Though Medicaid Expansion Likely, Jindal Calls It Bad Idea

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that his health department leaders aren't readying the agency for a Medicaid expansion, though his successor has made that one of his top priorities.

         The Republican governor said he continues to think expanding the program to provide government-funded insurance coverage to the working poor is a bad idea. He said the move would exacerbate the state's financial problems.

         "Other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen unexpected increases in costs. I think that is a cautionary tale," Jindal said. "If the state expanded Medicaid, you'd see more pressure on higher education spending, on road spending."

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         Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 11, disagrees with Jindal's assessment of the pitfalls and has said he'll work to roll out an expansion early in his administration.

         Although Jindal opposes the expansion, the governor suggested to the Press Club of Baton Rouge that his health department officials weren't obstructing future expansion plans Edwards might enact. He said he's told his staff to provide the governor-elect's transition team any information they would like to have.

         Jindal, whose comments came in a wide-ranging speech about his legacy over two terms in office, said there simply wouldn't be a lot of prep work needed for Edwards to roll out the expanded insurance coverage.

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         "Having run the health department, if someone were to decide to do the Medicaid expansion, the actual implementation isn't that complicated," he said. But he added: "That wouldn't make it a good idea."

         The Senate Finance Committee instructed the Department of Health and Hospitals last week to draw up a Medicaid expansion proposal by Jan. 1.

         If Louisiana decides to expand its Medicaid program as allowed under President Barack Obama's signature health overhaul, as many as 500,000 more people would be eligible for the government-funded health insurance, according to data presented to the Senate committee.

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         Medicaid expansion covers adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $33,400 for a family of four.

         Thirty states already have agreed to expand their Medicaid programs. But Jindal refused expansion, opposing it as too costly for the state and as an inappropriate growth of government spending.

         Edwards, however, wants to accept the billions of dollars in federal funding available to provide insurance coverage to Louisiana's working poor, calling it both a proper moral and financial choice for the state.

         Although the federal government would cover the initial full cost of an expansion program, the state in later years would need to pay for 10 percent of the initiative. Louisiana doesn't have a plan for fully paying that cost.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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