Let states use Medicaid to fight COVID-19

Let states use Medicaid to fight COVID-19

In past crises, the federal government loosened restrictions on Medicaid dollars to allow states to have the flexibility to meet their needs — an action that had bipartisan support. In the face of a rapidly expanding public health emergency, however, President Donald Trump’s administration continues to limit states’ ability to use Medicaid dollars to serve the widest possible population. Noam M. Levy of the Los Angeles Times has more

“If they wanted to do it, they could do it,” said Cindy Mann, who oversaw the Medicaid program in the Obama administration and worked with states to help respond to the H1N1 flu crisis in 2009. One reason federal health officials have not acted appears to be President Trump’s reluctance to declare a national emergency. That’s a key step that would clear the way for states to get Medicaid waivers to more nimbly tackle coronavirus, but it would conflict with Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic. Another element may be ideological: The administration official who oversees Medicaid, Seema Verma, head of the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has been a champion of efforts by conservative states to trim the number of people enrolled in Medicaid.


A payroll tax cut is a terrible idea
President Donald Trump is proposing to cut payroll taxes for workers and businesses as a way to stem the economic meltdown. But such a move would do very little to assist employees and businesses in combating the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, while giving a boost to the nation’s wealthiest employers. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute explains why this policy would be ineffective

(T)he employee-side payroll tax cut is an even worse potential compromise this time. One reason is that it would not get enough money out the door and into households’ pockets quickly enough. A COVID-19 recession will come fast and people will need lots of help quickly. A payroll tax cut will dribble out gradually over time. Another reason is the employee-side payroll tax cut is poorly targeted and sends lots of money to high-income households. A COVID-19 recession is laser-targeted at sectors with lots of low-wage workers, and the response should be too. So, even employee-side payroll tax cuts are a poor centerpiece of any policy package responding to the coming slowdown.


Reconsider the death penalty
Sixty-eight people currently sit on Death Row in Louisiana, but it’s been more than a decade since the death penalty was last carried out in the state. Meanwhile, nearly two dozen Death Row inmates have been exonerated or had their sentences reduced since 2010. Research shows the ultimate penalty is disproportionately used against black men. A bill to eliminate the death penalty has been filed by Rep. Kyle Green, Jr. Writing in The Advocate, retired nurse Antoinette Stack reminds us of the consequences of practicing this cruel policy: 

Remember, if you support the death penalty, you give your consent to the rationale that the small number of innocent lives taken by the death penalty are “acceptable collateral damage.” If it’s your innocent child is that collateral damage, you have given his execution your approval.


Mail-in ballots can save our elections
The COVID-19 pandemic is adding a new wrinkle to the upcoming national elections. Congregating in large groups is being discouraged, and poll workers tend to be older, retired-age citizens who are most at-risk. Luckily, we already have a model to ensure everyone can cast a vote while mitigating the spread of COVID-19: absentee and mail-in ballots! Dale Ho of the ACLU writes in the New York Times

No-excuse absentee bills have moved in three more states recently: Virginia, where a bill has passed and awaits Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature, as well as Delaware and New Hampshire. These states should move quickly to adopt this method of absentee voting. The remaining states should join them, and if they can’t — for example, because a constitutional amendment is required, as is the case in New York — should consider designating the declaration of a statewide public health emergency as a permissible reason for requesting an absentee ballot.


Number of the Day
14 – The days of paid leave that McDonald’s will be paying their employees if they must be quarantined. (Source: The Hill)


The Louisiana Budget Project is committed to transparency and fact-based information. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, please refer to the Louisiana Department of Health’s 211 statewide network or sign up for their text alerts by typing LACOVID to 898-211.