Last month, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — rumored to be mulling a 2012 presidential bid — rejected $90 million in federal stimulus dollars that would have expanded the state’s unemployment insurance compensation program.
Yesterday, Jindal announced his next assault on the poor: rejecting the stimulus’s health care funding. Jindal, widely recognized for his health policy acumen, “plans to reject some federal health-care dollars for the poor and uninsured.” Louisiana’s Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine “said accepting the new federal financing would require the state to put up matching money that it doesn’t have”:
At issue are two Medicaid programs financed with a mix of state and federal dollars: the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which provides health coverage for people who are leaving welfare for work; and the “disproportionate share” program, which reimburses health-care providers for treating the uninsured. […]
Levine said the state plans to turn away about $9.5 million in federal money for the transitional program. Drawing down that money would have required $2.25 million in state cash, which Levine said the state can’t afford when it’s asking hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers to accept reimbursement cuts.
TMA allows low-income families who have lost jobs and thus have become eligible for Medicaid to maintain access to health care when they regain employment or increase their hours. The stimulus package extended the TMA program’s funding through December 2010. The disproportionate-share program aids hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of the poor and uninsured. The additional funding in the stimulus package would “benefit safety net hospitals that are facing challenges tied to the growing number of uninsured people.”
Jindal’s politically-motivated decision is extremely short-sighted, particularly while his state is facing a rising unemployment rate. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities observed, during the recession, lower-income families are vulnerable to a lack of coverage, potentially leading to absenteeism and job loss:
These changes [from the stimulus] make it more likely that low-income families — some of whom have recently become eligible for Medicaid because of recession-related job losses — can maintain access to needed medical services when the parents in these families eventually find new jobs, increase their work hours, or switch to higher-paying employment. These changes also allow states to greatly reduce the administrative burdens associated with providing TMA coverage.
In rejecting the federal government’s assistance for Louisiana’s health care woes, Jindal appears to be trying to keep up with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), another presidential contender. Earlier this week, Sanford proposed cutting “$103 million from state health-care programs.”