NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Gov. John Bel Edwards believes Louisiana has a lot to lose if a key part of President Obama's health care reform law is repealed under a President Donald Trump.
In July, thousands of working poor in Louisiana began using government-funded health insurance after the state under a new Democratic governor who has embraced Medicaid expansion. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to expand Medicaid eligibility, fearing it would saddle the state with unmanageable costs in future years.
More than 30 states have used federal money to put more people on Medicaid rolls.
"It's going to be a very difficult thing to do I think to actually erase the Medicaid Expansion as if it never happened, I don't think that's going to be possible," the governor said during an interview with FOX 8 News.
And he said expansion of Medicaid is saving the state much-needed funds.
"The state is saving $184 million dollars," Edwards said.
Still, Edwards is not panicked over what could happen. He points to Trump's statements last week that he favored keeping some of the current law, including provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions, and the part of the law that allows parents to keep their children on their policy until age 26.
"I am concerned, not unduly so at this point, I think it's premature," said the governor.
"The existing system that we have, I think most people see as significantly flawed, so if we can replace it with something that's actually beneficial to the states and beneficial to the individuals, I think that's something we can look forward to," said State Rep. Cameron Henry, a republican from Metairie.
Rep. Henry chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee through which state budget proposals must pass. He is not convinced about the touten savings from Medicaid expansion.
"The savings still to this day have not materialized, and they're always, they're coming, they're coming, well, while the savings are waiting to be realized, we're spending more than we're bringing in." Rep. Henry said.
But proponents said Medicaid expansion helps to reduce costs related to uncompensated care as more of the working poor get insurance. Medicaid expansion is seen as way to reduce the uncompensated care costs to hospitals as more of the working poor got insurance.
"Our providers are getting more reimbursement for the care that they are giving, so it has been a tremendously positive step for the state overall, I hope that they would leave it in place, I'm working with the congressional delegation to make sure they're aware of how important it is to the state," said the governor.
Rep. Henry believes the Trump administration could help relieve the state of unfunded health department mandates.
"If you look at the state budget overall, LDH has grown over 51 percent over the past seven to eight years," he said.
Edwards believes the benefits of Medicaid Expansion are tremendous, especially in terms of helping people gain health care.
"We have dozens of people in LA who are being treated for cancer they didn't even know they had because they didn't have access to diagnostic treatments," he said.
Henry also thinks Trump's promised focus on infrastructure will help Louisiana's jobless numbers.
"Any assistance from that would be beneficial because those jobs are local jobs, they go to local contractors," said Henry.
"I don't believe the world is ending and that we're not going to be able to work with the administration and congress as a hold to shape things to make sure that we're serving the people of Louisiana," said the governor.