American Press, Lake Charles, on elderly trust fund may become thing of the past
July 23 -- American Press, Lake Charles, on elderly trust fund may become thing of the past:
News that Gov. Bobby Jindal continues to raid a trust fund established to fund elderly services extends a disturbing trend.
Created in 2000 by an infusion of federal money, the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly topped $830 million when Jindal first took office in 2008. Withdrawals by his administration cut the trust fund to $410 million at the end of the 2012-2013 fiscal year last month and the administration plans to take another $180 million from the fund this fiscal year.
"The loser is, of course, the taxpayer of Louisiana and most certainly the frail and elderly senior citizens for which it was intended to serve," said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who as a state senator, pushed legislation to establish the trust fund.
Previously, $122 million was drawn from the trust fund to reimburse the federal government which said it had overpaid the state originally to set up the fund.
Jerry Phillips, undersecretary for the Department of Health and Hospitals, says the rest of the trust fund withdrawals have been used to alleviate what the state pays private nursing homes for caring for Medicaid patients.
This year, according to Phillips, the state will use the money to draw down an additional $500 million in federal matching funds.
If there is consolation in all of this, it is that the Jindal administration is not diverting the money elsewhere, but using it for its intended purpose.
Nevertheless, the trust fund dwindles, a fact that David Hood, the former DHH Secretary when the fund was established, said in an interview with The Advocate of Baton Rouge that he never envisioned.
Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budge Project, was less charitable when he said, "It's analogous to paying your household bills out of your savings account after you've stopped working and you don't have any income."
Jindal has treated other trust funds like the state's rainy day fund with equal disdain, taking money out and opposing efforts to replenish it.
That's what is so unsettling here. Currently, there is no plan to alleviate this annual reliance on the elderly trust fund.
Unless one materializes, the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly may become a thing of the past.