“America is a place where the luxuries are cheap and the necessities are expensive”
Census data released last week confirmed what most Americans already know: incomes for most people have been stagnant or declining for years, making it harder for families to keep up, much less invest in the future. But a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) digs deeper, and paints a troubling picture of how the middle-class is at risk. As the Associated Press reports, “From TVs, computers and cellphones to clothing and cars, many goods have dropped in price in the past decade. Those declining prices have helped keep overall inflation historically low…Yet when you consider that average health care and college costs rocketed more than 80 percent from 2000 to 2012, it’s easier to understand why many families feel they are struggling.”
Child care is also increasingly a financial burden for the middle-class: “Child care costs for a family of four have soared an average of 37 percent in the past 12 years, according to the data compiled by the CAP, and now exceed the typical cost of renting in every state. Those costs may be pricing some women out of the workforce, according to a Pew Research Center report…”
In the 21st century economy, access to higher education and health care is increasingly the key to success, yet more and more families are being priced out. In Louisiana, one in four adults were uninsured last year, and the workforce has some of the lowest levels of college attainment in the country. But instead of working to increase opportunity and support working families, policymakers are cutting state support for education and blocking access to health care for a quarter million Louisianans.
Government report shows drop in uncompensated medical bills
A report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that hospitals will see a drop of $5.7 billion in “uncompensated care” provided to the uninsured this year—a 16 percent drop. The estimate is based on hospital financial reports and surveys of hospital associations, and is one more sign that the Affordable Care Act is working to expand coverage and improving the financial stability of hospitals in the process. Progress was most evident in states that expanded Medicaid, according to the report. The 26 states that expanded Medicaid account for $4.2 billion of the drop (a 25 percent decline), while the remaining states—including Louisiana—will likely only see a drop of $1.5 billion (a 9 percent change).
State health insurance plans to be discussed
The House Appropriations Committee is meeting this morning to discuss proposed changes to health insurance for state employees and retirees. The Legislative Fiscal Office released an update on the status of the Office of Group Benefits yesterday, detailing how the plan’s reserve fund was depleted through a mix of higher medical costs and premium decreases that helped the state balance its budget in prior years—a source of major controversy. The Jindal administration released a competing “Myth vs. Facts” document. According to the Advocate, the administration contends that the premium changes saved state agencies $18.4 million. On the other hand, the Fiscal Office calculated that the premium changes reduced OGB’s reserve fund by more than $100 million.
Panel convenes to consider cost of death penalty
The Capital Punishment Fiscal Impact Commission—the brainchild of state Sen. J.P. Morrell—met for the first time yesterday, reports Nola.com: “Louisiana doesn’t have a well-researched estimate of how much it is spending on capital punishment trials and execution, according to Morrell. The commission’s goal is to get an idea of what the overall price tag is for executions in the state. The death penalty might be more expensive than the general public realizes. Inmates on death row are segregated from the main prison population and receive specialized care. Capital murder trials can also be much more expensive than regular murder cases.”
The panel includes a mix of legislators, law enforcement representatives, defense attorneys, policy analysts and our own director, Jan Moller.
NUMBER OF THE DAY
80 percent – The average increase in the cost of health care and college between 2000 and 2012, a time when income growth was flat (Source: Center for American Progress)