Posted: May 7, 2014 5:18 PM by Jason Newton, Russell Jones
Updated: May 7, 2014 6:59 PM
BATON ROUGE - After failing to get enough support to try and expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) proposed on Wednesday instead that Louisiana implement Governor Bobby Jindal's healthcare model and see if it can work first here in his home state.
"It's not about partisan politics or anything other than providing access to people in the state," Nevers said at a committee meeting to consider his proposal.
Nevers amended his original bill to instead direct the state health department to implement "America Next," Jindal's healthcare expansion model which the governor pitched to Republicans as a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
A major part of the plan calls for the federal government to give the state its Medicaid funding in one lump sum, called a block grant, and allow them to spend it however they wish. The plan would use those grants, tax deductions, and "other federal reforms" to pay for a state health insurance program which would replace the Affordable Care Act and cover people with pre-existing conditions. Other reforms mentioned in Jindal's plan include allowing people to shop for health insurance across state lines and setting up "health savings accounts" that would help people save up for procedures or unexpected costs
"If you don't like Medicaid expansion or Obamacare, this is the plan we need to put in place," Nevers said.
Previous efforts by Nevers to get Medicaid expansion coverage for more than 200,000 in Louisiana were dismissed by Jindal. Now Jindal supports Nevers, and the Department of Health and Hospitals testified in favor of the bill.
"This bill, we believe, is an important step for the state to build the best healthcare system in the nation," Kathy Kliebert said, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Because the bill requires so many assumptions and reforms to federal funding, Nevers noted it's impossible to estimate how much it would ultimately cost the state. However, positive talk of the model's projected benefits were abundant in the committee meeting Wednesday.
"Unlike the (Affordable Care Act), the America Next plan is not premised on forcing people to purchase insurance or pay a tax," Kliebert said.
Nevers only hopes that finally he's found a way to expand coverage to the poor and uninsured in the state.
"Doesn't matter who's name is on the plan or how to fund it," Nevers said. "We just need to move forward with trying to provide (it). Just need to provide the best options for our people."
The bill passed with no opposition. It moves next to the Senate Finance Committee.