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31.7.14

Bad news for statists: LA privatizations saving big



Last week was not kind to big government advocates, as the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration officials reported that its privatization efforts had yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from health care initiatives.



If it wasn’t enough that private operation of eight state hospitals seemed on course to save $52 million this past fiscal year, or that privatization of the operations of the Office of Group Benefits with other efficiency measures were expected to save $114 million, the jackpot was the amount from the first of the initiatives, changing Medicaid from a fee-for-service to a managed capitation system. Louisiana’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget was told by the Department of Health and Hospitals that the predicted first year of savings reached its $135.9 million goal.



Better, the figure could go much higher. Presently, five different plans are available, with three using a model of premium payment to an administrator coordinating providers and two where the role essentially get combined. Data from the first 10 months of 2013 revealed that on average the difference in payment per different kind of plan was about $13 per client month, Thus, DHH has decided that as of February of next year the only kind of plan offered will the premium payment kind, meaning about half of the nearly 800,000 covered individuals will have to switch.

30.7.14

The Maness-churian Candidate? For now, not really



Picking up a second semi-high profile endorsement and with fundraising now over $1 million, is Republican Senate candidate Rob Maness to the point that he can become the Manchurian Candidate?



That appellation refers to the greatest ever American-made political film (and subversive black comedy; but, buyer beware, referring here to the 1962 version fairly closely based on the novel, not the ersatz 2004 version that bordered on the downright silly), where Soviet agents, pretending to be super-patriots with one a U.S. senator, use an unwitting war hero to try to put that senator one step away from the presidency. In Louisiana’s 2014 senate campaign, the object is not the White House but the reelection of Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is the senator, and Maness becomes the unwittingly used ex-military man.



Almost every poll points to Landrieu, in the words of one leading and marginally pro-Democrat source of election analysis, of being “in deep but not necessarily worsening trouble.” Favored now is Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who has led almost all recent polling. But hanging around in the single digits and threatening to break out into double digits is Maness, who began running for the spot not long after he retired from the Air Force and had moved to Louisiana three years ago even without any elective office experience.

29.7.14

BESE's Smith earns nod as LA's greatest political tool


Simply put, is not former state Sen. Jane Smith, now a member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the most blatant tool inflicted on Louisiana state politics so far in the 21st century?



She always has danced with the one who took her to the shindig, choosing her partner whichever way she thinks the wind blows. Never let it be forgotten that the public schools served as the crucible of her political career – back when public education in the state overall was awful without any meaningful accountability. In that environment, she pulled herself up to become superintendent of the Bossier Parish School District, coming to power fully invested in that inadequate educational model.



But not long after she assumed that helm, education policy began to change with an emphasis on improving performance with accountability measures for schools. Perhaps not coincidentally she bailed into a state representative seat in 1999, impressively the only one elected that year not to draw a challenger who was not running for reelection.

28.7.14

Data continue to prove wisdom of hospital privatization


The Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration looks like it may heave a sigh of relief on the budget front with the news that its plan to privatize operations at all but one of the state’s charity hospitals looks to come in well under budget – and aggravate the critics of the deal to no end.



As part of a busy day getting information about privatization initiatives in state government, the Louisiana Legislature’s Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget in the middle of the month was told that the deals to involving eight of these hospitals – a ninth just got turned over to private operators and the tenth will stay under state operation – collectively looked to save the state $52 million more than estimated for last year’s budget. While much of this appears attributable to greater efficiency in operations, including the expansion of services in some areas, some also is due to stopping some service provision in the transition period that both lowered costs or shifted them elsewhere. The amount could change prior to the state budget computation due Oct. 1 for the previous fiscal year.



The Administration hopes that it doesn’t, if not a greater surplus is achieved. This dividend certainly would take pressure off the state as far as the contracting goes, for three reasons, the first two specific to the contracts. For one, some of the contracts were front-loaded (which gave the federal government the excuse to throw a wrench into the process, likely for political reasons), meaning that lease payments for this year actually were paid last year, so in essence the state was looking at $55 million fewer from the operators. But with that about wiped away by this year’s projected surplus, the state wouldn’t have to scramble to scrape up those dollars and if it did could use them elsewhere.

27.7.14

Lightening govt touch necessary for N.O. to progress



A small controversy actually has a big meaning that illustrates the perils of New Orleans strangling the new ethos that has tried to germinate in the moribund city and reverse its declining fortunes.



As part of the city’s biggest redevelopment project ever, the siting of the new Medical Center of Louisiana – New Orleans in Mid City, this claimed a regrettable casualty, the Deutsches Haus, the headquarters for a German cultural organization since the 1920s, which not only, among other things, delivers an outstanding Oktoberfest celebration annually but also proved a haven for beer aesthetes before predilection for that kind of frothy brew expanded among the public in the last couple of decades. It has been in exile the past few years in Metairie but has secured a location (with actually enough parking spaces) somewhat farther north of its old spot along Bayou St. John, and has gotten up the funding and design for a new complex.



However, as required, the design had to be submitted to the City Planning Commission, which tepidly received the request and gave it only provisional approval. Its staff found it problematic because it was too “Germanic,” for which in that area “there’s not really a precedent,” and sent back suggested architectural changes to the organization.