I gleaned all of the following facts from the same issue of The Advocate, so if they are wrong, I trust someone will set the record straight.

When the new governor takes office next month, he and the Legislature will face a $117 million budget deficit from last year.

The TOPS scholarship program faces a $22 million shortfall.

Oil and gas revenue, a major source of state spending, are expected to decline by $370 million this fiscal year and $322 million the next.

The Medicaid program, which accounts for roughly a third of state spending, faces a deficit of $530 million that, if not fixed, could keep doctors, hospitals and other health care providers from getting paid after April.

The existing state-administered Medicaid program has been cited seven times for spending irregularities, signaling potential abuse.

Despite these circumstances, our newly elected governor favors Medicaid expansion, and legislative sentiment seems to be shifting his way, even before he gets to the statehouse.

The belief that Medicaid expansion will be costless to the state because of federal largesse is frequently exposited in The Advocate but is a pipe dream that could be cherished only by the hopelessly naive. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue said of Medicaid, “I don’t think we’ve ever had a really good estimate of what it costs the state.” Amen.

Expanding health care opportunities for the poor in Louisiana is an honorable endeavor, but if cast on a crumbling economic foundation, it will end badly.

Present circumstances suggest to me that expanding Medicaid in Louisiana at this time is foolhardy at best and nutty at worst.

Robert Hebert

economist

Baton Rouge