- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Sept. 18

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid revamp:

Amid the hue and cry over Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid revamp, an important point has been missing: It would not save very much money.

Like his predecessors, Bevin is right to worry about the increasing drain that Medicaid, the health care plan for low-income and disabled people, puts on the $11 billion General Fund, siphoning money that’s needed for education, infrastructure and other needs.

Bevin has said the state cannot afford to continue the 2014 Medicaid expansion as is. But the modest savings from his rollback of coverage would come at a high price. To save the average $66.3 million a year projected by Bevin’s plan, Kentucky would have to forfeit $380 million a year in matching federal funds for health care, a poor trade-off in a state that suffers a surplus of sick people and a shortage of primary care.

Fortunately, there are ways to ease the budgetary strain while maintaining Medicaid coverage:

- Lift the cap on a dedicated tax that is paid by Kentucky hospitals and flows into health care.

- Increase the tax on tobacco products.

- Give the lowest-paid Kentuckians a raise.

Indiana is financing its Medicaid expansion through hospital and cigarette taxes. Bevin modeled his cutbacks on Indiana’s program but his plan oddly makes no mention of revenue. If Kentucky hospitals resumed paying the 2.5 percent tax on gross revenues that they paid before 2007, an additional $99 million a year would be generated.

Forty-nine states levy health care provider taxes and many are tapping hospitals to pay for the Medicaid expansions made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Tennessee hospitals asked to be taxed to pay for a Medicaid expansion.

In Kentucky, the health care provider tax flows into a restricted fund that supports health care and is returned to providers. The tax was frozen at the $183 million that hospitals paid in 2005-06 when they collected $7.3 billion in revenue. Their current revenue is $11.3 billion, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy which analyzed data from the state. Despite the higher revenue that’s flowing into hospitals, mostly because of the Medicaid expansion, hospitals are still paying $183 million a year.

In 2004, General Fund revenues paid for 66 percent of state Medicaid costs but now pay 78 percent because of the erosion in the provider tax.

Kentucky’s provider tax is due for an overhaul because of changes in health care economics. Lawmakers should ask themselves if the cap makes sense.

Ohio raised its cigarette tax to $1.60 a pack late last year, which may be making the drive across the Ohio River for cigarettes taxed at 60 cents a pack worthwhile and may explain why Kentucky’s cigarette tax revenue ticked up $3.4 million or 1.5 percent last fiscal year. Indiana’s cigarette tax is 99.5 cents a pack.

Raising Kentucky’s cigarette tax to $1 a pack, along with similar increases in taxes on other tobacco products and e-cigs, would generate an estimated $110 million, perhaps up $145 million, a year.

Tobacco taxes are admittedly regressive, disproportionately burdening low-income people. Low-income people would be disproportionately burdened by Bevin’s Medicaid rollback as well. Higher cigarette taxes produce reductions in smoking and less tobacco-related disease, while rolling back Medicaid would produce worse health outcomes. On balance, a cigarette tax increase would be more responsible than denying Medicaid to almost 86,000 Kentuckians as Bevin proposes.

Finally, Kentucky could shift more costs onto the federal government by raising the minimum wage. The feds pay about 70 percent of Medicaid for people under 100 percent of poverty but 90 percent for higher earners up to 138 percent ($16,394 for a childless adult) of the poverty level. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would save the state $34 million a year by moving people into the group that qualifies for a higher federal match, estimates the Center for American Progress.

Without his changes, Bevin says, the state share of the Medicaid expansion would be $250 million a year - about the amount the three ideas above would yield.

Since 2013, the rate of Kentuckians without health insurance has been more than halved. Kentucky can build on the extraordinary progress it’s made if the governor and lawmakers are willing to make the same tax increases that neighboring states are making.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com/

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Sept. 18

The Daily News of Bowling Green on the opening of a local aluminum plant:

Jobs, jobs and more jobs.

No town or city can ever have enough of them.

Our city has been very fortunate through the years in attracting large companies that come from other states, and other countries in some cases.

These companies bring not only their business, but help create jobs and help with the local and state economy.

Our city received some wonderful news Wednesday when Constellium-UACJ announced that 65 people will work in the $150 million, 225,000-square-foot plant recently finished in the Kentucky Transpark.

