During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of Louisianans enrolled in Medicaid grew considerably- now covering 40% of the population – while the state’s uninsured rate dropped to a record low. That’s because of a pandemic relief law that gave states extra federal money for Medicaid. But in return, states could not terminate anyone’s coverage as long as the federal public health emergency remained in effect. Louisiana will start reviewing eligibility for recipients in April, and WAFB’s Alece Courville spoke with LBP executive director Jan Moller about how returning to pre-pandemic rules will affect Medicaid in the state: 

This means for the past three years, no one has had their eligibility determined, allowing people with low incomes or disabilities to have stable, secure healthcare coverage during the public health emergency. But starting April 1, the state can resume disenrollments, transitioning back to pre-pandemic rules. “The department will check to see if everyone is still eligible. Of course, you have to have low or moderate income,” added Moller.

Please visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website for more information on how to update your Medicaid eligibility. In the coming weeks, the Louisiana Budget Project will be releasing guidance on how state health care leaders can keep eligible people covered. 

The rural – urban divide in state legislatures 
Conflicting priorities between urban and rural legislators have been debated at statehouses across the country since the early days of the United States. But those disagreements have turned into outright hostility in recent decades as Democratic-leaning urban areas become isolated in Republican-leaning states dominated by rural politicians. The New York Times’ Michael Wines reports on this dynamic and how it’s playing out in several states, such as Tennessee and North Carolina. 

State laws that override city ordinances and policies have mushroomed over the last decade, especially in states where Republicans controlled both the governor’s office and the Legislature, a study by political scientists at Baylor and Butler universities concluded in 2020. … The new laws often take aim at issues where the parties are on different sides: Missouri’s lawmakers, for example, barred St. Louis from banning plastic grocery bags and stopped Kansas City from raising the minimum wage. The 2020 study found that such laws were more common in states with a Republican government, a strong conservative bent and a higher share of Black residents. 

Reality check: The Louisiana Legislature long ago led the way on pre-emption with laws that forbid cities and parishes from establishing a minimum wage or protecting worker rights. 

Corporate America adjusting to pay transparency
While the effort for pay transparency is gaining momentum – more than a dozen states and municipalities have recently passed laws requiring salary ranges in job ads – corporate America has been slow to adjust. The Washington Post’s Taylor Telford reports on the frustrations of workers and employers as companies struggle to determine how much to pay and who should know about it. 

Companies are struggling to keep up with the patchwork of legislation, set meaningful salary ranges and navigate conversations around pay with job candidates and their own employees. Meanwhile, job seekers say they are frustrated about approaches that undermine the purpose of pay disclosure policies: to level the playing field by dragging the compensation conversation into the public eye. … Up until now, compensation in white-collar jobs across America has been a “sort of black box,” according to Davia Temin, chief executive of Temin and Company, a crisis management firm. She said she thinks the new laws will inevitably create some tension across generational lines, with older workers used to keeping mum about pay and younger ones pushing for transparency.

Expanding Pell grant program
The Pell grant program offers the opportunity of higher education to eligible students who demonstrate financial need. A critical tool for expanding college access, Pell grants have supported the educational needs of low-income students for more than 55 years. Earlier this week, a group of House Republicans introduced a bill to expand the use of Pell grant programs. Inside Higher Ed’s Katherine Knott reports on efforts by the Skills First Coalition, a group of American businesses and education and training providers, to make this a reality.

The coalition includes IBM, HP, Boeing and Western Governors University. “Close collaboration between businesses, educators, and lawmakers to advance the aforementioned polices will further enhance efforts to meet the needs of workers and employers while future-proofing the U.S. economy,” the coalition wrote in a letter Wednesday to the House and Senate education committees. “The stakes have never been higher to meet the demands of this moment for current and future generations.”

Number of the Day
– Number of Louisiana student loan borrowers that applied and were approved for President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. The plan eliminates $10,000 for people earning less than $125,000 per year and families earning less than $250,000 per year. Recipients of Pell Grants, a tool for helping low-income people afford college, are eligible for $20,000 in cancellations. (Source: Louisiana Illuminator)