Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a conciliatory note as he returned home to Kentucky, fresh from his failed attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act with legislation that would have taken health-care coverage from millions of Americans. McConnell told the AP’s Adam Beam that while there’s still a chance the Senate will revive the Obamacare repeal bill, it’s more likely that the Senate will attempt to shore up the health-insurance exchanges by making sure the federal government continues to subsidize the cost of coverage for people with low incomes.
(Sen. Lamar) Alexander (of Tennessee) recently said he will work with the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, on a bill next month that would pay insurers through 2018. In exchange, Alexander wants Democrats to agree to make it easier for states to choose their own health coverage standards that insurers must provide rather than abiding by former President Barack Obama’s law. “If the Democrats are willing to support some real reforms rather than just an insurance company bailout, I would be willing to take a look at it,” McConnell said, hours before he was expected to speak at the famously raucous Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky.
America spends a lot of money on health care
The United States spends far more than most developed countries on health care – both on a per-capita basis ($9,982) and as a percentage of its overall economy (17.2). But U.S. life expectancy ranks 27th among the 35 countries that make up the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and ranks poorly on a host of other health indicators. Bloomberg’s Laurie Meisler reports:
Unlike other countries in the OECD, the U.S. mostly relies on voluntary health insurance to fund health-care costs. Public health insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, accounts for 27 percent of coverage. By contrast, the 10 countries with the highest life expectancy depend on voluntary insurance for an average of less than 6 percent of their costs, and government spending for nearly half. One big reason U.S. health care costs are so high: pharmaceutical spending. The U.S. spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country in the OECD.
The power of the state Treasurer
The race to become Louisiana’s next treasurer is the only one on the statewide ballot this fall (there also are several constitutional amendments), which helps explain why two Advocate columnists broached the issue on Sunday. Mark Ballard starts off by explaining what the treasurer actually does (chair the Bond Commission), but has to reach back more than a decade for an example of when the office exercised clout in a public debate. It happened in 2005, when then-Treasurer John Kennedy refused to schedule a vote on an $85 million sugar mill sought by the commissioner of agriculture.
During his 16 years as state treasurer, Kennedy created a bully pulpit that the seven candidates in the Oct. 14 statewide election seeking to succeed him want to imitate. The take-away is that for all of his Drano-drinking rhetoric, the Bunkie sugar mill project was one of the very few times that in the execution of his actual duties, Kennedy ensnared the process the state uses to fund construction projects.
Stephanie Grace writes that three of the top contenders – former state Rep. John Schroder, state Sen. Neil Riser and former Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis – are being forced to contend with the poor fiscal legacy of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
All are trying hard to dodge suggestions that they were complicit by claiming to have been independent voices under Jindal. Davis talks about having introduced sound budgeting principles during Jindal’s early days, before tax cuts he supported, the downturn in the oil industry and his larger ambitions sent him down a more political, less responsible path. Both Riser and Schroder focus on their own efforts to curb waste and insist they pushed back on some of Jindal’s moves.
Leaving money on the table
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is having trouble finding applicants who want a part of the $1.3 billion in federal aid made available for victims of last year’s historic floods in South Louisiana. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, the administration was expecting 37,000 people to qualify for assistance, but so far only 36,000 applications have come in and only 21,000 of those are expected to qualify for a grant. Pat Forbes, Edwards’ recovery chief, explains:
Some homeowners assume Louisiana will run out of money before getting to them. Some incorrectly think only low-income homeowners are eligible. Others believe they can’t get a dime because they finished rebuilding. People don’t trust government programs. Some see an advertisement and think it’s a scam. And some simply haven’t heard about the aid. “I continue to be surprised that there are people who say they didn’t know the program existed. It’s hard for me to imagine that scenario, but it’s out there,” Forbes said.
Number of the Day
216 – Days since John N. Kennedy was sworn in as Louisiana’s junior U.S. Senator. He has yet to hold a public meeting with constituents. (Source: Nola.com)