Louisiana's Landrieu Pushing for Medicaid Expansion

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Monday, 10 Mar 2014 10:25 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Sen. Mary Landrieu is stepping up the pressure on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to adopt Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, part of a larger strategy by the Democrats to put Republicans on the defensive going into the 2014 midterm elections.

The Democrat, who is locked in a battle with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy to retain her vulnerable seat, argues the expansion, which is opposed by Republicans, would close "the Jindal gap," The Hill reported.

"Our governor may not like the president, but this is not about the president," Landrieu wrote in a petition she launched on her website.  "It's about providing health coverage for 240,000 Louisianans who work 40 or 50 hours a week, but still make too little to qualify for assistance in the new marketplace — and too much to qualify for Louisiana's current Medicaid."

Under the new healthcare law, expanding Medicaid to more low-income residents is an option but not a requirement, leaving it to individual states to decide.  The federal government will pay the full cost of covering those who are newly eligible from 2014 to 2016, and will cover 90 percent or more after that.

In total, 25 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to expand Medicaid or work with the administration to design an alternative, politically acceptable solution.  A number of states over the last year run by Republican governors have embraced the expansion despite initial ideological resistance, including New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. 

Democrats view every gain at the state level as a success in advancing Obamacare.  Republicans, however, say the strategy will have little impact on the flagging popularity of Democrats, and argue it's a desperate attempt to divert the political narrative away from Obamacare's failures.

"It's kind of like when you're drowning, you grab for anything you can," GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Hill, adding that Medicaid is a peripheral issue.

"So they're pulling out minimum wage, equal pay, violence against women, and their other go-to issues.  But to me, Obamacare is so much bigger than all that."  

Outside groups in Louisiana are also taking an interest in the debate.  Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers, is making its opposition to expansion a priority and has launched an ad campaign called "Stop the Madness." 

The liberal nonprofit group MoveOn has launched its own campaign targeting top Republican governors over their ongoing opposition to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

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