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Bobby Jindal, Health Care Reform and His Re—election Campaign 

The brouhaha over federal health care reform caused some state officials to contradict themselves — more so than usual

"This is a big f—n' deal." — Vice President Joe Biden to President Barack Obama, days after Congress passed the administration's health care overhaul

In an email to supporters last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted President Barack Obama's health care reform law as an "unconstitutional expansion of federal power." He went on to hit on all the key GOP talking points: taxpayer funding of elective abortions, the plan's cost (allegedly $2.4 trillion), new taxes totaling $569.2 billion and so on.

  In many ways, the missive started out as the rant of an angry policy wonk, but it didn't take long for Jindal the Constant Campaigner to promote his political ambitions.

  The letter concludes: "Will you take a minute right now and give whatever amount you can ($500, $100, $20) to support my campaign for re-election as governor and continue the fight for our rights against an overreaching federal government that continues to rapidly expand their own powers? Any amount helps!" It included a link to Jindal's gubernatorial campaign Web site, where supporters can contribute electronically.

  While it's clear Jindal is happy to raise political capital by opposing Obama's health care plan, he has not yet said whether he'll accept the $300 million that U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu inserted into the health care legislation to help Louisiana save its struggling Medicaid program. That provision is in a Senate health care bill, a measure that was pending approval last week.

  The state Department of Health and Hospitals needs Landrieu's amendment, and here's why: In 2011, Louisiana's Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage, also known as FMAP, is expected to rise, which in turn will create nearly $500 million in new expenses a year. "We really want to be able to count on [the proposed Medicaid money] in the upcoming budget process," DHH Secretary Alan Levine said in January. Levine works for Jindal. What's holding the governor back from embracing the money Landrieu fought so hard (at Jindal's request, mind you) to get?

  After Obama signed his bill into law last week, Jindal told reporters he would have to look at the final version of the legislation "to see if there are any strings attached" to the money. Jindal says he prefers a permanent solution to the federal Medicaid matching share formula problem, according to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge.

  If history is any indication, it's always the "strings" that concern Jindal. Last year, Obama's stimulus package offered Louisiana $100 million to loosen its rules governing unemployment compensation, with $33 million up front. That money would be in the current budget but for Jindal rejecting that portion of the stimulus package.

  Jindal argued then that the changes would cost Louisiana $12 million annually, a disputed figure. Stimulus supporters countered that the Legislature could have changed the unemployment rules back after the three-year stimulus money ran out, but Jindal stuck to his guns and grabbed national headlines for what was clearly a political contrivance. 

  For the record, the unemployment money was the only provision of the massive stimulus package that Jindal opposed. Today, billions of dollars are flowing through state and local governments, boosting education budgets, building roads and providing fuel for other economic drivers.

  Yet here we are again, with the governor possibly taking another piecemeal approach to policy. But Jindal isn't alone in his logical inconsistencies.

  In his letter to supporters last week, Jindal noted that he's working with Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to challenge Obama's health care reform law on constitutional grounds. Aside from Jindal being a Republican and Caldwell being a Democrat, the two do not have a great track record. They've bumped heads over proposed fees for Caldwell's office in the past, and Caldwell has been among the more outspoken statewide officials declaring independence from the governor's office.

  It must be true that politics makes strange bedfellows. That, and curious inconsistencies.  

Jeremy Alford can be reached at jeremy@jeremyalford.com.

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