Jindal unveils alternative to the Affordable Care Act

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday that the problem of insuring low-income residents with pre-existing conditions could be solved with a $100 billion, 10-year pool of federal funding.

States would use the dollars to provide subsidies for health insurance. The subsidies would target families of four getting by on $35,775 or less a year.

The governor made the pitch as part of his alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

The governor’s nonprofit group, America Next, with headquarters in Virginia, released the health care plan just hours after 2014 enrollment ended for the Affordable Care Act, which aims among other goals to ensure that more Americans have health care coverage.

The release of Jindal’s 23-page prescription for conservative, consumer-focused health reform also coincided with heated debate at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge over Common Core educational standards. Jindal was miles away, in Washington, D.C., for a breakfast with the “Christian Science Monitor.”

Evidence of Jindal trying to gather momentum for a 2016 White House bid is mounting.

He recently launched a federal political action committee, Stand Up to Washington, to help conservative candidates for national offices. The PAC will give him an opportunity to knock on the doors of wealthy people who could help him secure the Republican presidential nomination.

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson did not invite Jindal to a recent political meeting in Las Vegas. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other big-name Republicans were on the invitation list. However, Jindal already is on record as opposing a growth in online gambling, a big concern for Adelson, who also happens to be a heavyweight political contributor.

Now, Jindal is making good on his pledge to offer solutions to national issues. First up, is health care.

The governor derided Obamacare, saying the president was either naive about how the health care system works or untruthful about the act’s merits.

The Affordable Care Act establishes health insurance exchanges through which people have options to purchase government-subsidized policies. It also, among other things, ends the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The governor said health care reform should start with repealing the Affordable Care Act, then shift into reducing health care costs, protecting the most vulnerable citizens and creating patient choice.

“The law (Affordable Care Act) is fiscally unsustainable, its tax increases economically damaging, and its enshrinement of greater government control of every aspect of health care is more dangerous than some in Washington appreciate,” Jindal wrote in the introduction to his policy paper.

Borrowing from ideas that have been proposed over the years, the governor suggested:

Transforming a tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance into a standard deduction for all forms of health insurance.

Linking the size of deductibles for health savings accounts, or HSAs, to customers’ account balances, incomes and assets.

Offering financial incentives for healthy behaviors.

Cracking down on what Jindal described as rampant fraud in government health care programs.

Providing a catastrophic cap on out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare patients.

Permanently banning federal funding of abortions.

Implementing legal changes, including restrictions on attorney contingency fees.

Jindal’s health care alternative also tackles Medicaid, the government-funded program that provides health care coverage to the poor.

States receive dollars from the federal government as a reward for putting up their own dollars to fund the program. Jindal said this leads to states gaming the system.

“States have a built-in incentive to spend more on Medicaid when compared to other state priorities like education, transportation, and corrections. This open-ended entitlement drastically reduces states’ incentives to make efficient choices in managing their health care systems,” he wrote.

Jindal’s solution is what he termed a global grant approach. He wants states to get fixed funding allotments with annual adjustments for inflation and eligible population growth.

The Democratic National Committee swiftly denounced the governor’s entire proposal.

“The plan Governor Jindal announced Wednesday — much like the Ryan Budget — starts by repealing Obamacare, which could result in millions of Americans being kicked off their current health care plans and bring back the worst parts of the old, failed health care system. Both plans would roll back crucial protections and take us back to a broken system where insurance companies were in the driver’s seat, end Medicare as we know it by implementing voucher systems, and gutting Medicaid funding that benefits millions of Americans,” said Michael Czin, the Democratic committee’s national press secretary in a prepared statement.