Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Task force recommends more state support for K-12 students; Despite assurances, LSU hospitals deals still not approved; “A black hole for our best and brightest..”; and Paying till it hurts


Task force recommends more state support for K-12 students

A task force set up to study the state’s Minimum Foundation Program —the main source of state aid for local schools and students—recommended that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education include a 2.75 percent hike in the funding formula next year, reports the Advocate. Every year, BESE sends an MFP formula to the legislature, which can approve or reject it, but not make changes. The hike would cost an additional $75 million, a tough request at a time when state government faces a $1.4 billion gap between projected revenues and expenses next year. But educators say the increase is desperately needed as local district struggle to cope with years of near-frozen state support, even as costs continue to go up.


Despite assurances, LSU hospitals deals still not approved

The long saga of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s effort to privatize and lease out Louisiana’s charity hospitals seemed to be near an end last week, when Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert told a legislative committee that approval from federal regulators was expected by the end of the week. But that hasn’t happened, reports the Associated Press.


Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Tuesday the lack of an approval letter doesn’t mean the rewritten deals have hit any snags. She said she’s assured in her conversations with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, that there are no problems with the financing plans.


The deals involve hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that have been under scrutiny and could have to be repaid if things go south. Rejection of the deals would wreak havoc on Louisiana’s budget and jeopardize health care services for Louisiana’s large population of uninsured adults. Jindal has been adamant that his privatized charity plan is a better answer for the state’s uninsured than using federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage, though a mountain of evidence suggests the opposite.


“A black hole for our best and brightest..”

The Washington Post continues its series examining the decline of the middle-class by taking a look up, at Wall Street.


The financial industry has doubled in size as a share of the economy in the past 50 years, but it hasn’t gotten any better at its core job: getting money from investors who have it to companies that will use it to generate growth, profit and jobs. There are many ways to quantify how that financial growth-without-improvement hurts the economy.


In 2012, economists at the International Monetary Fund analyzed data across years and countries and concluded that in some countries, including America, the financial sector had grown so large that it was slowing economic growth.


While anger at Wall Street boiled over in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the Post suggests that there are longer-term negative trends associated with the power of the financial sector, driven by the rapid growth in compensation.


In sheer dollar terms, it became irrational for almost any qualified American graduate to pass on a Wall Street job. By the mid-2000s, finance workers earned about 50 percent more than they would have in a similar job anywhere else in the economy…Those finance pros could have been doctors or researchers or product engineers.


The irony is that instead of shifting resource toward new innovative products and companies, Wall Street has been luring away America’s top graduates.


Paying till it hurts

The New York Times’ Elisabeth Rosenthal has been investigating the high cost of health care in America, documenting how American families pay far more for health care than consumers in other countries and plumbing the Byzantine world of medical billing. The most recent article takes a look at the growth in medical imaging tests.


Testing has become to the United States’ medical system what liquor is to the hospitality industry: a profit center with large and often arbitrary markups. From a medical perspective, blood work, tests and scans are tools to help physicians diagnose and monitor disease. But from a business perspective, they are opportunities to bring in revenue — especially because the equipment to perform them has generally become far cheaper, smaller and more highly mechanized in the past two decades.


Many medical imaging machines were revolutionary–and expensive–when they were rolled out decades ago. But improvements in technology have significantly lowered the price. Unfortunately, consumers aren’t seeing any savings.


“Old technology should be like old TVs: The price should go down,” said Dr. Naoki Ikegami, a health systems expert at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo, who is also affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. “One of the things about the U.S. health care system is that it defies the laws of economics, and of gravity. Once the price is high, it just stays there.”


Number of the Day: $1.1 billion – Fiscal year 2015 budget for Louisiana’s charity hospital partnerships, which have yet to receive federal approval. (Source: DHH)