In a press release today, party chairperson Senator Karen Carter Peterson has pointed out that the refusal to support the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion is not a dead issue. Last year, Governor Jindal and the Louisiana legislature refused to expand the Medicaid expansion. Republicans, throughout the United States and particularly in Louisiana, with Jindal leading the charge, have made Obamacare its primary political focus over the past four years.
In the press release, Peterson points to two statements, one by current Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and the other by rookie Congressman Vance McAllister, as evidence that the GOP is not unified on how to deal with the expansion-healthcare costs issue.
It has been routinely reported that Dardenne might run for governor. To date, the only major declared candidate is U.S. Senator David Vitter, who has consistently rejected all aspects of the healthcare law.
McAllister, who surprisingly won the seat in a special election, publically rejected the Republican hardline on healthcare expansion, yet won the race nonetheless.
How the political chips might fall as Louisiana directly faces this healthcare issue in the upcoming legislative session and in fall elections, remains to be seen.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s comments on WRKF’s Jim Engster Show yesterday display the dissension within Louisiana Republican ranks on the issue of expanding access to affordable health care in the upcoming legislative session.
“When Republicans like Congressman Vance McAllister are saying that Medicaid expansion would be a ‘pretty darn good return on your investment,’ and Jay Dardenne is acknowledging that Louisiana must deal with uncompensated care costs, it’s obvious that the LAGOP is far from unified on this issue,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson. “For any Louisiana Republicans that want to accept reality -- the reality that accepting federal Medicaid dollars would save hundreds of millions in our state budget and expand access to affordable health care for 250,000 working Louisianians -- we welcome them to the discussion.”
In response to a question on yesterday’s Jim Engster Show, Dardenne refused to endorse Medicaid expansion but suggested the state look at alternatives like “what Arkansas and some other states did,” saying:
"A number of waivers have been given, and I think that discussion needs to take place because we are going to be responsible for uncompensated care costs for people who are not Medicaid-eligible one way or the other. It's been one of the big hits on the budget, one of the big challenges we've had, and I think we need to have that discussion."
Earlier this week, Rep. Vance McAllister expanded on his support for Medicaid expansion, telling The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace:
“I thought, ‘You know what, I’m not going to skirt the issue. Republican, Democrat, it don’t matter. Those working poor have paid that money in. That money’s going to Washington. It’s their money,’ For me to say I’m against Medicaid expansion makes me the best congressman California and Massachusetts could ever have, because that’s where that money’s gonna go.
“It’s about doing what’s right. You keep your people healthy, they’ll continue to work. They’ll do better. The money’s there. As a business guy, I don’t like Gov. Jindal standing up there and trying to use political points” to argue that the state can’t afford the small fraction it would eventually have to pay to draw down billions in benefits. It don’t take Einstein to figure out that’s a pretty darn good return on your investment.”