After an extended, impassioned and thoroughly disingenuous speech by its author and a hearing that went on forever, SB 96 by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) died a relatively quick death in the Senate Health and Welfare committee this afternoon.
The bill was an attempt by the Louisiana Democrat Party to expand Medicaid. And because it was, that party brought out every “asset” it has to testify for the bill – from Nevers to former Sen. John Breaux, to gubernatorial wannabe Rep. John Bel Edwards and down to Rep. Barbara Norton, plus . The witnesses unleashed a veritable Parade Of Horrors about all the terrible diseases that would be cured for Louisiana residents if only more people had government health insurance that most doctors in the state won’t accept.
None of it mattered. The committee voted against the bill 6-2, and buried it.
You can watch the video of the committee hearing here, but be warned – it is SIX HOURS LONG. The more interesting parts of it, to the best we could tell, came about five and a half minutes in, when a panel of Philip Joffrion, state director of Americans For Prosperity, Cecil Cavanaugh of the Tea Party of Louisiana (and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge) and Rep. Lenar Whitney gave some fairly authoritative testimony against it.
After Cavanaugh’s testimony, which made the point that despite the promises made that the federal government will pick up 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion there is no money available to fulfill that promise and in fact what’s more at issue is whether the feds can meet their current obligations when federal debt has expanded from $10 trillion in 2009 to a projected $20 trillion by 2017 and the interest rate on that debt will inevitably rise, there was a fascinating back-and-forth between Cavanaugh and Democrat Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb. The latter ascribed the debt increase to “inflation,” and took umbrage to what she perceived was Cavanaugh calling her dumb. He generally didn’t take the bait, but it was still revealing to see a “veteran” state legislator at work.
The motion to defer the bill was made by Sen. Dan Claitor, and it carried the votes of Claitor and Sens. Elbert Guillory, Fred Mills, Bret Allain, Sherri Smith Buffington and Dale Erdey. Dorsey-Colomb and Nevers voted to save the bill.
UPDATE: Some reactions.
Sen. Mary Landrieu:
“Today’s vote by the Louisiana Senate Health and Welfare Committee that scuttled an opportunity to allow Louisiana voters to decide for themselves whether to use $16 billion of their own money to expand basic health coverage to 240,000 hard-working Louisianians makes no sense. I applaud Sen. Nevers’s heroic efforts to take this decision out of the Governor’s politics and put it into the hands of the people. This is a lost opportunity to generate $1.8 billion in economic activity and to create 15,600 jobs for Louisiana in 2016 alone. And, it is a lost opportunity to save our state budget as much as $500 million over the next decade.
“I do not understand how legislators who voted no today can explain to the people of their districts why they don’t trust them to make this decision. Hospitals, particularly rural hospitals, will be hard hit. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals impacted negatively, and the brunt of this misguided decision will be felt most acutely by small businesses that employ many of these workers. Letting the people decide this makes sense to me, but evidently not to Governor Jindal and the legislature.”
Rep. John Fleming:
“Today’s vote marks a victory for the hard-working taxpayers of Louisiana. Expanding Medicaid would have cost the state almost $2 billion over ten years, and would have pushed more Louisianians into a broken and inefficient program. Medicaid expansion would demand higher taxes and cuts in other health care programs, much as Obamacare took funds from Medicare to pay for a costly new entitlement. It’s been estimated that expansion would also move 100,000 Louisianians from private health insurance to Medicaid, adding pressure to the health care system, leaving many of those individuals with little more than a card and inadequate access to quality medical care, and ultimately hurting the very people it’s supposed to help. Louisiana has wisely pushed back against the Obamacare disaster, and today’s vote proves that we will continue to fight the expansion of a costly government monstrosity that still needs to be repealed.”