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Obamacare keeps costing Louisianans needlessly

Thanks to the ill-conceived Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), Louisianans face some of the highest health insurance costs and premiums in the country, and the bad effects of the law promise to keep on giving this gift that only those interested in wealth redistribution want.

As rates are being proposed for the 2016 year for the health exchanges ordered under law, Louisiana suffers through a 12 percent average increase for this year, tied for fourth-highest among the states and District of Columbia, which set the average premium for a “silver” plan at $359 a month, sixth-highest in the country and well above the national average of $314, for a state whose per capita income ranks only 30th. But, guess what, for those receiving subsidies, the price is expected to go up hardly at all – which means, of course, that taxpayers get billed for almost all of these increases.

This is one reason why Louisiana’s rates are so high and promise to go higher and more intensely so – given the relatively poor lifestyle choices made by a large number of qualifiers for subsidies (Louisiana as a whole ranks near the bottom of states on a number of key health indicators reflective of habits in the areas of eating, drinking, smoking, and exercise), their health is worse, but with them not having to pay much if anything for health care (either through Obamacare or Medicaid), they have reduced incentive to make the effort to live healthier lives that would cut down on costs. However, another reason is that the health insurance market nationally has become more and more concentrated, reflected particularly in Louisiana.


Caldwell actions merited Landry GOP endorsement

It’s not that it’s rare; it’s that it’s never happened before. Until the Louisiana Republican Party endorsed former Rep. Jeff Landry against incumbent Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell for the latter’s job this fall, no statewide office incumbent ever elected as a Republican had faced a challenger endorsed by the party. And it had good reason to make this historical move.

Of course, having been no statewide office GOP incumbents in the post-Reconstruction era until former Gov. Dave Treen’s win in 1979, it’s only been in the 21st century where there has been any real opportunities to have Republicans elected to these offices, much less run for reelection and have a strong challenger from the party emerge. The only other time this has happened was in 2011 when Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne fended off former Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser, with the party issuing no endorsement on that occasion.

Nonetheless, to pick a challenger of the party over one of its incumbents should raise eyebrows regardless of how many opportunities have existed for that to happen. Yet if you happen to be a conservative, there’s no real mystery to why it happened this time.


Edwards campaign can't obscure disappointing truth

With three months to go, the gubernatorial campaign of state Rep. John Bel Edwards has increased the vigor of its whistling into the wind as more adverse information comes in about the state of all the candidates’ campaigns.

The Democrat faces three well-funded Republicans for the state’s top offices, Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. In the most recent fundraising period, he raised much less than these GOP adversaries, and at around a million bucks has one-fifth Vitter’s total banked, about half of Dardenne’s, and is even with Angelle, who did outraise him by a factor of seven in the latest period. Add in affiliated political action committee funds, and his disparity with all becomes even greater.

That’s not necessarily the end of the world. As the only Democrat in the contest and with his base disproportionately of the yellow dog variety, just having that singular “D” by his name on the ballot means he doesn’t need to spend a penny to get a quarter of the votes cast. The problem is having that “D” also repels at least a quarter of the vote and as for the other half makes them skeptical, and only vigorous campaigning that requires lots of cash can hope to flip a majority of that half open enough to voting for a Democrat in a statewide contest to do exactly that.


Unshackle Harrah's to maintain state revenues

As the culture in Louisiana changes, partial adaptation to that by policy-makers is as bad as not adapting to it at all, as the nexus of nonsmoking and casino revenues demonstrates.

Once may be a coincidence, but twice looks like a trend: monthly revenues are down year-over-year at Harrah’s New Orleans’ land-based casino twice in a row, just after the city banned smoking almost everywhere indoors making it the only casino in the state so circumscribed. It’s likely that a good portion of the $9.2 million fall, or about three-tenths of June, 2014 revenues, came because those who gamble and smoke don’t like to hover outside when lighting up and either don’t patronize the place or use time they would have gambled to puff away outside.

This has consequences for the bottom line of all of state and local governments. The state is required to receive the greater of 18.5 percent of gross revenues or $60 million a year from Harrah’s. Lopping off $110 million a year makes it rather difficult for Harrah’s to meet this expense and thereby stay in business; in fiscal year 2014 it paid just over $72 million to the state. Until 2001, the state demanded $100 million a year.


The Advocate column, Jul. 26, 2015

Louisiana right to reject Medicaid expansion