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Rival blasts Jindal's record in healthcare
Aziz Haniffa in New Orleans, LA |
November 14, 2003 04:24 IST
Health care, unemployment and education are the major issues in the campaign for the governorship of Louisiana.
It is healthcare in which Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal made his name and his campaign is highlighting his successful tenure as the state's health administrator in the mid-1990s when he turned the health department's massive deficit into a surplus.
To counter this, his Democratic rival Kathleen Blanco's campaign has begun a barrage of negative ads -- both in television and radio blasting his record.
Blanco has alleged that thousands of the indigent in the state had lost their Medicaid benefits and were left without any health insurance during Jindal's tenure.
The latter's campaign describes the allegations as 'scare tactics' and accused Blanco of 'distorting' his record at the time he ran Louisiana's health care system.
As he was in the final debate, Jindal was hard pressed to fend off questions on this issue during the initial stops at television and radio stations on his no-sleep, 40-hour yatra.
One interviewer pointed out that while his campaign claimed the number of people taken off Medicaid was less than 7,000, statistics from the Health Care Financing Administration had reported that there were 65,000 fewer people on Medicaid when he left office.
Jindal acknowledged there were 65,000 fewer people on Medicaid after he left office, but argued, "It wasn't because of my decision of rule changes but the economy got better. The way Medicaid works, it is based on income. If people earn less than a certain income level, they qualify for Medicaid. The good news is when they get jobs and they make more, they no longer qualify for Medicaid.
"The state didn't do anything to move tens of thousands of people off Medicaid. Rather, the economy got better. The federal government reformed welfare and encouraged people to go to work, get jobs, instead of receiving public assistance for their own health care. That's actually good news for Louisiana."
But two physicians, who handled Medicaid cases and had earlier called a news conference to slam Jindal for making budget cuts at the state's Department of Health and Hospitals, continued to criticise him in TV ads.
One of them, retired neurologist Evan Howell, said the cuts Jindal introduced "were made in such an indiscriminate nature."
But David Hood, the current Secretary of Health and Hospitals, has been springing to Jindal's defence, saying, "If you look at the national figures, enrolment (for Medicaid) nationwide dropped by approximately the same percentage as it did in Louisiana."Jindal, emerging from one of the radio stations, where he was grilled on this health care issue, said Blanco supporters were distorting his record "because they are desperate as all the polls show that I am ahead. That's what campaigns do when they are trailing; they resort to throwing mud and name-calling."