Former DHH secretary criticizes Jindal on health care
David Hood, a health care policy analyst with PAR, says Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to cooperate with the federal government on health care reform "certainly doesn't do anything to move the health care system forward." Hood worked with Jindal when the latter led the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals under former Gov. Mike Foster, and took over as secretary when Jindal left. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation report estimates that, under the Affordable Care Act, Louisiana would spend an additional $536 million on Medicaid from 2014 through 2019 to draw $8.94 billion in federal funds. "That's a good deal," says Hood, who urged the Legislature to expand Medicaid during his term at DHH. "There's no doubt about that." Federal Disproportionate Share Hospital payments for uninsured care are slated for reduction in 2014, and the state's refusal to expand Medicaid could mean Louisiana hospitals will take a DSH hit without the benefit of additional Medicaid funds, Hood says. He also criticizes the administration's refusal to create a state-level health insurance exchange. "If the feds come in and do it, you're going to be to some degree at their mercy," Hood says. The Jindal administration says the state cannot afford to expand Medicaid, and says an exchange could cost the state tens of million of dollars. Jindal has urged his fellow Republicans to focus on repealing the act, which he says will "decrease the quality of health care in America, raise taxes, cut Medicare, and break the bank." —David Jacobs
A resilient Roemer launches The Reform Project
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer may have lost his long-shot battle for the White House, but he's not conceding any ground in his war against the corruptible forces of special interest groups and the politicians who succumb to them. Roemer has launched a new grassroots effort called The Reform Project. "I was a lousy candidate," Roemer says—with a smile—in a new video he has posted online to explain his new project. Roemer opens the video by thanking those who supported his presidential run, which he ended on May 31. "We won something other than a political victory. We won a place at the table in a national debate, and we're going to keep that alive," Roemer says. "We're going to highlight examples of institutional corruption. We're going to highlight examples of where policy has gone wrong because the special interests bought it." But, Roemer adds, The Reform Project will do more than "just talk about the money." He says reapportionment, term limits and other reforms will also be central to the project's concerns. Roemer plans to fund the project just as he did his presidential run: with small private donations. He didn't accept more than $100 from a single source during his campaign, and he says the average contribution was less than $40. Regardless, he says, "If we can have 100,000 of you, we can change this country." You can check out Roemer's video to learn more about The Reform Project here.
La. high school students improve scores on all EOC exams
A summary report on End-of-Course exams released today by the Louisiana Department of Education shows the state's high school students increased their scores in all four areas of testing. The results come from exams administered on algebra I, English II, geometry and biology in December 2011 and May. Students earn one of four achievement levels on EOC exams: excellent, good, fair, or needs improvement. To earn a passing score and eventually graduate, students must earn a rating of fair or higher in each subject. A rating of excellent or good demonstrates proficiency in the subject. The percentage of students who achieved an excellent or good rating on the algebra exam increased from 51% in 2010-11 to 56% this year. In English, the figure increased from 61% to 66%; in geometry, from 41% to 50%; and in biology, from 43% to 51%. EOC exams are administered to students upon completion of core subjects and are designed to measure whether students have mastered the required knowledge and skills of the course.
Head of La. education accountability leaving for D.C.
The man in charge of Louisiana's student, faculty, and school testing and accountability programs is leaving Baton Rouge for Washington, D.C. State Education Superintendent John White says that Scott Norton is leaving to join the Council of Chief State School Officers as strategic initiative director for standards, assessments and accountability. Norton has worked for the state's department for 18 years. His last day as assistant superintendent for standards, assessments and accountability will be Friday, July 13. "His work has been the driving force behind Louisiana's assessment and accountability systems and most recently the move to Common Core State Standards and PARCC Assessments," White says in a news release. "We wish him nothing but the best as he takes on this new role, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the CCSSO on these important reforms." The CCSSO is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in their respective states.
Columnist: SIPC is 'essentially a sham'
In response to Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins that victims of R. Allen Stanford's $7 billion Ponzi scheme aren't eligible for reimbursement of their losses by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy says, "The message to all investors is clear: SIPC is essentially a sham." In his ruling, Wilkins says Stanford investors actually deposited money in the bank, where the CDs they purchased were held. While Stanford's brokerage firm was an SIPC member, the bank wasn't, and therefore investors aren't entitled to any coverage. The Securities and Exchange Commission triggered the legal battle about a year ago when it ordered the SIPC to cover Stanford victims and pay clients—as they did the victims of the Ponzi scheme perpetuated by Bernie Madoff. In other words, Steffy says, Wilkins' ruling means the SIPC "may pay in some cases, if you are fleeced in just the right way, as Bernie Madoff's clients were, but not if you're ripped off in others." That makes the SIPC little more than "a cover for crooked brokers," Steffy says. "Sadly, for Stanford's victims, this is just more of the same. Every protection and safety net has failed them—regulators, the brokerage industry, banking commissions and even the bankruptcy process. Any recovery they receive will be pennies on the dollar." Read the full column and see the judge's complete ruling here.
'225' calls on readers to help select models for fashion issue
225 magazine wants your help in choosing the models for its September fashion issue. The three models with the most votes will appear in a photo spread showcasing fall fashion, and the winner will have a shot at being on the cover of the September issue. To view 225's gallery of candidates, read a Q&A with each and cast your vote, click here. Voting closes Monday at 5 p.m.
Sports roundup: Goodell files motion to dismiss Vilma suit … Horse doping outbreak leads to suspensions of 2 La. trainers … Will technology solve track's debate over amputees?
Defensive formation: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has filed a motion to dismiss defamation claims made against him by suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in connection with the league's bounty investigation into the New Orleans Saints. The motion filed today comes in response to claims Vilma made in a lawsuit filed in May in federal court in New Orleans. Vilma claims his suspension is without merit and that Goodell has made false public comments damaging to his reputation and hurting his ability to continue to make a living. Goodell's motion says Vilma's claims are barred by dispute resolution procedures laid out by the NFL's collective bargaining agreement—and would fail under a Louisiana law protecting statements about matters of public importance.
At the track: Evangeline Downs stewards have suspended two trainers for six months each after horses in their care tested positive for the powerful, pain-killing drug dermorphin, The Times-Picayune reports. Louisiana has been among a number states in which a nationwide dermorphin outbreak has resulted in horse deaths and trainer sanctions. A six-month suspension is the maximum penalty stewards can impose on trainers under Louisiana racing rules. In each case, the stewards deemed the penalty insufficient and referred each case to the Louisiana State Racing Commission for further action. Read the full story here.
Limb by limb: South African Oscar Pistorius—running on his J-shaped, carbon fiber, Flex-Foot Cheetah prosthetic legs—will become the first amputee in history to compete in an Olympic track event at the upcoming 2012 games in London. The debate surrounding his inclusion has garnered a lot of headlines, and in a new take on the discussion The New York Times talks to leading researchers in the prosthetics field about how technology may change the future of the Olympics. Check it out here.