Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Overtime pay on the way; Nursing home industry kills sensible legislation; Were the public-private partnerships worth it?; A bad month for Louisiana’s juvenile jails; and Quote of the Day

Overtime pay on the way

More than 30 percent of the country’s full-time, salaried employees will be newly eligible for overtime pay under a policy change set to be announced this week by President Barack Obama. The move has been in the works for over two years, and will more than double the salary threshold for workers eligible to earn time and a half for work beyond 40 hours. For full-time middle-income workers, being ineligible for overtime pay means that hourly rates are often lower than the federal minimum wage. Jonnelle Marte with The Washington Post reports that the overtime policy is part of Obama’s larger policy agenda aimed at supporting U.S. workers:


The regulations, which were last updated more than a decade ago, would let full-time salaried employees earn overtime if they make up to $47,476 a year, more than double the current threshold of $23,660 a year. The Labor Department estimates that the rule would boost the incomes of 4.2 million additional workers. The move caps a long-running effort by the Obama administration to aid low- and middle-income workers whose paychecks have not budged much in the past few decades, even as compensation for the top earners in the country has soared. The last update to the rule came in 2004, and Wednesday’s announcement is the third update to the salary threshold for overtime regulations in 40 years. “Along with health-care reform, this is one of the most important measures that the Obama administration has implemented to help middle-wage workers,” said Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden and a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


Detailed analysis from the D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute breaks down who exactly will benefit from the long-awaited change. Authors Ross Eisenbrey and Will Kimball report:


[…] raising the overtime salary threshold will directly benefit a broad range of working people, including:


  • 6.4 million women, or 50.9 percent of all directly benefiting workers
  • 4.2 million parents and 7.3 million children (under age 18)
  • 1.5 million blacks (who make up 8.9 percent of the salaried workforce but 12.0 percent of directly benefiting workers), and 2.0 million Hispanics (who make up 11.8 percent of the salaried workforce but 16.0 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.6 million workers age 25 to 34 (who make up 22.9 percent of the salaried workforce but 28.7 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 4.5 million millennials, defined as workers age 16 to 34 (who make up 28.2 percent of the salaried workforce but 36.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.2 million workers with a high school degree but not more education (who make up 15.5 percent of the salaried workforce but 25.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)



Nursing home industry kills sensible legislation

The state Department of Health and Hospitals has been working for years to introduce managed care – where a private company gets a flat monthly rate to care for a specific set of patients – to Louisiana’s long-term care system. The state’s powerful nursing home industry has been working just as hard to kill the idea. On Tuesday, the behind-the-scenes battle came into public view in the form of a bill by Rep. Walt Leger III of New Orleans, which would require the health department to issue a “request for proposals” for managed-care companies to oversee the care of thousands of elderly and disabled Louisianans. The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen:


Advocates say the flat rate would save the state money as the private providers could offer at home care, which is less expensive than 24-hour, around-the-clock care of a nursing home. The managed care companies also could have flexibility to give patients individualized care in the form of incentivizing healthy lifestyles through gym memberships or regular check ups or making adjustments at home like adding ramps or other conveniences.


Nursing homes won the day as Leger pulled his bill rather than face a vote he was destined to lose. That means the state loses out on long-term savings projected to result from managed care. Times-Picayune:


It is unlikely the bill would have passed due to the massive opposition the nursing home industry rallied against the bill, even though lawmakers heard projections that indicated a long-term savings for the state if Leger’s bill was adopted. Those savings include $31 million in savings in the first year and $430 million over five years.


Were the public-private partnerships worth it?

There is bipartisan agreement at the Capitol that the public-private hospital contracts drafted under former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration must be renegotiated. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne assured senators this week that the process is underway, but the question still looms of how the state benefited from outsourcing its state-run charity hospital system to private operators. As, Times-Picayune’s Kevin Litten reports, Gov. John Bel Edwards wants more consistency and transparency in the reworked deals:


There are no easy answers and, at this point, Dardenne said he doesn’t have enough financial data to determine whether the hospitals are profiting from the deals that hospital officials have repeatedly said only covers their costs. “The hospitals are firm in their insistence that this is not a huge money-making endeavor for them,” Dardenne said. “Two hallmarks of what we’re trying to do is to develop some consistency in the overall agreements as well as transparency. There’s not as much transparency as we’d like to see.” … To fix that problem, Dardenne said the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Division of Administration are looking to apply the same standards to all of the deals. He said the new contracts would allow for more oversight of how the hospitals deliver care, provide more insight into health care financing, and place a larger focus on health care outcomes. … That would include building incentives into the contracts to reward hospitals for the quality of care. If hospitals can find ways to get patients healthier, treat them earlier, and educate them on how to avoid chronic conditions, those hospitals could qualify for more favorable payments for services. … It’s not clear how long the negotiations could take, but Dardenne said he believes that meetings will push past July 1.


A bad month for Louisiana’s juvenile jails

Clancy DuBos of the Gambit looks at the abrupt retirement of Dr. Mary Livers as head of the Office of Juvenile Justice, which came on the heels of reports outlining overworked staff and violent clashes at the state’s juvenile facilities. DuBos provides a helpful breakdown of all the hits that have come to Louisiana’s jails just this month, spotlighting recurring budget cuts as one of the sources of the problem:


On Thursday (May 19), Orleans Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty will conduct a hearing on whether conditions at BCCY are “so out of control that they may rise to the level of being unconstitutional.” Doherty ordered OJJ officials to present reasons why he should not declare BCCY constitutionally unfit to house juvenile offenders. His order came after testimony in two cases detailed frequent fistfights, escape attempts, broken bones and severe staffing shortages. […] The uproar over conditions at BCCY could have derailed the Raise the Age Act, but hopefully lawmakers will recognize that the solution is proper funding and staffing of OJJ — not continued placement of 17-year-olds in the adult prison system. As more and more conservatives are concluding, Louisiana cannot incarcerate its way out of crime — particularly when jails fail to meet constitutional standards for safety and security. Such jails cost taxpayers untold millions and ultimately increase rather than reduce violence.


All eyes are on the troubled Bridge City youth detention facility, where a new supervisor will begin his tenure this week. The Advocate’s Jim Mustian has the details:


Sean Hamilton, assistant secretary of the state Office of Juvenile Justice, is taking the reins of an understaffed state facility that has been plagued by violence in recent months. Hamilton, a New Orleans native, replaces interim Director Cassandra Washington, who has returned to the agency’s central office in Baton Rouge. Hamilton is at least the fifth leader at Bridge City since early 2014 — a turnover rate that highlights the turmoil gripping the facility. Employees learned of the appointment in an email Tuesday, a few days after Mary Livers, the head of the Office of Juvenile Justice, abruptly retired from her post. Hamilton joined the Office of Juvenile Justice in late 2010. He previously served as superintendent of the District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.


Quote of the Day:

“Whatever you say about Edwards, there is a ring of deep sincerity when he talks about repairing the budget disaster left to him by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal. His message: No more phony money, no gimmicks, but real state tax dollars paying for the recurring costs of government. Former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of state government’s most effective reformers and a Republican, also champions budgetary reality as commissioner of the Division of Administration. Their goal runs up against the political realities of Barras’ caucus, many of them representing relatively affluent districts. The only sacred cow they seem to care about is the TOPS so-called “scholarships” that benefit mainly middle-class students. That Edwards says there’s not enough money for TOPS is about the only leverage he has with GOP lawmakers.”


Number of the day

0.4 – Percent of the United States’ gross domestic product spent annually on public support for childcare and early education. (Source: The New York Times)