US Senator John Kennedy wants Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee to reduce state spending on Medicaid. Kennedy says Medicaid accounts for 41% of this year’s budget, which is why TOPS has been cut, teachers can’t be paid more money, and congestion remains a problem on I-10.

“We can’t afford to spend 100% of our budget on Medicaid, which is what Dr. Gee and DHH seem inclined for us to do,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy says the Medicaid budget has increased by 81% in less than a decade. But he says even though the health budget is going up every year, health outcomes aren’t improving. He says Louisiana still ranks third for cancer deaths, fourth in cardiovascular deaths, and second in infant mortality.

“What we need to do is stop measuring success in the Medicaid program by how much money we’re spending and star measuring success by whether our people are getting any better,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s recommendation to the state legislature is to decide how much the state can afford to spend on Medicaid, which will then be matched by federal funds. He says Dr. Gee then needs to design a budget around that amount of money.

But Gee says the facts in Kennedy’s letter are just plain wrong. She says it’s surprising that as a recent State Treasurer, Kennedy is so out of touch with how the state spends its money. She says Medicaid expansion is actually saving the state money.

“Because of the Medicaid expansion, and he highlights Medicaid specifically, last year we saved $67 million tax dollars to fund TOPS specifically and $117 million to fund other state programs,” Gee said.

Gee adds that health outcomes can’t be fixed overnight. She says Louisiana ranks at the bottom in the nation for health, but you can’t improve health if people don’t have access to care.

“We have 385,000 people that have gained coverage, and 50,000 people have had a primary care visit. So that is the first step in improving our state’s health outcomes,” Gee said.