Connecting state and local government leaders

Louisiana Health Secretary to Sen. Bill Cassidy: Your Health Bill Would Hurt Our State

Sen. Bill Cassidy, , ... ]

Sen. Bill Cassidy, , ... ] (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

“In its current form, the harm to Louisiana from this legislation far outweighs any benefit,” Rebekah Gee says in an open letter.

Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee has a message for U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy: his health care proposal “uniquely and disproportionately hurts” his home state.

Gee, who was appointed in 2016 by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, put her concerns about the Cassidy-Graham health care plan in writing in an open letter addressed to Cassidy which she published to Twitter on Monday evening. The proposal’s potential impact on Medicaid stood out as her primary concern.

“First and foremost,” Gee wrote, “my concern deals with the bill’s treatment of the Medicaid Expansion.”

Gee went on to cite the more than 433,000 Louisiana residents who gained coverage under the Medicaid expansion in the span of one year alone, coverage that she credits with enabling “one hundred thousand primary care visits, tens of thousands of screenings for cancer, and thousands of new mental health services.”

The plan was spearheaded by Cassidy and fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina  and is the latest Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The proposal would turn Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion into a block grant, place a per capita cap on federal Medicaid funding to states and encourage state governments to design their own health care systems.

Gee sees dire consequences as a result of those changes.

“Because this bill eliminates Medicaid expansion in 2020, all of our efforts would end, and thousands of Louisiana citizens would lose coverage and access to critical health care services. This would be a detrimental step backwards for Louisiana.”

According to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Louisiana is one of 20 states that face the largest cuts if the proposal becomes law. The block grant that would allocated to these states could be up to 60 percent below what they would otherwise receive through the Medicaid expansion under the current law.

The CBPP found that under Cassidy-Graham Louisiana stands to lose $3.2 billion in federal funding by 2016. That loss isn’t small—Gee points out it makes her state the 8th biggest loser of the states affected—but it pales in comparison to the $27.8 billion shortfall a state like California could face.

Gee isn’t the only Louisiana official expressing concern about risks under the Cassidy-Graham proposal. On Tuesday, Gov. Edwards signed a letter, written by a bipartisan group governors, urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer not to consider the Cassidy-Graham proposal.

The Cassidy-Graham bill has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. A preliminary version of that analysis is expected early next week.

Editor's Note: The article has been updated to include information about the letter signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. 

Quinn Libson is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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