GOP Obamacare alternative sails through Louisiana legislature

Louisiana’s legislature gave final approval Thursday to a GOP-crafted alternative to Obamacare, leaving Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in a pickle as he faces re-election this fall.

The new bill, pushed by Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, went through the House on a 90-9 vote Thursday evening, after previously passing the state Senate unanimously.

“We are one step closer to Louisiana becoming the country’s leaders in protecting patients with pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Landry said.

His legislation, the Health Care Coverage for Louisiana Families Protection Act, calls for the state’s insurance commission to open the health market to anyone not covered by an employer’s plan. Companies would then bid to offer insurance.

The crux of the plan would be to establish a high-risk “guaranteed benefits pool,” a designation that would not be known to the buyers. Those plans would be subsidized by the state, with the money coming from a monthly charge on every policy sold in the state, as well as some Obamacare money.

Mr. Edwards’s office said the governor is reviewing the bill.

The governor has repeatedly said the legislature’s entire action here is unnecessary, as he believes pre-existing patients are already able to get coverage through Obamacare.

Using pro-Obamacare studies, the governor’s office has said millions of Louisianians could be injuriously impacted by the new law, figures Mr. Landry’s office claims are wildly overstated.

“While we must take any step possible toward protecting our people, we can’t falsely claim we’ve completely solved this problem and risk tragedy for vulnerable people,” Mr. Edwards said in announcing a health task force earlier this month.

Louisiana’s bill is closely tied to a lawsuit Mr. Landry and other GOP attorneys general have filed against Obamacare that is currently wending its way through federal court.

The plaintiffs won at the district court level with their argument that because Congress has cut out required payments everyone must make – the individual mandate “tax” U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. identified in his 2012 opinion upholding Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act no longer passes constitutional muster.

Brent Littlefield, a GOP consultant who worked closely with Mr. Landry and others on the legislation, said Louisiana’s bill shows there are ways to replace Obamacare and still protect customers with preexisting conditions.

“This is a proven model which protects access to insurance for those with pre-existing conditions without the heavy hand of Washington,” he said. “Republicans now have a solution to Obamacare which has received broad bipartisan support.”

Adam Piper, the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association said the legislation presents a challenge to Mr. Edwards, who is eyeing the fall campaign.

Mr. Edwards has already said he will sign a strong anti-abortion bill that just passed the legislature. That is in keeping with the pro-life positions Mr. Edwards has taken in the past, but it’s unclear how that will play with liberal voters in the state.

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