Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

From foster care to the streets; Medicaid train leaving the station?; Louisiana lags behind on anti-tobacco measures; and Much ado about Miles


From foster care to the streets
Children in foster care who “age out” when they turn 18 are at high risk of ending up homeless. Della Hasselle and Alex Woodward go to Covenant House in New Orleans to report on the issue for Gambit. The entire article is worth a read, but of particular interest to the Dime is the role of state budget cuts in making the problem worse:


Though the city has touted its progress combating homelessness in general, the number of young homeless people in New Orleans is increasing, according to Covenant House Executive Director Jim Kelly. In the last four years, the shelter’s average daily census has more than tripled, from 45 to 139 kids a night. Recently, the center has been averaging more than 150 youth a night. Of those, Kelly said roughly 30 percent have either aged out of foster care or left home because of negligence or abuse. He said many leave because they feel they don’t have a choice…


In 2013, Louisiana ended the Young Adult Program from DCFS, which helped people leaving foster care find transitional housing. The program, funded by $1.3 million from the state’s general fund, was among several budgeting casualties of Gov. Bobby Jindal. When operating, it helped young adults who, through no fault of their own, were in the custody of the state and would be released at 18 without a place to live, transportation, higher education or basic necessities. When that program ended, more than 100 people aging out of foster care suddenly were left without a safety net.


Medicaid train leaving the station?
After years of stonewalling from term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal on Medicaid expansion, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards has given all indications that he is eager to move forward with extending coverage to low-income Louisiana adults as soon as possible. Columnist JR Ball writes on that the change of administration is causing minds to change at the Legislature.


On Monday (Dec. 7), Senate Finance Committee members chastised the Department of Health and Hospitals for wasting time and ordered the department to produce a report by Jan. 1 on the state’s options for expanding Medicaid. As remarkable, committee chairman Jack Donahue, a red-blooded Republican from Mandeville who has steadfastly opposed legislative expansion efforts in the past, told The Advocate he now believes Medicaid could be fabulous for Louisiana. It’s easy for those not tied to strict GOP ideology to make the case for expanding Medicaid. The concept of giving government-backed medical care to those not poor enough for traditional Medicaid but too poor to afford private market insurance has wide support. For perspective, those who qualify under the expanded plan are adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $33,500 for a family of four. Even in Louisiana, a bastion of anti-Obamacare sentiment, all four major candidates, including the very right wing David Vitter, said expansion is worth considering.


Louisiana lags behind on anti-tobacco measures

Louisianans like to smoke. A lot. Nearly 25 percent of Louisiana adults smoke, higher than the national rate of 18 percent. But according to a new report a coalition of public health groups, state government doesn’t spend very much to discourage the deadly habit that kills 7,200 Louisianans a year. Marsha Shuler with the Advocate reports:


The report found that tobacco companies spend $32 promoting use of their product for every $1 Louisiana spends to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. In addition, Louisiana is spending $7 million this year on anti-smoking prevention programs–just 11.7 percent of the $59.6 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…The coalition [of public health groups] said Louisiana took a small step this year toward reducing tobacco use by increasing the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents to 86 cents per pack, but the tax is still well below the state average of $1.61 per pack. Health advocates are pushing for a larger cigarette tax increase in 2016 to have a greater impact on reducing smoking, especially among kids.


Much ado about Miles
The decision by LSU President F. King Alexander to keep Les Miles as the school’s head football coach – following weeks of informed speculation that he would be fired – was at least partially motivated by the budget cuts that have roiled Louisiana’s flagship university in recent years. As The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:


Miles was due a $15 million buyout — a cost that [LSU President F. King] Alexander said could climb to $30 million when other considerations were factored in. Though the money would have come from private donors, Alexander acknowledged that the price tag was a factor in the decision to ultimately keep Miles, particularly as the state grapples with a large budget deficit. “Whenever we spend money, it’s assumed that it’s state money, regardless of the source,” Alexander said. “It certainly plays a role in this.”


Number of the Day


$30 million – Amount it could have cost to replace LSU football coach Les Miles–about equal to 25 percent of the $120 million the university received from the state last year- a price some university boosters were apparently willing to pay (Sources: The Advocate and LBP)