Kentucky editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

August 2

The News-Enterprise on student loan rates:

Two refreshing things took place in the nation’s capital Wednesday. First, in a bipartisan deal, lawmakers approved legislation that lowers student loan rates for the upcoming academic year to what they were in June, saving students a great deal of money.

On July 1, the interest rates for many student loans doubled because Congress, which is tasked with setting the rate, in all its gridlock glory, could not agree on a new rate or how to set it.

Such student loans are federally insured and are a primary funding mechanism for families and students seeking higher education. Traditionally, they have carried low interest rates and have helped open the door to career and educational success for millions of Americans.

In real terms, undergraduates this fall can borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate for subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. Graduate students can borrow at 5.4 percent and parents at 6.4 percent. Rates are locked for the life of the loan.

Subsequent loans could cost more as future interest rates are tied to what it costs the government to borrow money, meaning how well the economy is doing. …

The truth is, the cost of education is soaring and many young people are seeing their dreams of college and bright futures disappear. America needs these students to succeed. We need high-wage earners. We need stability for the process, and families need to know the cost of the college education they’ve saved for isn’t subject to the whims of politicians running for re-election.



August 4

The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky., on John Koskinen merits quick confirmation by U.S. Senate:

As someone who saved mortgage buyer Freddie Mac from financial collapse, restructured the assets of Mutual Benefit Life, the largest failed life insurance company in U.S. history, and reorganized Penn Central Transportation Co. after it became the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, John Koskinen, a 1957 graduate of Ashland High School, would seem to be the perfect choice as the leader who could restore the tarnished image of the Internal Revenue Service.

In fact, after his many years of leadership in both the public and private sector, one would think the nomination of Koskinen would quickly be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In other times, Koskinen’s confirmation would likely be a shoo-in, but in these times when partisan politics often takes precedence over good government and our federal government is largely dysfunctional, there is no such thing as a “sure thing.” Don’t be surprised if the Senate sits on Koskinen’s nomination for many months while the federal agency most responsible for collecting taxes flounders from a lack of leadership.

We will be particularly interested in seeing how Kentucky’s two senators — Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul — react to President Obama’s nomination of a fellow Kentuckian to head the IRS. …

There is no question that Koskinen is greatly admired in his hometown. Koskinen has never missed one of the reunions the Ashland High class of 1957 has every five years, said Madge Haney, who organizes the events, and Koskinen, a former football player for the Ashland Tomcats, is one of the most avid supporters of the fundraising efforts to renovate Putnam Stadium. …

(Former Tomcat football coach Herb Conley) was a sophomore football player when Koskinen was a senior in 1957. “A lot of times, back when I played, seniors didn’t treat sophomores too good. But not John. He was always good to everybody. That’s the way he lived his life.”

Greg Jackson, the chairman of Putnam Stadium’s renovation committee, was excited about the news. …

At 74 and with a long and impressive list of achievements. Koskinen has reached the point in his life where no one would fault him for taking it easy. But John Koskinen is still willing and able to serve his country by taking over as commissioner of an agency greatly and rightly criticized for allowing partisan politics to influence its decisions. It’s an image that someone like John Koskinen can change, and the Senate should act quickly to give him the opportunity to clean up the IRS.



August 5

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on fix managed care:

Following a disastrous start-up in late 2011, state officials claim switching most of the state’s Medicaid patients to private, managed care companies is starting to pay off in terms of better care and more efficient operations.

But those digging deeper into the government health plan that serves nearly 800,000 low-income or disabled Kentuckians are finding plenty of problems causing disruption, delays and frustration for patients and providers of health care.

State Auditor Adam Edelen last week released a review of the performance of three for-profit companies awarded most of the work outside the Jefferson County region that raises troubling questions — chief among them whether the state is ready to take on an additional 308,000 Medicaid patients next year under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

It looks at the work of CoventryCares of Kentucky, Kentucky Spirit Health Plan (which has since exited the state) and WellCare of Kentucky.

Edelen’s review found that under managed care, the number of providers who serve Kentucky Medicaid patients has declined at a time when the state already lacks enough doctors, nurses, dentists and other providers to meet the demand.

He also found that hospitals, particularly small, rural ones, are struggling financially over what they say are late payments, disputed claims and the sheer complexity of filing claims. …

The human costs are significant as well, according to the Kaiser report.

Mental health advocate Sheila Schuster said one of the toughest battles is simply trying to resolve problems that affect patients seeking care. …

Edelen makes several recommendations in his review, including establishing an outside advisory panel, improving state oversight of claim disputes and coming up with a way to accurately measure the savings from managed care.

State officials should act on them.

Managed care in Kentucky is now in its second year and it’s time to make it work for all the people it serves.


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