If Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) hoped rejecting Medicaid expansion would be easy, he’s no doubt disappointed right now. Health care proponents aren’t letting this go, and the governor appears to be flailing a bit in coming up with a defense.
Arguably the highest-profile aspect of this debate is the billboard ad from MoveOn.org, condemning Jindal’s decision to deny coverage to 242,000 low-income Louisianans. The Jindal administration responded by filing a lawsuit to have the billboard taken down, accusing the progressive group of a trademark violation and insisting that MoveOn’s message is causing “irreparable harm, injury, and damages” to the state’s culture tourism office.
But that’s not all the governor has said. Jindal also tried to claim the moral high ground, arguing last week, “What does MoveOn.org have against individuals with disabilities? … “I won’t accept lectures in compassion from those who would expand our safety net beyond comprehension, and jeopardize the care of our most vulnerable citizens in the process.”
Yes, according to the Republican governor, to support Medicaid expansion for low-income families is to support discriminating against Americans with disabilities, The problem, as Dylan Scott explained, is that Jindal’s claims are patently false.
[The Affordable Care Act] actually sets up new demonstrations to help improve care for the disabled enrolled in Medicaid – and Jindal should know that because his state has participated in several of them. […]The theory starts with the fact that Obamacare offers enhanced federal funding, 100 percent for the first three years and never less than 90 percent after that, for states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level…. Jindal argues that because the law provides such generous funding, more generous than the traditional Medicaid program, to cover childless adults, it “prioritizes” that population over the disabled, many of whom are enrolled in the traditional Medicaid program.
But Jindal, ostensibly one of his party’s wonks, especially on health care policy, is wrong.
More from the TPM report on the policy details that “effectively undermine the whole line of attack”:
First, some disabled people could actually qualify for health coverage under the Medicaid expansion…. Second, Obamacare should have no policy bearing on the traditional Medicaid program. Federal funding for the traditionally eligible population remains exactly the same, and the states retain the same flexibility to manage their programs as existed prior to the law. The ACA brings a new population into the program, but there is no policy reason that it would lead to “discrimination” – as Jindal calls it – or any other detrimental effects for disabled people enrolled in the traditional program. […]Third, and perhaps most devastatingly to Jindal’s theory, Obamacare actually expands programs and funding for so-called “long-term services and supports” under Medicaid – the kind of long-term care that the disabled would utilize. What’s most puzzling is Jindal should know this because, according to Kaiser’s tracking, his state has participated in three of the demonstrations authorized by the law.
I can appreciate why Jindal is feeling defensive. After all, the governor, for reasons that remain unclear, is singlehandedly denying health care coverage to nearly a quarter of a million struggling Louisianans. It hurts those personally affected; it undermines state finances; and it’s awful for state hospitals. The governor needs some kind of defense for this, especially as he cultivates his national ambitions.
But what does it tell us about the merits of his argument when Jindal’s central claim is exposed as a ridiculous falsehood?