Former Louisiana Health Secretaries To Bobby Jindal: It’s Time To Expand Medicaid

Two former Louisiana state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) secretaries have a message for Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): accept federal funding for taking part in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, or see taxpayer money go to funding other states’ expansions while low-income Louisianans suffer.

Fred Cerise and David Hood, the latter of whom is a Republican who actually succeeded Jindal — a former DHH head himself — after Jindal left to become president of the University of Louisiana public schools system in 1998, urged the governor to join the growing ranks of Republican state officials who have embraced Medicaid expansion in a Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper ad. The advertisement states, “Medicaid expansion offers a path to regular access to health care for working adults.”

The ad goes on to note that forgoing the expansion won’t just deprive low-income Louisiana residents of crucial health coverage, but is fiscally irresponsible, too: “If Louisiana refuses to participate, our share of the money that pays for this program will be used to support the Medicaid expansion in other states and our low-income residents will continue to lack access to care.” Multiple studies, including a comprehensive Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, have shown that states expanding Medicaid will receive massive federal funding for very little state input.

Jindal has a decidedly poor record when it comes to safety net health care entitlements, instituting massive cuts to state programs that assist vulnerable groups such as poor first-time moms and low-income HIV patients. Jindal has also been a staunch Obamacare critic and has so far explicitly ruled out expanding Medicaid — however, there have been recent reports that he and other skeptical GOP state leaders might be open to a modified expansion along the lines of the unique deal struck between Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and the Obama Administration.

Advocates for the poor and hospital associations have been pressing Republican leaders to accept unusually generous federal funding to expand Medicaid, warning officials that providers might buckle under the weight of uncompensated care costs without a larger pool of insured low-income Americans who can actually afford to pay their medical bills. Expanding Medicaid faces an uphill battle even in states where GOP governors have embraced it, as they must still convince skeptical lawmakers in their own party to go along with the plan.