Bobby Jindal’s health care jalopy

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By Robert Mann

In late 2007, before Gov. Bobby Jindal took office, I addressed a group of health insurance executives in New Orleans eager to learn about what Louisiana’s new governor had in store for them. Jindal is a health care expert and a policy wonk, I advised them. You may not like what he’ll propose for your industry, I warned, but brace yourselves for lots of innovation and policy experimentation.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The famously wonkish Jindal proved a conventional and unimaginative politician who, after more than six years as governor, has no major innovative idea to his name.

When it comes to public policy, Jindal sells used cars. From education to health care to economic development, the governor has sold us a collection of dilapidated conservative ideas and practices. That’s why, near the end of two terms, he has launched his nascent presidential campaign by outsourcing policy production to an Alexandria, Va., think tank, “America Next.”

After months of labor, Jindal and his advisers finally rolled out their first big policy initiative: “The Prescription for Conservative Consumer-Focused Health Care Reform.” Jindal went to Washington on Wednesday to present what some mistakenly characterized as a fresh policy prescription, founded on the proposition that the Affordable Care Act must be repealed.

“Gov. Jindal’s ‘new’ plan is an obvious attempt to drape himself with the aura of gravitas that his governorship has failed to produce.”

Perhaps, like me, Washington’s policy mavens once regarded Jindal as an innovator and policy expert. If they study his plan, however, they’ll realize that his new vehicle is just a high-mileage contraption cobbled together with used parts that Republicans have been selling for years.

Seemingly blind to the fact that most Americans oppose repealing Obamacare, Jindal staged a junkyard sale of second-hand proposals, offering retreads like health savings accounts and “lawsuit reform.” Jindal salvaged another vintage GOP idea — turning the federal government’s most successful and popular program, Medicare, into a privatized voucher program.

He did unveil a redesign of Medicaid, a $100 billion block grant alternative to the current program. But while we wait for Congress and President Obama to realize the brilliance of that idea, wouldn’t it be sensible and humane to accept the federal Medicaid expansion dollars now on the table? Why must Louisiana’s working poor receive their health care only from a vehicle of Jindal’s design?

Jindal’s used-car special, however, wasn’t a total flop. He offered several decent suggestions, including guaranteeing better access for individuals who change jobs and cross-state insurance purchasing. (Even these commendable ideas are previously owned.)

But don’t mistake Jindal’s concern about your health care for a desire to improve or enhance the Affordable Care Act. As with most Republican leaders, it’s repeal the current law or nothing. Nothing, of course, is what he’ll get.

If Jindal truly cared about “his” ideas, he would work to build support for them as improvements to a health insurance law that’s here to stay. He won’t for one simple reason: Jindal’s plan is really about caring for the health of his presidential ambitions.

If Jindal were the policy expert he pretends to be — if he actually cared about devising an innovative alternative to the Affordable Care Act — he would have proposed something serious and bold when Congress debated the bill in 2009.


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3 Responses to Bobby Jindal’s health care jalopy

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    As I said on Tom Aswell’s site, it is laughable (but not funny) that the governor of a state clearly going backward in the area of health care would have the audacity to claim to have a plan for national health care.

    As you clearly show, despite his previous experience and ostensible knowledge of health care, he has done remarkably little to address its (or any other) problems on the state or national levels.


  2. With sadness I must say that this piece is excellent. My sadness results from an accurate description of what Bobby may have been able to do for the state given his background. I believe that holds true regardless of whether or not one feels he deserved the previous appointments. Unfortunately in my view he subjected the state to the whims of his personal minions who lack not just qualifications but more importantly an ability to listen and learn from others. Instead they gorge on the crumbs brought back from the Governor’s all-you-can-eat buffets in other states. At least O.K. Allen knew that Huey told the tree to send a leaf to his desk for a signature. With Bobby there isn’t even hot air left but merely regurgitated stale winds depositing all leaves and trash in the ditches and drains to clog everything up while education and infrastructure crumble.

    I never thought I would reach a level where I would not even consider any position back home. There existed a great possibility with the development of the state community college system to get people into the workforce and allow for other students to transfer to Southeastern, LSU, Southern, et al., but the state wasted the opportunity. Quite a few of my CC students in other states now have graduate and professional degrees from Ivy League schools and state flagships. Others after working many years in different industries successfully transitioned to new careers via taking CC courses. Some immediately started in careers with an AA degree and RN. Sorry for going off topic, but like healthcare I had hopes that Bobby would at minimum assist in bettering education in the state at all levels. Instead both education and healthcare became, or always were, mere Presidential aspiration planks, long since exposed to the elements, rotting and crumbling away.
    Richard Haydel


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