- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A proposal to help pay for Louisiana to expand its Medicaid program if the state’s next governor is interested in tapping into the billions of federal dollars available continues to zip through the Legislature.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved the proposal by Republican House Speaker Chuck Kleckley without objection Wednesday. The House already has overwhelmingly agreed to the legislation, which heads next to the full Senate for debate.

Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal health care law, and lawmakers have repeatedly rejected expansion proposals. Kleckley downplayed the connection to Medicaid expansion, saying his legislation doesn’t lock Louisiana into any specific model, which still would need discussion at a later time.

“This is not a mechanism to expand Medicaid, nor does it make it easier to expand Medicaid,” he said.

But if the next governor, to be elected this fall, wants to use the billions in federal financing for a coverage expansion, Kleckley’s legislation would offer a way to draw down the cash without the state having to put up the full cost share.

Hospitals would pool their money to help pay Louisiana’s share of the cost.

All four major candidates running in the Oct. 24 election for governor, three Republicans and a Democrat, have said they would consider a Medicaid expansion.

The Louisiana Hospital Association crafted Kleckley’s proposal. The federal cash that would be available under a Medicaid expansion would help compensate hospitals for their care for the poor.

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said the measure could help the state’s budget, saving $100 million to $200 million a year in state spending on health care that could be covered through the Medicaid expansion funds. Those dollars, he said, could be shifted to other areas.

“This could generate significant savings for the state of Louisiana so that health care funding could be stabilized,” said Paul Salles, president of the Louisiana Hospital Association.

Medicaid expansion would offer government-funded insurance coverage to adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level - less than $33,000 for a family of four. It also would pour new money into the state for health care expenses.

Jindal, a likely presidential candidate, has opposed the idea as too costly for the state and as an inappropriate expansion of government-funded health care. But no one from his office or anyone else spoke in opposition to the proposal Wednesday.

Kleckley’s legislation would expire if Louisiana’s governor doesn’t expand the Medicaid program by April 1, 2016. Jindal cannot veto the legislation because it’s a concurrent resolution that doesn’t go to the governor’s desk.

___

Online:

House Concurrent Resolution 75: www.legis.la.gov


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