With a one-vote margin, a bill that would force Louisiana to accept federal Medicaid Expansion advanced through the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday.
Governor Bobby Jindal has opposed the Expansion, claiming it would be too expensive and that the federal program doesn’t meet Louisiana’s needs.
Louisiana has one of the largest percentages of uninsured residents in the nation, because to qualify for Medicaid in Louisiana, residents can’t make more than 12 percent of the federal poverty line. The Expansion would raise that limit to 138 percent.
Uninsured Louisianians can get care through emergency rooms. Rep. Bernard LeBas pushed Department of Health and Hospitals head Kathy Kliebert on the quality of reactionary care.
"Y’all already taking care of the uninsured, that’s what you’re telling me? Is that true?" asked LeBas.
Kliebert responded, "We’re saying, we’re saying that we’re taking care of the uninsured. Am I saying there are not gaps? I’m saying... I’m telling you there are gaps in services."
Republican Rep. Kenny Havard criticized Kliebert for lacking an alternative plan to patch those services.
"We have no plan," said Havard. "Right now, this is the best plan, I think. We have no plan, you’ve given us no option. And that’s y’all’s jobs!"
"Well, again, we have looked at options, and those options aren’t available to us under the Medicaid Expansion," Kliebert explained.
Rep. J Rogers Pope, the other Republican that sided with Democrats, later told a reporter with the Associated Press that he voted for the Expansion by mistake.
Procedurally, he cannot take his vote back, but the House can choose to send the bill back to committee.