Capitol Access
3:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Attempt to Put Medicaid Expansion on the Ballot Fails

Supporters of Medicaid expansion gather on the state capitol steps. April 23, 2014.
Credit Amy Jeffries / WRKF

At the conclusion of nearly five hours of emotional testimony, Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman David Heitmeier read the names of those weighing in on Senator Ben Nevers’ bill. The proposal would have put a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act before voters in Louisiana.

“You’ve got a lot of support here, Sen. Nevers," Heitmeier said.

But Nevers didn’t have the support of the committee. His bill was stopped on a 6 to 2 vote that fell along party lines.


Marlene Wilkerson, who struggles to mange her MS without insurance, was among those who had voiced support.

“With access to health insurance, I could focus on finishing my degree and getting a full-time job… I don’t want to be a burden," said Wilkerson.
 

Sen. Ben Nevers rallying support for Medicaid expansion on the steps of the Louisiana capitol. April 23, 2014.
Credit Amy Jeffries / WRKF

Proponents say adding as many as 240,000 Louisianians to the Medicaid rolls would be a net benefit for the state. With the coverage, they’d be more likely to get preventive care and avoid costly emergency room visits.

Opponents, like Dept. of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert, disagree.

“Giving an individual a Medicaid card does not mean it will be used. Nor does it mean that health outcomes will improve," Kliebert said.

Kliebert pointed to Louisiana’s public-private hospital partnerships as a more economical approach.

Nevers choked up as he made his final remarks on his failed attempt to help the working poor get health care.

“I did my best," said Nevers. "But sometimes your best is not good enough.”

The senator says he will try again with a substitute bill asking DHH to pilot ‘"America Next", an alternative to Obamacare that Gov. Jindal unveiled during a recent trip to Washington.
 

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