Ed­wards pledges Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion for Louisiana upon in­au­gu­ra­tion

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Michael San­dler

Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Ed­wards will be sworn in to of­fice Mon­day, and if he has his way, ex­pan­sion of the state’s Med­i­caid pro­gram won’t be far be­hind.

The Demo­crat has promised to sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid within 24 hours of his in­au­gu­ra­tion, a move that ex­perts say is un­prece­dented, es­pe­cially with a Repub­li­can-led state Leg­is­la­ture. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an in­de­pen­dent, uni­lat­er­ally ex­panded Med­i­caid in his state.

Ed­wards has set July 1as his tar­get date to cover an es­ti­mated 300,000 more poor and dis­abled res­i­dents.

If the state GOP doesn’t thwart the plan, about 250 new em­ploy­ees staff will be needed to prop­erly vet ap­pli­ca­tions, said Belinda Davis, an as­so­ciate political sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Louisiana State Univer­sity. The state bud­get cuts un­der Repub­li­can Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, who ar­gued that ex­pan­sion was an in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­di­tion to govern­ment spend­ing, af­fected staffing lev­els, Davis said.

Al­though the Af­ford­able Care Act would cover the ini­tial costs of ex­pan­sion, Louisiana would later need to pay 10% of costs and Ed­wards has not said how the fi­nan­cially strapped state would find the money.

Ed­wards is in a unique po­si­tion as he en­ters of­fice. No state with a Repub­li­can-led leg­is­la­ture that has re­jected Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion has gone on to elect a Demo­cratic gov­er­nor, said Matt Salo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Med­i­caid Di­rec­tors.

But even Repub­li­can lead­ers are seem­ingly chang­ing their minds about ex­pan­sion. Ken­tucky Gov. Matt Bevin ran his cam­paign last year on a plan to re­verse ex­pan­sion in the Blue­grass State. He has since backed off that prom­ise.

Ed­wards

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