We've all heard the Senate health care bill referred to as "The Louisiana Purchase" because of the $300 million provision in it related to our Medicaid match rate.
I don't like the nickname for two reasons.
First, the fact that we have to pay a higher Medicaid match under present law because of the hurricanes is a real inequity.
Second, the phrase makes it sound like Louisiana would fare well under the bill. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you look at the overall costs to Louisiana, it should be called "The Louisiana Sell-Out."
Let's start with Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. This provision is a benefit to the state but there's also a dramatic expansion of Medicaid which Louisiana state government and taxpayers will have to help pay for. That will cost the state at least $1.3 billion over 10 years, far more than the $300 million benefit.
And the $300 million is a one-time benefit while the $1.3 billion per decade is forever. Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, has called this new burden "the mother of all unfunded mandates."
And what about the Louisiana seniors who depend on Medicare, which is already facing insolvency? The bill cuts Medicare by $466 billion and, instead of fixing this, it steals almost half a trillion dollars from Medicare to pay for a new entitlement.
The bill contains $518 billion of tax increases nationwide. And as for that oft-repeated promise that no one who earns under $200,000 will be affected"»think again: 42.1 million of those earning under $200,000 will pay higher taxes.
We'll also pay more for higher insurance premiums because, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, the bill increases health care costs overall.
And the bill doesn't protect Louisiana small businesses in the middle of this serious recession. Most businesses will have to provide a government-defined health insurance benefit to their employees or pay a new government tax. The National Federation of Small Business says that would cost the nation at least 1.6 million jobs. That would mean tens of thousands of lost jobs in Louisiana, on top of our current high unemployment.
This new mandate would also create an incentive for businesses to dump their employees off their health plans, because it would be cheaper to do that and pay the new tax.
And the bill forces pro-life taxpayers to support and subsidize abortion. That's particularly offensive in Louisiana, one of the most proudly pro-life states in the nation.
If we truly want to put Louisiana first, we must say no to this bill. Even with the $300 million provision, Louisiana comes out way, way behind.
David Vitter represents Louisiana in the U.S. Senate.