04 May 2005

Committee action, May 4, 2005: SB 190

Louisiana’s administration of programs for the disabled certainly needs reforming, and state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome’s SB 190 does a good job of this. But it has one killer section which cannot be allowed to stay in the bill which went unaddressed when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee met this morning.

The problem comes with the content of just a few paragraphs, which essentially indicate that if your family has such a person using state services and you do not live in poverty, the state is going to come after almost all of your assets to "pay it back," even after that person is dead. This is an extension of current policy which is not recorded as a statute, and expands on it. In short, if bad luck strikes somebody and they have no insurance for that eventuality or it is insufficient to care for that person's need, the state will take almost everything of value from that family (the bill reads like it will even go farther than federal standards for Medicaid eligibility, which at least allow these family's to own a home, vehicle, and furnishings).

Bad fortune of this nature doesn't respect a family's socioeconomic status, and can produce bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to sustain somebody and give to him a decent quality of life. Why should people who have worked hard and saved and invested for themselves and their posterity get suddenly wiped out before the state will help them, while those who do not have such resources, many of whom chose not to pursue strategies that would have accumulated wealth for them, are taken care of at no cost by the state. It is this mentality that spawns the use of expensive, specialized strategies for family's to preserve their assets in cases of calamity, which not everybody can do.

In fact, with these provisions (on p. 14 of the original bill) intact, the state would encourage people in this condition to do everything possible to divest assets to other family members or others and to go completely onto the state dole (including spouses getting divorced) – if they’re going to lose it anyway, they might as well lose it to their choice rather than to the state. In that way, the state ends up paying it all anyway, whereas if these provisions were modified to allow some asset protection by families, families would be encouraged to stay together and to use some resources to supplement the state’s help, reducing the state’s burden.

This bill with these passages will cost taxpayers more and cause more misery for those in this unfortunate health care situation. It’s been passed out of committee; some floor amendments will be necessary to make it worthy of passage.

THURSDAY: SB 283 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “At least we need the nation in something …”

Comment from House and Governmental Affairs Committee after Rep. Mert Smiley informed it that Louisiana has more boards and commissions than any other state.

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