Spurned by the Supreme Court, the White House on Tuesday opened applications for a new income-driven repayment plan for student loans. It’s the latest move by President Joe Biden’s administration to offer relief to student-loan borrowers as monthly payments resume in September and after the Supreme Court struck down his plan to cancel some debts. The Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan caps interest rates and reduces payments to 5% of discretionary income – income left over after spending on basic needs such as food and rent – for undergraduate loans. ABC’s Molly Nagle has more details

For those with both graduate and undergraduate loans, payments would be between 5-10% of their income, weighted based off their initial loan amounts. The administration estimates that this will save the typical borrower about $1,000 a year on their payments. Borrowers who had $12,000 or less in initial loan amounts will also see their required payment time dramatically reduced, from 20 years to 10 years for undergraduate loans. Those with higher original principle will be required to make an extra year of payments for every additional $1,000 in loans, up to 20 years. 

Visit StudentAid.gov/SAVE to apply for the SAVE plan. 

Another delay in Blue Cross sale
The acquisition of nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana by a private insurance conglomerate hit another snag this week, as a required vote by BCBSLA policyholders was abruptly scrapped. Blue Cross’ 92,000 policyholders must approve the $2.5 billion sale by a two-thirds margin. The delay comes after several state lawmakers raised questions about how the deal could affect health care costs, and others (including LBP) questioned the structure of a new social welfare foundation that will absorb most of the sale’s proceeds. The Advocate’s Stephanie Riegel reports that the powerful Louisiana Hospital Association is now weighing in: 

In an Aug. 21 letter to Donelon, LHA President Paul Salles echoed concerns about the structure of the deal, which would return just 10% of sale proceeds to policyholders and put the rest toward the creation of a $3.2 billion social welfare foundation that would be controlled by a handful of Blue Cross board members. The letter also noted that in other states where the company does business, Elevance “has been subject to a number of allegations of engaging in business practices that are detrimental to patients, healthcare providers and owners of self-funded plans.” 

Polluters over people 
The state agency charged with regulating pollution allowed the Dow Chemical plant in Plaquemine to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial penalties for recurring violations over the last decade. While Dow had more than 100 alleged violations that carried daily fines of $32,500, the Department of Environmental Quality settled the entire case for just $120,000. And as the Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller explains, DEQ officials would not explain how they came up with the lower amount. 

[Caitlion] Hunter (with the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice) analyzed just four of the incidents using LDEQ’s penalty matrix and calculated a penalty of $82,500 for just those four. Even on the very low end, the 31 unauthorized chemical releases should have netted at least twice the amount LDEQ settled for, according to Hunter’s analysis. … Part of the problem with these kinds of settlements, Hunter explained, is the lack of transparency in how LDEQ calculated the penalties for each specific violation.

On Black maternal health
The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $16.5 million grant to a Louisiana research consortium that will look for answers to Louisiana’s infant mortality crisis. The grant will fund the Southern Center for Maternal Health Equity, a partnership between Tulane University, Ochsner Health and the nonprofit RH Impact. A Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial reports on this hopeful development: 

The group will focus on improving access to prenatal care across the state; determining how postpartum Medicaid expansion is affecting outcomes; and creating interventions to eliminate racial bias among obstetric care providers and other staffers. The last is important, as Black mothers were more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as White mothers in Louisiana in a recent two-year period.

Number of the Day
299 – New Orleans’ ranking for the top 300 real estate markets in America. The Crescent City was directly preceded by Baton Rouge and Shreveport. (Source: WalletHub)