Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Billing for rape; State workers oppose changes to retirement plans; State spending on transportation has dropped below the federal level; Pay gap worse than most Americans realize

Billing for rape
Getting raped in Louisiana could now lead to another indignity: A large hospital bill. reports that the private operators hired to run the state charity hospital system often charge rape victims thousands of dollars for care that used to be free when LSU ran the hospitals:

Last year, a New Orleans college student awoke nude in a public place, disoriented and fearing she had been drugged and raped. Emergency officials responded to the scene and urged her to let them take her to the hospital. She hesitated. She just wanted to go home. She also worried the hospital charges would appear on insurance statements and alarm her parents, whose health plan she was on. But, she said, the responders convinced her there would be no charge. A year later, a letter appeared in her campus mailbox informing her that she owed $2,254.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration quickly tried to shift blame to local authorities and the “legacy” charity hospital system. State law allows hospitals to treat sexual assault victims who don’t want care as regular emergency room patients. “Tests and treatment exclusive to a rape victim shall be explained to the patient, along with the costs of the test,” the law says. “The patient shall decide whether or not such tests shall be conducted.” Several lawmakers vowed to review the law for changes during the legislative session that starts in April 2015.


State workers oppose changes to retirement plans
Organizations representing former and current state workers are asking legislators to put the brakes on upcoming changes to the state health plan that will raise the cost of health care for 230,000 state workers, retirees and their families. During a House Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday, some employees told lawmakers that they want the option to move to other health plans like LSU First, while others begged for more time to financially adjust to the changes. Retired government architect Harry Reed told the committee that he wouldn’t be able to afford his medications if the current plan—which features drastic premium hikes—goes into effect:

Harry Reed, a retired government architect, put bottles of medications on a table in a Louisiana Legislature committee room Thursday and wondered aloud how he was supposed to pay for his prescriptions next year…. “I thought I had a good health plan. What am I going to do now?” he asked legislators during a special hearing on the Group Benefits health care policies that ran for several hours Thursday (Sept. 24). 

The Jindal admiration said it would take the employees’ remarks under consideration, but also warned that the health fund’s balance would drop to $8 million by the end of June 2015 if changes aren’t made in January.


State spending on transportation has dropped below the federal level
Louisiana isn’t the only state having trouble maintaining its roads and bridges. Nationally, state spending on transportation dropped by 20 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to a Governing Magazine report. That compares to a 4 percent drop in federal road and bridge funding over the same time period. Governing says the biggest reason for the drop in infrastructure funding was a decrease in fuel tax revenues. “Two dozen states had not raised their taxes in more than 10 years as of this spring,” Governing writes, “and 16 states have left those tax rates untouched for more than 20 years.”

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Transportation Funding Task Force met to recommend how the state can finance nearly $12 billion needed for roads and bridges. The debate centered on $400 million in financing that may or may not materialize by 2019.


Pay gap worse than most Americans realize
How much do you think the average CEO makes compared to the average worker? 10 times more? 30? 100? The right answer is much higher than all those numbers—a whopping 350 times more. A new Harvard Business School study says part of the reason why Americans are so bad at guessing how much CEOs make is because American CEOs are significantly better paid than those from just about anywhere else:

The average Fortune 500 CEO in the United States makes more than $12 million per year, which is nearly five million dollars more than the amount for top CEOs in Switzerland, where the second highest paid CEOs live, more than twice that for those in Germany, where the third highest paid CEOs live, and more than twenty one times that for those in Poland. While a handful of countries might perceive larger pay gaps than the United States, none of the ones surveyed have an actual pay gap anywhere nearly as large. In Switzerland, the country with the second largest CEO-to-worker pay gap, chief executives make 148 times the average worker; in Germany, the country with the third largest gap, CEOs make 147 times the average worker; and in Spain, the country with the fourth largest gap, the ratio is 127 to one.


Number of the Day
20 percent
– The decline in state spending nationwide between 2002 and 2011. (Source: Governing Magazine)