Letter: Follow education model in reforming health care

Gov. Bobby Jindal often says the quality of a child’s education should not be determined by his or her parents’ background, family income or ZIP code. Unfortunately, when it comes to access to quality health coverage, he does not follow the same sound philosophy.

Louisiana has a segregated, two-tier health care system: a private system for people with insurance and public, state-owned charity hospitals that primarily treat the uninsured.

Over the decades, many policymakers have recommended moving away from this antiquated, 20th-century model to a new model that starts with helping everyone get portable health insurance.

Now, as part of the federal health law, Louisiana has the option to use federal dollars to help hundreds of thousands of low-income adults get covered. Yet, the governor and the Legislature are refusing to take advantage of this opportunity.

As recently as 2008, the governor proposed a similar expansion of health coverage, correctly noting that it would help improve Louisiana’s poor health outcomes and strengthen our state.

Now the governor has changed his mind, and says he won’t support expanded Medicaid coverage because too many people would be “riding in the cart” instead of “pulling the cart.”

The reality is most Louisianians who would be eligible for expanded coverage already are working in industries such as construction, tourism, retail and health care. They need coverage because their wages are low and their jobs often don’t come with affordable health insurance.

The governor’s education reforms are built around the idea that state dollars should follow students wherever they choose to attend school. There is no reason the same thinking shouldn’t apply to our health care system.

Money should follow patients instead of perpetuating a two-tier system. Why not allow all willing health care providers to compete for patients, instead of the state picking winners and losers and giving certain hospitals special financial treatment?

When it comes to promoting personal choice and the free market, Gov. Jindal talks the talk. When it comes to health care, he needs to walk the walk.

Jan Moller

director, Louisiana Budget Project

Baton Rouge