Medicaid contract awards announced

The state health agency late Friday named the five companies to provide health insurance for some two-thirds of the state’s 1.4 million Medicaid recipients. The lucrative contracts will go to Aetna Better Health of Louisiana, Amerigroup Louisiana Inc., AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana Inc., Louisiana Healthcare Connections and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. Four of the five companies participated in the … Continue reading →

Ebola

New Orleans-area man at low risk for ebola, being monitored out of 'abundance of caution,' DHH says

In this Oct. 12, 2014, file photo, Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta. People who shared an apartment with the country's first Ebola patient are emerging from quarantine healthy. And while Thomas Eric Duncan died and two U.S. nurses were infected caring for him, there are successes, too: A nurse infected in Spain has recovered, as have four American aid workers infected in West Africa. Even there, not everyone dies. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

State health officials are monitoring a New Orleans area man for signs of the deadly Ebola virus, a Department of Health and Hospitals spokeswoman confirmed Thursday. … Continue reading →

OMV offices testing days for seniors only

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles is testing a program that could help seniors renew their driver’s licenses and register vehicles without the long wait times they may currently face. “Senior Day” will be tested at select locations throughout the state, one Saturday a month beginning next month, as a time for only Louisianans older than … Continue reading →

Join a live chat now with Michelle Singletary

Personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary is holding a live chat at 11 a.m. March 27 with with Crystal Paine, author of 'Say Goodbye to Survival Mode' and operator of MoneySavingMom.com.

Syndicated columnist Michelle Singletary is hosting an online chat at 11 a.m. today with Robert Maurer, a clinical psychologist at UCLA and author of the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.” They will be talking about how small steps can be used to accomplish large goals, including tackling debt. Continue reading →

THE EBOLA CRISIS

Jindal orders Ebola policy

Associated Press file photo by Molly Riley -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered Monday state agencies to develop policies covering travel to Ebola stricken countries by their employees, students and faculty. The executive order covers those who travel as a result of educational trips or work-related missions to countries identified by the federal Centers for Disease Control as having an epidemic of the deadly virus, … Continue reading →

Dan Claitor’s parents involved in car crash

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- From left, as mom Nancy Claitor and son Sam Claitor watch, Dan Claitor, right, signs in to qualify to run for office at the Secretary of State's office.

State Sen. Dan Claitor’s parents remained hospitalized Monday after an automobile wreck on Airline Highway near Siegen Lane. Nancy Claitor, 80, and Robert Claitor, 88, were transported to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center after the collision on Saturday, State Police Troop A spokesman Jared Sandifer said Monday. Nancy Claitor was in serious condition and … Continue reading →

Rape victim billing fix proposed

Rape victims won’t get bills from hospitals for exams and tests under a plan unveiled Monday by the state health agency. But the plan requires a change in state law and in some agency regulations, both of which will take months to accomplish, so victims still could receive the bills in the meantime. Legislators … Continue reading →

LSU gets OK for self-insurance

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The LSU Campanile.

LSU’s Baton Rouge campus on Friday became the first state college given approval to leave the state-run insurance program and buy its own coverage. The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget gave the go-ahead for the pilot program, which LSU executives said would cut costs and allow purchase of insurance coverage suited to university needs. LSU … Continue reading →

Budget panel defers action on surplus

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Finance Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, is shown in this June 2013 Advocate file photo.

The Louisiana Legislature’s top money committee punted Friday, failing to approve or reject the $178.5 million surplus the Jindal administration insists exists and others question. “We have time to make sure that this number is an accurate number,” said Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro. “We won’t take any action … Continue reading →

La. bond panel OKs spending

The state Bond Commission on Thursday agreed to a $125 million new project spending list submitted by the Jindal administration. Gov. Bobby Jindal picked the projects from a long wish list included in the state’s capital construction program. The state has a borrowing limit of $355 million in the fiscal year that began July 1. Legislators inserted … Continue reading →

Severe storm warning issued for Baton Rouge

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an emergency declaration because of severe weather moving through Louisiana this evening. A tornado and damaging winds were reported in Ouachita Parish and the storm continues to push to the east, according to the Governor’s Office. A tornado watch for much of south Louisiana remains in effect until … Continue reading →

Surplus questions scrap bond rating calls

Planned Monday conference calls with the nation’s bond rating agencies were postponed amid questions surrounding the Jindal administration’s state budget surplus claims. State Treasurer John Kennedy said he didn’t want to get into conversations with those who monitor the state’s financial condition until it’s determined if the $178.5 million surplus really exists. “The rating agencies obviously … Continue reading →

Jindal budget surplus questioned

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration reports a $178.5 million budget surplus for the state fiscal year that ended June 30. But the Legislature’s financial advisers are questioning a new element in the equation used to produce the rosy picture, and state Treasurer John Kennedy said Friday the administration is skewing the real state financial picture, which isn’t as … Continue reading →

State gets $41 million in highway money

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELDEarly-morning traffic streams westward toward New Orleans in 2013 on the Interstate 10 twin spans near the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Questions remain on whether a special state panel studying Louisiana’s roads and bridges will recommend sweeping or modest highway fixes.

