Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Jindal scraps cancer screenings, HIV tests; Medicaid expansion improves mental health treatment; West Feliciana superintendent touts early childhood education; and Pushing for a “living wage” in New Orleans


Jindal scraps cancer screenings, HIV tests

The state Department of Health and Hospitals abruptly canceled its Medicaid provider agreement with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast on Monday –  a  decision announced by the governor’s office and apparently sparked by the national controversy over videos released by an anti-abortion group. The move affects two clinics in Louisiana – in Baton Rouge and New Orleans – that don’t provide abortions but do conduct a variety of health-care services such as woman well-exams, STD testing, pregnancy counseling and cancer screenings. Marsha Shuler with the Advocate has the story:


Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Louisiana director Melissa Flournoy said Jindal is reducing needed health care services for a population that has nowhere else to turn. The state has already drastically cut funding for its Office of Public Health “and is already unable to meet the health care needs of those who are most vulnerable,” Flournoy said. “Furthering this problem by eliminating a trusted and high-quality provider will jeopardize health care for women and men across Louisiana.”


Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration believes other providers can fill the void, which remains to be seen. For the record, Baton Rouge and New Orleans have the fourth and second highest rates of HIV infection among American cities, Louisiana’s death rate from cervical cancer is the sixth highest in the nation, and Louisiana continues to deny comprehensive health coverage to low-income adults by rejecting Medicaid expansion. As our recent report found, nearly 6 in 10 Louisianans who are stuck in the coverage gap are women.


Medicaid expansion improves mental health treatment
In the wake of several high profile mass shootings this summer–most recently at a movie theater in Lafayette–many have called for more robust access to mental health services as evidence emerged that the shooters displayed symptoms of mental illness. (It also bears repeating that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent.) Fortunately, as Governing magazine reports, a new report from the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) identifies an possible way for states to do just that.


The GAO analyzed Medicaid enrollment from July 2014 until June 2015 and conducted interviews from behavioral health agencies in 10 states. The report concludes that states that chose to expand Medicaid are better able to treat low-income people suffering from mental health disorders and addiction than the states that opted out of expansion — and that they’re able to do so without negative fiscal repercussions, at least so far, because the federal government covers the entire cost of expansion. In the survey of expansion states selected, behavioral health officials reported that Medicaid expansion increased the quality and availability of treatment options to low-income people. Conversely, officials from non-expansion states are forced to focus care on adults with the most serious conditions while consigning uninsured people with more moderate conditions to waiting lists.


West Feliciana superintendent touts early childhood education
The news coverage of Hollis Milton’s Monday speech to the Press Club of Baton Rouge focused on his statements about the Common Core state standards. But more significant, in the Dime’s humble opinion, is the West Feliciana school superintendent’s strong advocacy for early childhood education. Investing in young children, he said, is the key to improving outcomes and breaking the cycle of poverty that has plagued Louisiana for generations. As The Advocate reported over the weekend:


Milton said he plans to use his year as head of the group [the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents] to tout the need for universal prekindergarten for 4-year-olds, which means enrolling all youngsters that age in classes…“The one thing that we don’t talk about is generational poverty,” he said. “It can be overcome, and I always tell folks, ‘You can pay now, or you can pay later.’ Make an investment in those early ages, and you are going to see students be more successful.”


Louisiana has a good early childhood education framework in place–Act 3, passed in 2012–but the governor and legislators have failed to fund it.


Pushing for a “living wage” in New Orleans
Jared Brossett, a former state representative who now serves on the New Orleans City Council, is pushing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for workers employed on city contracts. Raising the wage won’t make anyone rich, but it will keep a full-time worker out of poverty, he writes in an op-ed for Nola.com:


But $10.10 an hour is a start. It is the 2014 hourly wage needed for a single adult working full-time to edge above the poverty line. Had the national minimum wage in effect in 1968 simply kept pace with inflation, the present day minimum wage would be $10.90/hour. This is not about a windfall of undeserved spending money. What I am proposing here is simply an effort to make sure city funds are not going to the perpetuation of an impoverished working class. Anything less than that is unacceptable. Some business interests may disagree. Some economic conservatives may disagree. But at the end of the day, this ordinance is about our value system. We must be a city that gives everyone a chance to work hard and strive toward the American Dream. We must be a city where a hard day’s work equates to a fair day’s pay.


Number of the Day


$10.90 – The value of the hourly minimum wage had it kept pace with inflation since 1968. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour (Source: Nola.com)