Black citizens are underrepresented as undergraduates and on the faculties of America’s four-year public universities, according to a new report card by University of Southern California that was financed by the Ford Foundation. Nowhere is the problem worse than in Louisiana. The report found that traditional-age (18-24) black students are under-enrolled at three-fourths of public universities compared to their population in that state, and that graduation rates for black students continue to lag behind other students. States were given an overall “equity index” grade based on how well black students and faculty were represented public institutions. Louisiana’s was the lowest of all 50 states. Inside Higher Ed’s Jeremy Bauer-Wolf has more:
This is the first time Harper has graded both the nation’s public, four-year universities and all 50 states using federal data. Harper said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that many institutions are “failing black students.” “I think that this makes painstakingly clear that the failure is systemic. That it’s not just a handful of institutions,” he said, adding that blame around black students’ shortcomings is often placed on the students, not universities.
Medicaid work requirements aren’t working
Arkansas is one of the first states to adopt a work requirement for Medicaid recipients, and the results aren’t good. It turns out that many people are unaware of the new paperwork requirements and are losing benefits – whether they’re working or not. They aren’t forcing people off the couch, but raising bureaucratic paperwork hurdles for workers and non-workers alike who just want health coverage. Margot Sanger-Katz on the New York Times’ Upshot blog reports:
The challenge goes beyond getting the message out. The state requires those eligible for the work requirement to report their work hours every month, and only online. Arkansas has one of the lowest rates of internet penetration in the country; estimates from the Urban Institute suggest that more than a quarter of eligible families are not online. Advocates for the poor describe the state’s website as confusing to navigate, especially for people with limited computer skills and overall literacy. (Click on the site yourself and see if you can figure out how to report work hours.) The state has tried workarounds — like offering computer terminals in county offices, and training volunteers to help people log their hours. But evidence from a range of social programs — including Medicaid — has repeatedly demonstrated that administrative hurdles can cause eligible people to lose benefits.
The case for Medicaid payment reform
While Louisiana has made great strides in expanding health coverage in recent years, the state continues to lag far behind the times in how it pays doctors, hospitals and other providers that participate in the Medicaid program. Gregory Feirn, the CEO of Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, writes in Nola.com| Times Picayune that state health authorities have begun the tedious and politically fraught task of reforming the Medicaid payment system.
As stewards of public dollars through Medicaid, we have a particular obligation to rein in costs and make sure the dollars are following the patient. It’s one reason why we need Medicaid payment reform. And it’s one area where Republicans and Democrats in Baton Rouge actually agree. At LCMC Health, our hospitals are heavily focused on how to reduce those costs while continually improving our patients’ care experience and their health outcomes. Our corporate ethos is one of innovation, but I recognize that hospital providers cannot achieve these goals alone — it takes deliberate, thoughtful leadership from payors like Medicaid. That is why I believe there is good reason to be optimistic about the future of healthcare spending in Louisiana’s hospital sector.
The rent is too damn high
One of the greatest hardship that faces families is access to affordable housing. While wages for many low- and middle-income workers have mostly been flat, the cost of keeping a roof over one’s head continues to rise. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Kusisto via the Baton Rouge Business Report:
As The Wall Street Journal reports, apartment rents rose 2.9% in the third quarter from a year earlier, up from 2.5% annual rent growth in the second quarter, according to real estate analytics firm RealPage Inc. A strong economy with better wage growth helped boost demand for apartments. So did a weak home-sales market, as tight supply may have prompted more renters to put off buying. The news is much different locally. Baton Rouge rental rates have been flat since 2015, and some reports show rate declines. The primary reason: Apartments are going up, appraiser Wesley Moore said in August, faster than demand. The national rental market has still slowed significantly from a few years ago, when rents grew by 5.2% in the third quarter of 2015. Greg Willett, chief economist at RealPage, says that “an upward blip rather than a downward blip” shows that at least the slowdown isn’t accelerating.
Number of the day
121:1 – The ratio of black students to black faculty members at Nicholls State University – the highest among four-year public colleges in Louisiana. The state received the lowest score in the nation on a new scorecard for race equity in higher education (Source: USC Race and Equity Center)