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Louisiana has much at stake in healthcare debate

New York Times, December 21, 2009

It is no accident that three of Louisiana's best-known politicians have been at the center of the national healthcare debate. Last month, Anh Cao, the congressman who represents New Orleans, created a ruckus as the sole Republican to vote for the healthcare bill in the House. Shortly afterward, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, became a crucial vote in support of healthcare after winning $300 million in Medicaid aid for Louisiana, drawing loud criticism from Republicans for her deal-making. And the governor, Bobby Jindal, a former state secretary of health, has been one of the most prominent Republicans to offer an alternative proposal for a healthcare overhaul. Because of the unique way it delivers healthcare to the poor, a model that has a long history, Louisiana has a great deal at stake in the outcome of the debate in Washington, which could drastically alter the state's traditional system. Especially in light of the state's desperate need for investments in medical care in the years since Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana politicians of both parties are scrambling to make sure their priorities are addressed in the legislation.