An Obamacare billboard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, zings Republican governor Bobby Jindal for his refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program as allowed under the Obamacare program, and now the state is desperate to get the sign taken down.
Under the 2010 Affordable Care And Patient Protection Act, better known by the colloquial term “Obamacare,” states were required to raise eligibility for the health care program which grants health insurance coverage to people unable to afford it, to 133 percent of the poverty level.
But in the landmark 2012 case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individual states could opt out of the expanded Medicaid requirement.
As a result, almost half of U.S. states, mostly with Republican governors, refused to expand the Medicaid program to allow more of their lower-income residents to receive health coverage — even though under Obamacare, the federal government would cover the full cost expansion for three years, and 90 percent by 2010.
According to a study by the health care research firm Avalere Health, expanded Medicaid in the 26 states, plus Washington D.C., where the program in in effect, has granted health coverage to 3.5 million people who wouldn’t have been able to afford it without Obamacare.
On March 3, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org began posting pro-Obamacare billboards and taking out advertisements intended to pressure Republican governors to accept the influx of federal cash for expanded Medicaid in their states.
In Louisiana, the Obamacare billboard used the slogan of the state’s tourism campaign, “Pick your passion,” to get in a dig at Jindal for turning away the federal Obamacare funds to cover more people with Medicaid.
“LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people,” the billboard’s message read.
“I’m simply not going to say it’s okay,” said Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, who sent a cease-and-desist order to MoveOn.org, demanding that the group remove the Obamacare billboard. Dardenne claims that using the “Pick your passion” slogan will fool people into thinking that the Obamacare billboard is part of the state’s official tourism campaign.
MoveOn, which is clearly identified on the Obamacare billboard as its sponsor, refused to take the billboard down.
“It’s pretty clear the First Amendment protects this sort of speech,” said MoveOn spokesperson Nick Berning. And a constitutional law expert interviewed by the New Orleans Times-Picayune agrees.
“The government can’t legally silence those who are criticizing them,” said Keith Werhan, a professor of Constitutional law at Tulane University in Louisiana.
MoveOn has also hit out at other Republican governors including Rick Perry of Texas and Florida’s Rick Scott, but no governor outside of Louisiana has attempted to censor an Obamacare billboard, Berning said.