Louisiana Legislature OKs potential Medicaid expansion

The Advocate, June 2, 2015

The Louisiana Senate gave final approval Monday to a measure that would allow the next governor to expand Medicaid.

The Senate voted 31-8 for a House-passed resolution establishing a funding source to cover the state’s contribution for the government health insurance expansion.

House Concurrent Resolution 75 does not require the approval of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has rejected the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Passage of the resolution marked the first breakthrough in a political fight in which Jindal and Republican lawmakers steadfastly opposed Democratic-led expansion efforts.

Most GOP lawmakers this time around joined with Democrats, but were quick to note that House Speaker Chuck Kleckley’s resolution does not, on its own, expand Medicaid — merely provide a framework for how it could happen.

Sen. Sherri Buffington said the resolution would allow Louisiana hospitals to impose a fee on themselves to provide revenue for expanded health care coverage.

“There’s an important trigger. It can be assessed only if the next administration ... would agree to some type of expansion. It does not discuss what that expansion would look like,” said Buffington, R-Keithville.

States have adopted various models for the expansion, including some that are private insurance-based.

Federal law allows expansion of Medicaid eligibility to people making 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $26,700 a year for a family of three.

Buffington, who handled the bill, has voted routinely against Medicaid expansion bills in the past. House and Senate committees killed measures earlier this session.

Under the resolution, the new governor who takes office in January would have until April to move forward with plans that could provide 225,000-plus uninsured people in Louisiana with health coverage.

All four major candidates in the fall election have indicated they are willing to consider Medicaid expansion in some form. Republican candidates Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. David Vitter have expressed interest in exploring the state’s options. Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has been a consistent expansion backer.

“At least it gives us an opportunity in the future,” said Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, a leader in expansion efforts.

Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, called the action “long overdue” and wondered why it took so long to go along with something that would “save lives.”

Peterson noted that the next governor will have only a short period of time to decide which route to go.

More News