Recently, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy penned a Washington op-ed touting his plan to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” In it, he criticizes the legislation as “government controls and mandates.” At a time when a hospital emergency room is permanently closing in his hometown due to underfunding, the good doctor would certainly do better to worry about health care here at home rather than embrace lopsided ideas in D.C.
First, Cassidy has made his disdain for the Affordable Care Act widely known, but he is wrong in his prescriptions. The “mandates” that he cites are actually protections that prevent insurance providers from discriminating against women, children or people with pre-existing conditions. These are not onerous regulations; they specifically exist to protect the most vulnerable from being denied care. Before the ACA, providers could choose to drop patients because of unexpected illness or faulty paperwork and not cover preventative services or wellness visits for expectant mothers. Those practices are now illegal.
As an alternative, U.S. Sen. Cassidy has proposed that states could fund those with serious illnesses or who have no insurance with separate health plans, an idea that has been panned as “fatally flawed.” Cassidy’s plan is especially untenable in light of the $1.6 billion shortfall in our state’s budget under Gov. Jindal, and spending for health care is on the chopping block. Like Gov. Jindal, Cassidy opposes Medicaid expansion for Louisiana, which would provide coverage and hospital services, like those of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City emergency room, to many of those who cannot afford it.
Sen. Cassidy’s office also has not commented on the Mid City ER closing, which is irreversible at this point. Will he face the reality of our problems here at home or stand with Bobby Jindal to promote wrong-headed decisions for our state in favor of national ambitions?
State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson
chairwoman, Louisiana Democratic Party