Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Louisiana lagging behind in health coverage; Anti-poverty programs working; LSU does well on “scorecard” - good investment for the state and; Governor losing battle over Common Core

Louisiana lagging behind in health coverage

Encouraging news is out from the U.S. Census Bureau: Almost 9 million Americans gained health coverage in 2014 due to the Affordable Care Act. The national uninsured rate dropped from 13.3 percent to 10.4 percent — even though the poverty rate and median household income were unchanged from the previous year.


But the story is not as rosy in Louisiana, which is one of 21 states that have refused to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income adults using federal dollars. Louisiana’s uninsured rate dropped from 16.6 percent in 2013 to 14.8 percent, which means 80,000 Louisianans got covered. But a staggering 672,000 Louisianans were still uninsured, leaving them with limited access to doctors and hospitals and vulnerable to financial calamity in case of an illness or injury.


“Today’s Census numbers provide more evidence for what we already knew: The Affordable Care Act is working, but Louisiana simply can’t afford to keep turning away federal dollars that are desperately needed to help struggling families get health coverage,” LBP Director Jan Moller said.


The new data shows Louisiana is losing ground to other states because of its failure to expand coverage. In 2013, Louisiana ranked 11th highest for the share of residents without health insurance. But in 2014, Louisiana jumped to seventh on that list as Medicaid expansion states made greater progress. Four states-Arizona, California, Mississippi and New Mexico-jumped ahead of Louisiana. Three of the four (all except Mississippi) expanded Medicaid. Read more about recently released Census data on LBP’s blog by clicking here.


Anti-poverty programs working
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took a look at the Census data to find out if safety net programs are working – and it turns out they helped keep millions above the poverty line in 2014. Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (which includes SNAP benefits, the Earned Income Tax Credit and rental vouchers when gaging a person’s income as opposed to a cash-only measurement), the Center concluded the following:


The new data also show that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit lifted roughly 10 million people out of poverty in 2014, including more than 5 million children, while Supplemental Security Income for very low-income elderly and disabled people lifted 3.8 million out of poverty.  And using a version of the SPM, Columbia University researchers last year found that the poverty rate has been cut by two-fifths since the late 1960s, with virtually all of the improvement due to the increased scope and anti-poverty impact of safety-net programs.

These figures come amid mounting evidence that income support and health insurance programs not only reduce poverty and expand medical coverage in the short run but can also have important long-run benefits.  Children exposed to poverty experience greater learning and health problems, adverse effects on brain structure, and high risk of adult poverty, compared with non-poor children.  A growing and impressive array of rigorous studies indicate that low-income children who receive safety net assistance tend to experience significantly fewer deficits in educational attainment, health status, and employment and earnings as they grow up.


LSU does well on “scorecard” – good investment for the state
In a guest column for the Advocate, LSU System President F. King Alexander touts the university’s successes, including ranking well on the U.S. Department of Education’s newly released College Scorecard. Here is some of what he had to say:


Forbes’ “Smarter College Guide” recently ranked LSU 35th in Best Value, above universities such UCLA, Indiana, Purdue, Virginia and UC-Berkeley, to name a few. And if you look at the new and improved College Scorecard, which was just released from the White House and Department of Education, you will see an LSU degree has one of the best rates of return among flagship universities and that it beats the national average in every value-based metric that counts, including graduation rate, salaries after graduation, percent of students carrying debt and dollar amount of debt carried… LSU provides an exceptional workforce, attracts industries to the state and builds new ones through the ambitions and talents of our graduates. We also provide a return of $5 to every $1 our state government invests in an LSU education. What other type of investment supports Louisiana in so many tangible and intangible ways? And we do this all with some of the lowest state support in the country. Imagine what we could do if we were funded at levels equal to the national average of our peers.


Governor losing battle over Common Core
The Advocate’s editorial board weighs in on Governor Jindal’s seemingly endless battle against Common Core. A federal judge handed Jindal his second defeat in the courtroom on the issue, denying a request for an injunction aimed at blocking the implementation of the standards in Louisiana. The administration has said it will appeal:


He apparently plans to waste more taxpayer money for this fruitless effort. That is offensive and irresponsible in a state where higher education and health care have been slashed repeatedly during his tenure to balance a shrinking budget. At last tally, the governor had committed $275,000 of Louisiana taxpayers’ money to pay for lawyers to fight Common Core. Basically he is trying to keep students here from being compared academically to children in other states. He is going against business leaders, state Superintendent of Education John White, a large portion of the Legislature and his own better judgment. Gov. Jindal signed the memorandum of understanding in 2010 for Louisiana to take part in creating the Common Core academic standards in English and math and a multistate test to measure student achievement. His administration pushed in 2012 for legislation to strengthen Louisiana’s commitment to the new standards. The state tried multiple times to get in on federal Race to the Top money to help pay for education reforms here. But the governor argued in his federal lawsuit that Race to the Top was the U.S. government’s attempt to wrest control of public schools from the state…Fortunately, Judge Dick rejected it. Evidence showed that Race to the Top and another federal program that offered grant money to states for raising standards was “completely voluntary and not unconstitutionally coercive,” she wrote.


Number of the Day


672,000 – Number of Louisianans who were uninsured in 2014, about 14.8 percent of the population (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)