Sen. Bill Cassidy has said repeatedly that his latest health-care bill would “give power back to the states and back to patients.” A new analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows what Cassidy’s bill would actually do: cut annual health care funding for Louisiana by an increasing amount each year, growing to a $2.3 billion cut in 2026. Rather than empowering the state, the Cassidy-Graham bill would force Louisiana lawmakers to decide which Louisianans would have to lose coverage, what Medicaid services to eliminate, and which provider reimbursements to reduce. CBPP’s Edwin Park and Matt Broaddus explain:
That’s because the plan would eliminate the ACA’s marketplace subsidies and enhanced matching rate for the Medicaid expansion, replacing them with an inadequate block grant whose funding would shrink further over time (compared to current spending levels) and then disappear altogether after 2026. The plan would also convert Medicaid’s current federal-state financial partnership to a per capita cap, which would cap and cut federal Medicaid per-beneficiary funding for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children. Finally, it would allow states to waive ACA provisions that prohibit health insurance plans from placing annual or lifetime limits on coverage and require them to cover key services.
The bill is a last-ditch attempt to block the emerging, bipartisan efforts that seek to strengthen the nation’s health-care system without taking people’s coverage away or cutting Medicaid. Instead, it offers many of the same harmful provisions included in the ACA repeal bills that were rejected by the Senate in July. LBP’s Jan Moller:
The plan would eliminate the ACA Medicaid expansion, which covers 437,000 Louisianans. It would also eliminate tax credits that help 122,000 moderate-income Louisiana residents afford marketplace coverage and subsidies that help low-income residents with out-of-pocket health costs like copays. “The public, experts across the political spectrum, and groups representing patients, hospitals, physicians, seniors, people with disabilities and others have forcefully and repeatedly rejected this misguided approach,” Moller said. “It’s time to focus on bipartisan solutions that strengthen – rather than weaken — our health care system.”
To exempt or not to exempt?
The state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) cost Baton Rouge $9.9 million in local property tax revenue last year. But a 2016 executive order by Gov. John Bel Edwards gives local governments a voice in whether to grant future exemptions, which is why the issue landed before the Baton Rouge Metro Council on Wednesday. Council members heard extensive testimony regarding the costs and benefits of ITEP. Business groups lined up in support of the program while representatives of Together Baton Rouge expressed concern about the program’s impact on quality of life in the metro area. The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo was there:
The $9.9 million in lost revenue was split across local government entities, including the Fire Department, mosquito abatement, emergency medical services, libraries and the city-parish’s general fund. The general fund’s contribution was $1.9 million of the exemption. Dozens of attendees representing the faith-based advocacy group Together Baton Rouge imagined various ways in which the city-parish could be spending that money: drainage projects, pay raises for police officers, mental health and substance abuse treatment improvements…The BRAC [Baton Rouge Area Council] response also points out that ExxonMobil recently passed on building the world’s largest ethylene cracker plant in Baton Rouge and instead took advantage of more than $1 billion in property tax breaks offered in Texas. “Manufacturing jobs are the lifeblood of Baton Rouge’s economy,” Michael DiResto, BRAC’s senior vice president for economic competitiveness, said at the Metro Council meeting.
A shift underway at Louisiana’s HBCUs
Historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) were founded during the era of segregation to give African-American students access to higher education. Now, with more and more African-American students choosing to attend “predominately white institutions,” HBCUs are rethinking their traditional frameworks and recruiting strategies to ensure their financial stability and longevity. As leaders of the historically-black institutions told Leigh Guidry with The News-Star, HBCUs are well poised to become places where a diverse group of students learn and grow together:
“We’ve got to diversify the enrollment and make (offerings) are attractive to white students, to Asian students, Hispanic students,” [Alvin] Schexnider said. “It is a radical shift, quite different from the way it has been, but it’s what needs to happen,” he said. But Schexnider and Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, say it doesn’t go against the mission of HBCUs. “Personally, I think being diverse and being historically black are not mutually exclusive,” Schexnider said. “You can be both but you have to be intentional.” Being immersed in different a culture pushes students to better understand one another and learn, and college should be that place, he said.
DACA in danger
A group of attorneys general from 10 states, including Louisiana, has given President Donald Trump a Sept. 5 deadline to rescind an Obama-era executive order that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children (the “Dreamers”) or face a lawsuit. Since its enactment in 2012, DACA has given nearly 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children temporary legal status, which has opened the door to higher education and economic security for many of them. Diana Quintero and Elizabeth Mann with The Brookings Institution report:
DACA can increase accessibility to higher education for undocumented students. At the most basic level, deferred action may encourage students to apply for college in the first place without fear of deportation. Further, work permits available through the program may enable them to get a higher-paying job, which in turn could help them finance higher education more easily. This benefit is particularly important since many DACA-eligible individuals are from low-income families, and undocumented individuals do not have access to federal financial aid.
If Trump doesn’t take action to end DACA, some states may take matters into their own hands to limit young immigrants’ access to higher education:
The remaining five states in the coalition–Idaho, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia–do not have laws that bar undocumented students from access to in-state tuition. Should Trump fail to meet the demands of their attorneys general, it is possible that governors of these states—all of which have Republican legislatures—may pursue such legislation. (This may be the least likely in Louisiana, which has a Democratic governor.)
Number of the Day
3,835 – Number of young immigrants in Louisiana who have been granted temporary legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). (Source: U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services)