Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) — currently running for governor of Louisiana — appeared to leave the door open to expanding the state’s Medicaid program using federal dollars available under the Affordable Care Act.
Speaking to reporters at the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, Vitter broke with current Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and argued that the state could potentially provide health care coverage Louisianans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line if it could improve the program and avoid redirecting resources from other spending priorities. The news was initially reported by the Associated Press.
Vitter’s comments come as a growing number of Republicans are re-evaluating their opposition to Medicaid expansion. In May, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-KY) expressed support for growing Medicaid by arguing that the process could be controlled by the state. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has also announced that he would apply for a waiver that would allow Indiana to provide private coverage to its residents using funding secured by the Affordable Care Act. In total, nine Republican governors have backed Medicaid expansion, and the provision is also being embraced by vulnerable Democrats up for re-election, including Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu (D) and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan (D).
The Louisiana senate last debated and defeated bill to expand Medicaid in April, even though backers argued that it would “allow access to health care coverage for 250,000 adults who typically can’t afford or don’t qualify for other types of health insurance” and “create 15,600 jobs.” The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the Medicaid expansion “would decrease state spending for the first three years,” when the federal government picks up the total tab for expansion, “but would cost the state as much as $886 million over a decade.”
Vitter’s specific quote, as reported by the AP: “We need to improve and reform Medicaid, and I want to look at everything that could be brought to bear to do that. Now, could more federal resources help to do that? They could, if it’s done right and if it’s done in a constructive way.”