Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry continued a monthslong feud over health policy Wednesday, as a task force approved a report over Landry's objection that warns the state stands to lose $3.6 billion in federal funding if Landry's lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act is successful.
The 15-page report, endorsed by the Edwards-created Protecting Health Coverage in Louisiana Task Force, outlines the consequences Louisiana would face if Barack Obama's signature health law is invalidated by the courts, something being sought by a group of Republican attorneys general including Landry.
The document paints a stark picture, warning 494,000 Louisianans would lose health coverage if the ACA was scrapped. Without billions of dollars in federal funds, Louisiana's uninsured rate would return to the high teens experienced before the ACA, the report said.
The fate of the ACA, a sprawling health law that provides protections for people with preexisting conditions, currently sits before a district court but could ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Attorney General's lawsuit is about political gain, but for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, it's about losing access to healthcare and critical health protections," Edwards said in a statement. "This new report makes it clear: the people of Louisiana and the State of Louisiana simply can't afford Jeff Landry's lawsuit."
Instead of offering up suggested changes to the report, Landry circulated his own report Wednesday morning that decried the document approved by the task force as "full of inaccuracies and mischaracterizations" and slammed Edwards' "failed Medicaid welfare expansion."
"What's contained in this report is a doom-and-gloom scenario," said Beverly Haydel, Landry's representative on the panel.
Haydel questioned some of the figures presented and said it was unreasonable to assume Congress wouldn't reach a deal to replace the ACA's funding if the law was scrapped. Landry's report included quotes from members of Louisiana's congressional delegation saying they would work to pass legislation to replace components of the ACA if it was tossed out.
"Hope is not a strategy," replied Matthew Block, Edwards' general counsel. "We can't just say, 'we'll we've gotten some assurances from some particular members of Congress...don't worry everything is going to work out just fine.'"
The governor created the task force last year in response to a bill passed by Landry--and signed by Edwards--to create a high-risk pool to cover the people who would lose coverage in the individual market if the ACA is tossed out. Landry has touted that law as a Republican solution to Obamacare, while Edwards has blasted it as a "fig leaf."
Landry's office and a representative of Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, who is working with Landry on the high-risk pool, quibbled with the report's assertion that more than 900,000 people with preexisting conditions in Louisiana are put at risk because of the lawsuit. That number includes people who get coverage through their employer but who would face having no protections in place for their conditions if they lost their jobs. Frank Opelka, Donelon's representative, abstained from the vote to adopt the report.
Even if Landry is successful in getting the ACA tossed out, his office suggested Congress would give states the money to run their own individual markets and a capped, block grant version of Medicaid expansion. Republicans tried to leverage their control of the White House and Congress early in President Donald Trump's tenure to repeal and replace Obamacare but failed to garner enough votes.
While the task force estimated the amount of money that would be lost if the ACA is ended, Donelon's office is conducting a more exhaustive actuarial analysis that will be presented to lawmakers in March. That report will peg how much money is needed to fund an alternative to Obamacare's individual exchange.
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