BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) on Thursday ripped Democrat incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards for failing the state with his Medicaid expansion push, something Abraham detailed in a vicious press conference outside the state’s Department of Health.
Abraham–himself a doctor before his election to the U.S. Congress–leveled the governor and his state Secretary of Health, Dr. Rebekah Gee, by detailing how widespread waste, fraud, and abuse has been in Edwards’ health program–and how it has hurt people who need access to Medicaid.
“We’re here today to draw attention to John Bel’s Department of Health, one of the most ineffective and poorly run government agencies in Louisiana—which is saying something,” Abraham said at the press conference, video of which was later sent to Breitbart News.
Before I begin, let me be clear that our problem is not with the workers within the Department. They can do only what they are instructed to do. Our problem is with the people in charge: the governor, the division of administration, and the secretary of health, Dr. Gee. Let’s walk through a timeline of the biggest debacle in the Department right now, Medicaid expansion—what our governor calls his greatest accomplishment. The government made the decision to take one of the worst versions of Medicaid expansion available, and rushed it to the market knowing full well that they did not have the tools to administer it or ensure that the people who were enrolled in it were even eligible. This led to hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid. They got caught. And instead of stopping, acknowledging the problem and fixing it, they rushed again to cover up their failures and ended up kicking people off who were actually eligible to be on the rolls. Then they got caught doing that, and instead of stopping, acknowledging and fixing the problem, they made more excuses and ended up canceling the largest MCO contract in the state for what I will add was clearly political retribution.
Nearly half a billion dollars has gone missing under Edwards, Abraham charged, and hundreds of wealthier individuals who should not be on Medicaid given they make six-figure salaries have ended up the state’s Medicaid rolls:
Let’s quickly talk about the massive waste, fraud, and abuse within the Department. The Department of Health has wasted nearly $500 million of taxpayer money. To put that into context, that’s equal to the half-cent sales tax that John Bel passed. The governor and the Department of Health have enrolled more than 1,600 on Medicaid who make six-figure incomes. Think about that for a minute. While this is going on, John Bel has killed every attempt to fix the problem. He won’t use accurate data like state income tax to verify income and has killed every measure to reform the Department. The governor’s goal is to get as many people on state-sponsored healthcare as possible. You know who this hurts more than the taxpayers? It hurts the people who actually need the services.
Abraham also ripped Edwards for skyrocketing Department of Health spending–an extra billion dollars per yearfor every year Edwards has been governor–with no plan to pay for it all:
Let’s talk about the unsustainable pace of spending. The Louisiana Department of Health’s budget has grown more than a billion dollars every year of this administration—a billion. That’s a faster rate than any other state in America, and it is completely unsustainable. The Louisiana Department of Health’s budget now makes up nearly half—half—of our state’s total budget. Right now, the total state budget including federal is $34.7 billion. $14.8 billion of that goes to the Department of Health. This will only get worse in 2020 when the federal match rate goes down. Additionally, John Bel refuses to give the legislature or the public any real answers as to how much state general fund money this massive program is going to cost our state. We have yet to hear a plan from John Bel on how he intends to pay for that. I’ll tell you what his plan is—it’s his plan for everything: raise your taxes.
Abraham and Edwards will face off, along with several other candidates, in an Oct. 12 jungle primary. If neither–nor any of the other candidates–reaches 50 percent, which is the likeliest outcome, the race will head to a Nov. 16 runoff in the state. Abraham is the leading GOP candidate in the jungle primary and most likely to face Edwards in the runoff.