Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
American Press, Lake Charles, La., on investigation of VA medical practices needed:
A recent study of the Veterans Administration has revealed there is an urgent need for an investigation of the medical centers under its umbrella.
Both the American Legion and the House Veterans Affairs chairman have requested the VA explain why its facilities did not follow patient-safety directives and why bonuses were awarded to executives.
Nine out of 16 studied VA medical centers failed to follow policies meant to protect patients from deadly Legionella bacteria, according to a report issued Aug. 1 by VA's Office of Inspector General.
The study also showed top VA executives in Pennsylvania and Georgia — where mismanagement has been blamed for deaths caused by Legionella — received salary bonuses and one national award for performance during the outbreak.
The combination of those factors has led U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, to call for a five-year moratorium on all VA executive bonuses. ...
VA's Inspector General reported that training and risk assessment procedures had not been conducted at nine out of 16 facilities with a history of problems — including three in Pittsburgh — since a 2008 VA directive demanded higher safety standards. In a separate earlier report, the VA IG office reported that mismanagement and leadership breakdowns were to blame for the deaths of no fewer than five VA patients in the Pittsburgh system. ...
The chief executive of the Pittsburgh hospital, Terry Wolf, received a $12,924 bonus for 2011, and Veterans Integrated Service Network Director Michael Moreland, who oversees Pittsburgh and nine other VA health-care systems in Pennsylvania, received a bonus of $15,619 and a Presidential Distinguished Rank Award this year — which came with a $62,895 reward — during the Legionella outbreak.
At the Atlanta VA Medical Center, the VA Inspector General linked three patient deaths in 2011 and 2012 to mismanagement and lengthy waiting times for mental health care. James Clark, director of the center at the time, received a $13,822 bonus in 2011. Clark retired last December. William Montague, former director of the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, was arrested June 19 by the FBI.
He was indicted on 36 counts and accused of accepting bribes for influencing VA decisions and development projects, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio. Montague received about $73,000 in bonuses between 2007 and 2010 and an additional $8,195 after he was called out of retirement to serve as interim director of the Dayton, Ohio, VA Medical Center.
This scandal is a good reason why all Americans should be wary of the coming health care changes. Do we really want government bureaucrats controlling our health care?
The Houma Courier, Houma, La., on school voucher lawsuit being a waste of resources:
A lawsuit by the federal Justice Department aimed at stopping Louisiana's school voucher system is a waste of public resources.
The Justice Department has filed suit against Louisiana, claiming its voucher system is hurting the effort to desegregate our schools.
That claim is nonsense.
First, while the voucher program is an important tool that can increase some parents' options for their children, it affects only about 8,000 of Louisiana's students — or about 1 percent of the total.
Second, the majority of vouchers are paying for minority students who would otherwise be forced to attend failing schools to go elsewhere.
Third, any program that increases the options taxpayers have — as long as it is administered fairly — is a welcome addition to a state education system that for too long failed the public.
The Justice Department has made no claim that the program is administered unfairly. Instead, it has suggested that some of the students who receive vouchers are white and using them to leave predominantly black public schools. ...
One example cited by the agency is the fact that Independence Elementary School in Tangipahoa Parish lost five white students who used vouchers to attend school elsewhere and thereby "reinforc(ed) the racial identity of the school as a black school."
Gov. Bobby Jindal, who championed the voucher program, has attacked the lawsuit, and rightly so. ...
There is no evidence that the voucher program will have any appreciable effect on desegregation. In fact, by giving thousands of black parents more choice in where they send their children to school, it could have a beneficial effect on integration.
This lawsuit seems to use a miniscule number of individual cases to make a sweeping statement that is not backed up by the facts.
The Times-Picayune, News Orleans, on something should be done about flood insurance rates:
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told a Senate committee Wednesday that massive increases in flood insurance rates are unfair to middle class and low-income homeowners. But he said he doesn't have a way to stop the increases under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act passed by Congress last year.
If Fugate and his agency's lawyers are right, only Congress can stop the ridiculous increases some coastal homeowners are being told they're going to have to pay. ...
FEMA has delayed implementation of parts of the act, including a levee accreditation task force and a narrow affordability study. In addition, President Obama delayed the implementation of parts of his health care reform act. If he can do that, why not delay flood rate increases?
Congress could solve the problem, too. Louisiana's congressional delegation -- along with senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey -- has been pushing for months for a delay in the implementation of Biggert-Waters.
Several legislative proposals have been slowly working their way through Congress, but nothing has passed. Time is very tight, with some Biggert-Waters provisions set to go into effect Oct. 1.
California Rep. Maxine Waters, whose name is on the flood insurance reform act, told Fugate in a July letter signed by two dozen colleagues that Congress never intended for homeowners to face such exorbitant flood insurance rate increases.
Senators representing Louisiana, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, Nevada and Massachusetts said that constituents are receiving notices of planned rate hikes of 100 percent, 500 percent, even 3,000 percent. ...
Sen. David Vitter asked whether FEMA could gain revenue by more aggressively enrolling the estimated 2 million homeowners who are mandated to have flood insurance but don't. He also questioned the 30 percent fee insurance companies get for administering flood insurance policies for FEMA.
Those are important questions. ...
Sen. Mary Landrieu warned fellow members of Congress last summer that the new rates could put a burden on some families. She didn't make any headway, though.
She pressed Wednesday for Congress to fix its mistake. If FEMA can't or won't delay Biggert-Waters until there is a solution to the rate problem, she argued, then Congress must do so.
She's right: Someone in Washington needs to act. If FEMA won't, then it's up to Congress.