Jindal says he won't reconsider Medicaid expansion

BATON ROUGE (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"Medicaid is an outdated program.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.