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Medicaid Reform Bills Fail To Make It Out Of Committee

Wallis Watkins

Budget negotiations have hit another wall in the special session. This time in the House Health and Welfare committee. Members took up several bills Thursday that would reform the state’s Medicaid program. It's one of the demands from leaders in the House who say the state must find ways to spend less money. 

Rep. Frank Hoffman's bill directs the Louisiana Department of Health to develop work requirements for certain people on Medicaid.

"Research provides findings that productive work and community engagement helps people to stay healthy," he explains, "and the purpose of this bill is not punitive." 

Opponents say it would punish people who are sick and unable to work by kicking them out of the insurance program. Plus, it would cost the state money to implement — at a time when the Legislature is staring down a $1 billion budget shortfall.

Republican Rep. Jack McFarland acknowledges the Medicaid reform bills don't address the state's immediate revenue problem, "but they are ideas that would change our fiscal situation in the long term.”

In all, four bills — including two from McFarland — failed to make it out of committee, at least for now. And just the day before, major tax bills stalled in House Ways and Means. Unable to move bills, the Legislature appears to be at a standstill.

McFarland says, "there is no compromise on how to address the fiscal cliff."

In order to avoid making massive cuts to the budget, Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging legislators to raise revenue through tax measures. Right now, McFarland says there’s no agreement on what those measures should be. Republicans are leaning towards relying on sales tax, while Democrats support making changes to the state's income tax in order to raise money.