Louisiana’s ongoing, self-inflicted budget travails are making it harder for the state’s flagship university to attract the best and brightest students. The state faces a $1.5 billion gap between revenues and projected expenses in the 2018-19 fiscal year, which means a new round of cuts to higher education will almost certainly be included in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive budget plan next week. LSU President F. King Alexander, in a guest editorial for The Advocate, explains what this could mean:
The longer we wait to address our state’s billion-dollar budget problem and provide Louisiana’s universities with the stability necessary to attract top-notch students from across the state and the nation, the more likely it is that we lose them to another state. …Timelines are critical. The nationally accepted final date for students to make their college decisions is May 1, and the average American college-bound high school senior applies to anywhere from six to eight schools. While other universities are fine-tuning generous scholarship offerings meant to lure Louisiana students away from home and showcase their many strengths, Louisiana’s colleges and universities are testifying about more potential budget cuts and TOPS reductions that leave students and parents nervous about their future investments.
With the deadline nearing for House leaders to agree on a package of revenue measures they can support to replace more than $1 billion in expiring sales taxes, it appears no deal is imminent. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports that House leaders are no closer to coming up with a revenue package – or specific cuts that would satisfy the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget.
[Gov. John Bel] Edwards addressed the stalemate during his monthly radio show on Wednesday. “At this point, I don’t see a lot of reason to be optimistic,” he said of ongoing meetings with House leaders. But he stressed his preference to hold a February special session. Without one, he said he doesn’t think that the Legislature will pass a budget, prompting the need for a special session after the regular session ends on June 4 and before the new budget cycle starts July 1.
Health care and “personal responsibility”
Personal responsibility is part of the American ethos, so it is no surprise that lawmakers and the public often want to attach personal responsibility requirements to some government assistance programs. For example, lawmakers in some states have created requirements that recipients of public health insurance engage in certain healthy behaviors to maintain coverage. But at closer look reveals that these requirements can actually do more harm than good. Dhruv Khullar writes for the New York Times’ Upshot blog:
Although it seems we should encourage personal responsibility, punishing the opposite may be heavy-handed and even counterproductive. Breaking down every factor that leads patients to develop cancer or heart disease or Alzheimer’s — and penalizing or rewarding them based on the share they could in theory control — seems a herculean and morally suspect task. Personal responsibility is an attractive goal with deep roots in American culture. But if it’s too aggressively pursued, it may conflict with another worthy ideal: In a nation as wealthy as the United States, sick humans deserve health care — even if they can’t pay, and even if they’ve made some bad choices.
Meanwhile, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new guidance Thursday morning paving the way for states to enact work requirements in their Medicaid programs. While the letter from CMS deputy administrator Brian Neele discusses helping Medicaid enrollees “rise out of poverty and attain independence,” Axios reporter Sam Baker has a different take:
Work requirements are a way to pare back Medicaid coverage, allowing states to remove some able-bodied adults from their rolls. In the face of congressional Republicans’ inability to pass a larger health care bill, these administrative actions are among conservatives’ best chances to pull Medicaid in a more conservative direction, after the Affordable Care Act dramatically expanded the program.
An update on CHIP
If ensuring nine million children keep their health insurance coverage isn’t enough of a reason for members of Congress to renew CHIP, new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office have given them another reason to do so: it would save the federal government billions of dollars over the next decade. Alice Ollstein with the Talking Points Memo blog has the scoop:
A new email from the Congressional Budget Office to lawmakers obtained by TPM [Talking Points Memo] notes, however, that renewing the program could actually save the federal government money. Extending CHIP for 10 years would save a total of $6 billion, CBO staffers said. The internal estimate comes just a few days after the agency reported publicly that it had slashed its estimate of how much it would cost the government to renew CHIP for five years—from $8 billion to around $800 million—following Republicans’ move to repeal the individual mandate as part of a tax overhaul.
Noam M. Levy with The Los Angeles Times spent time with a West Virginia family that spent the holidays wondering if their children’s health insurance was going to suddenly end.
For the Belts, it has been a lifeline especially since Bobby was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago. … “People have no idea what these families are going through,” said Dr. Todd Wolynn, a Pittsburgh pediatrician whose practice cares for hundreds of children covered by CHIP. “It’s easy to say, ‘There is short-term funding and there’s nothing to worry about.’ But for most of these families, there is no backup plan,” he continued. “Imagine … if someone said we may have to take your house or your car next month. Except, in this case families are being told they may not be able to protect their children.”
A new report released Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families lists Louisiana as one of 21 states that will run out of CHIP funds before the end of February, including the temporary “patch” CHIP funding approved by Congress in December.
Number of the Day
86,000 – Number of Kentucky residents who are expected to lose their health care coverage if Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver application to add work requirements and fees is approved. (Source: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy)