BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - House Republicans and the governor are going head to head over a plan to extend state contracts with Medicaid-managed care companies. They coordinate healthcare for roughly 1.5 million Louisianans, including about 800,000 children, according to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).
"This the future of our state. These are children who need to have vaccines and school readiness," said Secretary of Health Dr. Rebekah Gee, speaking in front of a panel of state legislators.
The governor's office is pushing to extend the contracts for 23 months, at a cost of about $15 billion. The original contracts were negotiated during the Jindal years. However, House Republicans led by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, for the most part voted to block the deal. They say they want to see the contracts tweaked to allow for greater accountability. They even want the legislative auditor to be named in the contracts explicitly, ensuring he has oversight power.
"Just put the man in there, put the office in," Henry said. "Clearly we're going to continue to grow that program… that we need as many eyes on it as possible."
But the Edwards administration has remained steadfast, arguing against modifying the contracts. Administration officials say during the hearing that the contracts already allow for accountability. The contracts expire at the end of January. While lawmakers will meet again next month to review the deals, a different outcome is no guarantee.
"I don't think anybody watching that meeting today has any reason to believe that something would change in a month," said Matthew Block, executive counsel for the governor's office.
The Edwards administration is now considering alternative options for the future of Medicaid. They did not provide any specifics on what they may look like. The governor's office did release a statement on the issue Friday afternoon. The statement reads:
This is the third hearing regarding these contracts. The first time, lawmakers punted without a vote. Then the second time, the House GOP voted against the extension contracts, while House Democrats and all senators voted in support of the deals.