Writing from his home in Alabama last week, Quin Hillyer couldn’t have been more wrong in his claims about Gov. Jindal’s hospital privatization scheme.

The fact is that Jindal’s scheme still has Louisiana taxpayers on the hook for $507 million in advance payments from private hospitals that the federal government ruled improper. Despite Hillyer’s magical thinking, the feds have not approved those payments and will demand their half-billion back. (I hope I’m proven wrong on this point, but I fear I won’t be.)

The fact is that the Jindal administration made another similar $38 million payment even after the feds told them you can’t do that. That looks to cost Louisiana taxpayers another $62 million.

I fought that kind of magical thinking with a fiscally sound amendment to hold off on that $38 million payment until we had a final ruling from the feds on the Jindal scheme. Unfortunately, a majority of the Legislature went along with Jindal.

Hillyer confuses and conflates two separate issues: the ongoing hospital lease payments (most have yet to get federal approval) and the rejected advance lease payments. If he had done even the basic homework or fact-checking, Hillyer would have learned this.

Hillyer also claims that Louisiana “saved” $52 million in $1.1 billion spent in the hospital privatization. First, because the final numbers won’t be known until later this month, Hillyer cannot know what this scheme will cost. Second, if the final costs are lower than projected, this is an example of overbudgeting, not any kind of savings.

I hope for future columns, Hillyer might leave his perch in Alabama, reach out beyond the Jindal administration and talk to more Louisianians to get real facts and broader perspectives on the issues that matter to this state.

John Bel Edwards

state representative, District 72

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