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Kennedy: New Louisiana law won’t solve health care problems

July 1, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If federal judges overturn the Affordable Care Act, a new Louisiana law won’t be the fix for replacing the health overhaul, Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said Monday. Instead, he said Congress will have to decide the new health care model that states will follow.

Louisiana lawmakers, urged by Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, passed a bill earlier this year that could lead to creation of a high-risk pool to help residents with preexisting conditions get insurance if the federal law championed by former President Barack Obama is thrown out.

But no financing is earmarked to pay for the plan.

If the federal law is overturned as sought by a Texas lawsuit that Landry supports, the hundreds of millions in subsidies Louisiana residents currently receive to help pay for insurance coverage and preexisting condition protections will disappear.

Kennedy said a high-risk pool as envisioned in the Louisiana law can work, but will require substantial subsidies. Asked if he thought Congress would provide such subsidies, as Landry and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon have suggested, Kennedy replied: “Maybe.”

“I would certainly do everything I could to help Louisiana,” he told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

But while he described the state-level law as a “good start,” Kennedy added: “I don’t think the Affordable Care Act, though, is going to be solved at the state level.”

Though he signed the Landry-backed bill into law, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards called it a “fig leaf” that doesn’t fix anything. He’s noted that no financing for a high-risk pool has been secured and the law doesn’t address the 460,000 people added to Medicaid who would lose coverage if the Medicaid expansion program authorized under the federal law is scrapped. Landry, meanwhile, has said Louisiana is becoming “the country’s leader in protecting patients with preexisting conditions.”

Kennedy wants Congress to work on replacing the federal health law whether or not the courts intervene.

Republicans, however, were unable to repeal and replace the law when they had control of the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and the White House, making any chance of reaching consensus on health care seem difficult at best. Kennedy said he doesn’t expect any sweeping congressional action on health care before the 2020 presidential election.

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