Editorial: 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.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.