Author: Dr. Rebekah Gee, Secretary
Medicaid expansion is covering hundreds of thousands more working adults and ensuring they have access to primary care. In addition, Medicaid Expansion is bringing in more federal tax dollars to our state and saving Louisiana taxpayers $184 million.
In Washington, we are all aware of the talk about repealing and replacing the ACA. As these discussions progress, I will be working with Senators Cassidy and Kennedy and our congressional delegation to let them know of the impact of Medicaid expansion and how our newly insured citizens are now getting care from a primary care doctor instead on foregoing care or using the emergency room.
Recently, Sen. Kennedy suggested that the cost of expanding Medicaid has led to State budget difficulties that resulted in cuts to TOPS, cuts to teacher pay and even for the gridlock on our interstate highways. Since expansion has been paid for by the federal government, the facts are exactly the opposite of those Senator Kennedy presents.
When discussing state taxpayer dollars, it is important to get the facts right, and the facts speak loudly. As I have said many times, the cost of expansion allows for our Medicaid program to be funded by fewer state tax dollars, not more. The $184 million savings from last year were used to partially solve the multi-billion dollar budget deficit Gov. Edwards inherited when he took office, including providing critical funding for TOPS. We expect these savings to continue for years to come to help prevent deeper cuts to education and other vital state services. Simply put, without Medicaid expansion, TOPS, teacher pay, and more would be at even greater risk.
But even more important than the financial savings of expansion are the improved health outcomes of those who are now insured. Since expansion began last year, more than 394,000 working poor people are living healthier lives because they can now seek the care they need. And, they are getting results. More than 54,000 people have received preventive care at a doctor’s office or clinic. These critical visits are leading to the diagnosis and treatments of breast and colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other serious diseases. Because of these early diagnoses, lives are being saved. Readers can get these statistics on my department’s website. Just go to LDH.La.Gov/healthyladashboard.
Further, our health care infrastructure has been strengthened by the infusion of more than $2 billion in federal funds. Hospitals and other providers heavily benefit by having fewer uninsured patients to treat. One hospital reported that before expansion they had more than 12,500 uninsured patients come through their ER. Several months after expansion, this same hospital stated they had one month in which every one of their patients had some type of health coverage. Just as our program is allowing greater access to primary care, hospitals in Louisiana say they are seeing similar results.
In the coming months, our leaders in Washington will be making serious choices that will impact the coverage of hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents. I will continue to work with all of our leaders to make sure they have the correct facts so they can make the best decisions for those they were elected to represent.