As the price of health insurance continues to rise, surveys find that making healthcare affordable remains a top priority for consumers on both sides of the political aisle. As policymakers consider how states can protect consumers, a new resource from Altarum Healthcare Value Hub, the Healthcare Affordability Scorecard, provides insights into how each state is doing, along with specific policy recommendations that can make a difference in the cost of care:
Louisiana is in the bottom third of states in terms of high healthcare affordability burdens, with 47% of adults reporting healthcare OOP (Out-of-Pocket costs) affordability burdens, giving the state a rank of 41 out of 49 states, plus DC, for this measure. The most common burden reported was ‘made changes to medical drugs because of cost’ (32% of adults), followed by ‘trouble paying medical bills.’ According to the BEA (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis), healthcare spending in Louisiana totalled $6,623 per person in 2018. Moreover, between 2013 and 2018, healthcare spending per person grew 19.4%.
Kentucky makes taking the GED free
The General Educational Development test – or GED – is an important option for people without a high school diploma, as it can open career doors for people who otherwise lack a high-school degree. Those without a GED or high school diploma are twice as likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to live in poverty, making the $120 fee to take the test in Kentucky a barrier for many who would benefit most from the credential. The Bluegrass State’s new governor, Andy Beshear, recently decided to eliminate the fee. The policy is aimed at helping the 335,000 Kentuckians over 18 who need the credential to join the workforce. Valarie Honeycutt Spears of the Lexington Herald Leader has more:
“We are taking action to strengthen and expand educational opportunities for more of our Kentucky families… education is the key to our future,” Beshear said in announcing that he was removing the $120 per test fee. He said the initiative will ensure that “all of our neighbors have real opportunity.” At a news conference, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said that $600,000 each year will be set aside so more people can take the high school equivalency test. It will help at least 5,000 first-time test takers, officials said. “If the demand is more, we’ll find the money,” Beshear said.
The high school equivalence test (HiSET) costs $90 in Louisiana.
Education is (still) key to economic growth
The Baton Rouge area is expected to add 5,000 jobs and grow at a 1.2% clip in 2020, according to research by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. But the area’s trajectory hinges on its ability to recruit, retain and cultivate talented workers to fill available jobs. Kristen Mosbrucker of The Advocate covered the newspaper’s 2020 Economic Outlook Summit and has more on how one Louisiana university is handling the demands of a changing economy:
For Southern University in particular, the institution has been restructuring its curriculum to meet student demands for tangible workforce skills in the higher education fields to meet rapidly changing employer qualifications, said Domoine Rutledge, Chairman for Southern University’s Board of Supervisors. “We’re going to see about 30% of higher educational institutions close if they don’t make some serious changes in terms of being all things to all people.”
Meanwhile, outgoing LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander told the Baton Rouge Business Report that Louisiana still lags well behind its peers in support for higher education.
Though the state has stopped cutting higher education funding, as it had been for nearly a decade under Gov. Bobby Jindal when Alexander took over, it has not increased funding under Gov. John Bel Edwards. Instead, it has merely held steady. As a result, LSU, which in 2008 ranked seventh among the 13 SEC public institutions in average state spending per student is now ranked 11th. … The average spending per student in the SEC is $21,000, while at LSU it’s around $14,000, Alexander says.
Emergency contracts keep Medicaid operating
Louisiana entered the new decade with uncertainty around its Medicaid contracts as the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) that insure nearly 1.5 million Louisianans dispute the bidding process that left two MCOs without renewals and awarded a new contract to an additional company. As the dispute continues to work its way through the courts, the state has entered into emergency contracts with the original five MCOs to ensure that Medicaid patients don’t see a disruption in coverage. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story on how the state is handling the issue:
Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the state wanted to ensure “that no one lost access to care while the protest is pending. Our goal has always been to provide high quality coverage to the families that rely on Medicaid, while at the same time ensuring that the Medicaid program is efficient and accountable,” she said Tuesday in a statement.
Number of the Day
51% – the decline in poverty, as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), since President Lyndon Johnson declared an “unconditional war” on poverty in 1964. The decline is almost entirely due to the effectiveness of government programs. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
The Washington Post provided an excellent analysis of the history and impact of the War on Poverty in 2014. It’s worth a (re)read.