Landrieu: Jindal looking out for his career

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu blasted Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday, saying he is putting his political ambitions ahead of the health and economic interests of Louisiana.

Her comments came over Jindal’s rejection of “Medicaid expansion” — part of the federal Affordable Care Act, called ‘Obamacare,’ which goes into effect in 2014. The expansion would allow people who earn too little money to buy their own insurance, but also earn too much money, or otherwise don’t qualify for Medicaid, to get coverage under the government program.

“He just seems to be adamant about pushing his political future ahead of the economic interests of the people of Louisiana. It’s very disheartening to me and a growing number of people in our state,” said Landrieu. D-La. “It’s his quest to be the next president and to check off the tea party ‘I am the most conservative person in America’ check list. If he were to get his mind and heart on the people he’s representing, we might have better outcomes.”

Landrieu’s comments came on the same day another oft-mentioned presidential prospect New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the eighth and latest Republican governor to accept the Medicaid expansion for his state.

Landrieu participated in a telephone news conference by Families USA, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group that pushes “the consumer perspective in national and state health policy debates,” and the Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition, a Breaux Bridge-based alliance of groups lobbying for “creation of a consumer-centered health-care system.”

The two organizations issued a report Tuesday that they say showed that the Medicaid expansion would help 421,000 people in Louisiana get health coverage.

The $1.1 billion annually spent by the federal government to provide that medical care in Louisiana would have a ripple effect creating 15,600 new jobs and $1.8 billion in increased economic activity by 2016, the report concluded.

The Medicaid expansion would come at a modest cost to the state with the federal government initially paying 100 percent for the first three years and then states would pay a small portion after that, up to 10 percent.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said Jindal is “committing fiscal malpractice.”

Jindal, a Republican, did not respond to an interview request.

His press office released a statement, quoting the governor, that did not address the study’s findings, but stated that Medicaid expansion would cost Louisiana taxpayers about $1 billion “in only” 10 years.

“The reality is Medicaid relies on an outdated model that costs taxpayers billions of dollars for poor outcomes. Yet, President Obama and his ally, Sen. Landrieu, would have you believe that a government program is good for economic development. It’s a fundamental philosophical difference. Sen. Landrieu and President Obama believe that growing government will help grow jobs. That’s not how the economy works,” Jindal’s written statement said.

Later in the day, state health chief Bruce Greenstein initiated a telephone conference call with reporters to question the study’s conclusions, including its projection of people affected by the Medicaid expansion. He said the number is more like 250,000 uninsured.

Greenstein said his agency has not done any economic or other modeling on the Medicaid expansion impact since 2010.

Jindal’s political adviser, Timmy Teepell, called to say: “What this whole thing is about is the fact that the governor went to the White House yesterday (Monday) and suggested that the president delay Obamacare and also called the president out for using scare tactics on the sequestration.”

Sequestration is the mandatory cuts in the federal budget that will go into effect on Friday absent a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

Landrieu is attacking Jindal because she “did not appreciate the governor’s calling out the president,” Teepell said. He is a partner with OnMessage Inc., a political strategy firm based in suburban Washington, D.C.

The GOP governors of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio have previously announced their willingness to accept the federall funds.

Twenty-four states have announced plans to participate in expanding Medicaid.

The governors of Louisiana and 12 other states, mostly in the Deep South, have announced they will not participate in the expansion.

Pollack, of Families USA, said the Republican governors who have opted for Medicaid expansion are “thinking about the well-being of the people in their state” while Jindal is all about “running for president.”

Pollack noted that states’ decisions are not binding for all time. They can back out at any point, he said.