Inside Report for Dec. 26, 2012

With the nation teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff, Gov. Bobby Jindal began brainstorming for ideas on grappling with the economic mess.

The governor clearly wants to be the go-to guy on national issues, and his comments have attracted a lot of national attention. Since the election, Jindal has weighed in on several issues nationally, including why Mitt Romney lost, how Congress should handle the country’s finances, how America should educate its children and how oral contraception should be sold.

He is not as quick to publicly give his opinion on the problems at home, including a patient who died in the public health-care system.

The federal “fiscal cliff” involves tax cuts and tax breaks set to expire at midnight Monday . Without some new federal legislation, government programs would downsize, impacting Medicare among other assistance. New taxes would begin.

Jindal tackled the issue in a column for Politico.com, a national political news website.

Rather than offering solutions for the fiscal cliff itself, he recommended structural reforms, including requiring that the federal budget be balanced and creating term limits.

Some of the reviews on the governor’s suggestions were far from kind. Slate magazine, for instance, accused Jindal of peddling old, dumbed-down ideas.

Left unmentioned by the governor was his own state’s fiscal cliff.

The state is facing a $1 billion shortfall in the budget year starting July 1. And this year’s budget needed readjusting this month to balance.

Jindal’s columns and interviews with national publications do not delve into the problems at home. The governor routinely declines to talk to local reporters.

Jindal did fly to Washington, D.C., to speak before a conservative think-tank about changes he pushed for the state’s public school system. Some of his overhaul ideas, such as vouchers and modification of teacher tenure rules, are facing constitutional challenges.

Next up was a column for The Wall Street Journal on whether birth control pills should be sold over the counter. Jindal is for no longer requiring a prescription.

Jindal is not the only state government employee appearing in national publications.

Former LSU health-care system chief Fred Cerise had lots to say about cuts the governor made. He wrote in The Atlantic Monthly that those outside Louisiana should pay note the governor’s health-care decisions in Louisiana.

Cerise, who lost his leadership role in August, talked about an uninsured patient who died because the referral hospital was overwhelmed and 17 other hospitals refused to admit him. He blamed the patient’s death on the governor’s approach to uninsured care.

“Jindal has declared his opposition to the two major programs that would ensure care to the uninsured. He has made clear his intention to reject the federal Medicaid expansion and at the same time is dismantling the state’s public safety net. It’s a combination of blows for many of the state’s citizens who are among the lowest earners in the country and are destined to go without care,” Cerise said.

Jindal punted questions about Cerise’s column to his state health-care chief, Bruce Greenstein.

Greenstein said Cerise should not point fingers at the governor when the patient died while Cerise was running the state’s public hospital system. He said Cerise had years to make changes that improved health-care delivery.

“There is no criticism that he can give that isn’t his own responsibility,” Greenstein said.

Isn’t it interesting that Jindal punted response to Cerise’s comments to Greenstein and didn’t comment himself?

Michelle Millhollon covers the Governor’s Office for The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. Her email address is mmillhollon@theadvocate.com.