Barbour and Pawlenty attack Landrieu in dispute over Obama Medicaid expansion

Jon Ward Contributor
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Two prominent Republican governors on Tuesday plan to go after Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, in an attempt to criticize President Obama’s health-care bill and also highlight what they say is a piling of unfunded mandates onto states.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, RGA vice-chair and a potential Republican candidate for president in 2012, will argue that Landrieu has admitted that states will be saddled with large financial obligations because of Medicaid expansion provisions in the president’s plan.

The governors say Landrieu is “the first Democratic senator to admit that states will have to shoulder significant new costs created by President Obama’s proposed health-care plan,” and plan to call on her to declare what state programs she would cut or what taxes she would raise in order to meet those obligations.

“While we appreciate the senator’s candor, her admission should prompt her and other Democrats to consider exactly how states are going to pay for billions of dollars in new health-care costs,” Barbour said, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller on Monday.

Pawlenty said that “Democrats now need to explain what state programs they want cut, or what state taxes they want hiked.”

The governors are basing their assertion on comments Landrieu made to the Associated Press last week. The senator is in the middle of a dispute with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another Republican with potentially national ambitions, and his secretary of health and hospitals Alan Levine.

Levine has said that Obama’s plans for Medicaid expansion would saddle states with at least $260 million in new annual obligations. The state already pays about $6.5 billion each year for Medicaid, which Levine said in an interview Monday evening is a broken system.

“The state’s going to figure out how to afford it because it’s the state’s responsibility, not just the federal government’s responsibility, to help all of the people in the state get adequate health insurance,” Landrieu told the AP.

However, the White House plans to pay for 100 percent of each state’s Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2017, for 95 percent in 2018 and 2019, and for 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

States will have an option to expand Medicaid between now and 2014 but will not be obligated to do so, a White House official told the Daily Caller.

It is that 10 percent of the new commitments that Levine said will cost at least $260 million more a year. The White House’s proposed increase would add roughly 370,000 people to the rolls, and would increase the percentage of state residents on Medicaid to 37 percent.

Levine, in an interview, blasted the White House for the construction of its plan, which he said will slam state governments with entitlement burdens down the road that it will be nearly impossible to carry.

“Years from now, this is going to hit the states like a freight train, but they won’t own the political cost for it,” he said.

A Landrieu spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment.