Louisiana senior Senator Mary Landrieu has used her status as one of the last holdout votes on a comprehensive health care reform bill to negotiate a fix to the state's pending Medicaid crisis into the bill. The Times Picayune reports that Landrieu, who remains mum on her support for the bill, has gotten Senate Democrats to insert language into the bill that would have the federal government paying 68 percent of the state's Medicaid costs instead of. 63 percent come 2011. The fix amounts to about $300 million.
Louisiana is facing a huge deficit in its Medicaid budget once federal stimulus money runs out at the end of the year. In addition, a post-Katrina spike in the state's per capita income means the state must start paying an even greater share of its Medicaid costs. Some analysts estimate the state's shortfall will be as much as $900 million.
The man on the front lines of the efforts to plug the Medicaid budget hole, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine, commended Landrieu. "Look," he tells the TP, "it's godd to have a senator in a position to be able to make demands like that. While I don't support the bill, she is doing the best she can to help the state, and she should be applauded."