Inmates in the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail are dying at more than double the national average, three years after parish authorities elected to privatize health care services instead of funding them at adequate levels. A national expert describes conditions for inmates with severe mental illness the most dangerous that he’s observed. As The Advocate’s Lea Skene reports, the problem is rooted in the decision by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal to privatize the state’s charity hospital system.
Baton Rouge leaders and advocates agree that inmate medical care was best when the parish’s prisoners were transported to hospitals for almost all their health needs — services the state paid for under its public charity hospital system. But Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration started privatizing that system in 2013, leaving both parish jails and state prisons scrambling to find an alternative.
Health secretary stepping down
After a four year term overseeing Louisiana’s Department of Health, Dr. Rebekah Gee is leaving her role as state health secretary. Under Dr. Gee’s leadership, Louisiana expanded Medicaid to 460,000 more working people earning low incomes and launched a first in the nation program to make a previously unaffordable cure for Hepatitis C widely available to Medicaid recipients. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports:
“I look forward to continuing my work to improve health care for the people of this great state,” Gee wrote in her resignation letter to the governor. “Although I am excited for the next professional chapter, it will be hard to say goodbye to the Louisiana Department of Health. The last four years have been the most rewarding of my professional career.” Gee’s successor wasn’t immediately named. Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the governor is searching for his next health secretary and only will name an interim agency leader if the search isn’t wrapped up by the end of the month when Gee is slated to exit.
Business tax incentives (still) don’t work
New research supports what many economists have said for years – there’s little evidence that state and local business tax incentives boost economic growth. A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Cailin R. Slattery and Owen M. Zidar explains that while state and local governments spend more than $30 billion a year to lure businesses, companies often already have criteria in mind for a location, and business relocations don’t have the economic spillover effects that governments think their incentives are buying.
Firms tend to accept subsidy deals from places that are richer, larger, and more urban than the average county, and poor places provide larger incentives and spend more per job. … While we find some evidence of direct employment gains from attracting a firm, we do not find strong evidence that firm-specific tax incentives increase broader economic growth at the state and local level.
Americans pay more, get less for health care
America’s health care system is the most expensive in the world. So costly, in fact, that every American household essentially pays an $8,000 a year “poll tax” – a tax that is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay – when compared to households in Switzerland, which operates the second most expensive system in the world. That’s according to Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who note that these costs don’t buy us better health outcomes. The Washington Post’s Heather Long reports:
In the research looking at the taxing nature of the U.S. health-care system compared with others, Deaton is especially critical of U.S. doctors, pointing out that 16 percent of people in the top 1 percent of income earners are physicians, according to research by Williams College professor Jon Bakija and others. “We have half as many physicians per head as most European countries, yet they get paid two times as much, on average,” Deaton said in an interview on the sidelines of the AEA conference. “Physicians are a giant rent-seeking conspiracy that’s taking money away from the rest of us, and yet everybody loves physicians. You can’t touch them.”
Number of the Day
0.48% – United States’ population growth from 2018 to 2019. This is the lowest annual growth rate since 1918. This also ended a decade that saw the slowest 10-year population growth since the first census was taken in 1790. (Source: The Brookings Institution)