Just because Democratic Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards favors Medicaid expansion, it’s not time for its supporters to get complacent, a Together Louisiana leader said Monday.
Governors of Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, Florida, Missouri and Virginia have backed Medicaid expansion only to have their Legislatures veto the idea, the Rev. Lee T. Wesley said.
“We are committed to meeting with legislators in the Capitol, in their districts and make our voices heard and make our concerns known and push for expansion of Medicaid in our state,” said Wesley, the pastor of Baton Rouge’s Community Bible Baptist Church.
“We cannot get comfortable. We cannot be overconfident because Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards wants state Medicaid expansion,” he said. “We have to support him in that effort.”
“We are not going away,” said the Rev. Theron Jackson, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Shreveport.
Wesley spoke at a news conference attended by leaders in Together Louisiana — a grass-roots organization of religious congregations and civic groups.
Medicaid expansion would bring health insurance to nearly 300,000 — mainly working poor — adults.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected extending coverage to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s $16,105 for a family of one and $32,913 for a family of four. Jindal said Medicaid is broken and the expansion would end up being too costly.
The Republican-dominated Legislature supported Jindal — rejecting multiple Democratic efforts, including those by Edwards, to move forward with the expansion. However, the 2015 Legislature passed a resolution authorizing expansion if a new governor wanted to proceed. The resolution also provided for a potential source of funds to provide for any state match of federal funds that may be needed. The initial three-year period when the expansion is 100 percent federally funded is nearing an end. After that, the state match climbs to a maximum 10 percent. Louisiana’s traditional Medicaid match is 38 percent.
Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said Louisiana has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation and spends $1 billion a year on charity hospital care for those uninsured. More people would have insurance coverage with the expansion and the dollars would follow the patient to the health care provider of their choice, Moller said. And, he added, “it would save tens of millions of dollars” by lowering state costs related to uninsured care.
“How do we know it saves money? Other states are saving money right now: Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico,” Moller said.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid using a provision under the federal health care revamp the Affordable Care Act.
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