Cassidy wants cuts to care

Cassidy wants cuts to care

Sen. Bill Cassidy remains committed to ending the Medicaid expansion that is covering more than 430,000 low-income Louisianans, eliminating individual market subsidies for middle-income people and capping and cutting the traditional Medicaid program.

Number of the Day

1,639 - Full-time staff positions eliminated at the Department of Children and Family Services from the 2008 fiscal year to the 2017 fiscal year. A recent audit showed the cuts led to high caseloads and improper oversight of the foster care program. (Source: House Fiscal Division via LBP)

Sen. Bill Cassidy remains committed to ending the Medicaid expansion that is covering more than 430,000 low-income Louisianans, eliminating individual market subsidies for middle-income people and capping and cutting the traditional Medicaid program. His plan would send a block grant to states with no guarantee that funds would go to those struggling the most. It would also open the door to states removing protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Most Americans want Congress to move away from partisan repeal bills like Cassidy’s and to focus on bipartisan solutions. Still, Cassidy continued to tout his plan at the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. The Advocate’s Bryn Stole was there.   

Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-income families in the state, said the cuts in the Cassidy-Graham-Heller bill would leave states scrambling to cover inflating costs. “This would rip a large and growing hole in our state budget while eliminating all guarantees of assistance for low-income residents,” said Moller, whose group has actively opposed other recent Republican proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Health policy expert Tim Jost agrees that states would be worse off under Cassidy’s bill, as he wrote in Health Affairs earlier this month.

While the concept of the Cassidy-Graham-Heller bill might prove attractive to those in Congress and elsewhere who would like to move authority and funding to the states, it is difficult to see how it would be possible for each state to implement its own subsidy program by 2020. It is also likely that, even leaving aside the matching money explicitly required by the bill, states would end up with far less money than they would need to continue current coverage levels. It is not obvious why Cassidy-Graham-Heller should prove more attractive than other proposals that were rejected during the recent Senate debate.

 

Budget cuts affect kids

When children in Louisiana are abused or neglected, or families face economic instability, the state agency charged with helping them is the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The department has shouldered a 35 percent cut over the past decade. In order to examine the damage those cuts inflicted, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration called for an audit of the department’s performance during the Jindal administration. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:

Louisiana’s social services agency was so understaffed amid repeated budget cuts that it short-changed its foster children, skipping some background checks on foster parents and placing children with people accused of abuse, according to an audit released Monday. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office reviewed the Department of Children and Family Services’ handling of the foster care program during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, saying that high caseloads, hefty employee turnover and ineffective computer systems damaged the agency’s oversight of children placed in its care.

The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp talked to current Secretary of DCFS, Marketa Walters about the report.

“I think the bottom line, for me, is we just have to decide as a state and a nation if we are going to invest in children,” Walters said. “We either care or we don’t.” Walters said DCFS is implementing a four-part improvement plan for the foster care program, which includes workforce stabilization, improving parent resources, caring for youths who age out of the program and a technology upgrade meant to streamline efforts. “We have worked very diligently within the constraints that we have,” she said.

Fiscal myopia

This week, WRKF-FM’s excellent state policy segment – Capitol Access – is looking at the state’s fiscal cliff, and the lack of political will to do anything about it. Sue Lincoln reports that while the size of the cliff is $1.5 billion, some lawmakers seem ok with making more than $1 billion in cuts to state services.

“I see a deficit of just over $1.5-billion, correct? That’s the fiscal cliff we keep talking about?” New Orleans Representative Gary Carter asked, as the latest tally of next July’s fall off in state revenue was presented to the Joint Budget Committee last week. Yet despite all the warning signs, some lawmakers don’t see the drop as being all that steep. … (Sen. Sharon Hewitt) also questioned the accuracy of the amount of the biggest reason for the plunge: the expiration of one penny of sales tax enacted “temporarily” in 2016. “You believe that we did see roughly the billion dollar increase?” Hewitt quizzed legislative fiscal analyst Greg Albrecht. “I don’t have to believe it,” he replied testily. “I see the numbers come in every month from the Revenue Department. It’s a dramatic step.”

 

Happy birthday Social Security

Social Security turned 82 yesterday – the program was signed into law on August 14, 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. To mark the occasion, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities updated its backgrounder on the popular program for older Americans. The CBPP notes that modest changes can put the program on a sustainable path for the future:

Policymakers should address Social Security’s long-term shortfall primarily by increasing Social Security’s tax revenues. Social Security will necessarily require an increasing share of our nation’s resources in the coming decades as the population ages, and polls show a widespread willingness to support it through higher tax contributions. Recent trends also justify boosting Social Security’s payroll tax revenue: Social Security’s tax base has eroded since the last time policymakers addressed solvency in 1983, largely due to increased inequality and the rising cost of non-taxed fringe benefits, such as health insurance.

 

Number of the Day

1,639 – Full-time staff positions eliminated at the Department of Children and Family Services from the 2008 fiscal year to the 2017 fiscal year. A recent audit showed the cuts led to high caseloads and improper oversight of the foster care program. (Source: House Fiscal Division via LBP)