Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Medicaid for children is a smart investment; Another child protective services failure; New federal housing rules tackle segregated neighborhoods; and Could it all fall apart?


Medicaid for children is a smart investment

Kids can’t learn if they aren’t healthy. But new research is showing just how critical health care is for school success. That means Medicaid–the main source of health coverage for children in Louisiana–isn’t just a health program. It is a smart economic investment. Data guru Matt Broaddus with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has the details:


Children eligible for Medicaid for more of their childhood are less likely to drop out of high school and likelier to earn a college bachelor’s degree, a National Bureau of Economic Research study finds…The study evaluated those born from 1980 to 1990, a period in which the federal and state governments expanded Medicaid to reach many more low-income children…As a whole, the eligibility expansions over the period had an impact equivalent to cutting today’s high school dropout rate by 9.7 to 14.0 percent and raising the college completion rate by 5.5 to 7.2 percent. That’s similar to the gains from educational reforms such as reducing elementary school class sizes and adopting school-wide performance standards…These findings on education add to a growing body of research on the long-term benefits of Medicaid eligibility during childhood, such as higher earnings, fewer hospital visits, and lower mortality rates.


Another child protective services failure

On Wednesday, a noise complaint in north Baton Rouge escalated into a drug arrest and the discovery of a severely malnourished 15 year-old boy weighing only 47 pounds who was stuck to a mattress in the roach-infested home. On Thursday came another disturbing allegation: child protective services knew of the child and had visited the home, according to the boy’s aunt. Three times. The Advocate has the story:


Edna Mitchell, 54, said she was present during one of the three times over the past few years representatives from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services checked in on the boy. She said agents were only concerned with whether the child’s family had access to food and running water, which they did, and didn’t intervene further in a situation that eventually led to the boy’s declining health and the arrest of his mother, 49-year-old Rose Holland, on drug and child cruelty charges Wednesday. Grace Weber, a Children and Family Services spokeswoman, said because of laws protecting the case’s confidentiality, the agency cannot comment.


The case is another in a line of high-profile child abuse cases–some resulting in death–that have occurred at the same time the Department of Children and Family Services budget for child protective services has been deeply cut. A Legislative Auditor’s report from last April found overall spending on child protection was down 27 percent since 2009, while average worker caseloads were up 18 percent and staff turnover was on the rise.


New federal housing rules tackle segregated neighborhoods

Nearly five decades after passage of federal fair housing legislation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on Wednesday that the law clearly requires states and cities that receive HUD money to promote more integrated housing. Bruce Alpert with reports:


Under the rule, cities will be required to set goals based on improved data for upgrading housing, schools and transportation. Those efforts will be monitored by HUD…HUD officials said there a number of approaches cities can take to provide more housing opportunities including targeted investments to revitalize struggling communities, as well as increasing housing choice in neighborhoods that currently have few poor people and people of color living in them.


Of course, not everyone was pleased.


But some House Republicans, who voted to bar the Obama administration from implementing the new fair housing rule, denounced the new rule. “Today’s announced new AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) regulation marks President Obama’s most aggressive attempt yet to force his utopian ideology on American communities disguised under the banner of ‘fairness,'” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “This new Washington mandate has nothing to do with race, as housing discrimination has been illegal for more than 40 years. This overreaching new regulation is an attempt to extort communities into giving up control of local zoning decisions and reengineer the makeup of our neighborhoods.”


Could it all fall apart?

A week after the Louisiana Chemical Association filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a suspension in the sales tax exemption for business utilities, the Advocate’s James Gill asks whether the budget deal crafted last month will ultimately fall apart.


Well, maybe the Greeks are worse off. But harrowing times could lie ahead for Louisiana, too. If the Louisiana Chemical Association succeeds with its court challenge to one of the tax increases approved in the last session, the whole house of cards that is the state budget will come tumbling down….The target of the chemical association’s suit is the House concurrent resolution that suspended, until 60 days after the end of the 2016 session, an exemption for steam, water, electric power and natural gas from a portion, amounting to one percent, of sales and use taxes. The resolution passed with a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but garnered only a simple majority in the House. Although the Legislature does have the authority to suspend a statute by majority vote, here, the association points out, only selected exemptions were temporarily removed, and from just part of the sales tax law, at that. That allegedly amounted to unconstitutional “cherry picking.” Thus, according to the suit, legislators did not suspend the law, but amended it. Under the constitution, that cannot be accomplished with a resolution. A bill is required.


Number of the Day


5 percent –Share of Louisiana children who are uninsured, down from 20 percent in the late 1990s, because of expansions in Medicaid coverage (Source: LBP)