Last year, Louisiana physician Fred Cerise criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approach to people living here without health insurance. Excerpt:
Adoption of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion paired with a healthy safety net would provide the component pieces of a universal coverage model in Louisiana for the first time. However, Jindal has declared his opposition to the two major programs that would ensure care to the uninsured. He has made clear his intention to reject the federal Medicaid expansion and at the same time is dismantling the state’s public safety net. It’s a combination of blows for many of the state’s citizens who are among the lowest earners in the country and are destined to go without care.
By refusing to participate in the Affordable Care Act, Jindal will deny access to 456,000 low income individuals through the Medicaid expansion. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation put the 10 year cost at less than $1 billion for Louisiana. In fact, when that expense is offset against additional savings on state funds currently spent on the uninsured, it is probable that there would be a net financial benefit to the state.
After two years as Louisiana’s Health Secretary and five years as governor, Jindal presides over a Louisiana that has one of the country’s largest uninsured populations with worsening access to care. He is now chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, with a message for the country. Those outside of Louisiana can start to get to know him better by examining his health care record back home.
Dr. Cerise is not just any critic. He teaches medicine at LSU. More importantly, he was formerly the state’s public health chief, and had been in charge of the state’s charity hospital system (administered through LSU) until he was removed, apparently for opposing the governor’s plan to privatize state hospitals.
On the subject of Cerise’s op-ed, Jindal recently wrote his own op-ed explaining why he wants Louisiana to refuse to participate in Obamacare. Excerpt:
2. President Obama’s Medicaid expansion could cost taxpayers in Louisiana $1.7 billion over the first 10 years of implementation, and the cost will continue to rise. Additionally, the percentage of state funds spent on Medicaid has nearly doubled over the past 16 years and expanding the program could further threaten funding for higher education, transportation, and other critical services.
3. By expanding President Obama’s healthcare law, 41 percent of Louisiana’s population would be dumped into Medicaid. Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart. The President is gradually turning the world’s greatest health care system into the world’s largest welfare system. The left has been very clear—their end goal here is to make all healthcare in America government health care.
OK, fair enough. I have no idea if Cerise is right or wrong about health care policy, but this is a debate worth having between Cerise and Jindal. Except the Louisiana legislature will not be able to have it. Cerise’s employer, the LSU Board of Supervisors, refuses to let him testify before a legislative panel considering the state’s health policies. LSU journalism professor Bob Mann writes:
Here’s the very clear message this telling little episode sends, beyond Jindal’s well-known disdain for dissent in his ranks: Jindal and his staff are fully in charge of the LSU Board, down to which employee is allowed to testify before the Legislature.
My evidence? It’s circumstantial, but allow me to make my case.
Can you imagine any truly independent board of state government having the audacity to blow off a legislative committee in this fashion, telling legislators that an employee is not allowed to testify?
If a body, like the LSU Board, was bold enough to prevent someone as prominent as Cerise from testifying, it’s apparent to me that they did so with the full confidence that a) the Governor’s Office has its back, or, b) this is what the Governor’s Office ordered them to do.
This really is stunning, on several levels. Why on earth would the legislature stand for this? Do they really believe the governor has the right to tell them which state employees they can and cannot hear from in a legislative hearing? Is there so little independence in the LSU Board that they’re micromanaging politically inconvenient employees at that level? Why is the governor afraid to let Dr. Cerise testify? If Dr. Cerise is wrong, and Jindal’s policies are correct, then Team Jindal should welcome the opportunity to expose the flaws in Dr. Cerise’s argument.
Don’t legislators have a right to hear from whomever they want? Doesn’t the public have a right to hear from Fred Cerise? I mean, it’s just unbelievable, the LSU Board directing a professor not to testify at a legislative hearing in his area of expertise, for no apparent reason other than that he opposes the governor’s policies.
How would a President Jindal handle relations between his administration and Congress? When Jindal’s 2016 White House run finally launches, you can be sure that the name of Fred Cerise will be known beyond Louisiana — and that it will matter, both in terms of health care policy, and in terms of signaling how a Jindal White House would operate politically.
Along those lines, Ramesh Ponnuru writes that Republicans excited over Obama scandals and how those scandals may benefit them at the ballot box are forgetting history:
For the most part, Republicans didn’t campaign on impeachment in 1998: They didn’t say, “Vote for me and I’ll do my level best to oust Clinton.” Their strategy was more passive. They were counting on the scandal to motivate conservatives to vote while demoralizing liberals. So they didn’t try to devise a popular agenda, or to make their existing positions less unpopular. That’s what cost them — that, and the mistake of counting on statistics about sixth-year elections, which also bred complacency.
Republicans have similar vulnerabilities on the issues now. They have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes.
Congressional Republicans were right to press for hearings on all of these issues. But investigations of the administration won’t supply them with ideas. They won’t make the public trust Republicans. They won’t save them from themselves.
UPDATE: I am told by someone in state government in a position to know that Cerise testified this week. The bill he favors died in committee, though.