While it is far from a done deal, the Legislature has made available to a new governor early next year a path toward expanding insurance coverage for lower-paid workers in Louisiana.
A bonus for lawmakers unhappy with Gov. Bobby Jindal: House Concurrent Resolution 75 is an instrument that cannot be vetoed by the governor.
HCR75 would allow Louisiana hospitals to assess fees on themselves to attract more federal dollars for uncompensated care of uninsured patients. It would only take effect if the state agrees to change Medicaid income qualifications to sign up uninsured people who make too much to get the government coverage but too little to buy adequate insurance on the private market. An estimated 240,000 additional Louisiana residents would be eligible.
Oddly, the resolution by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, has sailed through the Capitol. It’s odd because many lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature have opposed Medicaid expansion when it was pushed by the Democratic minority.
Kleckley said the resolution is not a mechanism to expand Medicaid, nor does it make it easier for expansion to occur. He said it simply provides an “option” for when a new governor assumes office. Because the resolution authorizes a hospital fee — but does not create a law, like a regular bill — it is not subject to a Jindal veto; Kleckley’s resolution also would expire next spring, giving a new governor the option of expanding Medicaid but not making it a requirement in law.
Medicaid expansion would relieve the state of some costs for health care for the uninsured, allowing a 90 percent match from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. Under the Kleckley resolution, a new governor would have an option, not necessarily a sure thing.
If one is working in a low-wage job without insurance, this seems a pretty lame initiative, but we have hopes that whether a Republican or a Democrat is elected to succeed Jindal in the fall, there will be considerable reason for the new executive to embrace the initiative.
Let’s hope health care is a high priority in the fall campaign and that candidates for governor will give their explicit commitments to voters on this issue. Otherwise, the Kleckley resolution might not amount to much.