BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won't reconsider his refusal to expand Louisiana's Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law, even though a half dozen other Republican governors have agreed to participate.
Jindal said he won't include federal funding for a Medicaid expansion in his state budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which will be released to lawmakers Feb. 22.
"No, I'm not changing my mind. No, that money will not be in the executive budget, which we will be presenting next week," the Louisiana governor said in a rare media availability with local reporters.
Estimates are that as many as 400,000 Louisiana residents could be eligible for Medicaid if the state chose to expand the government-run health insurance program, with the federal government paying most of the costs.
Jindal is being urged by health care organizations, advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers to reverse his opposition to the Medicaid expansion and to take the available federal funding to offer health insurance to low-income families.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Republican governors are opting into parts of the health care overhaul now that the presidential election is over and the law seems certain to stay intact. Six GOP governors have proposed expanding their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income residents, and a dozen others haven't announced their decisions.
But Jindal, considered a potential White House contender in 2016, continues to fiercely resist the health care revamp. He's also refused to create a state-run health insurance market as provided by the law, instead leaving it to the federal government to run Louisiana's health insurance exchange.
He said he disagrees with the growth of the federal government health care program, saying that insurance is better handled by private companies and that states should be free to design health programs that suit their individual needs.
"Medicaid is an outdated program. I certainly think we should be working to expand coverage for those that lack access to health care, but I don't think putting everybody in a one-size-fits-all program's the best way to do that," Jindal said Thursday.
He also calls the expansion too costly and questions whether Congress will continue to cover the bulk of the price tag long-term.
More than 40 nonprofits, advocacy organizations and other groups sent a letter to Jindal last week, asking him to reconsider and to agree to expand Medicaid coverage in a state where an estimated 20 percent of residents are uninsured.
The potential Medicaid expansion would cover adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $15,414 for an individual or $30,650 for a family of four, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
The federal government will cover the full costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2016 and pick up most of the price tag after that, requiring states to pay up to 10 percent. Kaiser estimates it would cost Louisiana about $1 billion over 10 years to expand the program to cover the additional low-income residents.
As head of the Republican Governors Association, Jindal wrote to the Obama administration asking for a meeting to discuss possible changes to the Medicaid program, seeking more flexibility for states. He said the White House has ignored the request.