Clearing The Way: Jindal Healthcare Pilot Plan Wins Approval From Senate Committee

The pilot program for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “America Next” healthcare plan, which he has touted as the conservative, consumer-focused healthcare reform, passed through a Louisiana Senate committee today.

The Senate Finance Committee sent SB682, which was sponsored by Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), to the full Senate where it will await approval. As the Advocate notes, the legislation will mandate that the Department of Health and Hospitals based on Jindal’s America’s Next plan.

The plan, would be funded with any money available and give DHH the power to create and administer a specific healthcare insurance program designed for Louisiana. DHH would also be in charge of publicizing the rules of the program.

Jindal wants the federal government to provide health care block grants to states that would be free to develop their own health programs. Louisiana would seek special federal permission for block grant funding.

The plan could consider various health care access initiatives such as increasing medical savings accounts, providing greater incentives for wellness, focusing on fraud prevention, guaranteeing access for those with pre-existing conditions and seeking federal changes related to insurance such as cross-state insurance purchasing.

DHH chief of staff Calder Lynch said parts of Jindal’s plan would require federal law and regulation changes. The state health agency would take elements of the governor’s plan that can be implemented at a state level and adopt it for Louisiana use, he said

Conservative lawmaker and Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Donahue (R-Mandeville) said the original plan for the program, which would have implemented whatever DHH created, did not sit well with him.

“The fiscal note is pretty scary,” said Sen. Donahue, R-Mandeville. He noted the Legislature’s fiscal adviser could not estimate costs without knowing plan specifics.

“I think you would have everybody supporting development, but requiring its implementation regardless of costs to me that’s a problem,” said Donahue.

Prior to it’s approval of the healthcare pilot program, the legislation was amended to “require Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approval of any plan developed by DHH prior to it being implemented.”

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