Covering Louisiana

Apr 25, 2013 4:59 PM by AP(PHOTO COURTESY: MGN ONLINE)

Kleckley says Medicaid expansion a no-go this year

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - House Speaker Chuck Kleckley said Thursday he doesn't believe any proposal to tap into the federal Medicaid expansion money will win passage in the Louisiana Legislature this year.

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said lawmakers are interested in differing models that could access money from the Affordable Care Act. But he said too many financial reviews of the Medicaid expansion disagree about whether it would cost or save Louisiana money.

"You talk to five different sources and you get five different answers on the numbers," he said. "I think before anybody wants to make a decision on where they want to go with the Medicaid expansion, we need good, solid, believable numbers, and we don't have that yet."

The House speaker's comments came a day after the House health care committee rejected an expansion proposal. But senators are still considering the idea, and the Senate health care committee is expected to vote on an expansion bill next week.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the expansion, cites cost estimates nearing $1.7 billion over a decade, while a nonpartisan analysis done for lawmakers suggests savings above $500 million over 10 years.

Under the health care law pushed by President Barack Obama, states could give health insurance coverage through Medicaid to adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level - less than $32,000 for a family of four. And the federal government would give the states billions to pay for the bulk of the coverage.

The federal government will cover the full costs from 2014 to 2016 and require states to pay up to 10 percent after that.

Supporters of the expansion say it would give health insurance to thousands of working adults who can't afford it, improve health outcomes in a poor and unhealthy state and pump billions of dollars into the state economy.

About one in five Louisiana residents are uninsured. Estimates are that as many as 400,000 uninsured people would be eligible for Medicaid if the expansion were approved.

Opponents say the increased insurance coverage would be too costly for Louisiana, could shift people from private insurance to government-funded health care and would expand an inefficient Medicaid program.

They question whether federal officials would continue paying for most of the expansion costs or leave states scrambling to fill the budget gaps in later years because of ongoing concerns about federal spending levels.

The House committee's vote this week fell along party lines, with GOP lawmakers voting against the legislation and Democrats supporting it.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is expected to consider a Medicaid expansion bill on Wednesday, with several Republican senators on the panel expressing interest in tapping into the federal dollars.

Whatever happens in the Senate, Kleckley said he doesn't see any expansion proposal getting through the House, citing too many questions about the implications on the state, on businesses and on private insurance.

"I think it's just too soon, and I don't see any movement," he said.

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