Fiscal cliff fix cannot wait

Fiscal cliff fix cannot wait

Louisiana’s higher education officials have a clear message for lawmakers: a solution to the fiscal cliff is needed, and it’s critical that it happen in February rather than June.

Number of the Day

48,800- Number of Louisiana students who received a TOPS scholarship in the fall 2017 semester. (Source: Nola.com/The Times Picayune via the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance)

Louisiana’s higher education officials have a clear message for lawmakers: a solution to the fiscal cliff is needed, and it’s critical that it happen in February rather than June. The state’s colleges and universities typically map out their budgets months in advance of the start of the fiscal year on July 1, so not knowing how much state funding they will receive until the end of June creates major problems. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports:

Higher education officials worry the partisan dispute could linger through the regular session and lawmakers will keep the spending plans unfinished, forcing a last-minute special session on the budget and taxes to be called in June. They say campuses must make decisions on faculty hiring, course offerings and student programs — and students will make their choices — before then. “Debates during the legislative session will assume that all planning is on hold until a budget resolution emerges in June. But that assumption is at odds with the realities of higher education planning, which means that the threats to our institutions will be magnified by this impasse,” Commissioner of Higher Education Joe Rallo said in a statement.

Current and potential future students will also be left with great uncertainty about the future of the TOPS scholarship program, which could face near elimination in the governor’s executive budget. Julia O’Donoghue with Nola.com/The Times Picayune:

The Edwards administration hasn’t yet finalized its budget proposal that will be released Monday, so the precise reduction to TOPS could still fluctuate. But several legislators, including Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said they had heard all of the state’s discretionary funding that goes to TOPS would be eliminated. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said budget officials told higher education leaders last week that TOPS would be cut by $233 million in Edwards’ budget proposal. That would leave just $58 million to run the program that typically costs the state around $300 million annually.

 

The positive ripple effects of SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded program that reaches nearly 1 in 5 Louisiana residents, ensuring they can put food on the table for their families each month. Long recognized as one of the most efficient and effective programs for curbing hunger and reducing poverty, new research shows that it also improves health outcomes and reduces costs of health care. In a new report, Steven Carlson and Brynne Keith-Jennings with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities rounded up the latest research findings on the far-reaching impact of SNAP:

After adjusting for differences in demographic, socioeconomic, and other characteristics, adults who participate in SNAP are more likely to assess their own health as excellent or very good, as are parents who assess their child’s health. Adults have fewer sick days, make fewer visits to a doctor, are less likely to forgo needed care because they cannot afford it, and are less likely to exhibit psychological distress.

 

Medicaid is critical to fighting the opioid crisis

Republicans in Congress (and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry) continue to point out the correlation between the timing of state’s expanding their Medicaid programs and the rise of opioid overdoses as evidence that Medicaid expansion is fueling the opioid crisis. In Statistics 101 one learns that correlation does not equal causation, and both data and experience show that Medicaid expansion is actually a critical part of the solution to the opioid epidemic. Quinn Lisbon, staff correspondent for Route Fifty:

Health officials and advocates would disagree with the conservative assessment of Medicaid’s role in the crisis for another reason: they have seen what Medicaid expansion has done, and the impact the program has had on connecting those suffering from substance abuse disorders with treatment. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a growing number of nonelderly adult Americans are having their opioid addiction treatment covered by the federal program—26 percent of were receiving treatment covered by the program in 2005, 10 years later that percentage had doubled:

Samuel Hammond with The Niskanen Center, which advocates for more a open and transparent society, outlines how adding work requirements to state Medicaid programs will create a barrier for opioid addicts to receive treatment and re-enter the workforce:

It’s worrying, then, that of the 10 states that have requested waivers for work requirements in Medicaid, eight have overdose death rates roughly equal to or significantly above the 2016 national average (19.8 per 100,000), including outlier states like New Hampshire, Maine and Kentucky. As of November 2017, West Virginia is also considering adding work requirements to the Medicaid program. West Virginia has the nation’s highest opioid-death rate at 52 per 100,000 people in 2016. Not only are these some of the last places in the country that should be experimenting with work requirements in Medicaid — if anything, they should be combining lower barriers to Medicaid access with an aggressive opioid abuse outreach program.

 

Number of the Day

48,800- Number of Louisiana students who received a TOPS scholarship in the fall 2017 semester. (Source: Nola.com/The Times Picayune via the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance)