Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

America Next health care plan doesn’t add up; Louisiana spends more than $3.5 billion a year on criminal justice; House committee approves closure of Huey P Long charity hospital; and Bill to require online posting of meeting minutes fails. $3.5 billion — the amount Louisiana spends every year on the criminal justice system (Source: Louisiana Campaign for Equal Justice)

America Next health care plan doesn’t add up
After rejecting a Medicaid expansion proposal last month, the Senate Health & Welfare Committee this morning will debate a different health plan. The “Louisiana First America Next” plan is based on the 23-page health care blueprint from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Virginia-based policy organization. This plan — contained in Senate Bill 107 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa — is an admirable attempt to make some reforms to Louisiana’s ailing health care system. Unfortunately, the numbers in the plan simply don’t add up, as LBP explains in a new commentary.

While the America Next plan includes many interesting ideas, it would do little to expand coverage to low-income, uninsured adults. States would get Medicaid block-grant funding to subsidize low-income adults that comes to just $38 per person, per month — not nearly enough to cover the cost of even a bare-bones health insurance plan. Under the America Next plan, Louisiana would receive an estimated $1.9 billion in new federal funds over 10 years to help cover the uninsured, compared to nearly $16 billion with Medicaid expansion.

Worse, by repealing the Affordable Care Act, the plan would actually take away coverage from many low-income and middle-class families — a huge step in the wrong direction. A better alternative is to work with the federal government to improve the health reform law, while using billions in federal dollars that are available to expand coverage to working adults.

Louisiana spends more than $3.5 billion a year on criminal justice
A new report by the Louisiana Campaign for Equal Justice finds that Louisiana spends $3.5 billion a year at the state and local level on criminal justice. Less than 2 percent of that money — only $63 million — is spent on public defenders, who represent the 80 to 90 percent of accused criminals who can’t afford a private lawyer. By comparison, district attorneys receive almost twice as much: $123 million.

The biggest areas of spending are sheriffs ($1.36 billion), state and local police ($791 million) and corrections ($704 million). Louisiana, of course, has the highest incarceration rate in the world, in large part due to mandatory sentencing and habitual offender laws, as well as drug laws that carry punishments far more punitive than many of our neighbors. Many proposals to reform sentencing laws this legislative session have run into tough opposition led by the sheriffs.

House committee approves closure of Huey P Long charity hospital
The House Health & Welfare Committee voted 10-8 to close Huey P Long Medical Center in Pineville, reports the Advocate. The measure already passed the Senate, and is next headed to the House floor. As part of its plan to privatize charity care, the Jindal administration wants to close the aging hospital and transfer services to two private hospitals in Alexandria and new clinics that have yet to be built. It follows the recent closure of state charity hospitals in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles.

Opponents of closing the hospital cited the uncertainty stemming from the federal government’s rejection of the state’s hospital financing plans. But Jerry Phillips — an LSU adviser and former DHH undersecretary — said the financial turmoil would have no effect on the closure because the Alexandria plan does not include upfront lease payments, which are at issue in the other partnerships and have been questioned by the feds.

Bill to require online posting of meeting minutes fails
In a rare win for “legacy media” over “new media,” a bill to require the minutes of public meetings to be posted online only received one vote in committee after being opposed by the Louisiana Press Association, reports the Advocate. The sponsor of House Bill 923, Rep. Barry Ivey, lamented the loss as “a win for the special interests, the newspaper,” who are often paid to publish public notices and meeting minutes.

$3.5 billion — the amount Louisiana spends every year on the criminal justice system (Source: Louisiana Campaign for Equal Justice)