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Co-op failure shows laxity invites wasting tax monies

Legal but ethically questionable transactions attached to the failure of a health insurance nonprofit in Louisiana suggest state law should change to reduce the future chances of wastage of taxpayer dollars.

Last month, the Louisiana Health Cooperative announced it would cease operations at the end of the year. It is one of 23 state-based entities created under the auspices of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) by borrowing taxpayer dollars to provide health insurance now required by law. Only one is (barely) making money; most are losing considerable sums and the biggest loser already has closed, with many more expected to join it and Louisiana’s in the future.

Of course, these projects were doomed from the start, undone by the same flawed ideology behind Obamacare. Recognize that Obamacare is at heart a wealth redistribution scheme, designed to provide low- or no-cost health insurance to a segment of the population while the vast majority pay for the subsidization through higher taxes and also suffer higher insurance rates and deductibles. It secondarily is an enrichment scheme for health insurers and providers, by artificially creating business for these. Only incidentally does it affect overall health outcomes – and more likely in a negative rather than positive way because most insurance offered under Obamacare has been from Medicaid, not the commercial market.


LA marriage conscience bill now really needed

State Rep. Mike Johnson, if reelected, correctly plans to reintroduce a version of his Marriage and Conscience bill next year. Not only should he do so, but also it needs expansion.

This past session of the Louisiana Legislature Johnson, who has no announced opposition for this fall’s elections, introduced a bill that would have prevented government operating under state or local law from withholding certain services provided to businesses and individuals because of their views on marriage. For example, if a baker refused to confect a cake celebrating a same sex marriage because of religious belief that views homosexual behavior as immoral, the local government could not pull that establishment’s occupational license.

That hasn’t happened yet, but such a scenario could be in the offing. Recently, just such a refusal occurred in Houma. While state law does not compel performance of that service, and thus does not give a government grounds to retaliate in this particular instance, the flux surrounding the current legal environment regarding sexual behavior potentially opens up such actions to liability in the future.


Report reaffirms precariousness of pension funds

The good news is the bad news is not as bad as it could be regarding Louisiana’s tremendously underfunded major state pension funds. Regardless, heeding these systems declarations that observers should go home for nothing is to be seen encourages a false sense of security.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recently released an actuary report on the financial health of the two largest of the state’s many pension systems, the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. Together, they account for nearly $18 billion of the state unfunded accrued liability that constitutionally must disappear by 2029. The report implied that a corner of sorts was being turned in the battle to meet this goal, arguing that the present systems’ configurations will allow for increasing ability to pay down this gap between what they are expected to owe to retirees and what is scheduled to be made available.

The systems cheered on this result, which has come as a result of several legal changes over the last few years – ironically, some of these strenuously opposed by the systems when others previously recommended these prior to political tides making system opposition untenable. However, left unmentioned were the two biggest factors that have stabilized matters over the past couple of years.


EBR scale change path to inferior education

A clash between two opposing worldviews regarding education, as a chore for the citizen to complete to allow him to function in the world as a necessary condition to pursue what he wants or as a transformative experience that informs one throughout life, confronts the East Baton Rouge Parish School System through the issue of grade point averages for extracurricular activity participation in high school.

This month, at the urging of its new superintendent Warren Drake, the School Board plans to lower the GPA requirement indicative of a ‘C’ average currently at 2.0-3.0 by a half-point. This would mean, according to Louisiana High School Athletic Association standards that require that all participating athletes maintain a C average, that students earning as low as an overall 1.5 GPA would be eligible to play organized sports (this would equate, on the eight-point scale used in schools, to an average score of 76 percent as opposed to the 80 percent standard at present). Only the Caddo and Jefferson Parish districts would still define the lowest boundary for a C average as 2.0.

Drake, a former coach, said he did not consult research on the impact of what more generally are called “no pass no play” laws on improving student academic performance and thereby graduation rates but that his impressions over the years are that increased ability to participate in extracurricular activities engages more students, where research he has noted shows students who do this perform academically better. In other words, he believes participation drives willingness to attend school and to progress to graduation, and to make participation too restrictive discourages some students to the point of leaving school.


The Advocate column, Aug. 16, 2015

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