Republican Congressman Charles Boustany said Monday he has the proven track record as a conservative that Louisiana voters are looking for in their next U.S. senator, to take on challenges like repealing the Affordable Care Act and growing the economy.
Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon from Lafayette who is in his sixth term as a GOP U.S. representative, stopped by the Baton Rouge Press Club to stump for the seat, which will be vacated by David Vitter in a race that is already becoming crowded with well-known Republican contenders.
In his statements, Boustany was critical of the decision to expand Medicaid in Louisiana; however, he didn’t attack Gov. John Bel Edwards by name.
“We need legislators with records of success in the private sector but also representatives in government who can bring real-world experience to Washington,” he said.
Boustany, who co-authored legislation to gut the Affordable Care Act that was ultimately vetoed, said he continues to believe “Obamacare” must be entirely repealed and replaced.
“I’m not aware of anything Obamacare has done right in the health care arena,” he said, offering unspecific proposals of how to replace it. He called for policies that increase transparency among insurers and more flexibility for small businesses and states.
“The Obamacare approach is very top down,” he said. “We need to unleash American innovation and let different models of delivery explain up. What works in Boston, Massachusetts, is going to be different than what works in Baton Rouge or Crowley.”
Boustany also decried Medicaid expansion, another opportunity made possible under the Affordable Care Act, which was long blocked under the Jindal administration.
Edwards signed an executive order on his second day in office to begin the process of expanding the state-federal government program, which will extend coverage to 300,000 additional people by July.
Boustany said without reform to improve Medicaid coverage and properly reimburse doctors for accepting Medicaid clients, the expansion will result in flooded emergency rooms.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Edwards responded in an emailed statement that states expanding Medicaid have demonstrated cost savings and improved coverage.
“The results are showing that people covered under Medicaid expansion are now more likely to have a primary care doctor than they were before, more likely to get prescription drugs than they were before, and more likely to get medical care on the front end, rather than waiting for serious — and more expensive — illnesses to occur before getting medical treatment,” he said. “States expanding Medicaid are also saving money, which would help us here in Louisiana in this current budget crisis as well.”
Unshackling small businesses from “overly burdensome regulations mandated by Obamacare” would spur economic activity, Boustany said.
Boustany also touched on the recession-like effects that the plummeting oil prices are having on Louisiana’s economy, calling for policies that match people who are losing their jobs en masse on the production and exploration side with job openings that are still available in refineries and manufacturing.
At the national level, he said the country needs to “build out a better pipeline to establish a more efficient market within the United States” while coordinating with Canada and Mexico.
Boustany also touted his efforts to get new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles as examples of being able to deliver results to Louisianians.
“I’m not afraid to go to bat for Louisiana when the chips are down,” he said.
Boustany also said he’s looking forward to working under a new White House administration, when President Barack Obama leaves office at the end of this year. But he was mum on whether he was backing a specific candidate, only saying that he would support the Republican nominee.
On Thursday, Donald Trump will hold a presidential campaign rally at the Baton Rouge River Center. Asked specifically if he’d support Trump, Boustany avoided commenting directly on the controversial candidate.
“I’m going to support the Republican nominee,” he said. “It’s better than the alternative.”
Boustany already faces fierce Republican competition for the seat. So far, Congressman John Fleming, of Minden, State Treasurer John Kennedy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Manness, of Madisonville, have all announced they are running. Last week, Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer, also announced her bid.
Vitter announced he would not be seeking re-election after he lost the race for governor in November.
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.