Many contentious issues divide the three leading candidates for governor, but we’re glad to hear that there is agreement on the health of working people in low-wage jobs in the state.
In their most recent debate the candidates said they will not roll back the “Obamacare” expansion of Medicaid.
The expansion was approved by executive order of Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2016. About 450,000 are now covered by health insurance under the U.S. Affordable Care Act. And the state has benefited in its general fund because the expansion is paid for mostly by a generous federal match.
It was too good a deal for a poor state like Louisiana to pass up. But refuse it we did, under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, backed by Republican members of the Legislature.
The facts on the ground were overridden by a passionate objection to then-President Barack Obama.
The good news is that the two major Republican candidates for governor are now in agreement with Edwards. In a lightning round of yes-or-no questions, all agreed that they would not roll back the expansion, during a debate sponsored by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for a Better Louisiana.
Both Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone have had more to say in criticizing administration of the expansion, although Edwards has defended the state’s efforts to reduce fraud and abuse.
Rispone is a businessman from Baton Rouge. Abraham, R-Alto, is a physician who has voted against the Affordable Care Act during his three terms in Congress; while that would repeal Medicaid expansion, with calamitous effects in Louisiana, Abraham objects to other provisions in the sprawling federal law that changed America's health care landscape.
Still, we hope that Medicaid expansion, which provides an insurance card for people working but making far too little for meaningful private insurance, remains on the books for years to come.
The state’s economic future rests on education reform, investment in colleges and universities and better infrastructure. All are vital, but the realities of life in low-wage households are also part of that larger picture. People in pain cannot stand all day at a counter or labor on a farm.
Those without a primary care doctor or access to a nurse practitioner don’t get the treatment they need to avoid more costly diseases down the road. Then they clog emergency rooms, since that was their only financially realistic option under the heartless Jindal-era policy.
As Edwards has pointed out, Louisiana’s rural poverty is a huge problem, just as it is in the cities. Our state has not seen a rural hospital close since Medicaid expansion, which means the poor can get health care near to their homes.
No large government program is perfect, but the case for Medicaid expansion is compelling.