Covid-19 has highlighted how important it is for states to invest in public health. Yet state funding for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health was cut substantially in the years after the Great Recession. A new report by Louisiana Budget Project Policy Director Stacey Roussel documents these cuts, which reduced the resources available to fight chronic and communicable disease, manage public health data, and ensure the safety of our water and food supplies:
“Per-capita state spending on public health has been almost cut in half since the Great Recession,” Roussel said. “If Louisiana had simply maintained its investment at pre-recession levels, our communities would have reaped the benefits of nearly 9.4 million more hours and $380 million more in public health investments.”
The battle over ballot access
Louisiana has been hit harder than most states by the Covid-19 pandemic. While most states allow any registered voter to vote by mail, without an excuse, Louisiana is making it harder for people to use that option in the Nov. 3 elections. The fault lies with Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, whose election plan bowed to the wishes of conservative legislators and is now being challenged in court. Wesley Muller of the Louisiana Illuminator has more:
The state’s emergency plan for the July and August elections made such allowances for people at higher risk for suffering from COVID-19. That previous plan expanded early voting from seven to 13 days and allowed higher-risk voters to request an absentee mail-in ballot. … Plaintiffs in the case argued that the plan’s requirement of a doctor’s note discriminates against lower-income residents by essentially forcing them to pay for a doctor’s visit in order to vote. They also argued that caretakers of the elderly or people at high risk of COVID-19 should be allowed to vote by mail.
Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that, unlike their counterparts in other states, Louisiana election officials don’t think they are capable of handling the influx of mail ballots.
“The milk jug is full,” said Commissioner of Elections Sherri Wharton Hadskey, who is Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s aide in charge of the 235 employees who do the hands-on work to put on elections. “I am extremely concerned about getting the results on Nov. 3,” Hadskey said, adding the tight schedule could interrupt preparing for the Dec. 5 runoff.
Surprise billing for coronavirus testing
Despite Congress passing legislation to make coronavirus testing free to all Americans, insured or not, some Americans are now burdened with surprise bills after getting tested. Brooklyn resident Kelly Daisley received a bill of $2,718 for out-of-network labs. Sarah Kliff of the New York Times’ Upshot has more:
For months, Americans have been told not to worry about the costs of coronavirus tests, which are crucial to stopping the pandemic’s spread. … Patients, whether with or without insurance, are beginning to find holes in those new coverage programs. Nationwide, people have been hit with unexpected fees and denied claims related to coronavirus tests, according to dozens of bills that The New York Times has reviewed. Insurers have told these patients they could owe from a few dollars to thousands.
Black-owned businesses are getting crushed by Covid-19
The economic recession has been tough on companies and workers from coast to coast. But Black-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard. The Nola.com | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial board notes that Black-owned businesses in Louisiana are disappearing at more than twice the rate of white-owned businesses, and that many of them have been denied the federal PPP loans that allowed many companies to stay afloat in the early months of the pandemic. The newspaper notes that it’s up to Congress to help:
Though there are reports that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have had some communication, we don’t expect anything significant to happen right away. Congressional leaders may be taking a break, but these Black businesses — and they are not alone — are on forced breaks. It’s not vacation. They’re trying to survive. They need congressional help.
Number of the Day
$380 million – The amount of additional public health investments our communities would have seen if Louisiana had maintained its investments in public health at pre-Great Recession rates. (Source: Louisiana Budget Project)