Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Courier of Houma criticizes the state’s oversight of Medicaid:
Another state audit has thrown Louisiana’s system of overseeing its Medicaid program into doubt.
The problem with this and other issues highlighted by these audits goes beyond the waste and abuse they invite — though that is a legitimate concern. They also give fuel to those who lob partisan attacks against the Medicaid system in general and particularly the recent expansion of it, a development that is saving lives.
The audit report released earlier this week says that millions of dollars from 2012 through 2017 were held out of the Medicaid Fraud Fund, which is supposed to identify and fight potentially fraudulent claims.
That is a failure that goes to the heart of the program’s ability to make sure the people who are using it are eligible to do so and that those who aren’t are found out and punished.
Responding to the audit, health officials say they have implemented changes that should clear up the problems.
“We have been correcting a problem that was inherited from the previous administration, and that was brought to our attention by the auditor,” said Cindy Rives, chief financial officer for the health department.
That is a good development in that it should correct a glaring deficiency. But the fact that this went on for years erodes public confidence in the state’s ability to oversee this crucial program.
The Medicaid program, especially as it is configured now to insure so many members of the working poor, is a lifeline for people who have no other options for health insurance.
It makes preventive care available to those who otherwise would be left to seek treatment after dangerous or deadly conditions arise.
The numbers say that thousands of people are being helped already, and the program just expanded in 2016, allowing hundreds of thousands more people more to become eligible. In that time, 400 women on Medicaid have been diagnosed with breast cancer and begun treatment; 8,000 have had precancerous colon polyps removed; and 57,000 people are receiving mental-health care.
While the program is doing good works, though, it is essential that it be policed by systems and people who are intent on maintaining its integrity. Failing to do so makes Medicaid more vulnerable to political attacks on the overall program.
Because it is improving and saving lives, it must be protected from fraud and waste. Louisianans must hope that the changes put into effect after the time period studied in the audit will make that happen.
Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on a mass shooting amid pleas to end gun violence in New Orleans:
Good people across the city are working to end violence in New Orleans. Saturday evening, a large crowd gathered at Sampson Park in the Desire neighborhood for a Stop the Violence rally.
Kids were given school supplies, and there was food, face-painting, music and an inflatable bounce house.
The Up and Coming Drum Line, a group of musical youngsters, made their debut. They wore bright green T-shirts with their drums slung across their shoulders. There was even a baptism.
But the hopeful spirit didn’t last long. Across town, outside a popular neighborhood restaurant on South Claiborne Avenue, two shooters chased a man into the crowded parking lot, killing him and two bystanders and wounding seven others.
And just like that, three families are in mourning for Taiesha Watkins, Kurshaw Jackson and Jeremiah Lee.
“It was devastating, my heart sunk,” Pastor Tyrone Smith, who helped organize the anti-violence rally, said Sunday. “We worked so hard on this event. We’re trying to do something about this issue that plagues our entire city, and to have such a vicious act of violence follow on the heels of it is heartbreaking.”
The shootings won’t stop his work, though. “It just shows that we need to do more. We can’t stop now,” he said.
As police work to solve Saturday’s mass shooting, we all must keep working for peace. More of us need to join Pastor Smith and the other ministers who organized the rally at Sampson Park.
We need to show children in our city that we care.
We need to make sure they get a good education. We need more schools to understand the damage that exposure to violence does to young children. And we must make sure that they get help dealing with the emotional damage.
Unchecked, exposure to violence can lead to more violence. Journalists from NOLA.com ′ The Times-Picayune documented, in “The Children of Central City,” how badly children in New Orleans are being damaged emotionally and how little help they have to recover.
Agencies that provide counseling and treatment for trauma are starving for resources. The state has cut the budget for the Metropolitan Human Services District by nearly 25 percent over the past eight years. The state’s Medicaid payments are so low that it is difficult for nonprofits like the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans to keep providing services.
Of the 80 public schools in New Orleans, only 11 have fully embraced the trauma-informed methods that could help ease children’s anxieties and allow them to focus on learning.
Pervasive violence will crush children’s hopes.
New Orleans has an opportunity to reverse that damage. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s new Office of Youth and Families is committed to connecting New Orleanians to the social service resources they need. The Broadmoor Arts and Wellness Center, which combines the arts, fitness classes and counseling and other wellness programs, could be a model for other neighborhoods.
Schools will play a big role as well. The Orleans Parish School Board should encourage more of the city’s charter schools to adopt trauma-informed approaches.
The question is where to find the money to provide the trauma counseling services needed in New Orleans. That will take creativity and collaboration. The counseling services in Broadmoor are provided by interns who are finishing their training. State and city government must make funding these kinds of services a priority. And New Orleanians ought to be ready to chip in, with donations or by volunteering as a coach, tutor or mentor.
A post on The First 72+ Facebook page about the anti-violence rally included a child’s drawing: “Stop shooting people and think about your life please.” There was a heart painted below the message.
Think about that child’s life and the lives of thousands of other children in New Orleans — and do something to help.
The Advocate of Baton Rouge advocates for a lasting fix for the National Flood Insurance Program:
In approving a four-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate did a good thing for the people of Louisiana who depend on the program to sustain homes and businesses in the region. We commend the members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation who worked to secure the extension in both the House and Senate.
In the longer term, though, residents of Louisiana and their fellow Americans across the country require a more durable fix for the flood insurance program. That’s the only way to advance the kind of stability that markets need to drive investment.
Tuesday’s vote in the Senate marked the seventh short-term extension of the flood insurance program since it came up for renewal last September. This week’s vote was a nail-biter, coming just hours before the program was set to expire.
Congress hasn’t been able to approve a more permanent reauthorization of the flood control program because lawmakers can’t agree on how to fix its financial problems. The program has some $20 billion in debt, and claims from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, along with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Louisiana’s 2016 flooding and Hurricane Harvey in Texas last brought new waves of red ink.
Some members of Congress want to balance NFIP’s books by steeply raising rates, but a major goal of federal involvement in flood insurance is making it affordable for residents of higher-risk regions such as the Gulf Coast.
The notion that Americans should simply avoid such areas is impractical. Louisiana’s fisheries and energy exploration are vital national assets, and they’re sustained by people who require affordable flood insurance to live where this important work is done.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, said Tuesday that Congress can help reduce flood insurance claims by working to make threatened communities more resilient. “The reality is that many of our homes and businesses have become more vulnerable,” said Graves, who has championed federal money for flood control projects such as the Comite River Diversion Canal.
The summer of 2018 has been a season of new disasters in America, with wildfires in the West and flash flooding in the East. Those sad events are powerful reminders that every part of the United States has special challenges with Mother Nature — problems of a scale that argues for a strong federal role.
A healthy federal flood insurance program must be part of the mix. “We now have four months to finalize a long-term plan that reforms the program to make it more affordable, accountable and sustainable,” said Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who had worked to secure approval of Tuesday’s extension before the program lapsed.
Louisiana needs nothing less.