Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

King v. Burwell ruling victory for Louisiana families; ‘Kalamazoo promise’ results are promising; and Grading Gov. Jindal’s education reforms


King v. Burwell ruling victory for Louisiana families

The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday affirming that tax credits to keep insurance affordable are available in every state was a big victory for the 138,000 Louisianans who were at risk of losing coverage. The case was a desperate attempt by opponents of the law to deny the promise of health coverage to millions of Americans, and an adverse ruling would have crippled state insurance markets. Most legal experts found little basis to the lawsuit, and fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed. The Times-Picayune editorial board praised the decision:


Many low- and moderate-income Louisianians who have bought subsidized coverage didn’t have insurance before the exchanges were created. It would have been a shame for them to lose the peace of mind of having insurance to pay health bills. “These individuals no longer have to live with the insecurity that the steps they took to safeguard their health will unravel,” Moriba Karamoko, director of the Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition, said. Consumer advocate groups weren’t the only ones celebrating the ruling. John Maginnis, vice president of corporate communications at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, said the court decision would provide “security and stability … to the people of Louisiana, no matter who they are or how they purchase coverage.” The Louisiana Hospital Association issued a statement calling the decision “a tremendous win” for consumers. “Allowing working families to keep their coverage will preserve access to primary and preventive care, while helping hospitals to continue improving the health of local communities,” the statement said.


The Louisiana Budget Project also put out a statement calling for state leaders to move forward with improving health reform:


The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. But instead of continuing attempts to undermine reform, opponents of the law should help work to make it better. In Louisiana, that means extending coverage to the nearly 300,000 adults who are uninsured and stuck in a “coverage gap.” They make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance through the health care exchange. Most of the people stuck in this gap have jobs, in industries such as construction, tourism and child care, but don’t make enough to qualify for coverage. Medicaid expansion would not only improve health access for these fellow Louisianans, but would also stabilize our hospitals and create thousands of jobs. Federal dollars would cover nearly all of the cost. States that have already expanded are seeing big budget savings as a result. The evidence is clear that closing the coverage gap needs to be a “day one” priority for the next governor and Legislature.


‘Kalamazoo promise’ results are promising

Kalamazoo, Michigan–a town of 75,000 in the southwest region of the state–offers students a rare opportunity: the possibility of free tuition to any public in-state college,with very few strings attached. There are no GPA requirements. Students only must have attended public schools in the district since 9th grade (the longer a student has gone to school in Kalamazoo, the larger the tuition aid). The grants are funded by anonymous private donors, and have been available since 2005. Local leaders say it is a good economic development tool that draws families to the town and boosts its educational attainment levels. New research from noted scholar Tim Bartik with the Upjohn Institute shows promising results:


the Kalamazoo Promise college scholarship program is estimated to increase college completion by one-third.  The college completion effects of the Promise would be expected to significantly increase future earnings. Based on predicted future earnings effects, the annual rate of return to the Promise’s tuition subsidies is over 11%. The paper compared the change in post-secondary success, before and after the Promise, of the “eligible student group” (including pre-Promise graduates who would have been eligible if the Promise existed) with the “ineligible student group”. What we found was an abrupt increase in post-secondary success for the eligible group that began in 2006, the first graduating class that could use the Promise, but no such increase for the ineligible group.  The most plausible explanation for the changing relative success for these two groups is that the Promise’s tuition subsidies helped increase post-secondary success.


Grading Gov. Jindal’s education reforms

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s record on education will long be tied to the tumultuous 2012 legislative session, marked by intense fights over teacher tenure and a school voucher proposal. But as the governor’s final term winds down, what has been his impact on K-12 education during the last eight years? Will Sentell with the Advocate takes a look:


Charter school enrollment has more than doubled during Jindal’s watch, and roughly 60,000 students attend the schools that are supposed to offer innovative alternatives to traditional public schools. Yet the self-styled education governor also presided over virtual freezes in state aid for public schools six times in eight years. The highly publicized push to make the annual growth of student achievement a big part of how many teachers fare in annual job reviews has quietly been rolled back. Allies contend the tenure, voucher and early childhood bills enacted three years ago are enough to seal Jindal’s legacy…Yet three years later, each of the three bills carries caveats. Changing the way teachers are evaluated, and linking those results to tenure, was promoted as a way to end the long-standing practice whereby 98 percent of teachers were routinely rated as satisfactory. Only 4 percent of teachers were rated as ineffective in the first year of the new reviews, prompting critics to question the point of the overhaul. The expansion of vouchers — state aid for certain students to attend private schools — is a key part of Jindal’s education “choice” agenda. But the value of the program has come under renewed fire, including when the state reported that less than half of Louisiana’s voucher students scored at grade level or above on key tests. Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Policy Institute for Children, said the revamped system has the potential to be transformative. How to pay for all the lofty goals is still in limbo. “It was an unfunded mandate on top of a system already horribly underfunded,” Bronfin said.


Number of the Day


300,000 – Number of Louisianans stuck in the “coverage gap” because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Health reform is here to stay. It is time to close the gap (Source: LBP)