Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The plight of workers in New Orleans; Sales tax holidays not all they’re cracked up to be; Say it one more time, Medicaid expansion is saving states money; and Another hit to health care in Baton Rouge


The plight of workers in New Orleans

As the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the Data Center in New Orleans is taking a look at how the working poor have fared in the last decade. Richard Webster of reports:


The life of an average New Orleans worker is a grim one…The workers live in a city that ranks second in income inequality among 300 U.S. cities. Nearly 60 percent of them earn less than what is needed to cover household costs, while roughly half are forced to commute out-of-parish for low-wage jobs. And the people pictured in this portrait will more than likely be black with close to 83 percent of people living in poor communities reporting as African-American.


The lack of economic security isn’t just an issue for families, says the Data Center, but has made it harder the entire city and region to recover. The group urges four reforms to help low-wage workers: more funding for job training programs; adding wage requirements to economic incentive and subsidy programs; a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave; and better services like public transportation in low-income neighborhoods to improve access to jobs.


Sales tax holidays not all they’re cracked up to be

This Friday and Saturday are Louisiana’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday, reports the Associated Press, when consumers will be exempt from paying the 4 percent state sales tax on most goods (local sales taxes may still apply). But while sales tax holidays may be popular with the public, the truth is they aren’t particularly effective tax policy. According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, sales tax holidays are poorly targeted to families who need the relief the most. And while some retailers (and politicians) claim the holidays are a boon to local economies, the reality is that consumers don’t buy more, but merely shift the timing of the purchases. There also is anecdotal evidence that some retailers may take advantage of the holiday to raise price or suspend other promotions. Last year, the annual end-of-summer holiday cost the state $3.1 million in lost revenue.


Say it one more time, Medicaid expansion is saving states money

The most recent in a seemingly never-ending parade of arguments against Medicaid expansion is that states are facing higher enrollment than expected. Surely, this will wreck state budgets, right? Wrong. Jesse Cross-Call with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains:


About half the states that have expanded Medicaid as part of health reform have enrolled more people than they expected, generating bigger health coverage gains but also prompting fears among some policymakers that states will thus bear higher-than-expected future costs.  In reality, many states are enjoying net budget savings — due to how the expansion works — and such savings should continue into the future…as more people have gained health coverage, demand for health services for uninsured low-income people that states fund entirely, such as funding for hospitals to offset their uncompensated care costs and behavioral health services, has fallen. States that experience greater-than-expected expansion enrollment may therefore experience a larger-than-projected drop in demand for these services. That in turn could mean even greater state savings in these programs.


Another hit to health care in Baton Rouge

The Advocate’s Lanny Keller puts the Jindal administration’s decision to cancel Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider contract in a local context. While the move is part of a larger national political debate over abortion, he writes, here in Baton Rouge–where Planned Parenthood doesn’t even provide abortions, but is a major provider of other basic health screenings–it is yet another in a series of hits to health access in the Capital City:


The closing of Baton Rouge General-Mid City’s emergency room was a serious blow to the health of the area. Urgent-care clinics may be able to provide some of the services, but new studies question how much the centers can fully substitute for emergency rooms…The General ER closure might not be entirely a consequence of Jindal’s policies and the closing of yet another poorly maintained state facility, the old Earl K. Long hospital. But the governor is not finished with diminishing health care services in Baton Rouge’s Mid City: He proposes to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, operating a clinic on Government Street in Baton Rouge…To the extent that services are curtailed, it’s another blow to health care in Jindal’s Baton Rouge neighborhood — and elsewhere in Louisiana.


Number of the Day


60 percent– Share of jobs in the New Orleans region that pay less than $40,000 a year (Source: The Data Center)