BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards spoke with President Barack Obama about Medicaid expansion and infrastructure during the commander in chief's visit to Baton Rouge.
On stage at McKinley High School, Obama praised the new governor on his executive order from earlier this week expanding Medicaid in the state.
"It was the right thing to do. And by the way, it will actually help the state's finances," Obama said during the town hall. "He's coming in a little like I came in. He's sort of got to clean up some stuff."
From the White House's point of view, part of that cleaning up process includes accepting the Medicaid expansion and the millions of dollars in federal funding that comes with it. In Louisiana, expanding the program could mean healthcare for more than 300,000 people.
Former Governor Bobby Jindal and the Republican controlled legislature refused to expand the Medicaid program, fearful that it would burden taxpayers with extra costs.
When the Medicaid expansion program was first introduced in 2014, the federal government promised to cover all costs for new enrollees for three years through the end of 2016. That means that as it stands right now, Louisiana will have to start footing 5 percent of the costs at the start of next year.
The amount increases from there: 6 percent in 2018, 7 percent in 2019, and 10 percent thereafter.
Behind the scenes, Obama and Edwards discussed ways to extend that timeline for Louisiana. Earlier this week, the president indicated he will include a proposal in the 2017 fiscal year budget aimed at giving all states three complete years of full Medicaid funding, regardless of when they expand the program.
Because it would be included in the budget, any such proposal would require approval from the congress.
"He doesn't get to do it on his own, which is why I'm calling on congress to help us do that. It's in the best interest of our state," Edwards said.
Another topic the pair discussed was traffic and the many trouble spots across the state, especially around the Capitol City.
"The interstate here narrows. We may have to do something about it relieve some traffic," Obama said on stage at the town hall.
"He seemed to understand the importance of some additional work on I-10 and how that was turning into a bottleneck that was threatening the movement of goods and commerce and freight," Edwards said.
Next week, the governor is set to visit Washington, D.C. He said he will be speaking with members of the Louisiana congressional delegation. He will also meet with leaders from the Department of Transportation and other agencies.