Jindal asked to reconsider

Advocacy groups want state to expand Medicaid coverage

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is being urged by Louisiana Democratic leaders and advocacy groups to reconsider his opposition to expanding the state’s Medicaid coverage, now that the presidential campaign is over.

President Barack Obama’s re-election is expected to stall efforts to repeal the national health care overhaul, which includes the Medicaid expansion.

“It’s time for Gov. Jindal to start governing Louisiana and stop politicking,” said Amite state Rep. John Bel Edwards, who chairs the caucus of House Democrats.

“He could just say, ‘I disagree with it. I think it’s unconstitutional. But I have to make a decision and I can’t not otherwise provide for 400,000 uninsured.’”

The head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, said families, businesses and health care providers can benefit from the law’s provisions.

“The Louisiana health care provider community — from private practices to community hospitals to our public hospital system — needs access to the resources that this law provides and that other states will receive the benefit of, regardless of whatever political gains Gov. Jindal believes his obstruction gains him,” Carter said in a prepared statement.

Jindal hadn’t responded Thursday to multiple requests for comment about whether he’d change his stance.

Jan Moller, leader of the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates for low- and moderate-income families, also is pushing Jindal to take another look at the possibility of expanding the government-run health insurance program to give more people access to care.

The Medicaid expansion would cover adults up to 133 percent of the poverty level — $14,856 for an individual or $30,656 for a family of four, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Estimates are that as many as 400,000 Louisiana residents would be eligible to get insurance under the expansion.

Jindal has said he won’t allow Louisiana to participate in the expansion, though the federal government will cover the full costs from 2014 through 2016 and pick up most of the price tag after that.

The governor described the program as too expensive, citing estimates the Medicaid expansion would cost Louisiana $3.7 billion over 10 years.

He’s also philosophically opposed to the growth of the federal government health care program, saying that insurance is better handled by private companies.

Considered a possible 2016 presidential contender, Jindal campaigned for Republican Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid and supported the repeal of the health care law.

But with Obama’s win and Democrats’ retention of U.S. Senate control, repeal is considered a dead idea by many.

“Failing to expand Medicaid would leave 400,000 Louisianans out in the cold. And it would squander an opportunity to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into our state economy,” Moller said.

Moller and Peterson both referred to cuts that Jindal has made to the university-run public hospital system that cares for the poor and uninsured, saying that the Medicaid expansion is even more necessary because Louisiana’s safety-net health care system is offering fewer services.

Jindal didn’t respond to an interview request, and his office didn’t answer questions about the Medicaid expansion.

The governor’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, also didn’t respond to questions about the issue.

In a statement about Obama’s victory, however, Jindal did suggest that the president’s re-election wouldn’t alter decisions for his home state.

“Here in Louisiana, we will continue to do what we have always done, and that means standing up for our people and doing what we think is right no matter who is president,” Jindal said in the statement.

The Advocate Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.