As Congress votes to begin repeal of Affordable Care Act, Edwards and Landrieu tout Medicaid expansion success in Louisiana

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Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health, touted what they called health care success in Louisiana at a press conference today at the University Medical Center.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Dr. Rebekah Gee, head of the Louisiana Department of Health, touted what they called health care success in Louisiana at a press conference today at the University Medical Center.

One day after President-elect Donald Trump held a press conference in which he repeatedly vowed to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a group of Louisiana leaders gathered at University Medical Center in New Orleans to commemorate the one-year anniversary since Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill allowing Medicaid expansion into the state. That expansion, which went into place last July, has resulted in more than 378,000 newly insured Louisianans, according to figures provided by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

"Behind all these numbers is a real live person," Edwards said.

Refusing the Medicaid expansion was a cornerstone of former Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, while Edwards had made it a campaign plank. Edwards called signing Medicaid expansion "the easiest big decision I will ever make as governor."

LDH head Dr. Rebekah Gee and Mayor Mitch Landrieu were among others who spoke at the conference, along with three people who had life-endangering conditions that only were covered by Medicaid expansion funds — a woman with ovarian cancer, a man with a variety of cancers and a young woman with a cancerous brain tumor.

"Your governor just turned 50," Edwards told the crowd, mentioning he had just had his first colonoscopy and had six polyps removed, three of which, doctors told him, were precancerous. "That [sort of care] shouldn't just be limited to the governor or people of means," he said.

Trump held a press conference the day before, where he repeatedly said the GOP planned to "repeal and replace" the ACA (aka Obamacare). Early that morning, however — about 12:30 a.m. — the U.S. Senate held a vote to launch the repeal process, without any clear signals as to what would replace the ACA, or when.

Orleans Parish has more than 48,000 people who have become insured with the Medicaid expansion. "What's confusing about everything," Landrieu told Gambit after the press conference, "is that they say 'repeal, repeal, repeal.' I don't want to get in an argument with them about semantics, but if all we're doing is fixing the problems we all admit the Affordable Care Act has, with insurance premiums being raised for a slice of Americans, then that's an entirely separate issue. The challenge is gonna be what they're actually gonna do.

"If their idea about Medicaid is to keep it, but to block-grant it," Landrieu continued, "essentially means they're going to start rationing health care. A block grant means they're gonna give you a set amount of money — which is generally less than they give you now — and then tell you, 'You decide what to do with it," well, then, they're basically giving you less money and expecting you to do more than you're doing right now with it."


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