The number of people who are forced to live without the assurance of health care coverage is continuing to decrease because of Medicaid expansion. In that sense, the Affordable Care Act is working, and Gov. John Bel Edwards understands that it’s the right thing to do for the people of Louisiana. Thankfully, on his second day in office, he signed an executive order that would extend health care coverage to 300,000 eligible Louisianans.

The Daughters of Charity has served the greater New Orleans community for more than 180 years. As a member of Ascension, Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans has made Medicaid expansion a priority, helping to deliver on our mission to provide compassionate, personalized care to all. In expansion states with Ascension sites of care, we are beginning to see more people than ever receive the care they need while fewer are struggling to pay for it.

However, Medicaid has not yet expanded to all the states, including Louisiana, where we have among the highest rates of people who are uninsured. In 2013, 21.7 percent of residents in the state were uninsured.

Nationwide, we urge lawmakers to achieve equity in health care for every American — expanding Medicaid for those who continue to struggle.

Our physicians and caregivers have seen firsthand how expansion has benefitted our patients. Hospitals across the Ascension system in states that have expanded Medicaid have seen significant declines in their self-pay or uninsured patients, with corresponding increases in patients with Medicaid coverage. It is a smart business and economic decision for our states and will help secure the financial viability and community benefit of our hospitals in the current health care environment.

During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama, who recently visited our state, highlighted the benefits our country has seen since the implementation of the ACA. We are quickly approaching the Open Enrollment deadline at the end of this month. Since the first Open Enrollment period in 2013, Medicaid expansion states have seen an average increase in enrollment of 30 percent, while states that have not expanded the program reported an average increase of only 9.9 percent.

I am honored to serve on Gov. Edwards’ transition committee to address health care issues in the state and look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a plan to expand the Medicaid program to improve the health of our residents and to reduce costs to our taxpayers.

On behalf of Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, I call on the lawmakers in our state to be compassionate and just — to accept the federal funds available and recognize that coverage expansion will ensure that all Louisianans and their families have affordable and quality health care this enrollment season and beyond.

Michael Griffin

president and CEO, Daughters of Charity Services

New Orleans