A recent letter published in The Advocate suggests ending the Medicaid program is the answer to Louisiana’s fiscal woes. The author uses grade-school math to conclude spending is out of control in what he mistakenly attributes to a broken Medicaid system.

Today’s Medicaid program is greatly improved from the program of the past. Managed care has reduced costs and improved incentives for enrollees to use primary care instead of costly emergency room care.

It also is not true that doctors will not see patients with Medicaid. Since adopting managed care, Louisiana has dramatically increased the number of primary care physicians who will see Medicaid patients by 68 percent.

Managed care also has led to the doubling of access to primary care for children, increased access to primary care for adults, doubled the rate of well-child visits and improved child immunization rates from two to five times the rate under the old program.

By now, using industry best practices, not only are we making the right care available to our most vulnerable citizens, we also are better controlling costs. Per member per month costs in the managed care program have been virtually flat since the start of the program, in contrast to the historic growth before. A recent study released by the Louisiana Association of Health Plans shows the private Medicaid managed care plans have saved Louisiana $437 million in 2015 when compared with what the state would have paid under the old fee-for-service model. The study was conducted by members of the American Academy of Actuaries and is actuarially sound, not just grade-school math.

This year, the state is moving to expand Medicaid and offer the security of health care coverage to many more hard working, tax-paying citizens of Louisiana. Conservative estimates project we will see savings in how much State General Funds are spent on Medicaid for years to come. This infusion of new money will not only increase coverage, it will provide $1.8 billion in increased economic activity, create 15,600 new jobs and generate approximately $120 million in new tax revenue per year.

With the right facts, it’s clear the practical solution to Louisiana is to expand Medicaid while continuing to reform and improve it. It’s the right thing for working people and for the long-term stability of the economy of our state.

Rebekah Gee

secretary, Department of Health and Hospitals

Baton Rouge