Friday Facts: December 13, 2019

It’s Friday!

Sunny Park, in the Christmas spirit at the Georgia State Capitol, is the recipient of the Foundation’s prestigious Freedom Award on January 28. (Photo credit: Andrea Ruef)

News and events

January 28, 2020: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation celebrates 29 years of policy over politics with an Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Award Dinner in the Egyptian Ballroom of the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, January 28! The keynote speaker is John A. Allison, retired CEO of BB&T and the Cato Institute. The Foundation’s prestigious Freedom Award will be presented to Sunny K. Park. Find more information here; contact Kennedy@georgiapolicy.org for sponsorship information.

We’re hiring: The Foundation is in search of a Policy and Research Director to work with the President and Vice President to set policy positions and priorities among our issues, which include education, healthcare, transportation, tax and spending, regulation, housing affordability, criminal justice reform, and energy and the environment. Find out more at talentmarket.org/policy-gppf/.

Quotes of note

“Sensible licensing rules, when necessary, can protect the public from legitimate harm, but overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity. Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed – or former inmates who have paid their debt to society – from building a better life.” – Greg Abbott, Texas governor

“Economists from Hayek to Buchanan have given us good reason to believe that in a complex world it’s not just a matter of whether central planners should, but whether they can.” – Max Gulker, American Institute for Economic Research

“When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.” – George Washington, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 22, 1755

Healthcare

Getting covered: With less than a week to go before open enrollment for 2020 health insurance exchange coverage ends in most states, signups trail last year’s totals by about 6%, the federal government reported Wednesday. Roughly 3.9 million people in the 38 states in Healthcare.gov enrolled in a plan in the first six weeks of open enrollment, which ends on Dec. 15. Plan selections have dropped about 250,000 over the same time in 2018. In Georgia, 230,229 have enrolled; a total of 458,437 Georgians enrolled last year.  Source: ModernHealthcare.com

Saying covered: As of September 15, an average of 10.2 million individuals had effectuated their coverage (paid their plan premiums) through the federal healthcare exchange through June 2019. That was about 85,000 individuals fewer than the same time period in 2018, the federal government reports.

Medicaid mess: The Cuomo administration recently revealed that New York State’s Medicaid program is running over budget by 16%, or $4 billion, even though enrollment is flat and medical inflation is at historic lows. According to the latest official estimate, however, the program’s actual spending is on track to hit $29 billion, a year-over-year increase of 23%, writes Bill Hammond in the New York Post. “What makes the spike especially troubling is that it’s happening at a time when the economy is growing, overall enrollment is steady and federal funding is on the rise. The crisis is ­almost entirely the result of feckless management.”

OPM: Health insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans to seniors and the disabled received an estimated $6.7 billion in 2017 after adding unsupported diagnoses to patients’ files, according to a report by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General’s Office. Medicare Advantage provided coverage to 20 million beneficiaries in 2018 at a cost of $210 billion.

Education

Textbook case: College tuition and fees costs increased 63% since 2006, but textbook prices have seen the sharpest increase – 88% – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “So long as buying textbooks are a requirement for class, and students have the ability to pay thanks to student loans, prices will remain high,” writes Megan Zogby for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. Visit the Foundation’s YouTube channel to view Martin Center President Jenna Robinson’s discussion on “The Student Loan Debt Dilemma.”

Technology

Droning on: Red tape and delays are leading some American drone manufacturers and service operators to focus operations abroad where they are treated more hospitably by regulators, the Mercatus Center reports. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many of the countries pioneering the development of drone medical deliveries, using U.S-made drones. Australia is using drones as “eyes in the sky” to spot swimmers swept out by the tide. 

The ATL Board considers a $27.4 billion transit plan for metro Atlanta today.

Transportation

Transit plan: The Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, or the ATL Board for short, considers a $27.4 billion transit plan for 13 metro counties today. “It’s a plan designed to pry metro residents away from their cars – one that will require public support for more transit spending to become a reality,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The cost benefit of rail relative to vehicles on tires is not good,” warns one ATL Board member, retired Georgia Tech engineering professor Steve Dickerson.

Courts 

Water win: A Special Master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court has recommended that the court dismiss Florida’s 6-year-old water rights case against Georgia. “The evidence has not shown harm to Florida caused by Georgia,” New Mexico federal Judge Paul Kelly wrote in his recommendation. “The evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable; and the evidence has not shown that the benefits of apportionment would substantially outweigh the potential harms.” Kelly was the second Special Master appointed; the first made the same recommendation but the court ordered it revisited, citing an incorrect legal standard.

Challenges:  Every year the American Tort Reform Foundation publishes its “Judicial Hellholes Report,” focusing on litigation issues in state court systems and challenges for corporate defendants in the fair and unbiased administration of justice. Georgia is No. 6, “a full-blown Judicial Hellhole for the first time on the list of judicial hellholes.”

Media

Social media: The Foundation has 3,615 Facebook likes, 1,951 Twitter followers and 860 Instagram followers. Join in for up-to-date posts!

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In December five years ago, the Foundation published, “Transit Should Stay off Tracks and on the Road.” It noted, “Several reports have found that per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, [bus-rapid transit] leverages more transit-oriented development investment than light rail transit. It makes sense: With fewer funds needed to build the system, more can be spent on development.”

Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “What’s the Biggest Problem Facing Schools Today?” by Terry Stoops.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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