As usual, it turns out that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Not to the surprise of close watchers of Edwards’ political career, last week the Democrat renounced adding work requirements for able-bodied adults to enroll in Medicaid expansion after having paid lip service to the idea in the past. Instead, he offered up a miniscule program to train unemployed Medicaid recipients.
This echoes his reversal of a last-minute policy change by his predecessor that made able-bodied adults without dependents fulfill a work, training, or community engagement standard in order to receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program aid. Back then, he produced a fig leaf for doing nothing in the form of a cosmetic executive order that essentially changed nothing about gaining SNAP eligibility while alleging otherwise.
Edwards found an excuse to do what he really intended all along when James Boasberg, a District of Columbia federal district judge appointed by Democrat former Pres. Barack Obama, stayed implementation of work requirements in Arkansas and, for the second time, in Kentucky. This same judge has made rulings which slowed, and technically continue to impede, the Dakota Access pipeline and in which asserted he knew better than the Department of Homeland Security in how to process asylum seekers, disrupting that process by opining that the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
Like the small boy with a hammer to whom everything is a nail, Boasberg voiced the same with his most recent ruling, through an opinion infused more with politics than legal erudition. Undoubtedly, the Pres. Donald Trump Administration will appeal the ruling to the D.C. Court of Appeals for a more valid vetting, as evidenced after the decision by its approving of another waiver in Utah of the kind that backed Arkansas’ and Kentucky’s efforts, with language countering suits brought against work requirements.
But none of this made an impression on Edwards Administration officials, who cited the ruling as part of the rationale behind his backtracking. They also alleged that such requirements would not have much of an impact anyway, since, they claimed, most expansion enrollees already work, or have conditions that prevent them from being able to work or have caretaking responsibilities.
Perhaps, but data from Arkansas’ program, which applies to most expansion enrollees under 50 without dependent children, still showed almost 16 percent lost coverage by not working or engaging in other qualified activities for at least 80 hours a month. Nearly two percent subsequently gained other coverage. Extrapolated to Louisiana (minus the 50+ age group), that would shave expansion rolls by over 61,000 monthly to produce annual state taxpayer savings beginning in 2020 of nearly $37 million and shaving state spending by some $367 million yearly.
That’s not chump change, but Edwards doesn’t care, nor will he consider the positive impact that work has on Medicaid recipients, such as it boosts incomes in the neighborhood of $750,000 over a person’s lifetime compared to able-bodied recipients who don’t work. His two-faced strategy tries to deny his big government credentials, and his about-face on this issue serves as just another reminder how he tries to fool the electorate into thinking he’s something he’s not.