Things Falling Apart For the Health Wonk Jindal

As you may know, Louisiana governor and would-be 45th President of the United States Bobby Jindal got his precocious start in government as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He was appointed to that gig at the age of 24 by Gov. Mike Foster, who was just one of many people telling Bobby he was a stone genius.

Anyway, it’s richly ironic today that Jindal’s efforts to turn Louisiana into a Potemkin Village of conservative policy experimentation for the pleasure of activists in places like Iowa and New Hampshire is in particular danger because of his stewardship of public health in that very unhealthy place. Long-time Louisiana political observer Jeremy Alford sums it up in an op-ed for the Times-Pic. After running through a number of scandals and controversies afflicting the Jindal administration’s health system “reform” efforts, he makes this judgment:

[I]f we were to triage all of the administration’s health care-related woes, the privatization of Louisiana’s public hospitals would move to the front of the line. The final decision from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the state’s revamped hospital privatization plan, which was initially rejected earlier this year, was expected last month. But the feds have “stopped the clock” as they seek more information on the financial structure of the deals struck with the private managers.

As the feds dig deeper, the arrangement for the now-private hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe is being sullied by a $25 million overdue payment. LSU contends the Biomedical Research Foundation owes the cash, while the foundation is accusing the university of mismanaging the clinics before the transfer took place, with irregular scheduling practices being alleged.

It seems like all of Jindal’s health care initiatives were sold as a panacea for rising costs, access to services and much more. But so far they’ve only caused a litany of side effects, which makes the administration look like it’s spinning plates and all of the rods are tilting.

It also makes the wonk-wonder appeal of Jindal, a self-professed health care expert, vulnerable to attacks on the presidential campaign circuit. For him, that may be the most bitter pill of all, but back home in Louisiana it’s literally becoming a case of life and death as patients and physicians navigate his creation.

Guess it’s a race between the Iowa Caucuses and bad headlines in Louisiana.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.