Bobby Jindal: hands-on wunderkind

Bobby Jindal has a leader’s credentials. At 20, he graduated from Brown University. At 24, he headed Louisiana’s health department. Now, at 33, he’s only the second Indian-American ever to be elected to Congress.

Along the way, Jindal served on a blue-ribbon committee on Medicare and as an assistant secretary at the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

He’s the classic overachiever: bright and ambitious. Without a challenge, he’s easily bored.

So, what can you learn from Bobby Jindal? Just this: He gets things done.

Take Louisiana’s health care system. In 1995, it reeked from corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency, and carried a $400 million deficit.

Jindal’s only experience in health care: a paper he’d written.

So, not surprisingly, nobody thought Jindal could fix the state Medicaid program, which consumed nearly 40 percent of the state’s total budget. But he did. Here’s how:
  1. In Jindal’s first year, working with the legislature, his department removed a main barrier to prosecuting provider fraud.

  2. The next year, the legislature passed a Jindal-backed law imposing stiffer penalties for Medicaid fraud. Since then, the health care department has increased its Medicaid reviews from less than 200 per year to more than 1,000.

  3. Jindal tripled the number of staff members investigating fraud and installed new computer software to weed out iffy claims.

Taken together, Jindal’s actions effectively shut down state Medicaid fraud. What’s more, he reined in spending by $197 million.

The head of the Louisiana Hospital Association observes that his group didn’t agree with all of Jindal’s decisions, but acknowledges that the 24-year-old put the program on the right footing. In its first year under Jindal, the health department turned a $400 million deficit into a $48 million surplus. The next year, it posted a surplus of $170 million.

— Adapted from “Whiz kid goes to Washington,” Tony Fong, Modern Healthcare.