The state is getting $41.4 million in federal highway aid that will help with a variety of projects, officials said Thursday. The money stems from the fact that Louisiana obligated all of its federal road and bridge dollars during the financial year that ended on Sept. 30. States that do so are then eligible for additional … Continue reading →

Group Benefits adds Thursday sessions

With interest running high, the state Office of Group Benefits added two sessions to its Thursday schedule to go over health plan options for retirees with Medicare. The meetings will be held at the state Department of Public Safety, Training Academy Auditorium, 7901 Independence Blvd., in Baton Rouge. Sessions will be held at 9:30 a.m. and … Continue reading →

March trial date in challenge of La. abortion law

A March 30 trial date has been set in Baton Rouge federal court for a lawsuit challenging a new Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital. Until then, a temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, of Baton Rouge, remains in effect, barring … Continue reading →

Lambda Legal, joins La. marriage case

A national organization dedicated to gay rights is joining efforts to overturn Louisiana’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Lambda Legal announced its participation Tuesday in consolidated cases being appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The organization describes itself as the oldest and largest national legal organization seeking full recognition of the … Continue reading →

State pay increasing for 40,000 workers

Some 40,000 classified Civil Service employees will see an increase in their paychecks this month — some for the first time in years. Funding for the 4 percent boost is included in the Jindal administration’s budget that went into effect July 1. The raise comes as the administration is preparing to implement state health … Continue reading →

Retirees considering legal challenge

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols

The Jindal administration may get a legal challenge to the way it is rolling out major health insurance plan changes for about 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.The Retired State Employees Association’s executive board voted at its annual meeting to form a “litigation committee” that would explore the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the Office of Group … Continue reading →

District judge compels testimony in CNSI suit

A state district court judge ruled Tuesday that CNSI attorneys can delve into what led a key witness to change his testimony. The ruling allows Client Network Services Inc. lawyers to question a state Attorney General’s Office investigator who met with whistleblower Steve Smith, a former CNSI employee, between the two contradictory depositions. Smith’s testimony differed on … Continue reading →

Meetings to explain benefits changes to state employees overwhelmed

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Traffic jams the entrance to State Police Headquarters and people lined up and down the halls at the State Police auditorium for the second in-person meeting of Group Benefits to explain health plan changes to state employee, teacher and retiree members. First meeting this morning was an overflow situation and some people said they were turned away and told to come back at 2:30 p.m. which was also very crowded.

Kerry Phillips drove into Baton Rouge from New Roads and arrived 45 minutes early. But she still couldn’t get into the first “informational meeting” that would lay out what she as a retired state employee could expect from the sweeping changes to the state health care plan by the Jindal administration. “This is just crazy. … Continue reading →

In Toon with Walt contest: Trick or Treat!!!???

It’s that scaaaaarrrrrry time of year again when the gremlins are running all over the place knocking on doors…. Oh … AND it’s almost Halloween! This time, the Cartoon Caption Contest shows a couple of kids looking at costumes. What are they saying? You tell me! Keep it clean. Be creative. Be witty. Be wacky. Avoid … Continue reading →

Officials: Roads in ‘deplorable state’

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELDEarly-morning traffic streams westward toward New Orleans in 2013 on the Interstate 10 twin spans near the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Questions remain on whether a special state panel studying Louisiana’s roads and bridges will recommend sweeping or modest highway fixes.

Despite scathing criticism of Louisiana roads and bridges, questions remain on whether a special state panel studying the issue will recommend sweeping or modest highway fixes. “People aren’t stupid; they know the roads suck,” said state Treasurer John Kennedy, who appeared last week before the Transportation Funding Task Force. Former state Department of Transportation … Continue reading →

Teachers’ pension boost debated

There’s enough money in a special account for Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana retirees to get a new 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their pension checks, the system’s board was told Friday. But a new law would prevent that from happening, even though many retirees’ pensions are below the federal poverty level and they are facing … Continue reading →

LSU Board OKs hospital deal revamp

The LSU Board of Supervisors signed off Wednesday on revised deals governing the privatization of six LSU public hospitals, despite reservations voiced by some about a new provision that allows the contracts to be canceled with a 60-day notice. “That gives us only two months to find a new partner. It’s almost impossible, I think, to … Continue reading →

Traffic light near LSU will go back in service

Under fire, the state Department of Transportation and Development announced Tuesday that it will reinstall a red light at the corner of East Boyd Drive and Burbank Drive. The work will start Wednesday and take eight days to finish, the agency said in a prepared statement. The signal was removed in July as part of a … Continue reading →

Group Benefits extending enrollment

The Jindal administration Tuesday backed off its aggressive time frame to make major changes in the health insurance offerings for about 230,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Group Benefits members will now have through November to decide on the type of health coverage they want and to enroll in the appropriate program. And now … Continue reading →

Ex-school official accused of ethics violation

The Louisiana Board of Ethics has accused a former Orleans Parish school official of pressuring a private contractor to create a position and hire a specific person for the job. Herman Taitt, the former Orleans Parish School Board executive director of operations who criticized how hurricane recovery contracts were divvied up, allegedly wanted GCA Services Group … Continue reading →

Ex-CATS member faces ethics charges

A former CATS board member is facing state ethics charges related to his alleged use of bus system funds to pay personal bills. Montrell Jovan Henderson McCaleb is accused of violating state law when he used $1,484.48 in Capital Area Transit System funds “to which he was not duly entitled.” The charge document lists … Continue reading →

Officials vow to fix system charging rape victims

State Sen. Jean-Paul J. Morrell and state Rep. Helena Moreno

State officials and anti-sexual assault advocates say they are appalled that some rape victims are receiving hefty hospital bills for their treatments after being attacked. They vow to repair that law. “We go to the hospital with the victims. The last thing we want to be talking about is financial responsibility,” Mary Claire Landry, director of the … Continue reading →