WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: States May Turn Down Medicaid Expansion Under The Affordable Care Act

Roland Martin, Norman Robinson, anchor at WDSU-TV; Jarvis DeBerry, columnist for the “Times Picayune”; and Sabrina Wilson, reporter for Fox News 8 discuss states potentially turning down Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Plus, a discussion on New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu confronting the murder rate amongst African-American males.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER):  Lots of music on the floor of the convention center, too, but we grab three New Orleans journalists for a serious discussion in our roundtable:  Norman Robinson, anchor at WDSU-TV; Jarvis DeBerry, columnist for the “Times Picayune”; and Sabrina Wilson, reporter for Fox News 8.

MR. MARTIN:  All right, folks.  A lot of things we can talk about in this country, in this state, in this city; but I want to deal with the issue of healthcare.  The Supreme Court made their decision.  Gov. Bobby Jindal one of the first Republican governors to come out and say he is not going to go for the Medicare-Medicaid provision.

I keep saying when you have a state like Louisiana, a red state, a lot of poor folks, a lot of folks need[ing] healthcare, what is the reaction going to be from the people when the governor says, “I’m going to opt out”?

MR. NORMAN ROBINSON:  Well, the majority of the people are going to support Jindal’s reaction to healthcare – the Supreme Court ruling – because the majority of the people elected Jindal.  It’s going to be that 30 percent who are not going to be happy with the decision.  Well, he’s now being vetted for the vice presidency on the Republican ticket, so he could[n’t] care less.  His entire program right now is geared towards fitting the national GOP agenda, and that is to cut taxes and cut costs, no matter who’s affected.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MS. SABRINA WILSON:  That said, we have 1.2 million people in Louisiana already on Medicaid and, of course, this is a very poor state.  Now, this – the problem that happened in the Congress with the transportation bill – that has made a $1.1 billion hole in the Medicaid budget here in Louisiana, so now there’s talk of cutting the charity hospital system, further negatively impacting the poor in this state.

MR. JARVIS DeBERRY:  I agree with Norman.  What matters most to Jindal is his ambition, and whatever is – makes him appeal to people on a national level or, specifically, the farthest right wing of the GOP on the national level – that’s what he’s going to do.  I don’t think he’s as concerned about the people – or, the poor people of Louisiana as he is pleasing that aspect of the Republican Party.

MR. MARTIN:  But what is amazing to me is that – I covered city government.  I covered county government.  And the reality is the 50 percent you talk about?  They’re paying higher taxes because so many people are going to the county hospitals.  And so if you have more folks with healthcare, then you’re likely not to have emergency rooms clogged up.  You’re likely to have them being able to go – go elsewhere, and so you could potentially save on – when it comes to property taxes.  And so I don’t understand why people somehow think that having healthcare is a bad thing, especially in a state where you desperately need it.

MR. ROBINSON:  Well, you come from a rational position.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. ROBINSON:  The – the people who are looking at healthcare are looking at the face of healthcare first, to begin with.  And that is, in their mind, historically and traditionally, that’s – that means people who have not worked for a living, people who – who have lived off of the – the sweat and brow and hard work of the middle and working class, who pay their way.  They don’t understand this notion that some people just are poor for no ma- — for –

MS. SABRINA WILSON:  The working –

MR. ROBINSON:  — no reason –

MR. MARTIN:  And then the –


MR. ROBINSON:  — [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — working poor!

MS. SABRINA WILSON:  The working –




MS. SABRINA WILSON:  I personally know people who work every day, 40, 50 hours a week; but they don’t have health coverage on their job, and they certainly can’t afford to pay 4 to 500 dollars a month to insure their families.

MR. DeBERRY:  Well, last year, the governor had an opportunity to agree with the legislat[ure] in renewing a four-cents tax on cigarettes, which everybody knows generally improves healthcare because fewer people smoke.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. DeBERRY:  Fewer young people smoke.  He considered that renewal a “new tax” and, therefore, voted against it.  For somebody who used to be the top health official in the State of Louisiana to support the lowering of the cost of cigarettes was so nakedly ambitious, I mean it was just absolutely ridiculous.

MR. MARTIN:  I want to shift to this issue.  I talked to Gov- — Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and he is really being aggressive in speaking out to various groups about the murder rate in certain neighborhoods and how it’s affecting young, Black men.  We see what’s happening in Chicago.  We see what’s happening in other cities.

What do you think about the Mayor being that aggressive, partnering with Michael Nutter in Philadelphia, the major there, to say, “Look.  We’ve got to deal with the reality of losing another generation of young, Black men to homicide”?

MS. SABRINA WILSON:  I applaud his involvement and would criticize him if he [weren’t] taking a lead role in this, because this is his city.  He’s the leader of this city, and as he talks about, all the time so poignantly, when his BlackBerry goes off, and somebody – the police department is –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. SABRINA WILSON:  — alerting him that another young, African-American male has been killed on the streets of New Orleans.

MR. MARTIN:  When he says that, as a White male – that if nearly 200 White men had – White boys had been killed, there would be outrage, what do you – what – what do you think that says to have him making that kind of statement?  Because most folks hear that from a Black mayor, they might say, “Okay.  I gotcha.”

MR. ROBINSON:  What it says to me is this.  Like Sabrina, I applaud the Mayor’s action, his policy and his aggressiveness; but what I – where I think this whole thing falls short is we’re making it a political issue.  It is a social issue that has –

MR. MARTIN:  A moral issue.

MR. ROBINSON:  — and a moral issue that continues to dog the Black community.  And I say “Black community” predominantly and specifically.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  And the only people who can solve this issue are Black people.  And I don’t understand why that gets lost on the masses.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  We’ll get upset more about a White person killing a Black person in one instance

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  — that we will about Black people killing a hundred Black people –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  — in several instances, and that I don’t get!  There should be outrage in the Black community.  There should be men taking to the streets –


MR. ROBINSON:  — to patrol their neighborhoods to ensure that young, Black men are falling in line with respect for the humanity that this community deserves.  And I don’t understand this – this idea of looking to the Mayor, our White savior –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  — to come riding to the rescue.  It –

MR. MARTIN:  Jarvis.

MR. ROBINSON:  — insults

MR. DeBERRY:  I don’t –

MR. ROBINSON:  — me!

MR. DEBERRY:  — I don’t think we should look to the Mayor to be our “White savior,” but I do think that everybody has the expectation of police protection and police honesty and integrity, and New Orleanians haven’t gotten that for a very long time.

MR. ROBINSON:  You could put a policeman on every corner of every street in this city –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. ROBINSON:  — and it wouldn’t make a difference, if we don’t get to those young, Black men before they turn that corner and fall by the wayside.  That’s where we’re missing the boat.