U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today sent a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal urging him to reconsider his opposition to reforms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In reaction to rapidly rising premiums, employers and families have been forced to move to skimpier health insurance plans that cover fewer benefits and a smaller share of the cost. The ACA gives Louisiana the opportunity to implement reforms to reduce health insurance premiums, strengthen our economy by supporting our businesses and health providers, and provide access to care for Louisiana's uninsured. Thus far, Gov. Jindal has opposed implementing these reforms.
In the letter, Sen. Landrieu specifically urges Gov. Jindal to create a state-run health insurance exchange and define an Essential Health Benefits package, so as not to cede control over these reforms to the federal government, resulting in one-size-fits-all reforms that are not tailored to Louisiana's needs. She also urges him to expand Medicaid, which will benefits Louisiana's citizens and economy.
"In just under two weeks, on December 14, you must make a final decision on whether Louisiana will be allowed to establish its own state-run health care exchange, or whether you will cede that authority to the federal government. As a strong states' rights advocate, it seems you would surely want to retain this flexibility for Louisiana," the letter reads.
Competition plays a critical role in the health insurance market. Unfortunately, Louisiana's State Insurance Commissioner recently called our health insurance market "noncompetitive." If Gov. Jindal acts soon, the state has the opportunity to create a state-run health insurance exchange that is designed to fit the unique needs of our people.
Similarly, unless Louisiana acts by Feb. 15 to define the Essential Health Benefits package, the federal government will dictate the terms. The Department of Health and Human Services recently extended the deadline for states to submit an Essential Health Benefits package and Sen. Landrieu urges the Governor to take this opportunity to "tailor the insurance coverage to reflect the unique health care needs of our citizens."
Finally, Sen. Landrieu urges Gov. Jindal to expand Medicaid. With 124,000 uninsured children and 771,000 uninsured adults, Louisiana's 20 percent rate of uninsured is among the highest in the nation - only three states have higher rates. A 2010 report commissioned by the Jindal Administration estimates that federal funds would cover $25 billion of the $26.8 billion in costs for the Medicaid expansion over 10 years, leaving the state responsible for only $1.8 billion. This additional $26.8 billion will flow through the state's economy, increasing revenues and supporting our hospitals and other health care providers. It will also support the many local businesses that serve health care providers and their patients, and could provide health insurance to up to 400,000 Louisianians who currently lack insurance, and for 17 million Americans if all states participate.
"I know from your many speeches across the nation during the recent Presidential campaign your steadfast opposition to the Affordable Care Act. However, the election is over. The ACA is the law of the land and it has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. You have so far chosen to forgo the chance to address one of the most pressing issues of our time by rejecting these three opportunities. If you do not agree with the Medicaid expansion as proposed, or the insurance exchanges, or the Essential Health Benefits package, what specific ideas for addressing the serious problem of the 895,000 uninsured in our state, the thousands of businesses that have been priced out of our current market, and the downward spiral of hospitals, rural and urban alike, that are losing revenue? ... As you stated in your Politico interview, "You can't beat something with nothing." I could not agree more," the letter reads. "The ACA is not perfect, and that is why I remain open to making smart changes to the law to improve it, if warranted. I am open to listening to your suggestions, and I hope that we can both work to find real solutions to this serious issue. But now that we know the law is here to stay, simply refusing to engage in the process is not leadership. I stand ready to work with you to maximize the success of implementation of this Act for the people of our state."