Guest column: Scare tactics conceal welfare abuse
Chicken Little made famous the phrase “the sky is falling,” but Gov. John Bel Edwards has made that his battle cry in the race to the bottom. We need not look any further than his latest political stunt.
This week, at the instruction of the governor, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sent out notifications to nearly 40,000 Medicaid enrollees to inform these folks that the state may no longer be able to cover their costs at senior care facilities. This act is a shameful use of scare tactics.
No one at the Capitol really believes these cuts will actually come to fruition. This is more of the same “sky is falling” tactics that the people of Louisiana have come to expect from their governor; remember “No LSU Football” and “No TOPS Funding”? The governor has consistently taken political hostages to advance his liberal agenda.
While the focus in the mainstream media is on the number 40,000; the real focus should be on the number 83,000. That is the amount of people in Louisiana receiving Medicaid welfare whose tax returns do not come close to jiving with their Medicaid applications. That’s right: The legislative auditor testified that 83,000 welfare recipients showed $20,000 or more in annual income on their tax returns than they listed on their Medicaid applications.
This is not surprising; it is further evidence of the massive amount of fraud in our taxpayer-funded Medicaid system. These 83,000 individuals are costing the Medicaid program roughly $500 a month per person or $498 million annually. Clearly, this is not a drop in the bucket for a State in such a supposed dire fiscal mess.
But while the governor was preparing for his obvious attempt to play politics at the expense of Louisiana’s seniors – his Senate leadership was rejecting common-sense legislation that would have would have not only helped our State’s budget, but also helped continue to provide a safety net for Louisiana’s most vulnerable. HB 163 would have authorized the investigation and purging of recipient fraudsters from the Medicaid Program; but because of the governor and his legislative allies, this bill died in the Senate.
All of this begs the question: Why did the governor choose to send out 40,000 notifications to the vulnerable elderly and not 83,000 notifications to the welfare fraudsters?
The answer is simple: it is easier for the governor to play political games than it is for him to address the real problem.
In light of this week’s revealing Senate hearing, the actions of the governor are extremely disingenuous. And, more frustrating, they will bring panic and worry to the State’s most needy.
This entire debacle highlights just how much the governor is not interested in running an effective Medicaid program that ensures every dollar is being used efficiently for the people actually in need. Instead, he is more interested in receiving the votes of 83,000 citizens who have blatantly falsified their eligibility for welfare benefits. Evictions of 40,000 seniors are a means to that end.
The governor simply wants more of your money so he can give more government handouts. For political gain, he wants to be the Chief Wealth Redistributionist. If you ever wondered why Louisiana’s Medicaid program produces some of the worst health care outcomes in the nation, you need to look no further.
For decades, Louisiana politicians have used demagoguery to keep their hands in our pocketbooks. This week, Gov. Edwards demonstrated he is just more of the same. It is no wonder Louisiana just posted the worst economic performance in the country.
Jeff Landry is Louisiana's attorney general.