BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After stalling the measure last week amid cost concerns, Louisiana senators Wednesday revived a proposal seeking to recreate federal health law protections for people with pre-existing health conditions in state law, saying changes backed by Attorney General Jeff Landry improved the legislation.
The approach proposed by Landry and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, both Republicans, would come into play if a Texas lawsuit that Landry supports successfully overturns the federal Affordable Care Act.
Landry’s bill calls on Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon to work on creation of a high-risk pool, to help enact a state-level protection prohibiting denial of insurance because of a person’s medical conditions. The high-risk pool would help people with pre-existing conditions who don’t have government insurance like Medicare and can’t get insurance through employers to secure coverage if the federal law disappears.
No financing for premium assistance has been secured, however. But Landry and Donelon said they are hopeful Congress would help states if hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies that flow to Louisiana consumers each year under the Affordable Care Act disappear. Donelon said he doesn’t expect federal judges to throw out the entire health care law.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee sent the measure to the full Senate for debate without objection Wednesday. A competing proposal backed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, meanwhile, was killed by Republicans on the House Insurance Committee.
Last week, both measures stalled as lawmakers said they didn’t see a way to pay for the pre-existing condition protection promise. The insurance coverage can be prohibitively expensive without the federal subsidies that help people afford the coverage.
Rep. Chad Brown, the Democrat carrying Edwards’ favored bill , added language that would nullify the protections of the bill if the federal subsidies are invalidated in federal court. The House Insurance Committee voted 7-4 against the proposal, with Republicans saying they preferred the Senate measure sponsored by GOP Sen. Fred Mills and backed by Landry.
Edwards called the vote “pure Washington-style politics” and said he had concerns about Mills’ legislation.
But senators, both Republican and Democrat, said the Landry-favored proposal could offer a more certain path to enacting the state-level protections sought.
“I appreciate the work that was done in the last week,” said Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, a Lafayette Democrat. “I’m trusting you guys to continue to work for our people.”
Still, senators acknowledged the financing piece remained unclear.
“We’re going to work with our congressional leaders,” Landry said. “No one, on both sides of the aisle, is going to leave states out there alone.”
House Bill 237 and Senate Bill 173: www.legis.la.gov