Louisiana Record

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Republican gubernatorial challenger Ralph Abraham charges bungling, bias in Edwards’ Medicaid expansion.

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By Zeta Cross | Sep 16, 2019

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BATON ROUGE – U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alexandria) recently said in a video that Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has bungled Medicaid expansion, calling it "the biggest debacle" in the Louisiana Department of Health right now and saying he would remake the department if he were governor.

Abraham said cost overruns for the expansion program are $400 million. 

A medical doctor and member of the Doctors Caucus in Congress, Abraham is a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has voted to repeal it. He believes that expanding Medicaid to allow 500,000 more Louisianians to be covered by ACA, which is commonly known as Obamacare, is the wrong direction for Louisiana.

Abraham said that the Edwards administration chose “one of the worst versions of Medicaid expansion available, rushed it to the market, knowing full well that they did not have the tools ... to ensure that participants were even eligible.” He said 1,600 people were wrongly enrolled by the Department of Health and that eligible people were inadvertently kicked off the rolls when the department tried to remedy the situation. 

He added that the Edwards administration used a biased and unfair bidding process to eliminate two companies, Aetna and Louisiana Healthcare Connections, as participating providers in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion. Abraham called the bid process "political retribution."

Under former governor Bobby Jindal's administration, Aetna and Louisiana Healthcare Connection, along with three other companies, were awarded the current provider contracts. The state pays a monthly fee for each person who is enrolled.

Aetna has been responsible for the care of 115,000 persons. Louisiana Healthcare Connection managed care for more than 440,000 persons.

Because the two companies were not chosen for Medicaid expansion contracts by the Edwards administration, all of their current enrollees, more than one-third of Louisiana’s Medicaid recipients, have to be assigned to new providers in the next few months. 

Abraham said having more than 500,000 people assigned to new networks so quickly means that mistakes will be made and many vulnerable patients will be hurt in the process. 

Both companies have filed protest letters detailing their objections to the administration's bidding process with the office of Louisiana's chief procurement officer, Paula Tregre. Tregre will decide whether the contract awards should be overturned. The contract challenge may wind up in state court as Tregre’s decision can be appealed.

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