Football and other priorities in the state capital

Football and other priorities in the state capital

College football will crown its national champion tonight – either Alabama or Georgia – as the Southeastern Conference continues its recent dominance of the sport. Winning at this level doesn’t come cheap. Two years after LSU put together one of the best seasons in college football history, university officials responded to a mediocre season by paying its head coach $16.9 million to leave, while committing another $100 million over 10 years for his replacement. The Washington Post’s Kent Babb flew into Louisiana to look at the economic absurdities that undergird Louisiana’s unofficial state pastime: 

In a state where one in five residents lives below the poverty line, on a campus where the football team’s player workforce is unpaid, in a city where the predominantly Black state house district that includes Tiger Stadium has a median household income of $24,865 a year, the White man who will coach there will be paid no less than $24,657 a day. It’s just the new cost of competing, (LSU board member Collis) Temple says, but it’s still nauseating in its excess. During a board meeting last month, Temple spoke up. If LSU is at the top of the Southeastern Conference in paying coaches, where did it rank in salaries for professors? For the people who actually teach the students? Near the bottom, someone muttered, and Temple erupted. “That’s an atrocity,” he said.


Rural internet service is elusive
Census data released last year confirmed the trend that Louisianans have seen with their own eyes for decades: Rural areas of the state, particularly in the north, are emptying out, and urban areas are growing. That troublesome trend cannot be reversed unless people living in outlying areas have access to the high-speed, reliable internet service that’s increasingly required for high-paying work-from-home jobs—and for attending school during Covid. In many parts of Louisiana, including outer-ring suburbs of Baton Rouge, that goal remains elusive, as James Finn reports for The Advocate:

In St. Helena, a parish of some 10,000 people in the pine-forested hills leading to the Louisiana-Mississippi line, just 6.3% of people have access to internet connections strong enough to support playing video games, according to a 2021 study by Broadband Now, an industry watchdog. The research firm found that provider choice in Greensburg, the parish seat, is “essentially non-existent.” Most people are left to make do with connections rigged by setting up satellites near their homes. Those are expensive — usually costing between $100 and $200 a month for a subscription — and tend to yield painfully slow connections.


Public adjusters as ‘miracle workers’
As night follows day, hurricanes in South Louisiana are followed by people getting low-balled by their insurance companies. These disputes often end up in court, as people who wait months or years to be compensated for their losses hire lawyers to help them fight potentially inaccurate damage assessments. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson looks at another option: hiring “public adjusters” that work for the policyholder, not the insurance company.  

Insurers sometimes low-ball policyholders hoping they’ll get worn out by the bureaucratic hurdles and simply settle for less, Patestos said. He’s noticed wealthier clients, who have access to the resources needed to fight, often receive settlements without having to go through as much rigmarole as poorer clients. “It’s amazing how fast insurers will start to move when a public adjuster gets on the claim,” added Stewart Severino, co-founder of Smart Claims Public Adjusting.


Health care reform and Build Back Better
Most of the attention on the Build Back Better bill, which remains mothballed on Capitol Hill, has focused on the landmark investments in climate change, early childhood education and child tax credits that it would enact. Much less attention has been paid to the bill’s health care provisions. As Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell explains, they represent a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the Affordable Care Act. 

Among the bill’s more important changes is one that would finally close the Medicaid coverage gap in those 12 non-expansion states. Low-income residents of these states would become newly eligible for individual marketplace plans with no premiums and minimal out-of-pocket costs. The bill would expand individual marketplace subsidies, make more people eligible to receive them, and either reduce or eliminate premiums for huge swaths of the population. It would redefine what counts as an “affordable” health plan, for example, to set a lower limit on how much people are expected to pay for their coverage.


Number of the Day
$401.7 million – Estimated cost of plugging Louisiana’s 4,605 abandoned “orphan” oil and gas wells. The state has applied for a federal grant through the new federal infrastructure law to claim a portion of $4.7 billion set aside for such cleanup efforts (Source: Nola.com)