Gambit’s Clancy DuBos takes Jindal to task on transparency and a privatized Medicaid management system in serious need of oversight.
A new report from an independent government watchdog warns that lawmakers should keep a sharp eye on Jindal’s new privatized Medicaid program, which will control $2 billion in public funds and provide care for almost 900,000 Louisiana Medicaid patients.
Medicaid is the federally subsidized health care program for poor people. States pay a healthy share of Medicaid costs (about 30 percent in Louisiana). Given Louisiana’s large proportion of poor folks, Medicaid comprises a significant portion of the state’s annual budget.
The good news is that Louisiana’s Medicaid program is among the cheapest in the country on a per-patient basis. We rank 48th on spending per child and 41st on spending per person. Most Medicaid patients are kids.
Jindal’s plan will outsource Medicaid case management for most patients to five insurance companies starting next year. The only open question is: Will anybody other than Team Jindal be minding the store?
Lawmakers in 2010 approved a bill that they thought gave them oversight of Jindal’s new program. They learned after the fact that a set of “technical amendments” adopted in the Senate stripped out the oversight provision. That infuriated many lawmakers; technical amendments are not supposed to make substantive changes.
Last summer, lawmakers unanimously passed a bill providing for legislative oversight — plus a “sunset” provision ending Jindal’s grand experiment in 2014. Jindal vetoed the bill after the session adjourned, rendering an override all but impossible.
While legislative attempts at oversight have failed, the issue has not gone away. Last week, the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Baton Rouge, released a detailed report on Jindal’s “Coordinated Care Networks” plan and called for an independent oversight commission to make sure the plan works as touted — and to add accountability to the process.
The PAR report is a must-read. This is $2 billion a year of your money, folks. The report is objective and thorough. It does not take a position as to whether Jindal’s idea is good or bad, just that it needs oversight.
One area of concern is that Jindal is privatizing health care for a segment of the population that already ranks among the cheapest to treat. If costs are already low, how will private insurers find room for profit?
The PAR report notes that Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state’s largest health insurer, “decided not to [participate in the program] after the company’s actuaries advised against participating.” In other words, the biggest player in the game concluded that there’s no legitimate room for honest profit — essentially concluding that Louisiana’s Medicaid program may not be so badly run after all. At a minimum, it’s relatively cheap.
The governor obviously feels otherwise, and there is certainly anecdotal evidence of fraud in the system.
The bottom line, PAR says, is that lawmakers should “take the lead in providing oversight” by establishing a special committee or commission. “While the state health agency is taking the primary role, a well-focused oversight commission independent of the administration would help verify the results,” says PAR President Robert Travis Scott. “Verification can build public trust and identify problems.”
Trust is the key. Any objective observer of Bobby Jindal knows that he’s long on spin and short on specifics — and that his administration is among the least transparent in America. Many suspect that Jindal’s primary objective is to declare victory by cutting costs — not to provide good health care. His spin machine is already touting this “sweeping reform” even though it hasn’t taken effect yet.
We’d all have to be insane — and irresponsible — to let him turn over $2 billion in public health care costs to private companies without any independent oversight.
Clancy DuBos is publisher of New Orleans’ Gambit. A version of this column first appeared in that publication.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, April 17, 2014:
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.