Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will be sworn in to office Monday, and if he has his way, expansion of the state's Medicaid program won't be far behind.
The Democrat has promised to sign an executive order expanding Medicaid within 24 hours of his inauguration, a move that experts say is unprecedented, especially with a Republican-led state Legislature. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, unilaterally expanded Medicaid in his state.
Edwards has set July 1 as his target date to cover an estimated 300,000 more poor and disabled residents.
If the state GOP doesn't thwart the plan, about 250 new employees staff will be needed to properly vet applications, said Belinda Davis, an associate political science professor at Louisiana State University. The state budget cuts under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who argued that expansion was an inappropriate addition to government spending, affected staffing levels, Davis said.
Although the Affordable Care Act would cover the initial costs of expansion, Louisiana would later need to pay 10% of costs and Edwards has not said how the financially strapped state would find the money.
Edwards is in a unique position as he enters office. No state with a Republican-led legislature that has rejected Medicaid expansion has gone on to elect a Democratic governor, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
But even Republican leaders are seemingly changing their minds about expansion. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin ran his campaign last year on a plan to reverse expansion in the Bluegrass State. He has since backed off that promise.