Landrieu claims Louisiana dragging feet on health revamp

BATON ROUGE (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu

said Wednesday that the resistance of Republican state leaders to the

Affordable

Care Act was "hurting people" by making it more difficult to carry

out the insurance changes required by the federal health

care law.

"Part of the problem is that the state —

despite the fact that it's the law, despite the fact that the Supreme

Court upheld

it — is dragging its feet, and it's only hurting the citizens.

It's just hurting people," Landrieu said after giving a speech

to the local Rotary Club.

Landrieu continued her defense of the

federal law, supporting a signature policy of President Barack Obama

that Republicans

believe can help them defeat the Democratic senator in the 2014

election. The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched

a new TV ad Wednesday attacking Landrieu for backing the law,

among other policies of the president.

Landrieu said Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's

administration should have taken the lead in creating the mandated

health insurance

marketplace for people who don't qualify for Medicaid to shop for

coverage, rather than letting the federal government establish

and run it.

But the senator also acknowledged that federal officials are having difficulty getting the online insurance marketplaces,

called exchanges, set up by the Oct. 1 deadline.

"Of course the federal government's struggling. It would have been a lot easier and better for everybody had the state set

up the exchange, but they punted. They didn't want to, so now the federal government's scrambling to set it up," she said.

Jindal, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, opposed the Affordable Care Act and wants the law repealed,

calling it too costly, unworkable and an improper expansion of government.

In addition to rejecting a state-run

exchange, Jindal has refused to expand the state's Medicaid program as

allowed under

the law, though the federal government would fully cover the

initial costs of providing coverage to as many as 400,000 uninsured

people in Louisiana.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office

estimates the Medicaid expansion could save Louisiana as much as $510

million over

10 years, with the state receiving up to $15 billion in federal

funding. The Jindal administration disputes the numbers, saying

the expansion could cost the state up to $1.7 billion over a

decade.

Landrieu, expected to face a tough re-election battle next year, said the federal health care overhaul will offer people a

better insurance system, though she said the benefits may be "slower-going" to show up in Louisiana.

Her defense of the federal law came in

questions asked by reporters. She didn't mention the Affordable Care Act

during her

speech to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, instead focusing on

coastal protection efforts, flood insurance rates and community

planning.

In her third term, Landrieu is considered vulnerable because she is a Democrat in a state that tends to vote Republican in

national elections.

Two Republicans are running against her for the Senate seat so far: U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a doctor from Baton Rouge, and

Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel and tea party supporter from Madisonville.