Today, Alexandria’s newspaper, The Town Talk, surprised no one when they endorsed Representative Bobby Jindal for Louisiana Governor. Jindal entered this race as the front-runner, and according to the latest polls, although his lead is slipping, he is still in good shape. The Town Talk begs us to vote for Jindal in the jungle primary so that he can avoid a run-off election. They know what many of us have been saying all along: If Jindal is in a run-off election, then his chances for victory diminish significantly. This inevitability has nothing to do with Jindal’s ethnicity, as some may claim; it has to do with Jindal’s stance on the issues.
Jindal has constructed his campaign around a series of vacant talking points, mimicking the Rovian strategies of the Republican National Party. For example, Jindal has called for a War on Corruption. However, a significant number of Jindal’s campaign contributions were bundled corporate donations, an ethically questionable loophole that his campaign exploited in order to allow a small group of people to donate well beyond the individual limit. No one doubts the necessity of ethics reform in Louisiana, but when a multi-millionaire Republican Congressman (yes, Jindal is a multi-millionaire) engages in a series of ethically questionable decisions, all the while calling for a War on Corruption, it is critical that we question his personal understanding of the issue. Is it “corrupt” for a gubernatorial candidate to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from a small group of individuals (and their associated businesses) seeking contracts and tax incentives from the State of Louisiana? By its very nature, ethics reform should address campaign financing. It is patently disingenuous to assume Louisiana will be able to set a “gold standard” in ethics if we do not address the fundamental issue of campaign financing. How can a candidate exploit the very loophole they intend on eliminating? Or does Jindal believe this loophole is important? If so, why?
The Town Talk pays particular attention to Jindal’s health-care and education policies.
Louisiana has some smart, healthy people, but it needs so many more. It also needs someone at the top who embraces that philosophy, champions the education and health-care policies it demands, and relishes the chance to do the details.
I beg to differ. Jindal may be smart and healthy, but the State of Louisiana is not demanding the types of health care and educational reforms he “champions.”
When Jindal was Director of Health and Hospitals, he balanced the budget by slashing programs in an attempt to “curb spending,” and as a result of his policies, Louisiana’s health care ranking dropped to worst in the nation during his tenure.
When I was ten years old, I was cut from my family’s health care plan. The insurance company had determined, without ever meeting with me or any of my doctors, that I no longer needed physical therapy or additional surgeries. As a child with cerebral palsy, my quality of life depended on aggressive therapy and expensive orthopedic surgeries to ensure my bones would grow properly. I will not go into the battles my entire family had to endure, but after more than a year of living away from my mother, father, brother, and sister, I was finally placed on Louisiana Medicaid, a program that should be easily available to anyone, particularly children, who suffer from serious permanent physical disabilities. Even then, once Jindal became Director of Health and Hospitals, we still had to battle against a broken bureaucracy more intent on slashing programs and funding than on providing quality coverage for children who, like myself, had been disenfranchised by private insurance.
Recently, I met a little girl who shares a similar experience. She was born with a permanent physical disability, and although doctors expected her to live for only a couple of years, at six years old, she has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Because of her condition, she did not qualify for any private insurance coverage, but she was able to qualify for Louisiana Medicaid. When doctors at one of the nation’s best hospitals told her parents that she required a risky surgical procedure, Louisiana Medicaid told them that the surgery would have to be performed by Louisiana doctors, doctors who admitted that they did not have experience performing this procedure. Thankfully, due to the tenacity of her family and the willingness of our community to donate money toward her medical expenses, the little girl was able to have the surgery. But not everyone has the same opportunities. When you play around with the health care coverage of seriously disabled children in an attempt to somehow save money, you are literally playing with human lives.
I have read Representative Jindal’s health care plan. At no point does he adequately address the critical needs of the seriously disabled. I find this very troubling. Jindal’s plan calls for the further incentivization of private insurance, doling out a number of tax credits toward the 50% of Louisiana businesses who refuse to provide health care for their employees (Do these tax credits only apply toward businesses who are not supplying health insurance or will they apply to all companies?) and allowing Medicaid patients to use “Medicaid dollars” for private insurance coverage (How does one determine a person’s Medicaid dollars?). Essentially, Jindal believes we should drain Medicaid of its money and resources in order to help off-set the risks for private insurance companies.
Jindal acknowledges that while the majority of Medicaid patients are not elderly or disabled, the majority of Medicaid spending is for the elderly and the disabled. However, there seems to be no recognition that the elderly and the disabled are on Medicaid because private insurance companies, no matter what tax incentives are offered, will not cover the chronically ill, the elderly, or the disabled.
The devil is in the details. When you deplete Medicaid of resources and funding, you are hurting the people who need Medicaid the most, people who will never qualify for private insurance, people whose very lives depend on access to health care.
If Jindal is relying on average per capita Medicaid spending to determine an individual’s allotment of Medicaid dollars, then he is factoring in an “average” that is distorted by the spending incurred by the elderly and the disabled. You do not have to be an accountant to understand why this would be disastrous.
I am disturbed by the intellectual dishonesty of The Town Talk. Much like Jindal’s campaign, their endorsement is built on empty rhetoric that is easily disassembled. For them, the actual issue is not as important as flowery hyperbole or the hope that, come election day, they are partying with the winner.