Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

June 17

The Daily World, Opelousas, La., on state Medicaid reform:

Enough volume and rancor went into the national health care debate to make it sad that we can't harness them to make the nation truly energy independent. But while Republicans and Democrats clubbed each other daffy with public options, back-room deals, death panels and coverage mandates, Louisiana public health officials pushed ahead quietly with their own plans for reforming health care - or at least that portion of the state's health care provided by Medicaid. That portion turns out to be regrettably large.

That's one reason Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, particularly Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine, deserves praise for moving ahead. Their plan offers at least a chance to contain Medicaid costs while actually improving care for those who rely on the state-federal program for their coverage.

In Louisiana, that means about a quarter of the population. ...

Medicaid has become the fearsome beast that must be assuaged each year before serious work on the state budget can begin. Its $7 billion price tag goes up because health costs go up, and the cost is bound to go up more because of the federal health care reform bill. The newly passed reform expands Medicaid eligibility. And then there's the still-to-be-resolved federal medical assistance percentage problem, which has artificially inflated the percentage of Medicaid funding Louisiana will be expected to pay.

Oddly enough, the Jindal administration, which opposed the Democratic health care reform proposal, took on Medicaid for the same reason President Barack Obama took on overall reform - we pay too much for too little in the way of results. The answer Jindal and Levine came up with is, in effect, to hire networks of private providers to cover Medicaid patients, or at least the mandated populations, mostly single adults with children. Each parent could choose a plan based on a provider's success with specific health conditions that might be of concern in the family.

The providers would have a choice of taking a flat fee per enrolled recipient to provide whatever care is necessary or getting money on a fee-for-service basis. The plan is written into the state budget for next year and could be implemented statewide by July 4, 2011.

The Jindal plan has everything - choice for recipients, choice for providers, cost containment, expanded coverage, and the tantalizing prospect of improved results for our state and federal money. We believe it will represent a step toward a better, healthier Louisiana.



June 21

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on Obama's promise to restore the state's vanishing coastline and marshes:

While the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico plays out, Louisiana got a presidential commitment to its longer-term future: restoration of the state's vanishing coastline and marshes.

In an Oval Office address, President Barack Obama said he is committed to making sure southern Louisiana's coastline is saved. ...

This is a broad promise, for actual restoration of the coastline is a hugely expensive and complicated national endeavor. The state is ready to play its part; Gov. Bobby Jindal and his two immediate predecessors have made coastal restoration a priority for the state. But the salvation of the coastline requires a national response.

About 2,300 square miles of marshland have been lost from the state's coastline since the 1930s. That the president of the United States is not only aware of but committed to the coast is a big step.

"Finally, we have someone at the highest level recognizing the significance of this issue and the significance of the pending tragedy, and just that is worth its weight in gold," said R. King Milling, a New Orleans banker who chairs Jindal's coastal commission.

The issues are numerous, and the projects needed to mimic the movement of sediment from the Mississippi River - the natural force that originally built coastal Louisiana - are complex and require a long-term commitment.

It is not just about beauty, or even about economics, as vital as the latter are in terms of energy and seafood production. It is also a matter of life and death if the coastline further erodes and deadly hurricanes strike without the marshes that provide a natural impediment to storms.

"If this country fails to understand the significance of this delta region, the damage to the area and the impacts on the citizens of this country will be astronomical," Milling said.

The president's active support of this endeavor is appreciated, welcome and necessary.



June 22

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on vetting ideas for cleaning up the Gulf oil spill:

Smart ideas for cleaning up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could very well come from entrepreneurs and small business owners, but only if people with sound proposals can get the attention of BP or government agencies.

That's proving difficult, according to actor Kevin Costner and other business owners who testified before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee recently. The problems they are encountering could mean that solutions deserving consideration will be overlooked.

Ocean Therapy Solutions, which Costner owns, did get a response from BP, which tested his cleanup equipment and then ordered 32 of the company's machines. But he was still critical of the process. "You should know that negotiating your way through the bureaucratic maze that currently exists is like trying to play a video game that nobody can master," he told the Senate committee.

An official with another company had similar frustrations. "Simply put, we were not clear on who is really making the decisions, and I am not sure that any business small or large knows how best to be heard," said Heather Baird, vice president of a Massachusetts-based company that manufactures oil-eating microbes.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, who chairs the committee, called the response unacceptable and said that she's received complaints from constituents. Sen. David Vitter said he had forwarded solutions by three Louisiana companies only to get "automated responses."

The Coast Guard set up an interagency assessment program for alternative technologies earlier in June, but so far, the Coast Guard has submitted only one concept out of 1,900, Rear Adm. Ronald Rabago testified. None have been accepted. And while the Coast Guard is expanding efforts to evaluate proposals, the current pace suggests that the agency is overwhelmed.

It would make sense, then, for the Coast Guard to get help vetting the proposals. Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Center, suggested such an approach at the hearing. The government could enter into contracts with universities to separate promising proposals from those that lack merit, he said.

That's a good idea, and the Coast Guard ought to jump at it.