Nearly 200,000 Louisiana workers would get a pay raise under legislation that cleared the Senate Labor Committee on Thursday. The panel advanced Senate Bill 162 by Sen. Troy Carter, which would establish a state minimum wage of $8.50 per hour by January 1, 2020. With backing from Gov. John Bel Edwards, the panel also advanced legislation designed to ensure women are paid the same as men for doing equal work. Elizabeth Crisp from the Advocate reports:
Edwards said he recently was asked why he hasn’t stopped pushing the minimum wage and equal pay issues that have failed to gain traction in the Capitol chambers, despite being among his priority items.”I’m committed to this,” he said. “I’m never going to give up until we actually do it. Once we do it, we will go on to something else.” The minimum wage went up in 18 other states at the start of 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The previous year, 19 states saw minimum wage hikes. Louisiana is one of five remaining states that automatically default to the federal level because they have never adopted their own state minimum wage laws.
This was just the first step in a long process to enacted these proposal into law. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has more on the proposal and potential challenges ahead.
The outcome of Thursday’s committee hearing wasn’t a surprise. The majority-Democratic panel has approved similar measures in Edwards’ first two years in office only to see the proposals hit roadblocks later. The measures continue to face tough hurdles to passage in a majority-Republican Legislature that has sided with business lobbying groups that oppose the bills.
A fact sheet about the minimum wage bill, which heads next to the Senate floor, is here.
Dr. Ali Bustamante, a labor economist with the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University, explains in The Advocate why raising the minimum wage is important.
Medicaid recipients told they are losing benefits
Louisiana’s budget uncertainty is already having an effect on people who need services the most. The governor’s executive budget includes severe cuts to some Medicaid programs, including those serving the elderly and people with disabilities. While the governor says he doesn’t support the cuts in his own budget, state law requires the Louisiana Department of Health to give recipients two months notice before any patient services or health coverage are terminated. That means seniors receiving long term care services covered by Medicaid can expect to receive notifications in early May. Julia O’Donoghue with NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports:
Another pot of money that could be used to avoid the cuts – a $302 million increase in state income tax revenue — won’t be verified until mid-May, after notices about eliminating Medicaid services will have already gone out. Those who will receive the warnings include 46,000 Medicaid recipients who qualify for long-term care in a nursing home or at their personal residence, but also have some personal income in spite of their disability — between $750 and $2,250 per month. In addition, about 14,000 people who get personal care assistance at home — such as bathing and eating — are also likely to be notified
Copay clawback cost you more for prescriptions
A new study by the University of Southern California reveals that 23 percent of patients’ copayments for prescription drugs exceed the actual cost of the drug to their insurance company. Here in Louisiana, Sen. J.P. Morrell is pushing Senate Bill 241, which seeks to improve communications between pharmacists and patients that would prevent overpayment at the pharmacy counter. Sydney Lupkin and Kaiser Health News in the Washington Post outlines how the the practice of charging excessive copayments benefits middlemen who end up getting to keep the extra money paid by patients.
It showed that the overpayments totaled $135 million during that six-month period.The practice of charging a copay that is higher than the full cost of a drug is called a “clawback” because the middlemen that handle drug claims for insurance companies essentially “claw back” the extra dollars from the pharmacy. (The middlemen, known as pharmacy benefits managers, include Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and OptumRx.) Here’s how it works: After taking your insurance card, your pharmacist says you owe a $10 copay, which you pay, assuming that the drug costs more than $10 and your insurance is covering the rest. But unbeknownst to you, the drug actually cost only $7, and the PBM claws back the extra $3. Had you paid out-of-pocket, you would have gotten a better deal.
How American health care is different
America spends more money on health care than any nation on earth, with overall results that are about average. But that’s not because Americans spend too much time in the hospital, or that too many doctors are specialists instead of focusing on primary care. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported by Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, finds that the United States is roughly in line with its peers on many indicators, with some notable exceptions:
There were two areas where the United States really was quite different: We pay substantially higher prices for medical services, including hospitalization, doctors’ visits and prescription drugs. And our complex payment system causes us to spend far more on administrative costs. The United States also has a higher rate of poverty and more obesity than any of the other countries, possible contributors to lower life expectancy that may not be explained by differences in health care delivery systems.
Number of the Day
$1,558 – The State of Louisiana’s debt load for every man, woman, and child in 2017. (Source: Associated Press)