Gov. John Bel Edwards and businessman Eddie Rispone meet tonight (on Louisiana Public Broadcasting from 7-8 p.m.) for their first — and likely only — debate before voters head to the polls. The debates in the primaries paid little attention to some of the most important issues facing Louisianans, touching only briefly, if at all, on poverty, racial equity, the minimum wage and other vital topics. In a new blog post, the Louisiana Budget Project publishes the questions about the state budget, taxes, wages, health care, education and racial equity that deserve answers before the voters of Louisiana make their choice.
While all Louisianans have a stake in state government decisions, they matter particularly to families that are struggling to afford basic needs. In that vein, the Louisiana Budget Project has developed some questions for the candidates on the issues affecting low-income families.
Early voting begins Nov. 2; Election Day is Nov. 16. You can find your polling place and a sample ballot here.
Mixed results on education
Louisiana students continue to rank near the bottom on national scorecards of educational attainment, according to data released this week – an ignoble distinction that’s strongly linked to the high percentage of children growing up in poverty. The state’s ACT scores dropped from 44th to 49th nationally, and Louisiana also finished poorly on a national test of math and reading proficiency among 4th and 8th graders. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, the state also saw improvement in some areas:
(S)tate Superintendent of Education John White said Tuesday it is significant that eighth-graders showed the biggest gains in the nation in math since 2017, a subject that has long challenged educators. … The state was also among the nation’s leaders in improvements in eighth-grade reading and other subjects since 2017, figures compiled by the state Department of Education show.
In health care, discrimination by algorithm
Computer programs that use information from large data sets to guide human decisions aim to add efficiency and objectivity to the choices professionals make in many areas of modern life — including health care. But as a report by the Washington Post’s Carolyn Y. Johnson reveals, these programs can also bake social inequities into their code. A recent review found that a widely used algorithm aimed at predicting which patients would need more care dramatically favored white patients over black patients:
The algorithm wasn’t intentionally racist — in fact, it specifically excluded race. Instead, to identify patients who would benefit from more medical support, the algorithm used a seemingly race-blind metric: how much patients would cost the health-care system in the future. But cost isn’t a race-neutral measure of health-care need. Black patients incurred about $1,800 less in medical costs per year than white patients with the same number of chronic conditions; thus the algorithm scored white patients as equally at risk of future health problems as black patients who had many more diseases.
An alternative to punitive Medicaid work requirements
Despite compelling evidence that work requirements for Medicaid recipients mostly harm the people they purport to help and the fact that most adult Medicaid recipients already work, lawmakers in several states continue to push ineffective and punitive work requirements for poor people receiving health care from the state. But as Kaiser Health News’s Phil Galewitz explains, other states, Louisiana among them, are opting for programs that offer Medicaid enrollees access to career development without kicking them to the curb when they get sick.
Bobbi Stammers, 37, enrolled in Montana’s Medicaid in 2017 and said the state’s job training assistance helped her get a nursing degree this year. The program paid thousands of dollars for her education expenses and supplies, including for textbooks and lab fees, and even covered the cost of fixing her car. Two months after getting her degree, Stammers has a job with full benefits as a registered nurse, which means her family no longer needs Medicaid. “I am so thankful I did this program; it really helped me get through school,” said Stammers, of Charlo, Mont.
Number of the Day
$348.7 billion – Combined wealth of the nation’s three richest families, an amount 4 million times the wealth of the median U.S. family. (Source: History News Network)