BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana governor's plan to sign "emergency contracts" to maintain healthcare for roughly 1.5 million people is facing new questions. In a letter sent to Republican lawmakers, Attorney General Jeff Landry argued those contracts could be challenged legally and even "declared null and void."
"Such a result," he wrote, "could cause serious issues for the state." Landry drafted the letter at the request of a group of Senate Republicans.
Just before Thanksgiving, Governor John Bel Edwards announced his intention to pursue those emergency contracts after House Republicans voted twice to block a 23-month extension of the current contracts. The emergency order would allow him to go around those lawmakers altogether.
The current contracts, negotiated during the Jindal administration, are set to expire at the end of January. Matthew Block, executive counsel for the governor, argued they cannot wait much longer to get the new contracts set up.
"That is a gamble with state dollars, with federal obligations, and more importantly, with healthcare for 1.6 million people the governor isn't willing to take," Block said Monday.
The contracts are valued at roughly $15 billion. House Republicans, led by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, say they worry the drafted contracts do not allow for enough oversight and could include waste. Before the most recent vote, Henry called for the contracts to include a provision ensuring the legislative auditor has power to investigate the Medicaid program.
At the time, the governor's office argued that such a provision would be redundant. Now however, the proposed "emergency" contracts from the governor's office include language noting the auditor "has the authority" to do such investigations.
Later this week, those contracts could come up for yet another vote. The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget is scheduled to meet Friday, December 15. The chairman of that committee, Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, says he will put the contracts on the committee agenda if asked.
Read the AG's full letter to lawmakers below.