperately needed amid skyrocketing retirement costs.” If the Legislature does not accept the package, then it will have to create an emergency plan for the second year in a row, as last year it was forced to provide a separate school aid package and roll over the previous year’s spending plan.

101,778 — The number of Louisianans who signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act (Source: Nola.com)