Lawmakers Continue Prescribing Jindalcare Bill 

After the sponsoring lawmaker admitted to the House Health and Welfare Committee that his proposal was “vague,” members voted Wednesday to advance his legislation to implement Gov. Bobby Jindal’s national health care plan in Louisiana.

The “America Next” plan, which offers broad strokes on lowering health care costs, protecting vulnerable citizens and improving access, is essentially endorsed in SB 682 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa. Health committee members gave their thumbs up as well, without objection, and sent the bill to the Appropriations Committee for further debate.

While the 23-page Jindal plan offers guidelines, the Nevers bill would charge the state Department of Health and Hospitals with formulating the Louisiana plan using it as a guide. Lawmakers would then have the final say over implementation and costs. “I have faith in our department,” Nevers said, adding his bill gives DHH complete discretion.

It’s an odd pairing, Nevers backing Jindal. Nevers had legislation that failed earlier in the session that would have allowed voters to decide whether Louisiana should accept the Medicaid expansion being offered by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Jindal has been a vocal opponent of the expansion, squashing it here, and of the ACA overall.

“This bill was not my first choice,” Nevers said of SB 682. “As I began to read (the Jindal plan), it was interesting that the language mirrored many of my thoughts and probably your thoughts. If this plan is good enough for America, surely it’s good enough for Louisiana.”

Nevers insists he’s not playing a game of political chicken with policy. “My Democratic colleagues have criticized me for bringing forth a plan that was developed in a think tank and by a Rhodes Scholar,” he said.

Under his bill, DHH would have to draft a Louisiana-specific plan and report back to the Legislature by Sept. 1. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert told the committee her department would strive for a “cost-neutral, cost-effective plan.”

Nevers said he envisions a state plan that would lower health care costs, offer greater incentives for wellness, help eliminate fraud, offer pricing transparency, address those living in poverty and guarantee access for pre-existing conditions.

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