The state’s financial uncertainty has prompted Louisiana’s public-private partnership hospitals (which serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured and are the training grounds for many of the state’s new doctors) to make arrangements to legally end their partnerships with the state. Lawmakers failed to address the $994 million shortfall in the special legislative session in February, leaving payments to the hospitals on the chopping block. In response, Lafayette General Health System’s President, David L. Callecod, sent a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday stating it has asserted a “termination for convenience” and outlined the consequences. This termination is possible because hospitals are allowed to walk away from the public-private partnerships if the state is unable to fulfill its end of the contract:
It is unfortunate that the budget impasse the State finds itself in could lead to devastating, unrecoverable instability for thousands of employees, physicians, learners and patients who rely on the critical healthcare services UHC [University Hospitals and Clinics] provides. In fairness to the notice they deserve and will need to plan their lives around accordingly, as part of the termination and withdrawal process, either LSU must elect to take over UHC’s operations or LGH will be forced to prepare for the following events:
Kids can’t afford to wait any longer
Gov. John Bel Edwards indicated that he is willing to delay plans to raise the age of adult prosecution by one year, citing costs to implement the reform. Lawmakers voted last year to stop automatically placing 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, but Senate Bill 248, by Sen. Ronnie Johns would postpone this shift until 2020, and only if “adequate funding” is found. The governor’s plan would only postpone the change until 2019 and could be implemented earlier if dollars materialize to fund the reform. However, advocates for juvenile justice are wary of any delay. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:
Juvenile justice advocates hailed Louisiana’s Legislature for agreeing to raise the adult prosecution age, saying that would boost efforts to rehabilitate young offenders. Advocates for changing the prosecution age said the adult system places the teenagers at a greater risk of physical and sexual assault; often isolates them for long periods of time; deprives them of education; and puts them at an increased risk of suicide. “Kids can’t afford to wait any longer,” said Rachel Gassert, policy director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.
House votes to lengthen probation periods
The Louisiana House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to lengthen probation periods, less than six months after shortening them, the first step to roll back last year’s criminal justice reform package. House Bill 195, by Rep. Sherman Mack, would do away with three-year probation periods and return to the previous length of five years. The main goal of the criminal justice overhaul was to shake the state’s disgraceful distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the nation, so some lawmakers are confused about why the state would revert back to its old ways. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:
“We are going to go back to the old way that wasn’t working and hope it works,” state Rep. Joe Marino III, No Party-Gretna, argued on the floor. “Why are we abandoning the ship at four months?” … “Instead of helping Louisiana shed its title as prison capital of the world,” Jane Johnson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a prepared statement released Tuesday night, “some legislators are trying to undo these reforms and go back to a broken system that failed and didn’t keep us safe. Today’s vote is a betrayal and a wakeup call: the criminal justice reform package is under attack.”
Proponents for shortening probation periods also cited the goal of reducing caseloads for overworked probation and parole officers. But once again, they see this bill as moving in the wrong direction. Nola.com-The Times Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue has the story:
[Richard] Berger, [with the Louisiana Probation and Parole Officers Association], also said the legislation would actually make parole and probation officers caseloads even larger than they were before the new probation standards took effect last year. Mack’s bill would require officers to write more reports for judges than required in the past. Sarah O’Brien, a public defender from New Orleans, said her caseload could triple if Mack’s legislation passed because it would require her to go to court with clients on probation much more often. The state has 43,000 people currently serving probation, and Mack’s proposal would add thousands of court hearings every year, she said.
Conflicting opinions on ACA
The majority of people are happy with the health coverage they get through the Affordable Care Act and are not interested in switching to skimpier, short-term plans, according to a new poll from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll also found that most of those surveyed said their premiums are lower or about the same as they were last year and are likely to continue buying insurance, even with the elimination of the individual mandate. Despite their preference for keeping their current plans and the low cost of premiums, the same individuals said that the health insurance markets are collapsing. Maureen Groppe of USA Today takes a look at what’s behind these contradictory attitudes.
Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the poll results highlight the contradiction between political rhetoric and reality. “When the president is saying things like, ‘The ACA is failing. Things are collapsing.’ people hear that,” Hamel said. “So they may be answering that question not necessarily based on their own experiences this year.” … About half of the public – and 60% of those who use the Obamacare marketplaces – told pollsters they think the marketplaces are “collapsing.”
Number of the Day
43,000 – Number of people currently serving probation in Louisiana (Source: Nola.com-Times Picayune)