In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress offered states a deal too good to pass up: The federal government would pick up a larger share of Medicaid expenses, but in return for the extra money states would have to promise to not kick anyone off the program during the official public health emergency. Two years later, as the pandemic begins to ebb, President Biden is expected to declare an end to the health emergency. That means an estimated 16 million Americans – including hundreds of thousands in Louisiana – could potentially lose health coverage as states begin the complex task of determining who is still eligible for benefits. The Washington Post’s Amy Goldstein reports:
Many of the people who will be removed from the safety-net insurance probably will qualify for private health plans, according to Biden administration officials and health-care researchers and advocates. But large questions hover over how many beneficiaries whose incomes have risen above Medicaid’s eligibility thresholds will simply disappear instead of sliding over to other insurance. And it is unclear how many who remain eligible will be removed from the program improperly. … Interviews with state officials, health-care advocates and policy specialists reveal deep differences over how much time, effort and money states are devoting to this work. In certain places, advocates warn that problems — including outdated addresses for renewal notices and error-prone computer systems — could undermine some of the poorest Americans’ ability to afford care.
Promoting rural broadband
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will send states more than $42 billion to build out high speed internet in underserved areas. This is a big deal for Louisiana, where the vast majority of residents in more than half the parishes have no access to high-speed internet at home. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports that Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Sunset on Friday to promote the bipartisan law:
Like other states, Louisiana is scheduled to receive tens of millions of dollars from the infrastructure package approved last year by President Joe Biden and Congress. The Acadiana Planning Commission, based in Lafayette, has applied for $29 million to provide fiber to homes in 11 rural areas in St. Landry, Acadia and Evangeline parishes. “We welcome her with open arms,” said state Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas, whose district includes Sunset. “We still have a lot of homes without high-speed Internet. You have kids without access to Internet who park outside of the library to get it.”
The underfunded judiciary
The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court called on lawmakers on Tuesday to fully fund the state’s judicial budget and public defenders and to end the practice of financing the state’s criminal legal system with fines and fees paid by defendants. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges explains why Chief Justice John Weimer believes adequate funding is essential to creating independent courts.
Independence of the courts, he said, “is contingent, in part, on proper funding. For our system of democracy to survive and flourish, the public must believe our courts have the necessary tools to render fair and impartial decisions.” … Weimer said Louisiana cannot continue to “rely on local governments to fund the state judiciary because the funding of our justice system should not be contingent on whether a court is in an impoverished area of our state. This system of funding is antiquated and does not ensure justice or equality statewide.”
The case for Louisiana’s climate plan
Earlier this month, a United Nations report showed that climate change poses an existential threat to South Louisiana over the next half century. The threat isn’t new, of course, as the Pelican state experienced 30 extreme weather events, costing up to $50 billion in damage, from 2010 to 2020. But Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South that is working on a plan to combat climate change. Writing in a guest column for The Advocate, Camille Manning-Broome, president of the Center for Planning Excellence, explains that we need buy-in from political leaders for the state’s climate plan to be effective.
Now that Louisiana has a Climate Action Plan, the hard work of implementation begins. Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 will require the concerted efforts of many actors. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law presents a historic opportunity for our state to make strides in advancing the strategies outlined in the plan and bring new hope to Louisiana communities through economic growth, workforce development, and improvements to our built environment. Now is the time for our Legislature to be visionary and to support investments that will secure a better future for generations of Louisianians to come.
Number of the Day
$30 million – Proposed one-time investment to lay the foundation for paid family and medical leave programs for state workers and participating employers. (Source: A Recovery Agenda for Louisiana)