Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pre-K expansion price tag worth the investment; Feds warn states about limiting access to care; Insecurity about Social Security and; Jailing the mentally ill is not the answer

Pre-K expansion price tag worth the investment

The Advocate’s editorial board lends its voice to the discussion of early childhood education and says  the next administration and Legislature should increase investment in pre-Kindergarten programs. While expanding the successful LA-4 program to all 4-year-olds comes with a hefty price tag, experts agree that early childhood education is the best investment states can make to ensure positive outcomes for their next generation of citizens.


This initiative draws support from left and right. The Louisiana Budget Project found a rare opportunity to praise Jindal’s backing of pre-K education in Act 3 of 2012. The liberal group called it a “good early childhood education framework.”We agree, but the reality is that a universal pre-K program — such as that envisioned by Jindal in Act 3 — is going to be an expensive addition. In 2014, the idea of universal pre-K was not a big issue in the Legislature, but a fiscal estimate of its cost was prepared. Because more children would be enrolled, the money needed to fund the state-local formula for school aid would have to increase. At least $130 million would be needed to provide universal LA-4 pre-K classes…Other ways to improve the rearing of children, from pregnancy on, may also have a positive impact, but pre-K is an existing program with a track record of results that can be implemented, if a new governor and lawmakers apply themselves to the expensive task.    


Feds warn states about limiting access to care

The Obama administration has warned Louisiana and Alabama that not allowing Medicaid recipients to receive care from Planned Parenthood facilities violates federal law because it limits patients access to care at the provider of their choice, the Wall Street Journal reports.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services …  said that, by restricting providers, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings. HHS said it provided both states with guidance it released in a June 2011 memo, which says states aren’t permitted to exclude providers from Medicaid solely on the basis of the range of medical services they provide. The memo says states may exclude providers under certain circumstances, such as when providers commit fraud or certain criminal acts. quotes Louisiana Health and Hospitals spokeswoman Olivia Hwang as saying the Jindal administration will not reverse its plan to cancel the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood – a decision that will restrict health care access for low-income patients.


Last year, Planned Parenthood provided care to 10,025 individual patients during a total of 16,472 visits at its two operating clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, according to the organization. Care for about 4,300 of those patients was paid for with Medicaid dollars. Neither clinic provides abortions.


Insecurity about Social Security

According to a Gallup Poll, 51 percent of non-retired Americans doubt the Social Security benefits others currently enjoy will be available to them when they retire. And 43 percent of people who currently receive benefits believe they will be cut. But instead of favoring benefit cuts, 51 percent of those polled favor raising taxes to ensure Social Security benefits do not disappear, showing how important Social Security is to Americans’ economic security.


One of the first questions Gallup asked about the Social Security system was in July 1938, when 78% of Americans said they approved of “the present social security laws which provide old age pensions and unemployment insurance.” Social Security has clearly become a major feature of the U.S. economic landscape in the eight decades since its inception, but changes in the nation’s demographic composition have led the Social Security Administration to project that the system’s ability to pay full benefits will end in 2034. Americans’ doubtfulness about the long-term viability of Social Security thus would appear to have a basis in reality.


Social Security lifts an astonishing 15 million seniors out of poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Without this vital program, more than 4 in 10 seniors would be living in poverty.


Jailing the mentally ill is not the answer

Janet Hays, founder of Healing Minds NOLA, a grassroots organization that explores alternatives to incarcerating people with mental illness, believes that the trend of building bigger jails should take a back seat to investing in programs that treat mental illness. Writing in a op-ed, she cites moves on the federal level such as ”The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act,” and the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 as steps in the right direction. Both provide federal dollars to help treat mental illness.


Rather than funding expanded prisons we need to focus on prevention. We need to fund early screening and mental health intervention programs to help people while they’re young. We also need to put money behind peer-to-peer support, drop-in centers and clubhouses. For those who already suffer from mental illness we need more treatment and recovery programs, access to affordable medications, acute and long-term hospital beds, decent housing, peer-to-peer support, therapy, jobs and assertive community access teams. We need to provide people with severe mental disorders a variety and full range of individualized treatment options so that they can thrive. We need to turn mental illness back into a health issue where doctors take the lead rather than continuing to make it a criminal justice problem.


Number of the Day

$130 million – The estimated annual cost of providing universal pre-K to Louisiana four-year-olds (Source: The Advocate via Legislative Fiscal Office)