By Robert Mann
It’s no surprise to me that former Gov. Kathleen Blanco is supporting Sen. Mary Landrieu for re-election. What is interesting is how Blanco is sharing that support — in a lengthy, heartfelt, personal letter to a group of friends and families which she emailed Tuesday.
As governor I spent a great deal of time and effort to find ways to control the ever spiraling increases in health care costs. We live in a country that will not stand by while people die in the streets for lack of health insurance, so state and federal governments provide access to a base level of care.
In Louisiana where 21.7%, over one-fifth of our people, work at low paying jobs that offer no health insurance, it becomes obvious why something had to be done to stop the bleeding. That means 866,000 people in Louisiana relied on Charity Hospitals (which no longer function the same way) for their care. All states get federal subsidies to help with care for the uninsured but here in Louisiana we could not get ahead of our problems.
The Affordable Care Act, which Mary voted for, is designed to help people with modest incomes buy private health insurance with decent coverage. It is made affordable with tax subsidies. That is no different than allowing companies to write off the costs of insurance provided to employees.
Over 100,000 in our state are now insured thru this program and pay an average $83 per month. 198,000 more are eligible, but probably do not know it. The rest earn too little for that program but would be covered in a different way.
If Governor Jindal would come to his senses and allow our the lowest income earning segment of our work force to become eligible for Medicaid, 100% would be covered by the federal government for 3 years, and 90% thereafter. (The state only gets 67% of current Medicaid help from the federal government.) Most governors, Democrats and Republicans, across the country have done this, so our federal tax dollars are helping out of state folks. We could bring hundreds of thousands off the roles of the uninsured and save tax payers incredible amounts on health care.
There are several moving parts that benefit all of us. Our children can now remain on parents’ policies until they are 26, if necessary. No longer can anyone be denied health insurance for pre-existing conditions, which was a huge problem for many. And insurance companies may no longer keep exorbitant profits. They must spend 80% of the money they earn on direct coverage, returning excess profits to their customers, and thereby lowering costs for all (while still allowing those insurers a healthy 20% margin of profit).
This is a vast improvement over the crippled system we were all paying dearly for in direct taxes and higher insurance costs for ourselves, whether we knew it or not. I personally thank Mary Landrieu for her vote. I want her to go back to the Senate to continue improving the program so it works even better.
Read the entire letter below: