House committee votes no to expanding medicaid

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There was a push for healthcare expansion at the Louisiana State Capitol on Wednesday. Only four lawmakers on the House Committee on Health and Welfare supported the bills, killing any chances this year for expanding Medicaid.

"As a physician, taxpaying citizen, and passionate neighbor, I ask you to consider expanding Medicaid coverage in Louisiana," said Joseph Kandor, an emergency room physician from New Orleans.

Kandor testified that he often sees the same patients return to the hospital time and time again, suffering from what he called potentially controllable diseases. He gave two cases as examples. One example was a woman who was working two part-time jobs, but could not afford her medication any longer and ended up in the emergency room in a diabetic coma. When she was released, Kandor says, both her jobs let her go.

House Bill 261, by Rep. Herbert Dixon, would have provided insurance for those who make $11,490, that's below what's classified as federal poverty.

"My bill would help make those individuals a part of the healthcare insurance class in the state of Louisiana," said Dixon, (D)-Alexandria.

Dixon, says the program is federally funded, and there would be no cost that the state would have within the first three to four years. He said the state could then get out of the expanded program, if it chose to.

Opponents of the bill spoke out on why they believe the state should not get involved.

"Estimates suggest, just in Louisiana, that would be anywhere from 240,000 to 450,000 additional citizens," said Phillip Joffrion. "Let's be clear. We're talking about able-bodied working adults."

Rather than expanding healthcare, opponents said the state could be better served by other programs, like roads.

Representative Regina Barrow, (D)-Baton Rouge, took issue with that statement.

"At some point, I really want us to care more about people than about a highway, roads, and a building."

The vote, fell mostly down party lines and failed with 12 lawmakers voting against expanding Medicaid and only four in favor.

Representative Barbara Norton also brought up a similar bill, but it too was voted down.

"What if those people were in your seats, making the decisions and we were the ones in need. How would you leave here feeling?" Norton asked the committee.

Representative Pat Smith brought House Bill 290, which would have made a constitutional amendment to Medicaid coverage.

"This is called let the people decide," Smith told the committee.

The bill would have allowed the people in the state to vote on whether they want Medicaid to be expanded. Eleven lawmakers voted it down as well. Four on the committee did support it.

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