Another Medicaid expansion effort died Wednesday at the hands of a state Senate panel.
Voting largely along party lines, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-3 to defer action on a measure calling for a statewide vote on the issue.
Senate Bill 10 sought to amend the Louisiana Constitution to require the state health agency to expand state Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s $27,700 for a family of three.
The hearing room was packed with supporters of Senate Bill 10, which would have allowed Louisiana voters to decide if the state would accept a key component of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the national level have promised to repeal what they call “Obamacare” and Gov. Bobby Jindal has steadfastly refused to change or expand the income qualifications that would allow government-run Medicaid to expand and allow about 250,000 uninsured Louisiana residents who make too much money to qualify for the government-run insurance, but too little to buy coverage in the private market.
The federal government would pay all the costs the first three years, then the amount would decline to 90 percent over time. Jindal argues that even at 10 percent, expansion would be very expensive for Louisiana taxpayers and would put more residents under a program he calls inefficient.
Jindal continues to oppose the expansion as do most Republicans. It would provide government insurance coverage to another 300,000-plus Louisiana residents. Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, wanted to take the issue to voters in an attempt to bypass Jindal.
Jindal claims the expansion would prove to be too costly for the state down the road and that Medicaid is a broken program.
The Medicaid expansion is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. No one testified against the proposition.
Peterson’s is the latest legislative defeat of expansion proposals which have been heard by House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees.
Nobody testified against Medicaid expansion during the two and half hour hearing. But Jindal’s office — Americans for Prosperity, whose foundation board is chaired by one of the Koch brothers, a major funder for GOP causes — and the National Federation of Independent Business all informed the committee of their opposition but chose not to testify.
Committee Chairman David Heitmeier then read into the record that expanding Medicaid would translate into significant savings, creating hundreds of millions of dollars for state government by having the federal government better compensate physicians, hospitals and other medical care providers.
The committee’s Republicans, with the exception of Sen. Fred Mills, of St. Martinville, voted to defeat SB10.
The only proposition advancing is House Concurrent Resolution 75 which provides a source of state funding should Louisiana’s next governor decide to expand Medicaid coverage. Hospitals would assess a fee on themselves to pay for patient care. That measure, sponsored by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, was approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.