JBE’s Flip-Flop On Medicaid Work Requirements Is Now Complete

Remember when, last year, the idea of instituting some work requirements for recipients of John Bel Edwards’ runaway Medicaid program was embraced, albeit tepidly, by Louisiana’s governor?

We do. From January of last year

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement that he intends to pursue work requirements for some Medicaid recipients in Louisiana seemed to catch Republicans who have championed the idea by surprise.

They want to make sure the Democratic governor follows through on the proposal they’ve pushed unsuccessfully — and that he doesn’t get all the credit.

Many question marks remain about what exactly Edwards wants to enact, what process he’ll use and how many low-income people would be impacted in Louisiana’s $12.5 billion Medicaid program. It’s unclear how long it will take the Edwards administration to develop something that could be submitted for federal approval.

In response to questions after a Jan. 8 speech, Edwards said his administration is “actively working” on the concept. It turned out to be a timely comment, coming days before President Donald Trump’s administration announced it will allow states to enact such work requirements for able-bodied, working-age Medicaid recipients.

The governor’s comment was unexpected. Edwards administration officials with the state health department previously expressed concern about similar suggestions, such as when Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, proposed the idea last year.

And from January of this year

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday (Jan. 7) that he still supports work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, though his administration doesn’t appear to be actively pushing to implement them.

“It’s still an approach that I support, but it wasn’t something that we were able to get through the Legislature last year,” said Edwards while speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club.

Shortly after President Donald Trump’s administration announced last year it would allow states to enact Medicaid work requirements, Edwards told reporters his administration was “actively working” on setting “reasonable” work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Louisiana. The state hired a consulting firm that worked with Kentucky to help develop a Louisiana version of the program.

Yet for eight months, the Edwards administration has been silent about its proposal to implement Medicaid work and education standards. In April, health department officials said they were still “studying” the concept, but offered no timeline for when Medicaid work requirements might come to fruition in this state.

On Monday, the governor suggested the lack of progress is because lawmakers had expressed no interest in passing a law to support such a program.

Before we bring you up to speed with today’s news on this topic, a reality check – Edwards’ supposed support for Medicaid work requirements was a lie; a ruse to do two things. First, he gave lip service to the idea in order to shrink the distance between himself and John Kennedy, who he thought would be his opponent in the 2019 gubernatorial election. Kennedy had made a big deal out of imposing Medicaid work requirements and has been working in the Senate to impose them at the federal level.

And second, Edwards mumbled support for work requirements in an effort to bait Republican legislators into putting themselves in the position of being grinches who stole away poor people’s health insurance – so he could then run against heartless Republicans and turn out his base in 2019 not just for his own re-election but to help the various trial lawyers, union bosses, race-baiters and soccer moms his party would drum up to run in legislative elections.

The Republicans didn’t bite on that, and wouldn’t put teeth into the work requirement by specifically throwing people off the Medicaid rolls if they didn’t qualify for it. And Edwards had the Senate kill bills imposing that requirement – meanwhile Edwards’ Louisiana Department of Health was busy signing up people willy-nilly for Medicaid whether they were eligible or not. And tens of thousands of those new signups were ineligible based on income, based on a legislative audit, leading to some $85 million being outright wasted.

But now that he’s been able to carry out this fraud for a year without the state’s media catching on, Edwards has decided to just let it alone – and his commitment to work requirements has vanished into the same ether virtually all the rest of his supposed conservative leanings seem to end up in.

Though Gov. John Bel Edwards previously said Louisiana would seek to impose work requirements on certain adult Medicaid recipients, his administration isn’t pursuing such a mandate, backpedaling on an idea struck down in other states by a federal judge.

The Democratic governor announced in January 2018 that his administration was “actively working” on the concept, which has been pushed by Republicans who criticize Edwards for adding 500,000 people to government-financed health insurance through Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid work-requirement legislation stalled last year in the majority-GOP Legislature, but the Edwards administration suggested talks would continue. A year later, the governor is taking a different approach, announcing a pilot program Monday to offer free skills training to about 50 Medicaid expansion recipients, to help them get higher-wage jobs.

Bear in mind that the federal judge in question isn’t in Louisiana. He’s in Washington. And what he struck down were work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky, which were drawn up in ways Louisiana could try to sidestep in the event Edwards was serious about that policy initiative.

Which he is not.

If you’ve been paying attention, this is how John Bel Edwards works. He runs for governor posing as a “Trump-friendly,” conservative or moderate Democrat. And for the cameras he pays lip service to whatever conservative positions he thinks will fool the rube voters of the state into believing he’s harmless – but when it’s time to govern, those positions are never actually acted upon.

This is an obvious example, among many. Another that was in the news recently was Edwards’ lip service about the death penalty, where he concocted excuses not to actually execute anyone while denying he’s opposed to it. If we wanted to even dignify such obvious lies we could also include his claims to be a tax-cutter while burdening Louisianans with billions in tax hikes.

Meanwhile we have Edwards claiming that he’s scrubbing the ineligible people off the Medicaid rolls per that legislative audit and piloting programs to get Medicaid recipients training for higher-paying jobs. Sure sounds good, except there is no record whatsoever to indicate any of that will actually be done – and anyone paying attention will quickly recognize there is no intention to do anything other than fool the same moderate rube voters into voting for him that he fooled in 2015.

Only once he’s re-elected, if he is, there will be no more reason to fool anyone. Then we’ll see what Edwards really is about.

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