State pushed risky policies to untested insurers

State pushed risky policies to untested insurers

Over the last decade, the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. offloaded more than 129,000 policies to untested private insurers. This “depopulation” program was an effort by the state to limit its financial exposure to future hurricanes. But the flaws of this shortsighted plan are coming to a head as thousands of state policyholders are being forced back into Citizens – the state-run property insurer of last resort – as private insurers buckle under the weight of hurricane-related claims. But as The Advocate’s Michael Finch II and Joseph Cranney report, state leaders want to implement this plan again: 

The grim results suggest the government’s strategy is unsound. But regulators and lawmakers say they want to do it again. Some analysts predict the migration away from Citizens will be handled more cautiously this time. “Almost everybody wanted out back then,” said Ross Shales, an independent insurance agent in Metairie and consultant with Expert Insurance Services. “This time, we would probably look at it a little bit closer and speak to clients because of what’s happened with a lot of these companies.” … Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is pushing a plan to give millions of state dollars to insurers in exchange for taking policies off Citizens’ books again. Not removing them, he said, could overwhelm the state-run insurer.

The state’s insurance crisis could crush the dream of homeownership in many parts of Louisiana. But some lawmakers think the state’s problems could be solved by getting rid of Louisiana’s personal and corporate income taxes that support health care, education and other programs. The Times-Picayune’s Stephanie Grace looks at the misplaced priorities.  

The premise, a tired one long-championed by certain business-oriented conservatives and groups, is that the change will make Louisiana a more attractive place to start or move a company, and to relocate for a job. But who’ll want to come if the cost of insurance makes housing unaffordable? Big donors may be focused on income tax, but as candidates for state office hit the campaign trail, I’m guessing they’re going to be getting an earful about insurance, not taxes. They’d be wise to listen.

Brumley narrows new reading rules
Education Superintendent Cade Brumley has offered a compromise plan to his compromise plan that mandated summer school for children who failed to read on grade level. Brumley’s original proposal, modeled in part on successful efforts in Mississippi to improve literacy rates, would have required children in kindergarten through fourth grade who fail to read on grade level to attend summer school or repeat the grade. The revised standards only apply to children in the third and fourth grades. The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains:

Backers say the proposal merits attention amid Louisiana’s bleak literacy landscape, with less than half of students in kindergarten through third grade reading on grade level. The failure to achieve grade level reading skills by the end of the third grade, experts say, boosts chances that a student will struggle throughout their school career and increases the likelihood they will become high school dropouts. The superintendent said the problem amounts to a crisis. Up to 4,500 third-graders alone could be affected in year one.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to evaluate and vote on the new standards on Oct. 11.

Abandoning Obamacare repeal
The House Republican leadership appears to have given up on its long-held goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act. The issue was notably absent from the “Commitment to America” plan that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and others unveiled last week. NBC News’ Sahil Kapur explains how backlash to previous repeal efforts and popular public opinion of President Obama’s signature health care law has diminished the appetite for its repeal. 

None of the Republican Senate nominees running in eight key battleground states have called for unwinding the ACA on their campaign websites, according to an NBC News review. The candidates scarcely mention the 2010 law or health insurance policy in general. And in interviews on Capitol Hill, key GOP lawmakers said the desire for repeal has faded. “I think it’s probably here to stay,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a former chair of the GOP’s campaign arm.

Competing visions for the future of labor
The number of states with “right-to-work” laws has increased over the last decade from 22 to 27. These laws, which prohibit unions from forcing members to pay fees or dues, contribute to declining rates of union membership and depleted financial resources for the unions themselves. But support for unions in the United States is at 71%, the highest point since 1965. Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen looks at ballot initiatives in Illinois and Tennessee that represent two competing visions for the future of labor in the country. 

The first referendum, in Illinois, would seek to codify collective bargaining rights in the Illinois constitution. It wouldn’t be the first time a state has done so — New York, Hawaii, and Missouri also have such state constitutional protections — but it would be the first time voters affirm union bargaining rights via ballot measure. Illinois would also become the first state in the nation with a constitution that bans laws that exempt workers from paying dues for union representation, colloquially called “right-to-work” laws. In Tennessee, a state where unions have comparatively much less strength, voters will decide on the opposite question: whether to codify “right-to-work” in their state constitution. Tennessee is one of 27 states with “right-to-work” laws already on the books, but only nine have theirs enshrined in their state constitution. The last state to do so was Alabama in 2016.

Number of the Day
– Decrease in Louisiana’s gross domestic product during the second quarter of this year. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics