Republicans in Louisiana likely immune from any GOP health care fallout

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of the impact of the GOP’s health care bill. 

Republicans in Congress may be feeling political pressure surrounding the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but Louisiana’s delegation does not appear especially vulnerable in any upcoming elections, experts say.

John Couvillon, political analyst and polling expert with JMC Analytics and Polling, said at the Press Club of Baton Rouge today that incumbents facing re-election in the 2018 midterms could be in a tough position if their replacement for the ACA causes their constituents to lose coverage.

“If a bill passes and people lose coverage, there’s nothing worse for an incumbent than scared voters,” Couvillon said.

But Republicans in Congress first have to actually pass legislation replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. And regardless of what happens, Louisiana’s five Republican House members and two Republican senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, are likely to be safe from any major electoral upheaval.

All the House members are up for re-election in 2018. Cassidy is not up for re-election until 2020, and Kennedy is not up until 2022.

Currently, the House GOP plan, known as the American Health Care Act, is making its way through the House. An analysis of the Republican bill by the Congressional Budget Office today estimates that the health care proposal could reduce the number of insured Americans by 24 million by 2026. The plan also would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over a decade.   

The Louisiana delegation, aside from Democrat Cedric Richmond, are all in largely conservative districts in an increasingly red state, Couvillon said. The high stakes surrounding health care policy will likely come in swing states and in districts that voted for a Republican for Congress but Hillary Clinton for president last year.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that suggests this is the number one overriding issue for Louisianans,” said Michael Henderson, an LSU political science professor and polling expert.

In Louisiana, Medicaid has a large impact on the state, with Gov. John Bel Edwards expanding the program last year to cover several hundred thousand residents, largely at the expense of the federal government. Louisianans tend to approve of the move to expand Medicaid, especially considering the federal government is paying for most of it, Henderson said.

But Henderson noted it is unclear how aware voters are that Medicaid expansion is tied to the ACA. And even if a GOP bill rolls back the Medicaid expansion, it is unlikely voters would be so riled up they would turn out to defeat Louisiana’s Republicans in the 2018 and 2020 elections, he added.

“It’s not to say this won’t necessarily affect how voters think about these candidates,” Henderson said. “But I don’t know it would be enough to shift folks to vote for a non-incumbent who they might disagree with on even more issues.”

—Sam Karlin

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