Landrieu Apologizes To Levine For Friday Fumble

If there’s one thing you’ve got to give U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu credit for, it’s her passion on the issue of Obamacare and her role in the Louisiana Purchase.

Perhaps passion isn’t the correct word. Emotionalism might be a more appropriate term. It seems every time the state’s senior senator is asked about the subject she seems to fire off regrettable hysterics which poorly serve her cause.

Landrieu on Friday eviscerated state health and hospitals head Alan Levine for his continued opposition to the Senate healthcare bill, telling the Associated Press “I just think he’s wrong, usually morning, noon and night, and as far as I’m concerned, he can go get another job.”

Landrieu threw in a shot at Gov. Bobby Jindal, saying he has the “wrong priorities” while stiffening her support for the Senate bill she originally held up a vote on until Senate majority leader Harry Reid agreed to supply the state with $300 million in cash to offset Medicare costs imposed on Louisiana as part of a flawed financing formula which confuses inflated per capita income arising from Katrina recovery as actual wealth.

In that interview Landrieu also fired off some highly partisan Democrat talking points.

“It is very puzzling to me why the governor of my state and his secretary are against health reform. We obviously aren’t doing very well,” she said amid firing out a list of the state’s poor rankings with respect to medical outcomes.

After Landrieu’s diatribe, Levine and Jindal wasted little time in responding.

“It’s unfortunate she chose to make it personal, given my open and public show of gratitude to her,” said Levine. “I’m surprised by her comments given the great working relationship we have had. Odd would be one way to describe this behavior.”

The governor stood by his chief health officer.

“I agree with him, the majority of our congressional delegation and indeed a majority of the American people in opposing the Obama administration’s health care proposal that will result in massive increases in taxes and government spending. It is awful policy. Sen. Landrieu is supporting this approach. We can certainly agree to disagree,” said Jindal.

Levine wasn’t done winning the argument, though. According to the AP story on Friday:

Levine said the Senate bill would cost Louisiana an extra $130 million annually in state funds and Obama’s proposal outlined this week could cost Louisiana as much as $260 million each year in additional Medicaid costs. An estimated 370,000 Louisiana residents would be added to the Medicaid rolls under the proposals, so nearly 37 percent of the state’s population would be covered under Medicaid, according to DHH estimates.

“The state’s going to figure out how to afford it because it’s the state’s responsibility, not just the federal government’s responsibility, to help all of the people in the state get adequate health insurance,” Landrieu said.

She said under the president’s proposal, the federal government would pick up the full cost of the Medicaid expansion for two years and then give states another two years at a lesser cost-share to give states the time to “adjust their budgets.”

“I think that’s pretty reasonable,” she said.

Levine called on Landrieu to suggest what taxes to raise or programs to cut to pay for that expansion.

“Unfortunately, the state Legislature doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring this question,” the health secretary said.

And yesterday, Landrieu said she called Levine to apologize.

The issue of Landrieu and the Louisiana Purchase has been perhaps the single most contentious one in Louisiana politics over the course of the past year. In January of 2009 Jindal had requested of the entire Louisiana congressional delegation that something be done about the hole in Louisiana’s Medicaid funding arising from the FMAP formula flaw, but Landrieu was unable to get the situation addressed until the Obamacare debate began. She believes her efforts to include the fix in the Senate health bill were heroic ones and shouldn’t have been criticized as a bribe or as political prostitution, and she is highly emotional in her anger at Jindal for offering rather tepid response to the criticism her actions have drawn. Landrieu offered a spirited and high-pitched defense of her actions on the floor of the Senate last month along those lines, basically calling Jindal gutless for not standing with her.

Landrieu’s critics, on the other hand, point out that she had several other opportunities to get the FMAP formula issue addressed before Obamacare came down the pike – most notably through the 2009 stimulus and omnibus bills – and didn’t do so. Further, the bill she ended up backing will result in far higher Medicaid costs to the state of Louisiana than she’ll be offsetting with the FMAP fix. Further still, her efforts to tie an FMAP fix to her Senate bill vote (her denial of a quid pro quo notwithstanding) have tainted what are legitimate efforts to repair a glitch in the federal math and made it more difficult for the state to effect a favorable change in policy. And since it still appears decidedly unlikely that the Senate bill will pass, Landrieu’s efforts seem to have come to naught altogether. Those critics say that her castigating Jindal for his inadequate defense of the Senator in the face of this failure amount to blame-shifting and only make a bad situation worse, and that Landrieu should shut up and do her job instead of trying to score points against a governor from the other side of the political aisle.

The reader is welcome to decide which side has the superior argument. As it stands now, though, it’s Landrieu who has offered the latest apology.

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