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La. lawmaker draws attention to health care bill

Barbara Norton 1.JPG
Kate Archer Kent

Flanked by supporters, Louisiana District 3 Rep. Barbara Norton of Shreveport explained her motivations yesterday for filing a bill that would require the state to sign on to an expansion of the Medicaid program and participate in the Affordable Care Act. Estimates are that up to 400,000 more Louisianans could be eligible for Medicaid next year and thereafter if the state chose to expand the program, with the federal government picking up most of the tab. Gov. Bobby Jindal has criticized such a move, calling Medicaid an inefficient and poorly managed program. Norton sees politics interfering with what she feels is best for the state’s underprivileged people.

"This bill should not be about elevating the governor. It should not be about the governor running for president," Norton said following a press conference at the Shreve Memorial Library Mooretown Branch. "It should be about the commitment the governor made to the people. He was going to do everything he could do to serve the people of Louisiana.”

One supporter of the bill is Dr. Larry Daniels who practices family medicine at David Raines Community Health Center in Shreveport. He says for the state to refuse billions of dollars in federal health care funding turns a blind eye on the economic strife his patients face. He says Louisiana will end up paying much more for their medical care as diseases progress because these patients can’t afford preventative care.

“We have many patients who come to us who are without money," Daniels said. "So, we see them and make a diagnosis, and if they need referral to a specialist and they’re not able to get into LSU  in a timely fashion, then they go without adequate or appropriate health care for an extended period of time.”

Norton’s bill will first come before the House’s health and welfare committee. The regular session gets under way April 8. Under the act, states must set up a health insurance exchange by Jan. 1.