Wednesday, October 1

Wednesday, October 1

New hospital deals put uninsured at risk; Louisiana's public defenders are going broke; Poll shows support for minimum wage, Medicaid expansion; Transportation funding meeting gets rocky

New hospital deals put uninsured at risk
The latest attempt by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to win federal approval for its charity hospital privatization plan goes before the LSU Board of Supervisors this morning. The board will consider a batch of rewritten contracts between the LSU and the private hospital operators.

According to theAssociated Press, “Adjustments to the contracts include elimination of any promises that the state must provide certain levels of funding for the privatization deals, according to details provided Tuesday by LSU. In exchange, the hospital managers get the ability to cancel the contract without cause with 60 days written notice.” The revised deals also grant the private operators the ability to “limit or reduce” health care services for financial considerations—essentially an invitation to ration care.

The latest move casts further doubt on the administration’s decision to double-down on the status quo instead of moving forward with expanding coverage to the uninsured. Taking the latter route would bring billions in new health funding to Louisiana, allow more individual choice so patients could pick their own doctor, and give doctors and hospitals the chance to compete for new patients.

Louisiana’s public defenders are going broke
The U.S Constitution guarantees the right to a lawyer for those accused of a crime. Defendants who can’t afford a lawyer are represented by public defenders. But a new report from the Legislative Fiscal Office found that public defenders are grossly underfunded, with many attorneys already handling twice the recommended caseload,reports the Times-Picayune:

Twelve Louisiana public defenders offices will be unable to pay their bills by July 1, and as many as 13 more could be in that position by the middle of 2016, according to aLegislative Fiscal Office report released this week. That’s more than half of the 42 public defenders offices in the entire state…The shortfall in funding could force some public defenders offices to limit services and put cases on waiting lists. Staff and the offices’ contractors may also have to go without payment for awhile.

Much of the funding for public defenders comes from court fees—an unstable source of funding. Earlier this year,National Public Radio reported on the dire financial straits of public defenders in New Orleans and noted the cruel irony (and potential conflict of interest) that lawyers were reliant on their clients paying court fees which are higher if they plead guilty.

New poll shows support for minimum wage, Medicaid expansion
Fifty-five percent of Louisianans surveyed support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. That’s according to anew poll by Public Policy Polling, which also found that 68 percent of self-described moderates support a wage hike. Thirty-seven percent of those polled opposed a higher wage, while 9 percent were undecided. The poll also found 56 percent of Louisianans support using federal dollars to expand Medicaid to the working poor, while 31 percent were opposed and 13 percent were not sure. Unfortunately for working families and the uninsured, our governor and Legislature are out of step with their constituents.

Transportation funding meeting gets rocky
Current transportation secretary Sherri LeBas clashed with one of her predecessors, Kam Movassaghi, at a meeting of the Transportation Funding Task Force yesterday,reports the Advocate:

Movassaghi said state highways are in a “deplorable state,” that political interference from the Governor’s Office is part of the problem and that politics sometimes “get in the way of doing the right thing.” He also called for an 8 percent sales tax on all fuels to replace Louisiana’s 16-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which he said would raise an additional $210 million per year and cost motorists an extra $3.65 per month. LeBas, who has been DOTD secretary since 2010, disputed Movassaghi’s views on state road and bridge conditions. She said that, since 2008, the state has spent $6.3 billion to improve transportation, “which is really an unprecedented amount.”

United Way looking ahead to tax season
The Capital Area United Way is seeking volunteers to help provide free tax assistance beginning in January through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a free income tax preparation service that helps thousands of low and moderate-income taxpayers receive the tax credits they qualify for. To learn more about volunteering and training, contact



55 – Percentage of Louisianans who support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour (Source:Public Policy Polling)