BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration quietly released a new financial analysis that estimates the state could save as much as $368 million over 10 years by expanding Louisiana's Medicaid program under the federal health care law.
The analysis was posted on the Department of Health and Hospitals' website this week with no fanfare. The department hasn't touted the findings, and they were mentioned only briefly and with little detail during a budget hearing in which lawmakers pushed for more information about the expansion and Jindal's refusal to participate in it.
The report updates analysis done three years ago for the Jindal administration and puts the cost estimates more in line with other nonpartisan research done about the impact of the Medicaid expansion.
The new DHH estimates say Louisiana could save anywhere from $197 million to $368 million over 10 years while covering more than 577,000 additional people through Medicaid. The savings can be attributed to lessening existing state costs for providing health care to the uninsured, largely through the public hospital system.
On the high end, if 653,000 new people are covered and the Medicaid expansion forces up the rates paid to doctors and other health providers, the report says the state could face a price tag topping $1.7 billion over a decade.
DHH spokeswoman Kathleen Meyers said Wednesday that the Jindal administration hasn't changed its opposition to the Medicaid expansion with the findings of the new report.
"There still exist many unknowns regarding the expansion, which remains a risky proposition for Louisiana taxpayers. Even at the midpoint of the various scenarios presented in the report, there would still be a major cost to the state reaching a billion dollars over ten years," she said in a statement.
The Louisiana Budget Project, a left-leaning organization that supports the expansion, touted DHH's new analysis, saying it provides "fresh evidence" that Louisiana could provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands of uninsured at a near break-even cost.
"This important report confirms what we already knew — that Medicaid expansion is a clear winner for Louisiana working families and taxpayers," Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said in a statement. "We are glad the state health department took another look at this issue and revisited its earlier conclusions."
The potential expansion would cover adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $15,420 a year for an individual or $31,812 for a family of four. The federal government will cover the full costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2016 and pick up most of the price tag after that, requiring states to pay up to 10 percent.
Jindal opposes the expansion as inappropriate growth of what he says is an inefficient government entitlement program.
The Republican governor says that health insurance coverage is better left to the private market and that states should have more flexibility to design their own programs under the federal health care overhaul. The DHH report echoes his concerns.
"State policy makers cannot afford to ignore the fact that expanding an inefficient 1960s-era entitlement program limits choice and fails to fully integrate its recipients into the broader health care system," the report says.
An outside contractor was hired in 2010 to do analysis, but the updated report was done in-house by DHH employees.