When Gov. John Bel Edwards talks about the Affordable Care Act, and in particular the Medicaid expansion he spearheaded, he makes it intensely personal.
He talks about lives affected and improved, the 47,000 Louisianans who've gotten primary care under the program, the thousands who've received breast and colon cancer screenings and the more than 100 who are now being treated for these life-threatening illnesses. He talks about the 850 Medicaid patients who now have a chance to get newly diagnosed diabetes under control and 2,000 being treated for hypertension, all according to his letter to federal officials asking them to think before they dismantle.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal has penned a column that puts him at odds with his successor, Gov. …
When Edwards' predecessor, Bobby Jindal, talks about the ACA and the largely federally funded Medicaid expansion he refused to implement, he keeps it impersonal. In a new column published this week in Politico, Jindal doesn't go so far as to call the people who get insurance subsidies or Medicaid through the law "takers," but he comes pretty close.
"Obamacare made millions of able-bodied Americans newly dependent on direct government assistance for their health care," he wrote, leaving out the part about how these are basically working people trying to make it under tough circumstances.
In fact, you don't get the sense Jindal gives much thought to the people affected at all. You never did. Empathy has been Jindal's Achilles Heel all the way back to his days at the state's health and hospitals secretary, a fact that Kathleen Blanco skillfully exploited when she beat him in the 2003 gubernatorial race.
Give Jindal this, though: There's a measure of brutal honesty in his argument.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging Congress to keep Medicaid expansion as it edges closer towar…
He doesn't promise better health care for less money, or tell people they can have the parts of the president's plan that they like without the parts that they don’t, but that pay for the good stuff. In his framing, providing benefits simply costs too much and relies on higher taxes that in his mind are never an option. If getting rid of the ACA means some people are just going to be out of luck, well, too bad.
But here's the interesting part: While Jindal's side won the election and now has the chance to dismantle the health care law, Edwards' side threatens to win the argument.
Republicans who control Congress are pushing hard to repeal the law quickly, and while Senate GOP leaders narrowly passed a key procedural step in the wee hours Thursday morning, there's clearly nervousness in the ranks about the backlash that will hit them if Americans — including those who voted for GOP members of Congress and incoming President Donald Trump — lose benefits they've come to take for granted.
In some cases, that's insurance through Medicaid, or through the exchanges that allow them to tap into government subsidies. In some cases, it’s the right to buy coverage despite pre-existing conditions, or insurance for young adult children on their parents' plans, or maternity coverage, or the absence of lifetime coverage limits for those with chronic or catastrophic conditions.
More than a few members of Congress have tried to reassure the public that the GOP's replacement, whatever it turns out to be, won't leave anyone who now has coverage without it. High-profile Republican governors whose states have expanded Medicaid are joining Edwards in pleading to keep the program in place. Trump himself rails against high premiums coupled with high deductibles for those who buy insurance but don't qualify for much in the way of subsidies, but nothing he proposes eases that burden.
The bottom line is that, unlike Jindal, it seems that many of the Republicans tasked with actually following through on their promise to kill the ACA are struggling with what should take its place, and whether they're really willing to cut some people off.
When it comes down to it, lots of politicians don't want people to believe they're as hard-hearted as Jindal. I guess that's what passes for progress these days.