Gov. John Bel Edwards joined a bipartisan group of governors on a plan to stabilize and strengthen the individual health care market. The plan is a prelude to bipartisan hearings that will begin next week in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. From the announcement:
Congress should continue its work to identify reforms that strengthen insurance markets in the long term, but we need immediate action to ensure consumers have affordable options in the short term. Insurers have until the end of September to make final decisions about participating in the marketplaces. Congress and the Administration need to send a strong signal now that the individual market will remain viable this year, next year, and into the future.
Instead of shoring up the markets, President Donald Trump’s administration is taking steps to undermine stability. The latest effort at sabotage: cutting funding for enrollment outreach by 72 percent. Experts believe this move will destabilize markets and lead to higher premiums. Vox’s Sarah Kliff:
When pressed by a reporter, officials said they had not done any studies of the efficacy of enrollment advertising or whether public awareness is indeed quite high. “We haven’t done a specific study related to the public awareness of the program,” the third HHS official said. “I think most Americans are aware of the program at this point in time.” There is not a large body of research on Affordable Care Act advertising, but what has been done correlates more advertising with higher sign-up rates.
Kennedy could be key on consumer rule
Many in Congress are looking to put aside a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) rule that makes it easier for people to sue banks for unfair consumer practices, like those employed by Wells Fargo in the recent fake account scandal. The House has already voted to block the rule through the Congressional Review Act, but it’s unclear whether there are enough Senate votes to do away with it. Elizabeth Dexheimer writes in Bloomberg that Louisiana Sen. John N. Kennedy may be a pivotal vote.
The CFPB rule restricts financial firms from forcing consumers to resolve their disputes through closed-door arbitration instead of addressing grievances in open court. Consumer advocates argue that without it, banks can’t be held accountable for cheating customers. Banks hate the rule because it opens them up to costly class-action lawsuits. Republican lawmakers say the CFPB used a flawed method to create the rule.
Sanctuary cities law ruled unconstitutional
During this year’s regular legislative session, state Rep. Valarie Hodges of Denham Springs sponsored a bill that would have withheld state funds from municipalities deemed to have “sanctuary” policies for immigrants. The bill failed in a Senate committee, likely saving the state money defending the legislation in court. This week, a judge ruled a similar Texas law unconstitutional. The Associated Press’ Paul J. Weber and Will Weissert report that the ruling brings relief to Houston officials concerned with how the law would have affected their Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
Houston officials have sought to assure families fleeing the rising floodwaters in the nation’s fourth-largest city that shelters would not ask for their immigration status. Houston police Chief Art Acevedo, an outspoken critic of the law, got word of the decision while standing inside a downtown convention center where about 10,000 people have sought shelter. He high-fived another officer. “We needed a break. That’s a break for us,” said Acevedo, whose department has conducted thousands of high-water rescues and lost one officer who died in floodwaters as he tried to drive to work. … (U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia) also wrote there “is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe” while adding that “localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”
The whole story on affordable housing
Maxwell Ciardullo of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center explains in a letter to The Advocate that while redevelopment of public housing in New Orleans led to “mixed-income” developments touted in a recent Advocate editorial, it also increased concentration of poverty in other areas. One reason: without a state law that prohibits source-of-income discrimination, the vast majority of voucher holders can’t access neighborhoods of their choice.
The Big Four developments — St. Bernard, Lafitte, B.W. Cooper, and Magnolia — provided over 5,000 units of public housing before Katrina. Now, over 5,000 Housing Choice Voucher (“Section 8”) families live in New Orleans East, while nearly 3,000 voucher families reside across the river in Algiers. In some neighborhoods, as many as 700 voucher families live within the space of a few blocks. While Columbia Parc — the redeveloped St. Bernard — features a host of new amenities and Bienville Basin — the new Iberville — is near jobs in the French Quarter, most voucher holders are forced to live in farther-flung, heavily segregated neighborhoods with little access to jobs, public transit, high-performing schools, grocery stores, or other amenities. It is sadly ironic that the HUD secretary praised the new developments as examples of what we should be striving for because they are “healthy communities that are walkable, that are looking out for education, for health care, that ensure that they’re not food deserts.” This is certainly true, but also true is that the overwhelming majority of housing authority residents now have less access to those resources because of the redevelopments.
As Houston and the surrounding areas enter the long process of recovery from devastating floods, Louisianans can find ways to donate and volunteer to relief efforts at the Volunteer Louisiana website: http://www.volunteerlouisiana.gov/disaster-services/how-to-help
Number of the Day
4 – Percentage of jobs that are unfilled in the United States, pointing to need for policies like expanded apprenticeship programs and connecting people with criminal records to jobs. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Brookings Institution)