The health care received by 1.5 million Louisianans continues to hang in the balance as Gov. John Bel Edwards and Rep. Cameron Henry disagree on small details in the contracts of private companies that manage 90 percent of Louisiana’s Medicaid program. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue explains the dispute between the governor and the the House Appropriations Committee Chairman and what the next steps may be.
The governor added language to the contracts meant to address Henry’s concerns about transparency and accountability, though Edwards’ staff still maintains the language wasn’t necessary. This language — and these updated versions of the contracts — is what Henry complained he had not seen as of Monday night. If the language satisfies Henry’s concerns, a successful vote could take place on the contracts this week. The Legislature’s joint budget committee is meeting Thursday and could vote on the contracts then, but so far, Henry and Edwards are refusing to make a move to get the contracts added to the committee’s agenda. Both say it is the responsibility of the other one to make that request and push for the vote.
As the back and forth over the Medicaid contracts continues, Louisiana was ranked the 49th healthiest state in the country, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual report. However, one highlight mentioned in the report was the decrease in the percentage of uninsured in the state, a direct result of the expansion of Medicaid in 2016 that has extended coverage to nearly 450,000 Louisiana adults.
Governors urge action on CHIP
A bipartisan group of governors, including Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The popular insurance program, which covers covers about 9 million low-income children and pregnant women, including 122,000 children in Louisiana, expired in September. Urgent action is needed as Louisiana will run out of money to fund its state program, known as LaCHIP, in mid-January.
As health insurance premiums climb at unsustainable rates, this program gives hard-working families access to otherwise unaffordable coverage…Since its creation, CHIP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. We encourage you to work across the aisle to find common ground that will allow this important program to continue and give families who rely on CHIP the piece of mind of knowing that their children will be to get the health care they need in the new year.
More breaks for the rich
In an effort to appease wealthy taxpayers, House and Senate Republican are inching closer to a deal that would reduce the marginal tax rate for high-income households from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. This appears to be the latest example that GOP leaders have a “pass at all cost” mentality to their tax plan, regardless of its consequences for middle-class families. The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Damian Paletta have more.
The moves were calculated to deliver Republicans a majority of votes in the House and Senate as lawmakers proceed on an ambitious plan to produce a final tax bill this week and pass it by early next, sending it to President Trump for his signature by Christmas. But Republican leaders were being cautious on Tuesday to ensure that the changes would not drive away the support of any members, particularly in the Senate, where they hold a slim majority and narrowly passed an earlier version of the tax bill 51-49. It could take several days until they have assurances that all their members are on board.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida quickly blasted the proposal, since the Senate earlier rejected his push to boost the Child Tax Credit in exchange for a bump in the corporate rate, but it remains to be seen if it will affect his vote.
Students get coal in their stockings
Louisiana’s ongoing fiscal travails means state aid to public schools will likely be frozen at current-year levels in next year’s budget, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ top education advisor said Tuesday. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that per-pupil funding has only been increased one time since 2008 under the Minimum Foundation Program, the constitutional formula that governs public school spending.
Where schools have gained in recent years is outside of the MFP formula, including $69 million in 2013; $44 million in 2015 and $20 million in 2016 from other state appropriations. Last year the governor recommended a freeze in basic state aid for schools but he won approval for boosting dual enrollment spending by $10 million and $8 million for high-needs students. However, education leaders have said repeatedly that rising health and retirement costs have pinched the state’s 69 school districts when basic state aid is frozen repeatedly. The aid pays for textbooks, school supplies and other day-to-day expenses.
Number of the Day
28.3 – Percent of children in Louisiana living in poverty. (Source: United Health Foundation)