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First Order of Business

Sue Lincoln

As promised, Governor John Bel Edwards wasted no time, taking care of business the first day after his inauguration.

“Today I’m here to sign an executive order -- and as you might have imagined, it’s my first -- to expand health care to hundreds of thousands of Louisiana working families,” Edwards announced in his first official gubernatorial press conference Tuesday.

“What this means is that adults who make up to $16,242 a year as an individual, or up to $33,465 for a family of four, would be eligible for Medicaid coverage.”

Surrounded by legislators, and advocacy groups like “Together Louisiana”, the Governor inked his name to the order, while getting in a dig or two at his predecessor.

“Because of the previous administration’s refusal to expand critical health care services, low income adults suffered without health care – because they were too poor to qualify for subsidized care on the health insurance exchange, but made too much money to qualify for Medicaid.”

Edwards said this is not a waiver request—it’s full acceptance of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

“By July first, we expect more than 300-thousand hard-working citizens will have the comfort and security of health coverage.”

He added the whole thing makes absolute financial sense, especially with the state’s current budget woes.

“We do not want to continue to send our federal tax dollars to Washington to then be given to 30 other states, to help their people who need access to quality health care, while ours go without.”

Health care organizations and groups like AARP quickly issued statements applauding the executive order. But it didn’t take much longer for critics to issue statements about the governor’s first action.

Louisiana’s chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) issued a statement saying, “Small businesses are deeply disappointed in the governor for taking it upon himself to put Louisiana in such a precarious financial situation.”

And the Republican Party of Louisiana also issued a statement, calling the Democratic governor’s action “bad fiscal and health care policy”. It also made mention of Governor Edwards “hosting President Obama in Baton Rouge”, calling that “a critical mistake”.