Nearly 90 percent of Louisiana’s Medicaid recipients – almost 1.5 million people – have their health care services managed by one of five managed-care insurance companies whose contracts are up for renewal by the state Legislature. An audit released Monday found that the state Department of Health does a poor job of monitoring the private companies to make sure people suffering from mental illness or drug addiction have access to qualified specialists. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports:
Auditors said they found 45 percent of providers listed by managed-care groups as licensed mental health professionals from October through December 2016 didn’t meet licensing requirements, raising questions about the services provided. The Department of Health said the figure was inflated and that it has verified licensure of more than half of those questioned. The audit also raised concerns about whether the health department was double-checking information given by the managed-care organizations to ensure it accurately reflects available providers and services…. Health department officials responded that they’ve tightened oversight of the managed-care organizations, issuing $44,000 in fines since July for companies failing to accurately report information about mental health and drug abuse treatment services.
Louisiana’s ‘brain drain’
Louisiana’s unemployment rate has ticked down to an impressive 5.1 percent – down more than a full percentage point since this time last year, and a sign that the state economy has rebounded from the downturn in oil prices that ravaged the oil patch parishes in South Louisiana. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the national economy is doing even better than Louisiana. That means Louisiana could have trouble retaining its most talented and skilled workers. The Advocate editorial board explains:
…[W]ith Wall Street booming and growing demand for professional and skilled labor around the country, Louisiana faces a period when the “brain drain” of talent expands. According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana added 14,700 nonfarm jobs, bringing the total to 1,980,400 — very close to the landmark of 2 million at work. But if the state is to rise to that, and then above it, we ought to look to ways we can make the state more competitive in national and international markets. A critical issue is talent, and our public universities should be better supported by the state to generate more high-quality jobs. But until the state Legislature gets its act together on reforming Louisiana’s out-of-date tax system, where is the money to come from to do that?
The real cost of community college
Community colleges are a critical part of the education system, affording opportunities for recent high school graduates and adult learners to receive training or prepare for a 4-year institution. States are taking notice. Tennessee offers tuition-free access to two years of post-secondary education, and community college in New York is free for students from families earning below $125,000 per year. But the Century Foundation’s Bruce Baker and Jesse Levin explore the complexities of state funding, and note that “free” tuition doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of a student’s education.
The sad fact is that, because of this, government at every level acts with very little knowledge about the actual cost of providing these systems of institutions, how to make them equitably accessible, or even, at the bare minimum, how to provide “adequate” programs and related services. Even in two-year public colleges, which focus primarily on direct instruction, the share of revenue that comes from tuition and fees is about 38 percent in New York and 42 percent in Tennessee of total current fund revenues. While the New York plan promises to maintain the existing state subsidies for higher education, it does not properly account for the real costs of providing and maintaining the system, let alone the goals and broader public interests invested in its success, relying instead solely on the existing tuition subsidy rate and prior state support.
“Alternative schools” are failing
Public school students in Louisiana who get sent to “alternative schools” because of behavior problems rarely get the services they need to get back on track academically, according to a new report by an outside panel established by the state Department of Education. The report also says Louisiana is too quick to dismiss students from traditional public schools, often for nonviolent offenses such as “willful disobedience.” The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:
About 18,000 students are enrolled in one of the 139 alternative programs or attend one of the state’s 35 alternative education schools. The schools and programs are designed to help students improve their behavior and/or improve their academic achievement. But the report says that usually does not happen. “Students in Louisiana alternative education settings rarely receive academic, behavioral, social and emotional services needed to address the root cause of their exit from the home school,” according to the report. They face limited face-to-face time with teachers and a lack of needed technology, career and technical options, academic counseling and clarity for students and parents on what they can expect at an alternative school. “Given these striking gaps in service, it should come as no surprise that students referred to an alternative school in Louisiana are five times more likely than their peers to drop out of school,” it says.
Number of the Day
19– Percent dropout rate for public students in alternative schools, compared to 4 percent statewide. (Source: The Advocate)