Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made a splash of headlines a few weeks ago by proposing his alternative to Obamacare. Many of his ideas are the part of the same list he’s been shopping around for years, some of it pieced together from a litany of Republican proposals. He’s being blistered by a number of state and national columnists for not putting forth anything new or original.
But just because the proposals did not originate from Jindal himself is no cause to at least not give a good look at his suggestions. I’m not concerned that Jindal’s ideas are unoriginal. If he’s to be criticized for anything, it should be for his lack of follow through.
Jindal’s health reform list includes pooling for small businesses, pay for performance, health savings accounts, and change in lifestyles to reduce the likelihood of chronic disease, insurance reform, and medical lawsuit reform. He is suggesting that nurse practitioners and other medical professionals be given more leeway it what they can do.
He endorses high risk pools for those who are hard to insure, something, by the way, that some obscure Louisiana Insurance Commissioner put into place back in the 1990’s. (I think his name was Brown.) Jindal’s to do list also includes offering financial incentives for more healthy behavior and a crack down on what the Governor describes as “rampant fraud” in government healthcare programs.
Jindal’s plan goes on to suggest other needed changes including: post treatments and procedures to the internet, portable electronic health care records, more coverage for pre-existing conditions, better coordination in care for chronic conditions, and other ideas that he thinks have merit and will help in controlling escalating costs.
But here is Jindal’s Achilles heel. He’s good at proposing, but weak at implementing. He needs to do more than just talk the talk. Just about every proposal on the Governor’s list could, and in most cases should be put in place on the state level. In fact, by enacting a comprehensive “Louisiana Plan,” Jindal would have a platform to use in touring the country and in saying, Hey, look at all we’ve done Louisiana.
He could begin immediately with lifestyle changes by implementing a wellness program for the 257, 000 state employees and their families who get their health insurance though the state group benefits program. Louisiana has the highest rate of obesity in the nation, and obese people spend 42 percent more than people of normal weight on medical costs. This amounts to $1500 more a year. A major wellness effort among public employees could result in huge savings for Louisiana.
The Louisiana legislature is in session as we speak. If these ideas are as good as Jindal says they are, he should go ahead and put them in place in his home state. He then could take his program nationwide as an alternative to Obamacare.
Presently, Jindal is just adding more rhetoric to the mix. However, now, he has the unique opening to move toward implementing rather than just offering proposals. He should practice what he preaches and seize the moment. While the president is bogged down in his defense of Obamacare, Jindal has a window of opportunity to put his plan into operation in his home state.
So here’s my suggestion to the Louisiana Governor. I hear he work’s out just about every day at the state police-training academy in Baton Rouge. Throw out your old tennis shoes Governor, buy yourself a new pair of Nikes, and when it comes to healthcare changes, “Just Do It!”