Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has become a prominent critic of President Obama and the Democrats recently, appearing on TV and writing newspaper columns warning against a government takeover of health care. “When government bureaucracies drive the delivery of services — in this case inserting themselves between health-care providers and their patients — quality degradation will surely come,” Jindal wrote in a recent column for the Wall Street Journal.
But underneath the air of expertise — he’s a former state health secretary — it’s important to consider that that there is a long-running ideological commitment here. The thing about Jindal is this: Over his public career, he has consistently opposed any expansion of government health care, and has even tried to cut, eliminate or partially-privatize existing programs.
For example, his budget plan this year calls for cuts to existing services; he used his line-item veto to force the closure of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital; and he successfully opposed an increase in the state’s relatively low cigarette taxes, which would have funded state healthcare.
And this also goes back to before he was governor, too.When Jindal came in as Louisiana’s Secretary of Health and Hospitals, the state’s generous Medicaid programs was suffering from serious deficits, and he launched efforts to fix the problems with a pretty coherent message: Big cuts to programs, and even an attempted partial-privatization.
In one case, Jindal wanted to eliminate completely a program to assist people facing catastrophic health care costs. He said in 1996: “If you don’t cut a program out entirely, you can’t stop people from receiving these services.” He later backed off and restored funding after the state legislature objected.
In 1997, Jindal came up with a creative solution to deal with the state Medicaid deficits: Shift Medicaid patients out of the directly-operated public system, and into a subsidized deal with HMO’s. Jindal told the Baton Rouge Advocate why he’d picked a particular part of the state for the pilot program, to honestly demonstrate feasibility: “We purposely picked a region where it’s not going to be easy but not going to be impossible.”
But in 1998, the pilot program was scrapped after multiple HMO’s pulled out and only one submitted an acceptable bid. The Advocate quoted Jindal’s successor (serving under the same governor), who made the decision: “With all the turmoil and uncertainty in the managed care industry right now, we decided the most prudent thing to do right now is move in another direction.”
So there you have it. Jindal opposes current proposals on public health care on their face, as an expansion of government. That’s a valid opinion, but it’s something to keep in mind during the overall health care debate. At the end of the day, there can only be so much bipartisanship if one side likes an increased government role and wants to police the private sector, and if the other side is against government action.