Sen. Bill Cassidy’s latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is similar to previous versions rejected by the Senate. It would end Medicaid expansion and eliminate marketplace subsidies, offering an inadequate block grant to states instead. The Cassidy-Graham bill comes as other senators are working in a bipartisan, transparent manner to strengthen the individual market and make coverage more affordable. In contrast, the Cassidy-Graham repeal plan is projected to cut federal health care funding by $3.2 billion for Louisiana in 2026. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jacob Leibenluft, Edwin Park, Matt Broaddus and Aviva Aron-Dine provide full analysis of the bill.
Cassidy-Graham cuts health coverage in two ways: first, by undoing the ACA’s major coverage expansions through a block grant, and second, by radically restructuring and cutting the entire Medicaid program. The bill would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies starting in 2020, offering in their place only a smaller, temporary block grant that states could use for health coverage or any other health care purposes, with no guarantee of coverage or financial assistance for individuals.
The Advocate’s Bryn Stole talked to LBP Director Jan Moller:
“This last-ditch effort is just another ACA repeal bill that would have the same devastating effects as previous bills that Congress rejected,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates for low- and moderate-income state residents. “Just like the earlier failed efforts, this latest bill would take away coverage from millions of people, end the Medicaid expansion, raise costs for consumers and gut the Medicaid program as we know it.”
Bruce Lesley, president of the children’s advocacy group First Focus, explains why features of Cassidy’s bill are particularly bad for states threatened by natural disaster.
The fact is that block grants and per capita caps do not account for or adjust to the impact and aftermath of crises, such as hurricanes. This is something that should be of immense concern to Sens. Graham and Cassidy, their governors, and other state leaders.
Barras wants tax deal by January
Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras is meeting with colleagues around the state in an effort to forge consensus on a tax plan to avert the $1.5 billion fiscal cliff that occurs when temporary taxes expire on July 1. Barras wants a plan by January that could pass in a special session held prior to the three-month regular session that begins begins in March. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the scoop:
Waiting until after the regular session ends in June, Barras said, would “put ourselves at a huge disadvantage” because the new budget year begins weeks later.“You’d leave 20 agencies hanging until a week before the fiscal year begins. I think there’s a better way to do that,” he said. Barras said conversations with House members are covering a wide array of tax types, along with the state’s multibillion-dollar tax break programs. He called the discussions general so far. “I think you’ll see that skinny up into probably a little bit more — by process of elimination — the 10, 12, 15 items that we think possibly make up the menu that could close that fiscal cliff,” he said.
College rankings and inequality
Politico’s Benjamin Wermund reviewed the closely-watched U.S. News and World Report college rankings and came to a striking conclusion: the scoring system could be contributing to inequality in the country.
A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.
The rankings encourage colleges to give more scholarship money to high-scorers on standardized tests, taking funds that could be used on need-based aid. Also, schools have an incentive to take more applicants from their “early decision” pool in order to drive their acceptance rate down. This hurts students from low-income families who apply to multiply schools in search for the best aid package. Wermund talked to a number of higher education administrators.
“I think U.S. News has done more damage to the higher education marketplace than any single enterprise that’s out there,” said F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University. Alexander noted that a key to success in the rankings is paying higher faculty salaries and spending more per student overall, which drives up tuition in an era when sticker price has kept many low-income students from even applying to college.
Encouraging low-wage employers
LBP’s report, State of Working Louisiana 2017, explained that many jobs being created in Louisiana are low-wage jobs without benefits. The Advocate’s editorial board points out that, in some cases, Louisiana taxpayers are directly subsidizing the corporations providing the subpar jobs. They highlight the fact that Gov. John Bel Edwards has continued some of the deals struck by his predecessor.
The latest example is Foster Farms, a chicken processing plant that was the beneficiary of a big state subsidy in 2009: $40 million for the company to buy the closed facility in north Louisiana. By comparison, the $500,000 state expansion grant for the plant recently approved by Edwards is, to pardon the expression, chicken feed. The company promises to create about 40 new jobs. Obviously, these are not high-tech jobs. … The “economic development” for Farmerville means jobs there, though they pay on average $22,000.
Number of the Day
44 percent – Un- and underemployment rate for black men in New Orleans, down from 52 percent in 2014. (Source: Ben Hecht, Living Cities, via The Advocate)