Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Obamacare affects GOP candidates for La. governor

23rd February 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

A curious thing happened amongst the Republican contenders for Louisiana Governor in 2015. While they continue to rail against “Obamacare”,virtually everyone – including the most conservative aspirant U.S. Sen. David Vitter– endorses accepting the enhanced federal Medicaid dollars, and most have alluded they would form a state healthcare exchange in Louisiana if elected.

Perhaps it’s because just under 200,000 Louisianians got health insurance on the federal exchange this month, and it’s kind of hard to win the governorship if you tell a population the size of the City of Lafayette that they won’t have health insurance anymore.

While some Republicans, like Lieut. Gov. Jay Dardenne, have indicated a willingness to accept the increased ACA Medicaid dollars as a means to lessen Jindal’s hospital cutbacks, similar to the position that Ohio Gov. John Kasich adopted, Sen. Vitter has a condition. He wants Louisiana to have the flexibility to use the Medicaid dollars to help people by private health insurance. It’s an argument directly connected to making it easier to get health insurance in the exchanges.

In other words, the ardent Republican Senator desires the exact same waiver for Louisiana that the State of Arkansas negotiated under its Democratic governor and Republican Legislature from the Obama Administration.

Former Pres. Bill Clinton lauded the Arkansas compromise as the model for the potential of the Affordable Care Act. The expanded Medicaid dollars were used to enhance the subsidies and tax credits within their state’s exchange, allowing more people in the margins of 121 percent of the poverty line to receive credits to be privately insured.

Liberals opposed this waiver believing that the enhanced public-private partnership would make it harder to eventually institute a single-payer health insurance system. Conservatives saw any compromise with the Obama Administration to improve the exchanges as constituting excessive government intervention in the healthcare market.

Neither counter argument has worked. The residents of Arkansas express the highest levels of approval with the Affordable Care Act of any southern or Midwestern State. It may be the only “red “state where Obama care is actually popular.

It also may be something for which a smart Republican Governor Mike position himself to ask the Obama administration upon taking office in 2016, and it may be a compromise that the White House would forced to grant if the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates the use of subsidies in the federal exchange. Many constitutional scholars have maintained that the language of the ACA only grants these financial incentives to the states, and not the federal government.

It’s a statutory argument uniquely suited to appeal to the court’s swing votes, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy. But it’s far from an academic one.

More than 184,000 Louisiana residents enrolled for health insurance through the federal marketplace, prior to the end up of the application period on February 15, 2015. The Associated Press notes that constitutes an increase of 82,000 people from last year.

Over 63,000 hail from Vitter’s home turf in the metro New Orleans area, many of those living in Jefferson Parish, perhaps indicating his sudden change of opinion. Equally, 20 percent or 37,154 are Baton Rouge residents, a key base electorate consideration for Jay Dardenne.

Roughly 11.4 million people nationwide will obtain health insurance through marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of course, the so-called “individual mandate” kicked in this year, and this requirement that taxpayers get insurance or face a federal penalty, could have made a significant difference. In contrast, in the 2014 enrollment period, about 102,000 Louisianans signed up for healthcare coverage.

This article originally published in the February 23, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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