Op-Ed: La. is the canary in Romney’s Medicaid coal mine
In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney’s plan to remove the federal government as a partner in Medicaid was briefly mentioned. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call this Romneycaid.
Romneycaid would be a catastrophe for Louisiana. How do we know this? Because we are witnessing the devastating effect of a much smaller Medicaid cut wreaking havoc across Louisiana now.
As a high poverty state, Louisiana has historically had one of the most favorable federal/state Medicaid funding ratios in the country. Until this year, the federal government paid about 70 percent of the $7 billion cost of Louisiana Medicaid.
That changed in July when Sen. David Vitter sat on a critical conference committee and gave his consent to a cut $650 million, combine that with our state match and it amounts to an 11 percent cut in the $7.7 billion or $860 million.
That 11 percent cut is forcing massive job losses and service cuts at LSU Hospitals, in state behavioral health hospitals, nursing home services, care for the disabled, and hospice care. The cuts are forcing patients to travel long distances to get essential care like cancer treatment, separating families from mental health patients, and destabilizing the local economies where these job losses are occurring. These cuts are also destabilizing our medical schools for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
All of this for an 11 percent cut. Romneycaid in Louisiana would mean another 30 percent cut from where we are now — with the cuts and the impacts that I just described.
Republicans like Gov. Romney and our own Gov. Bobby Jindal have an obsession with dollars but a blind spot for people. Medicaid is the health safety net in this country. With the severe restrictions we have on eligibility in Louisiana, it provides care for only our most vulnerable seniors, mothers and children. With a dismantled public charity system, where will these individuals obtain medical treatment?
Cuts to LSU hospitals and behavioral health services will not be contained to the public sector either. They will ripple throughout the private health care sector as well, as uninsured patients continue to seek treatment elsewhere.
Republicans talk about the numbers because those are sterile and emotionless. We Democrats will not let them forget that behind every penny of Medicaid funding provided is a Louisiana citizen who depends on a Louisiana health care provider to give them the essential care they need to stay alive.
Gov. Romney and current Republican leaders do not show any awareness of the dramatically harsh impact of their policies on the lives of those who need these services. Doing it “on your own,” as Republicans often counsel, is not a realistic option, but rather a deadly alternative for our neediest.
Any discussion of health care that focuses solely on cost misses the point. This is not just about dollars and cents; it’s literally about life and death. It’s not about left and right; it’s about moral rights and wrongs.
Romneycaid spells disaster for health care, and the proof is unfolding before our eyes right here in Louisiana.
(Karen Carter Peterson is a Louisiana state senator from New Orleans and chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.)
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.