That fight was lost when, on Monday, the Louisiana Senate voted 38-0 to pass SB 173, the Health Care Coverage for Louisiana Families Protection Act, by Sen. Fred Mills. The bill essentially incentivizes health insurers to accept and maintain coverage of patients with pre-existing medical conditions in the likely event that Obamacare goes down the tubes.
We covered the background of the bill here. We also covered its blitzkreig through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee here, as part of a lengthy play-by-play of an atrocious political day Gov. John Bel Edwards had last Wednesday.
But now the Washington Times’ James Varney, whose name might be familiar given that he was the last actually conservative columnist the New Orleans Times-Picayune employed, has covered the Senate vote on the bill.
If the states are the laboratories of democracy, then the Republican Party has an Obamacare alternative in a test tube wending its way toward the governor’s desk in Louisiana.
The momentous-sounding Health Care Coverage for Louisiana Families Protection Act would use high-risk pools to cover residents struggling with pre-existing conditions — an issue that has bedeviled Republicans in Washington.
In Louisiana, though, the Republican idea won backing from both parties and cleared the state Senate on Monday evening on a 38-0 vote.
It now heads toward near certain approval in the state House, where the speaker is a co-sponsor, and would then reach the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who will face a tricky election-year decision of whether to sign or veto the bill.
State Attorney General Jeff Landry, a former Republican congressman, has spearheaded the effort, saying it would inject real competition into the health insurance market, reduce costs for consumers and provide a safety net for those whose pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and diabetes.
“What we’re doing is going back to federalist principles, working within the long-established powers of the state,” Mr. Landry said. “It will be interesting to see what the governor will do.”
The bill is meant to be an Obamacare replacement, poised to go into effect should a Republican-led lawsuit against the 2010 federal health care law succeed. Mr. Landry is one of the Republican state attorneys general taking part in that challenge.
The bill would call for Louisiana’s insurance commission to open the insurance market to anyone not covered by an employer’s plan.
Following carefully crafted rules, insurance companies and the state commissioner would determine who belongs in a high-risk pool, what the bill’s sponsors repeatedly stress as a “guaranteed benefits pool.” The key is that buyers would not know who is in the pool.
That pool would be funded through a monthly charge on every policy sold and with money the state pays Washington through a niche in Obamacare regulations.
Essentially what happened here was that Edwards spent much of the winter and early spring attacking Landry for joining the lawsuit 19 different Attorneys General are now participating in seeking to throw out Obamacare as unconstitutional (because it always was, and most certainly is now thanks to the Trump administration voiding the individual mandate). Edwards screamed that Landry would be putting 850,000 Louisianans with pre-existing conditions out in the street when it came to health coverage, when the real number was more like 90,000. Edwards then came up with a bill, introduced by Plaquemine Democrat state representative Chad Brown, which imposed command economics on the problem and would likely have run most of the health insurers out of the state had it become law – and touted that bill as the only way to save the state from the calamity Landry faced it with by joining that lawsuit.
Edwards knew that Brown’s bill had no chance of passing, but he backed it anyway because he thought he’d have political leverage on Landry when it died in the House Insurance Committee. Except Landry, House Speaker Taylor Barras, House Insurance Commissioner Kirk Talbot and Mills got together and built a better bill, and that’s the one which passed the Senate.
Edwards has now been outflanked completely. The Senate which he normally controls at such a level that it protects him from having to sign or veto bills he hates just completely abandoned him – because they’re up for re-election as well, or at least the ones who aren’t termed out are, and nobody is interested in voting against a bill that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being tossed off their health insurance.
The House is going to pass this thing just as unanimously, and then Edwards is going to sign it because he’s the jerk who hated 850,000 people (hey, that was his number after all) enough to screw up their health insurance just to make a mean point about Jeff Landry and his lawsuit.
At that point he’s either going to admit political defeat, which he has never done in his life, or he’s going to lie and take credit for the bill while he signs it. When he does the latter, don’t buy the spin coming out of his camp. He did nothing to aid this bill’s passage, he did nothing to help craft it and he deserves no credit for Louisiana coming up with a solution for Obamacare’s inevitable demise.