Louisiana’s largest health insurer – the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) is temporarily shelving its plan to be acquired by a private insurance conglomerate. It comes after state lawmakers, the leading candidate for governor, hospitals, doctors, and the Louisiana Budget Project raised questions about how BCBSLA’s sale to Elevance Health will affect the health care landscape. The announcement came after Attorney General Jeff Landry said he wanted the sale delayed until the next gubernatorial administration is sworn in. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Stephanie Riegel reports:
In a joint statement, the companies said they “remain committed to refiling the plan of reorganization and acquisition application.” No date was specified, and a Blue Cross spokesperson said the new filing likely won’t come until next year, which means after a new governor and new Insurance Commissioner have taken office.
Losing health coverage in LouisianaThe Louisiana Department of Health is in the midst of reviewing the Medicaid eligibility of the nearly 2 million residents who get coverage through the state-federal program. While the state budgeted nearly $200 million to manage the review process, thousands are still falling through the cracks. The health agency removed 125,000 low-income Louisianans, including 40,000 children, in June and July. The vast majority of them lost coverage for procedural reasons – failure to provide the right documentation in a timely manner – not because they were ineligible. A Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial elaborates.
Those hiccups are inevitable in a large organization and are hardly limited to the public sector. But they’re particularly burdensome with the Medicaid expansion population, many of whom were among the worst hurt in Louisiana — workers in hospitality, for example, where vast layoffs occurred suddenly and through no fault of their own. … We are encouraged that health officials are trying, within the limits of the regs, to encourage people who have been dropped from Medicaid to reapply if their situations have not really changed. But it’s going to be a long process, and for at least a while, some folks are going to be worse off despite the benefits of Edwards’ 2016 decision.
ICYMI: The loss of coverage could spell disaster for people who rely on Medicaid to get the health care they need. A new report by the Louisiana Budget Project explains how we got here—and what we can do to help minimize the looming coverage cliff. It also contains resources in English, Spanish and Vietnamese that people can use to ensure they do not lose health coverage even though they are still eligible.
The Oct. 14 constitutional amendments
Four proposed amendments to Louisiana’s constitution await voters in the Oct. 14 statewide primary election. Voters will decide whether election officials can accept donations from nonprofit organizations, whether in-person religious services deserve an extra layer of constitutional protection, how the state should allocate surplus money, and whether cities should have the right to take away a lucrative property tax break from landlords that have serious code violations. A new report by the Louisiana Budget Project explains and analyzes each amendment so voters can make their own decisions when they head to the polls.
Critics have long complained that Louisiana’s constitution is too long and that amendments often address issues that seem trivial to voters. This year is no different, except that several of the proposals reflect the political debates that roiled the state Capitol over the past four years. This is the first of two reports on the 2023 constitutional amendments. In the coming weeks, LBP will provide a guide to the four amendments voters will see on their Nov. 18 general election ballots.
Government shutdown looms
The federal government appears headed for a shutdown next week as House Republicans can’t seem to agree on a political strategy – much less muster the votes needed to pass a spending plan that could win support from President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate. The problem stems from far-right members of the GOP caucus, who are insisting on deeper spending cuts than what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to earlier this year in the deal that solved the debt limit crisis. The Washington Post’s Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell report that the latest GOP target is Title I education funding that supports low-income students in public schools.
One quarter of all the savings House Republicans’ bills would achieve comes from cutting a single program that provides funding for low-income schools, known as Title I education grants. House Republicans want to cut Title I by nearly 80 percent, saving $14.7 billion. The cuts are even steeper than education funding reductions proposed by the Center for Renewing America, a think tank led by Russ Vought, former president Donald Trump’s White House budget director.
A Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial notes that Louisiana has more to lose than most states in a shutdown, given the state’s historic reliance on federal funding to help with disaster relief.
The Disaster Relief Fund balance on Tuesday stood at $2.4 billion, enough to cover another major storm, maybe two, in a year with a historic number of events costing at least $1 billion apiece — 23 so far, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For now, FEMA has suspended payments on at least five resilience projects in Louisiana — upgrading levees, installing flood structures, raising elevations and the like, said Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.
Number of the Day
96,890 – Number of women and children at risk of losing critical nutrition assistance during a federal government shutdown. (Source: The White House)