Governor Edwards Issues Executive Order in Battle Over Pre-Existing Health Conditions

One of the Governor’s priorities for this legislative session was protecting health insurance coverage for Louisianans with pre-existing conditions. The effort took a hit when Representative Chad Brown’s HB 237 was involuntarily deferred in Committee on Insurance. HB 237 would have prohibited health plans or health insurers from discriminating against a health insurance applicant based upon pre- existing conditions or health status.

On May 21, the Governor announced that he had issued an Executive Order establishing the Protecting Health Coverage in Louisiana Task Force, following efforts to repeal the protections offered to Louisianans with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Protecting coverage for the 850,000 Louisiana residents with preexisting conditions is a top concern of mine and should be a top concern for all lawmakers,” Gov. Edwards said. “Unfortunately, the Attorney General opted to join Louisiana into a lawsuit that threatens the coverage protections offered under the Affordable Care Act. One of the discussed solutions includes taking Louisiana back to the days of the high-risk pool, which only covered around one percent of people prior to the ACA. While we must take any step possible toward protecting our people, we can’t falsely claim we’ve completely solved this problem and risk tragedy for vulnerable people. Louisianans deserve better.”

The new Task Force includes the Governor, the head of the Louisiana Department of Health, the Insurance Commissioner, the Attorney General, members of the Louisiana Legislature, representatives of the insurance industry and health care consumer groups and experts in economic and fiscal modeling.

In the Executive Order the Governor noted, “… 849,000 non-elderly Louisianans had a declinable preexisting medical condition under medical underwriting practices in place prior to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA); … that included, but were not limited to: Alzheimer’s/ dementia, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, mental disorders, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke;…” […]

“Attorney General Jeff Landry joined a lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, seeking to invalidate the entire ACA;..” the Governor wrote, and said “invalidation of the ACA would eliminate health protections for people with preexisting conditions, eliminate financial assistance for people receiving coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, and eliminate health insurance for Louisianans receiving coverage through Medicaid Expansion;

Also he wrote, “the Attorney General’s attempted fix in the event he is successful in eliminating the protections of the ACA is contained in SB 173 of the 2019 Regular Session;…” and “this legislation does not provide for the needed protections of the ACA but does include a nebulous study to create a ‘Guaranteed Benefits Pool’ under the exclusive purview of the Commissioner of Insurance;

“… the State’s pre-ACA high risk pool only covered one (1) percent of Louisianans in the individual insurance market; …” he wrote.

Because of what the Governor views as an incomplete and insufficient approach, he is directing that, “No executive branch departments of the State of Louisiana shall abridge a person’s access to health insurance as prescribed by state and federal law.”

And he created the “The Protecting Health Coverage in Louisiana Task Force” is hereby established within the Executive Department.

The duties of the Task Force include, but are not limited to, the following: The Task Force shall develop policy proposals to maintain health care coverage for Louisianans at risk of losing health insurance or health protections due to Texas v. Azar. The Task Force shall study and develop policy proposals to mitigate the impact of the loss of preexisting condition protections including, but not limited to: 1) guaranteed issue; 2) preexisting condition exclusion prohibition; 3) prohibition of lifetime and annual limits on coverage; 4) essential health benefits, 5) nondiscrimination. The Task Force shall study and develop policy proposals to mitigate the impact of more than 465,000 Louisianans losing Medicaid coverage due to Texas v. Azar. The Task Force shall study and develop policy proposals to determine the aggregate funding needed and financing options for the health coverage and health protections afforded by the ACA. The Task Force shall study and develop policy proposals to maximize insurance coverage and minimize out-of-pocket medical costs in Louisiana.

The members shall include: The Governor, or designee; The Secretary of Health, or designee; The Commissioner of Insurance, or designee; The Attorney General, or designee; The Chairmen of the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees, or their designees; Two at-large members representing consumer health groups, appointed by
the Governor; Two at-large members representing the insurance industry appointed by the Governor; and One at-large member with expertise in economics and/or fiscal modeling, appointed by the Governor.

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