Louisiana legislators gave final approval to a bill that would effectively increase the premium tax paid by the five private companies who administer the state’s Medicaid program.

During its short meeting Tuesday morning, the House voted 84-8 to accept changes made in the Senate to House Bill 87, which got the Bayou Health plan providers on board. The five Bayou Health companies handle most of Medicaid, which provides healthcare services for nearly a fourth of the state’s population.

Just before the House adjourned for the day, however, several House members rushed to change their votes on the bill, saying they worried that voting in favor of it would signal an endorsement of Medicaid expansion.

The Senate approved the legislation late Monday night on a vote of 38-1. (Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, was to the only “nay” vote.)

HB87 now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature. The measure is on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ list of bills he supports.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services must also approve the change. CMS oversees the Medicaid program because the federal government pays for the bulk of the costs.

The legislation, basically, would immediately roll back exemptions that would effectively raise premium taxes from 2.25 percent to about 6 percent. It would last through June 30, 2017.

The tax with its exemptions this year raised $79 million, according to Sen. Fred Mills Jr., R-Parks and chairman of the upper chamber’s healthcare committee. The legislation would increase raise $331 million, including the amount of money the federal government would send down as its portion. The money would go into a trust fund that helps the state pay for Medicaid costs.

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