A New Orleans group’s quest to change Gov. Bobby Jindal’s mind on Medicaid expansion Friday got members as far as the governor’s makeshift quarters on the 20th floor of the State Capitol.
Members of The Jeremiah Group, a faith-based community organization, first tried to find the governor in his private office on the fourth floor.
They wheeled a crate packed with letters into the reception area only to find it deserted amid renovations to the historic building. Their next stop was a temporary office on the 20th floor, to which an aide summoned Christina Grantham, the governor’s director of constituent services.
“Quite frankly, (we’re) begging the governor to care about his people,” New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told Grantham.
Grantham listened and fetched a box for the letters. “I’ll be happy to accept those,” she said.
Jindal was in Minden on Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. However, he has been firm in his opposition to the Medicaid expansion option that was included in the federal Affordable Care Act.
A legislative bid to provide health insurance to thousands of the state’s working poor through Medicaid expansion died during this year’s session. Residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would have been able to get coverage through the health insurance expansion.
Jindal asserts the Medicaid expansion would become too costly for the state and builds on a broken federal program.
Jacqueline C. Jones, lead organizer for The Jeremiah Group, said the organization gathered signatures from thousands of people for letters asking the governor to accept Medicaid expansion. The letters urge Jindal to negotiate with the federal government for flexibility that would give him comfort about the plan.
Jones said her organization went into churches, communities and events in search of uninsured people. She estimated that nearly 10,000 people in New Orleans contributed their signatures.
Cantrell said Jindal’s rejection makes it appear that he lacks humility or concern for the uninsured and the working poor. She said people are suffering and dying.
“I guess that’s maybe what I’m in search of,” she said after pondering why the governor opposes the expansion.
Members of Together Baton Rouge, another community organization, joined The Jeremiah Group at the State Capitol and rode the elevator to the 20th floor.
One by one, residents explained to Grantham their reasons for seeking the expansion. Some quoted the Bible. Others characterized the letters as a token of the frustration that exists against the governor.
“I’m here because I support Medicaid expansion. It’s the reasonable thing to do. It’s the right thing to do,” said Rene Singleton, a member of Together Baton Rouge.
She said the governor should use government dollars to help the poor since he supports his family with a government paycheck.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, who authored one of the failed Medicaid expansion bills, had a ready answer on whether the letters will change the governor’s mind.
“No. Flat out no. But it shows people are still interested,” said Smith, D-Baton Rouge.