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La. Black Caucus says Jindal is wrong

16th July 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s signature healthcare reform law, is refusing to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover more residents, hoping that a victory by GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney will spare conservatives the task of widening the federal government’s role in health care. But a group of Black state lawmakers say Jindal’s position amounts to fighting words and are charging that the governor is not a champion of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

In June, the Supreme Court held, in a 5-3 decision, that the provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring uninsured Americans to purchase health coverage by 2014 or face a fine did not violate any constitutional clauses barring governmental overreach. But a handful of conservative governors, including Jindal, balked at the idea of the so-called individual mandate and are refusing to expand the Medicaid program to allow more residents to gain insurance to stave off federal fees.

Members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus (LLBC) say Jindal’s position Black Caucus (LLBC) say Jindal’s position means the “battle lines have been drawn” and make note of Congress’ statutory authority “to provide for the general welfare of the people” and the power vested in the high court to decide constitutional matters, according to a press release blasting the governor’s stance. Jindal, the caucus says, is displaying a sour grapes mentality by refusing to expand Medicaid—the joint federal and state health program for the poor—or implement the health care exchanges the law allows.

Jindal has taken to the airwaves to declare that America’s greatness does not depend on forcing its citizens to rely on government programs. But LLBC chairperson, Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, asserts Jindal is flouting American greatness by refusing to comply with the new federal law. “[I]t is the position of the LLBC that the governor also needs to understand that availability and access to government programs by citizens is what makes this country great, and as a result of his failure to abide by the Law, he is subsequently denying the greatness of which he speaks,” according to the release.

While a spokesperson for the governor did not return requests for comment at press time, Jindal has long articulated his opposition to the president’s health reform measures and has joined South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in refusing to expand the Medicaid program, Haley and Perry are both Republicans. Jindal, who is repeatedly touted as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012, believes the new healthcare law will destroy private health care and be too costly for states to implement overall despite promised federal subsidies.

Though the Supreme Court upheld the law’s individual insurance requirement, the justices struck a provision of the law that would have held up federal dollars for Medicaid funding if states refused to expand the decades-old program. Therefore, the Obama administration may have limited means to coerce Republican governors to widen the pool of Medicaid-eligible residents, but is promising to create work-arounds to implement the healthcare ex­changes that allow the uninsured to buy insurance with the help of subsidies even in state’s that refuse to set them up.

Despite the controversies over the healthcare law, the president has promised: “[T]his law is here to stay.”

This article was originally published in the July 16, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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