The French and Japanese companies will produce 100,000 metric tons of aluminum alloy - about 220 million pounds - annually at the new Kentucky plant. The growth market for the light-weight aluminum alloy is large. While only 70 kilotons were sold in 2012, that amount ballooned to 500 kiloton in 2015. The projection by 2020 is 1 million kiloton will be sold. The facility has the capacity to produce aluminum from eight-tenths of a millimeter thick to 3.2 mm with widths up to 2,200 millimeters.

These numbers speak volumes about the company and future prospects.

It is indeed exciting news that these companies are coming to Bowling Green.

These are both well-established global aluminum industry players with deep roots in Europe and Japan.

It was announced in 2014, that the Bowling Green plant was the largest capital investment project in southcentral Kentucky in more than a decade. It also is the fourth largest investment and second largest automotive investment in Kentucky in the last five years.

This is quite impressive, to say the least, and says a lot about what these companies think about our city and our citizens by choosing to locate here.

The plant’s employees come from Japan, France and Bowling Green.

We believe it’s a huge plus in a global economy to have this diversity among the employees working at the plant.

It can only be beneficial.

As a community we are very fortunate to have Constellium-UACJ here. It truly is a great company that appears to love our city and our people.

Through their generous investment in our city, they have proven that Bowling Green is a player when it comes to attracting new businesses.

We welcome this new addition to our city and are thankful to them for bringing jobs, putting money into our community and, most importantly, believing in our city enough to locate here.

We wish them much success in the years to come.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Sept. 16

The Kentucky New Era on two deaths at an Oak Grove brothel in 1994:

We may never know who killed Gloria Ross and Candace Belt, the young women who were shot and stabbed in the early morning of Sept. 20, 1994, at Oak Grove’s New Life Massage Parlor. After listening to testimony for seven days from several witnesses who struggled to recall details surrounding the slayings, a Christian Circuit Court jury acquitted murder defendants Frank Black and Ed Carter on Wednesday. Another defendant, Leslie Duncan, who was accused of trying to hinder the investigation, was granted an acquittal by the judge before the trial ended.

Now the murders remain unsolved, which is a tragedy for the families of Ross and Belt. They are left without any measure of closure that might come from knowing that someone - anyone - was held accountable for the deaths of their loved ones.

What we do know about the murders is that public corruption made them possible.

New Life Massage Parlor, which shared a building with a Chinese restaurant on Fort Campbell Boulevard across from the Army post, was a brothel. That’s not a rumor or a suspicion. Owner Tammy Papler and some of the women who worked for her testified to that fact during the trial. A few customers also admitted under oath they paid for sex at New Life.

This is not a recent revelation. It didn’t take a great deal of investigative work to establish that New Life was a front for prostitution. It was, as one defense attorney said, Oak Grove’s dirty little secret. The town’s police, including officers Carter and Duncan, knew it. Others in positions of authority probably knew as well, according to court testimony.

But Tammy Papler and her husband didn’t have to worry much about police shutting them down. They gave officers money, bought them meals, purchased equipment for the department and let certain special customers enjoy sexual favors for free. So the men who should have been investigating New Life were there instead for sex.

Papler and at least one of her former workers also testified about a system that was in place to alert them if officers from another agency were headed to Oak Grove for a raid. Someone, perhaps a dispatcher from the former Emergency Communications Center, would call and say something about a storm coming or umbrellas being needed.

The Oak Grove Police Department had fewer than 10 officers in 1994. It is not clear exactly how many of them took money or favors from New Life. We also don’t know how many officers from other agencies took favors. What is clear is the result.

Because some officers took bribes and because some officers looked the other way, the Paplers were allowed to run a brothel daily from 9 a.m. until 5 a.m. On Sept. 20, 1994, less than two hours before they should have walked out alive, Ross and Belt were both shot in the head and had their throats slashed. Ross was 18. Belt was 22.

After the murders, the corruption continued. The brothel reopened within days. Ineffective police work doomed the investigation. It was kicked from the Oak Grove Police Department to the Christian County Sheriff’s Department to Kentucky State Police.

The unsolved murders of Ross and Belt are proof that high-quality investigative police work and cooperation among law enforcement agencies must be expected in communities of all sizes.

We hope any old attitudes suggesting a brothel was OK in Oak Grove is no longer true. We hope the community and its leaders are no longer willing to accept corrupt agencies. And we hope Christian County as a whole sees Oak Grove as part of the larger community, a place that shouldn’t have to operate as separate and unworthy of association and support.

It would be unethical and dangerous to accept anything less.

Online:

http://www.kentuckynewera.com/

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