Sen. Says Gov. Put Politics Above People
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu fired the political shot heard around Louisiana – and the nation – when she criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for refusing to accept the federal Medicaid expansion.
She accused Jindal of putting politics and personal ambition ahead of the people of Louisiana, saying he is an “obstructionist,” and is cow-towing to the Tea Party so he can claim he is the “most conservative person in America” as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
Estimates are that 400,000 more state residents could be eligible for Medicaid if Jindal agreed to the government-run health insurance program. The federal government pays 100% of the costs for the first three years and 90% thereafter.
But Jindal is standing steadfast against the expansion, calling it “an inappropriate growth of the federal government health care program.” He is doing so even as some Republican governors are now embracing the Medicaid expansion.
The expansion would cover adults making up to 138% of the poverty level – $15,414 for an individual or $30,650 for a family of four, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Jindal believes the Medicaid expansion would cost the state $1 billion over the next decade to cover the additional low-income residents.
But the Louisiana Budget Project called the expansion a break-even proposition because the state would save a similar amount that it would otherwise spend on uninsured care over the same decade.
A report released by Families USA and the Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition estimates that expanding the state’s Medicaid program would bring affordable health care access to 422,000 residents. And in 2016 alone, the expansion would support approximately 15,600 new jobs across the state and increase economic activity by nearly $1.8 billion, the report states.
Half of the states so far have agreed to participate in the Medicaid expansion, including eight with Republican governors. The latest GOP governor to opt in was Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who may also seek the GOP presidential nomination for 2016.
He joins the following states with Republican governors – Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, and Ohio.
This issue, of course, has political overtones as a big election year approaches in 2014. Landrieu, in recent polls, has a job approval rating of 53%. Jindal, on the over hand, is getting only a 37% job approval rating from Louisiana voters in the most recent poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP).
Landrieu will be running for a fourth six-year term next year, and she apparently feels emboldened by polls that show her with a strong job approval rating and defeating every potential Republican opponent.
The Jindal camp, meanwhile, is trying to stop his free-fall in job approval ratings, which has him as one of the most unpopular governors in the country as he takes over as head of the Republican Governors Association. Thirty states have GOP governors.
Polls also show that a majority of voters in the state – and nationwide – support the expanded Medicaid program, and those voters will likely be supporting Landrieu for another term in the U.S. Senate.
While the debate rages in Louisiana over the expanded Medicaid program, Louisiana Progress, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting public policy that moves Louisiana ahead, issued a report which said that the state’s refusal to participate in the program will leave 176,000 women without access to quality health care.
Currently, Medicaid only covers certain groups of low-income individuals – mostly working parents with incomes well below the poverty line.
Because women are more likely than men to be poor and also more likely to be parenting, more women than men qualify for Medicaid under the pre-Affordable Care Act eligibility criteria, according to Louisiana Progress.
The organization insists that there are still significant unmet needs in access to health care coverage for low-income women living just above the income eligibility threshold for Medicaid in Louisiana, as well as for women who are not pregnant or parenting.
Louisiana Progress reports that there are 381,200 women and girls in the state who are uninsured.
A recent study by 24/7 Wall Street, a Delaware corporation set up to run a financial news and opinion operation with content delivered over the Internet, ranked Louisiana the 7th poorest state in the nation.
The state’s median household income is $41,734. The population is 4,574,836, which ranks at No. 25 among the 50 states.
The unemployment rate is 7.3%, the 16th lowest in the country. And the state’s percentage of population below the poverty line is 20.4%, ranking it the third highest in the nation.
The 10 poorest states in the country, according to the study, are: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.
Of these 10, only two have opted to participate in the expanded Medicaid program. They are Arkansas (Democratic governor) and New Mexico (Republican governor).
Who voted for women?
In the 2012 presidential election, women voted in record numbers, and the gender gap between the two candidates could not have been more profound.
Unmarried women backed President Barack Obama by an incredible 38 percentage-point margin over Republican Mitt Romney, a statistic which was one of the most striking of the election.
But when the Violence Against Women Act, after a year in limbo, came before Congress, Republicans seemed oblivious to the message that was sent in the 2012 election.
In the U.S. Senate, 22 Republicans voted against the Act. Nevertheless, it passed. Both Louisiana senators – Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter – voted for it.
When it reached the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the measure passed by a 286 to 138 margin. A majority of Republicans voted against the legislation, with 87 GOP members and all Democrats supporting it.
But Republicans John Fleming of Minden (4th District), Bill Cassidy (6th District) and Steve Scalise (1st District) voted against it.
With Cassidy and Fleming being mentioned as possible opponents for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu when she seeks re-election next year, one can bet how they voted on this legislation will be a part of the campaign.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.