Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Report: Black renters in NOLA face discrimination; Louisiana gets an “F” from March of Dimes; AP: Budget amendments could lock up $2 billion; Monroe layoffs highlight need for Medicaid expansion; Quote of the Day

Report: Black renters in NOLA face discrimination
A person’s ability to rent an apartment in affluent neighborhoods in New Orleans depends at least in part on the color of their skin, according to a new report by a watchdog group. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center sent “mystery shoppers” – one black, one white – with matching backgrounds to look for apartments in the Lakeview, Uptown and East Carrollton neighborhoods.

They attempted to view or apply for 50 apartments and 44 percent of the time the black tester was denied the opportunity to rent or was “treated unfairly,” including failing to show for appointments, ignoring  follow-up inquiries or failing to mention benefits offered to the white testers, according to the report. “Unfortunately, in New Orleans not only does the place where a person lives contribute to one’s life outcomes, but race plays a significant part in determining whether one can find a home in neighborhoods that offer the greatest opportunity for positive life outcomes,” the report states.

Housing discrimination on the basis of race is against federal law, and the housing organization recommends stricter penalties for landlords who discriminate.

“When discriminatory and unfavorable treatment occur in the housing market, neighborhoods become out of reach for many African-Americans, who are too often pushed to racially segregated neighborhoods far from vital services and pathways to opportunity,” the report concluded.


Louisiana gets an “F” from March of Dimes
The good news: Louisiana’s rate of premature births improved last year – ever so slightly – to 15.1 percent, down from 15.3 percent. The bad news: Our state continues to have one of the highest rates in the country, which earned an “F” grade from the March of Dimes in its annual report card. Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert told The Advocate that the state is taking positive steps to reduce the rate, such as refusing to pay for elective deliveries with Medicaid funds before a pregnancy reaches 39 weeks.

Babies born prematurely have medical problems that often continue impacting their quality of life, while dramatically driving health care costs up. In Louisiana, preterm births cost Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, an extra $200 million annually, according to statistics released last year.

Louisiana Budget Project Executive Director Jan Moller said it is no coincidence that Louisiana is right there with Mississippi and Alabama in the premature birth rankings. “Poor birth outcomes correlate with poverty. All the states that rank low have high rates of poverty,” Moller said. He said poor diets, smoking and other bad behaviors all make it more likely for premature births.


AP: Budget amendments could lock up $2 billion
A pair of constitutional amendments pushed by the nursing home and hospital industries could put up to $2 billion in Medicaid funding off-limits to cuts when the state faces financial downturns, the Associated Press reports.

The added budget protections – estimates are they could affect nearly $2 billion in the Medicaid programs – will mean Louisiana’s public colleges are one of the most vulnerable areas to budget slashing when state finances are tight. Supporters, including powerful lobbying groups for the facilities, said the protection will stabilize funding for critical health care services and help protect hospitals and nursing homes from damaging cuts that could threaten patient care. They said the protected facilities put up money that is used to draw down federal matching money for the health budget. Opponents said it was improper to shield certain health facilities from cuts at the expense of home-based services and higher education, which will be left unprotected.


Monroe layoffs highlight need for Medicaid expansion
The announcement this week that a hospital in Monroe is laying off 144 workers due to financial troubles is additional proof that Louisiana should take advantage of Medicaid financing made available by the federal government, writes in an editorial. But Tuesday’s election results make it unlikely that Gov. Bobby Jindal will change his mind.

The results of the midterm elections this week in which Democratic candidates — and by extension President Obama — were widely rejected will likely only strengthen the governor’s resolve against the Medicaid expansion. But the election results don’t change the need for health coverage for tens of thousands of low-income families in Louisiana — and legislators should keep pushing for the resources to help them.


Quote of the Day
“The rating reflects: the state’s adequate liquidity; its speedy responses to downward revenue projections; low unemployment relative to the nation; and debt policies that have lowered the state’s debt ratios over time. The rating also reflects the dwindling impact of a post-Katrina reconstruction boost; continued budget gaps due to underperforming revenues; and the challenges the state faces in dealing with its large Medicaid caseload and significant unfunded pension liabilities.”

Moody’s, in a Thursday press release announcing that $200 million in Louisiana revenue bonds will receive an Aa rating. The announcement ends a standoff between Treasurer John Kennedy and the Division of Administration.


Number of the Day
— Percentage increase in state employee health premiums starting July 1, under proposed changes announced Friday morning by the Division of Administration. (Source: Division of Administration)