Edwards wanted to keep the five deals in place for another 23 months beyond their January expiration date. But GOP legislators balked at the price tag of $15.4 billion in federal and state cash.
Edwards said the extensions “were crafted with unprecedented attention to detail.” He called the House Republicans “obstructionists.”
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal moved to the privatized, insurance-based model for much of the Medicaid program in 2012, shifting from Louisiana’s previous system of directly reimbursing doctors and hospitals that cared for Medicaid patients with a fee paid for each service rendered.
Republicans didn’t have a problem with rubber-stamping Jindal’s plans back then, and Edwards reminded the GOP legislators of that.
“It is a shame that after an extra two weeks to prepare for this meeting and despite unanimous, bipartisan support from all of the senators on the Joint Budget Committee, some House Republicans again found a way to obstruct the important business of our state,” Edwards stated.
He added, “Notably, these are the same people who, during the previous administration, rubber-stamped similar contracts though poorly constructed and, in some cases, missing entire pages. While that is not surprising, it does expose, once again, a lack of good faith on their part to move our state forward. Nonetheless, as I have said before, I will continue to extend opportunities to find ways to work together for the good of our people.”
Nearly all the House Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee, including Speaker Taylor Barras, refused to vote to extend the contracts.
Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry and other GOP legislators said they want the health department to try to squeeze more savings out of the contracts and respond to audits raising concerns about the companies’ performance.
Senate President John Alario, a Westwego Republican, said he doesn’t know where House members expect to find more savings. “I am not optimistic of any changes,” he said.
Edwards administration officials said they don’t know what House Republicans want to see changed in the contracts. The only way to cut contract costs is to change services, which happens outside the contracting process.
Health department officials said refusal to extend the contracts would damage care for Medicaid patients, forcing Louisiana to return to a previous model of care they said would cost the state more money and offer fewer services.
Another meeting of the Joint Budget Committee is scheduled for December. Alario said, “I think we will be facing the same thing again.”