A long-awaited federal court ruling handed down late Wednesday was bad news for supporters of the Affordable Care Act and more than 20 million Americans who depend on the law for their health coverage. A three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the ACA’s individual mandate to be unconstitutional, but left the rest of the law intact pending further review by the Texas judge who first struck it down. As Abby Goodnough of The New York Times explains, the appellate judges instructed the Texas judge to consider a Justice Department proposal that threatens coverage for Louisianans:
It recommended blocking only the parts of the law found to harm those states and the other plaintiffs, or to declare the law unconstitutional only in the plaintiff states. The states are Texas and 17 others with Republican governors or attorneys general, and two self-employed men in Texas who say the law still requires them to purchase health insurance that they otherwise would not buy, even though there is no longer a penalty for going uninsured.
Attorney General Jeff Landry signed Louisiana on to the lawsuit in 2018. According to analysis by LBP’s Stacey Roussell, a state law that Landry backed as a solution for the problems his lawsuit creates is far from an Obamacare replacement. But as Nola.com | The Advocate’s Matt Sledge reports, even that insufficient effort is not yet ready.
Landry’s decision to endorse the lawsuit drew criticism from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who warned that it threatened to cut off health care for roughly 100,000 Louisianans on the individual health care market alone. Landry backed a law passed in the Louisiana Legislature to create an Obamacare alternative for the individual market, but that effort remains in an early planning stage.
Count every Louisianan
The U.S. Census count not only determines how many representatives a state receives in Congress, but also how much money it gets through a wide variety of federal programs. That’s one reason why an accurate Census count is so important to each state. Until Wednesday, however, Louisiana was one of only five states not to establish a “complete count committee” to promote census participation and to help ensure that Louisiana receives the federal dollars it needs to provide vital services to its residents. Now, as the 2020 count nears, Gov. John Bel Edwards has convened a group to coordinate the state’s efforts to increase census participation. AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:
(W)hile other states are setting aside dollars to reach out to people and ask them to respond to the census, Louisiana wasn’t immediately earmarking a specific amount of money to its effort. Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the work will be financed out of the governor’s office, and she noted some nongovernmental organizations are putting their own dollars toward census outreach.
New Orleans charters are leaving students with disabilities behind
Five years ago, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board settled a lawsuit targeting the failure of New Orleans’s charter schools to provide adequate services to students with disabilities. Now, with the consent decree that resolved the suit set to expire, advocates argue that the system may have improved on paper, but charters still aren’t providing students with disabilities the resources they need to succeed in school. The Lens’s Marta Jewson interviews Kelly Fischer, whose son Noah is blind and has autism. When the Fischers moved to New Orleans in 2009 Noah’s school refused to supply him with a full time aide, and his teacher relied on worksheets that he was unable to see.
The Fischers returned to Indiana in 2018. Education wasn’t their main reason for leaving, but it was a factor, Kelly said. Jumping back into a public school in Indiana last year, was much easier than the transition to New Orleans a decade ago, Fischer told The Lens. “Here you are in a public education system and just for a quick comparison, when we moved to New Orleans, my son has a special diet. He needs soft-blended food. And the first school he went to wouldn’t allow me to pack a special meal for him without a doctor’s note. Which of course I didn’t have because I just moved to New Orleans and I didn’t have a doctor.” When they moved to Indiana, things were different. “I asked if I could pack a lunch they were like, ‘Sure, but you know our cafeteria can blend food from the cafeteria for him,’” she recalled. “In fact they even sent home a cafeteria menu for me to circle all the items they thought he would like.”
Legacy of destruction
The planned Formosa Plastics plant in St. James Parish is set to move forward, despite the risk it poses to the surrounding community. But as the Intercept’s Sharon Lerner explains, community activists from RISE St. James are seeking to stop the plant’s construction on different grounds: Not only would the plant threaten the wellbeing of the parish’s residents, it would also desecrate the graves of the enslaved people who were buried on the site where Formosa plans to build.
The planned Formosa complex, which is one mile from an elementary school, is permitted to release more than 800 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year. Among the chemicals the complex will release is ethylene oxide, a carcinogen that has raised cancer risk in more than 100 census tracts around the country. Recognition of the local risk led to the recent closure of plants that emitted the chemical in Georgia and Illinois. But Formosa’s St. James complex is permitted to release 7.7 tons of the cancer-causing gas each year. … As with the other pollution in the area, the brunt of this toxic problem will fall on the African Americans descendants of the enslaved people who worked — and were buried — on the plantations where the plastic complex will be erected.
Number of the Day
$1.6 trillion – Student debt collectively owed by Americans in 2019 (Source: The Roosevelt Institute)