Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) visited Fox News Sunday yesterday where he promoted his new non-profit designed to provide, as host Chris Wallace put it, an “affirmative, conservative agenda for the nation’s problems." But when asked what he might do for the large number of uninsured in Louisiana, Jindal’s answer didn’t exactly sound like an appealing alternative.
At about 3:26 in the video below, Wallace asked Jindal about his decision not to participate in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Wallace cited a Times-Picayune editorial criticizing Jindal for leaving more than 200,000 poor Louisiana citizens without health insurance they might otherwise have gotten.
Chris, I think we need to do health care reform from the bottom up. This is what we do in Louisiana. We’re the only state that has a state operated network of charity hospitals. We transformed those. We had 10 state operated hospitals when I became governor.
Now, nine of those are public/private partnerships, saving taxpayers over $100 million, improving the quality of care for example in Baton Rouge, going from a 10-day wait to a 10-minute wait to get prescriptions. Six-month wait for cancer services in another city where they’re seeing specialists now right away, to another city, Lake Charles, where if you had a broken bone or if you need special service that a lot of times, you had to travel many miles, and now you can get that care locally by partnering with the private sector. In our managed care and our Medicaid program, took 900,000 individuals, got them into private insurance plans where they’re getting preventative care and primary care, again, saving taxpayers another $100 million improving health care outcomes.
I notice he didn’t say anything about Louisiana’s rural residents.
Without going too deeply into the weeds of Louisiana’s privatization of Medicaid, suffice it to say that the Times-Picayune editorial Wallace cited pointed out that 87% of poor adults in Louisiana (not including the elderly) do not qualify for Medicaid there. “They earn too little to be able to afford to buy insurance on the new health care exchanges and aren’t eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance tax credits,” the October 20 editorial said.
Jindal’s stance may look right out of Dickens but it may be even worse than that. Jindal is currently the head of the Republican Governors Association and he is commonly seen as a 2016 presidential hopeful, as was acknowledged in both the Fox News interview and the Times-Picayune editorial.
Jindal also told Wallace that expanding Medicaid would cost too much, a charge that the Times-Picayune disputes. Yes, there would be costs but the paper says Louisiana would save $367.5 million over the first 10 years. Not to mention the benefits of ensuring health insurance for those who can’t afford it.
But the real reason may be that the federal expansion of Medicaid might tarnish Jindal’s privatized trophy. “If we did Medicaid expansion in Louisiana for every uninsured person covered, more than one person would be taken out of private insurance,” he said on Fox.
Predictably, Wallace didn’t challenge Jindal’s argument nor did he note the Times-Picayune’s charge that Jindal is sacrificing his state’s well-being for the sake of his political aspirations. Nor that the paper is urging its readers to contact Jindal and demand he change his mind. Nor, as our friends at Crooks and Liars wrote, that Jindal cited a very flawed study to argue, "just expanding Medicaid doesn't necessarily improve health care outcomes."
So while Jindal polishes up his conservative bona fides, poor Louisianians in need of health care can just rely on the kindness of strangers.