Landrieu, Fleming discuss Affordable Care Act

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Two federal lawmakers shared their views on the Affordable Care Act with more than 800 people, including state lawmakers and

local business leaders, at Friday’s Legis-Gator luncheon, hosted by the Chamber Southwest Louisiana.

Keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she supported the law, also known as Obamacare. “If I had to vote for

the bill again, I would vote for it tomorrow,” she said.

Landrieu stressed the importance of health care in terms of boosting economic development, saying “a healthy workforce is

a strong workforce.”

“People are scared when they’re sick, and they’re much stronger when they’re well,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to me to

go to places like France and Spain ... and their workers all manage to have health insurance that can’t be taken away.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said he supports defunding the Affordable Care Act. Fleming, who received the Spirit

Enterprise Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the program is “likely to collapse under its own weight.”

The plan, he said, puts “one-sixth of our economy” under government control. Landrieu disagreed, saying it is “not a government

takeover.”

“It is a private-sector model of insurance for people like all of us,” she said.

Landrieu said Louisiana has “more working people that are poor” than any other state. Of the 2 million people who file taxes

in the state, she said, 70 percent have incomes lower than $50,000 a year. She said another 12 percent have annual incomes

between $50,000 and $75,000.

“When people ask me what kind of health care people need, I think they need something they can afford,” Landrieu said.

Fleming said he is reluctant to call Obamacare affordable because health care costs may triple for young adults. He said the

enforcement of the employer mandate — which was recently delayed for one year — will be “very weak.”

Landrieu said she did not understand why Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature did not support the expansion of Medicaid.

Landrieu also spoke about the importance of providing enough money for higher education, including technical colleges that

get students immediate jobs on graduation.

“We want to give our kids a visa to the middle class, and that is what higher education and schools are all about,” she said.

“We have to invest, not cut. The amount of money does matter.”

State Lawmakers

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake

Charles, said improving higher education will be his focus over the next

two years. He

spoke about how the state’s general fund provides for only 30

percent of funding for higher education, as opposed to 70 percent

several years ago.

“That is not a good recipe for success for higher education here in the state of Louisiana,” Kleckley said.

Even with billions of dollars in capital investments, Kleckley said long-term challenges still exist, including rising Medicaid

costs, underfunded pension plans and a narrowing tax base.

“We have to get more creative,” he said. “It’s not how much do we fund higher (education), but how do we fund (it),” he said.

Kleckley said that more students are attending two-year colleges than four-year colleges and that traditional classrooms “will

soon be a thing of the past.”

“Technology has to play a central role in the future of higher education here in the state,” he said.

Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings,

said that one thing lost in Washington is “the art of compromise.”

During this year’s

legislative session, he said state lawmakers in the House and

Senate were able to compromise in creating a budget that “was

reasonable for the state.”

Morrish spoke about how the unexpected oil boom in south Louisiana in the mid-1970s initially created housing issues before slowing down in the mid-1980s.

He said the same boom is expected once industrial projects like the Sasol expansion and Magnolia LNG get underway.

“We know who’s coming, what they’re going to do and how many workers they’re going to need,” Morrish said. “There is going

to be a peak, and when the peak comes, then there’s going to be a falling off of that.”

Awards

During the event, Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, was named the 2013 Legis-Gator of the year for pushing legislation that included

funding for two projects at Sowela Technical Community College.

Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, was given the Chairman’s Award for backing legislation to reform the state’s Oil Spill Contingency

Fund.

Morrish and Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, both received the Government Affairs Award. Freshman Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington,

received the Up and Coming Legislator Award from the Fusion Five organization.