John Bel Edwards 041117

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to media after addressing the Statewide Economic Development Summit on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

Perhaps it sounds a little odd, but people both in Louisiana and elsewhere are sometimes fuzzy about the differences between the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, expanded Medicaid, and “Obamacare” — the politically charged term that involves the whole of the parts.

Further, the definition of a government program, or the name of its agencies, or the moniker of the law creating a specific benefit often can be obscure.

For those reasons, we’re not at all surprised at what might be at first glance inconsistent views held by state voters polled in the 2017 Louisiana Survey about health care.

The survey, conducted by the LSU Public Policy Lab, found that Louisiana residents approve of the state’s decision to expand its Medicaid program last year under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA — but respondents to the survey remain deeply divided over the ACA itself.

In good news for the backer of Medicaid expansion, Gov. John Bel Edwards, 72 percent approved of the idea. Republicans were less enthusiastic about the policy than Democrats or independents, but the governor’s plan was still backed by 51 percent of GOP respondents.

But at the same time, the ACA or “Obamacare” had only 42 percent favorable, perhaps not so surprising given that the program’s namesake was rejected twice by large margins by Louisiana voters. Of Republicans asked, 80 percent were against it and among Democrats, three out of four were for it.

Approval of the ACA was in fact up, being as low as 31 percent three years ago.

Edwards was thus probably right to highlight Medicaid expansion in his address to the opening session of the 2017 Legislature. Many GOP members of House and Senate balked at Medicaid expansion when it was a party litmus test during the terms of former Gov. Bobby Jindal; now, though, the governor’s actions have provided a significant financial lifeline for working people in low-wage jobs who had no meaningful access to health care before.

As for the confusion about nomenclature, is that surprising? Most normal human beings have busy lives and while we’re grateful that they read the newspaper and keep up with public affairs as citizens, the details of even heavily covered policy disputes may not be top-of-mind.

For all the confusion about the legislative provenance of Medicaid expansion, voters seem to approve of it, and as that is Edwards’ signature accomplishment of 2016, he’s got to be happy with its poll numbers.