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Bills To Protect Pre-Existing Conditions Have An Achilles' Heel: The State Can't Afford It

Governor John Bel Edwards presented his bill to protect pre-existing conditions to the House Insurance committee Wednesday, April 24.
Wallis Watkins
Governor John Bel Edwards presented his bill to protect pre-existing conditions to the House Insurance committee Wednesday, April 24.

While the Affordable Care Act faces a challenge in federal court, Louisiana’s Governor and Attorney General are offering competing bills to protect coverage of pre-existing conditions in the state.

But on Wednesday, it became clear to lawmakers like Senator Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) that without help from the federal government, the state can’t afford to do that.

"It’s a pipe dream.  It’ll never happen," said Senator Luneau. 

Insurers say without federal funds provided through the Affordable Care Act, the cost of covering pre-existing conditions — eventually reaching more than $800 million — would fall to consumers. 

"It wouldn’t be feasible to put this on the state," Senator Fred Mills (R-Parks), who is carrying the bill supported by Attorney General Jeff Landry, explained to members of the Senate Health and Welfare committee.

Both Senator Mills and Representative Chad Brown (D-Plaquemine), who’s sponsoring the Governor’s bill, recognize that the measures could not take effect if the entire health care law is struck down, because the state can’t afford it.

But striking down the ACA is exactly what Landry is trying to do. He joined a lawsuit last year with other Republican attorneys general arguing the health care law is unconstitutional. That case is likely to end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senator Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) called the bill a farce and said he wouldn’t support it.

“It's feel good legislation to tell folks we're going to take care of you if we run into a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I think it gives people false hope,” said Senator Claitor. 

Senator Mills delayed the vote, saying the bill needs more work.

Earlier in the day, Governor John Bel Edwards presented his bill on the House side, where it faced some of the same questions. He says he’s doesn’t care which bill is passed, he’d rather the health care law stay in place.

"It’s kind of strange that the Attorney General has a bill that seeks to protect what it is in court he’s trying to invalidate," said Governor Edwards.

Neither bill moved forward, but they’re also not dead. Landry is sticking by both his bill and the lawsuit.

Copyright 2019 WRKF

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.