There is still no deal on the $29 billion state operating budget as the minutes tick toward today’s 6 p.m. mandatory adjournment. House and Senate leaders are $154 million apart on overall spending for the budget year that starts July 1. The House is pushing for cuts to prisons, higher education and services for vulnerable children and families, while the Senate would like to use all available funding to avoid further reductions. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:
Haggling over the budget continued behind closed doors Wednesday. But House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, a Metairie Republican who handles the budget in the House, said he won’t agree to any deal that involves spending every dollar available as the Senate wants. House GOP leaders say the Senate version of the budget depends on unreliable financing and would lead to midyear cuts. At the heart of the debate is whether to trust Louisiana’s income forecast.
In the event that a compromise cannot be reached, Edwards called for a special session to begin 30 minutes after the regular session ends. While some lawmakers are confident that a deal will be brokered before adjournment, others are not so optimistic, as The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges and Elizabeth Crisp report:
Edwards met with several Republican House members Wednesday to try to convince them to support the Senate’s version of the budget, tipping the vote toward the proposal he prefers. But the tactic was met with further resistance. Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, said that during a House Republican caucus meeting earlier in the day, only one lawmaker supported the Senate’s version of the budget. “We’ll come back for a special session,” Seabaugh said.
Reality check: Absolutely no one on either side wants to return to Baton Rouge for a special session. Rhetoric aside, it is highly likely that the chambers will bridge their differences today.
AHCA would make premiums unaffordable
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) will effectively end the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which has brought coverage to more than 420,000 Louisianans. Republicans counter that people losing Medicaid coverage would be able to buy insurance in the individual market. But low-income adults, especially older Americans, would face out-of-pocket premiums and deductibles that would be too high for them to realistically afford coverage. Tara Straw with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the end of Medicaid expansion would affect people in all age groups:
For people age 60 or older with income at or below the poverty line, individual-market premiums would consume at least 45 percent of their income. For middle-aged people (age 45) with income at the poverty line, premiums would consume more than one-fifth of income in most states. Even for younger people, who would fare the best under the House bill, premiums would still be unaffordable for many. In practice, poor- and near-poor people would not be able to afford health insurance premiums at these levels, so the overwhelming majority of those losing Medicaid coverage under the House bill would become uninsured.
Hope for hepatitis c treatment
The rise in opioid addiction has meant more cases of Hepatitis C in Louisiana. While new treatments can provide a cure for the highly contagious blood-borne infection, the medicine costs an estimated $85,000 per year. As the Louisiana Budget Project’s Jeanie Donovan explains in a letter to The Advocate, Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee wants to use a little-known federal patent law that would allow generic versions of the treatment to be produced.
At a time when politics in our country, especially on health care, are badly divided, this represents an opportunity for the state to work hand-in-hand with the federal government to address a public health epidemic and help people who otherwise would needlessly suffer. It could ease pressure on the state budget, and set a blueprint that other states could then follow. As such, we all should applaud Gee’s ingenuity and urge her to move forward with requesting the necessary action by the U.S. Secretary of Health.
Paid parental leave closer to a reality
The United States seems closer to shaking the dubious distinction of being the only industrialized nation on earth not to offer paid leave for new parents. Only 13 percent have access to paid leave, a majority of Americans support the program. As Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times reports, details are emerging of what a bipartisan paid leave plan might look like:
The plan, which the group presented to Ivanka Trump at the White House on Monday, would give all new parents, including fathers and gay and adoptive parents, eight weeks of job-protected paid leave. They would receive 70 percent of their pay up to $600 a week, financed partly by a small increase in payroll taxes and partly by cuts in government spending…The proposal from the group of experts has more details than the Trump proposal, and differs in a few ways. It would require eight weeks of paid leave for new parents, while the Trump plan would offer six. Both would be financed by spending cuts — the Trump plan suggests they would come from reforms to unemployment insurance — but the experts’ plan would also tax workers.
Number of the Day
$85,000 – Per patient cost for price of new hepatitis C treatment (Source: The Advocate )