Obama plans Medicaid expansion proposal that would benefit Louisiana

President Barack Obama and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards were expected to talk Medicaid expansion shortly after Obama arrived in Baton Rouge on Wednesday night.

Edwards, a Democrat who was sworn into office on Monday after eight years of Republican gubernatorial leadership, made Medicaid expansion a top priority of his campaign and his first major action as governor on Tuesday.

But one of the specific items that was likely discussed as the president made his first official visit to Baton Rouge: Obama plans to propose a new Medicaid expansion measure that would give states like Louisiana credit for the federal money they have missed out on because they have waited to expand Medicaid.

The federal health care law calls on states to expand Medicaid to cover people who fall below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (currently about $24,250 in income a year for a family of four). But following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ACA ruling,  states can’t be compelled to expand. Instead, states are incentivized to expand by gaining additional federal dollars for the newly covered.

According to the White House, Obama’s budget for the coming year will include a legislative proposal to provide any state that opts into Medicaid expansion through the federal Affordable Care Act three years of full federal support, including those like Louisiana who expand later than others. Every state — no matter when they adopted the expansion — would get three years of full federal funding before a gradual step down to 90 percent, under the plan.

It’s unclear how receptive Congress would be to such a proposal. Obamacare remains unpopular among many Republicans, who have continued efforts to repeal the health care law.

But it’s pretty clear from a blog post that will be going up on the White House website Thursday morning that Obama sees Louisiana’s recent move to expand Medicaid as a potential boost to the ACA.

“With Louisiana becoming the 31st state, plus the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid, more than 50 percent of those estimated to gain coverage from Medicaid expansion live in states that have done so – 4.4 million people,” the White House notes. “As this progress shows, state officials across the nation know that Medicaid expansion is a great deal for their states – a win for both the health of their residents and the vibrancy of their economies.”

Edwards, a Democrat who was sworn into office on Monday, signed an executive order advancing Medicaid expansion on his second day in office. An estimated 300,000 new Louisiana residents are expected to benefit from the program. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, had opposed Medicaid expansion and was among the vocal opponents of the federal health care law.

Edwards’ spokesman said early Wednesday evening that he didn’t have specific details to provide on Obama’s new plan being offered up, but the governor would likely have more information after their meeting tonight.

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