In her letter to the editor on Sept. 5, Kathy Kliebert, Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, claimed that Louisiana can’t afford to take the federally funded Medicaid expansion and that it would cost the state too much money.
Well, that can’t be further from the truth!
The initial DHH study of the Medicaid expansion showed the state saving $364 million over 10 years. A nonpartisan analysis released just last week by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute shows hospitals are thriving in states that took the expansion. Other national studies consistently show the wisdom of taking the federally funded expansion. The expansion would create 15,000 new jobs and give a $16 billion boost to our economy over 10 years.
If Gov. Bobby Jindal would take the expansion, we would not see the financial crisis that threatens to close the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City. Too many uninsured people — patients that the General won’t be paid for — are using that ER, costing the hospital more than $1 million a month.
BR General’s administrators say one in three patients are uninsured. That creates tremendous stress to the services of the ER that I’m sure will be felt by other hospitals throughout the state.
Accepting the Medicaid expansion is the perfect free-market solution to the crisis of the uninsured. The money follows the patient. The hospital or clinic that can serve the newly insured earns their business.
Under Jindal’s privatization plan, the state picks the winners and the losers. The private hospitals with the state contracts get paid for the uninsured’s business. The hospitals — like Baton Rouge General — that don’t get paid for the uninsured patients will have to close clinics, ERs or entire facilities.
Taking the expansion makes common sense. Without the expansion, the feds pay only 60 percent of the cost of treating the uninsured. With the expansion, they cover more than 90 percent of the those costs.
Instead of Louisiana benefiting from expansion, our tax dollars are being sent away to stimulate the economies of states doing the right thing.
The nation watches as Republican governor after Republican governor — at least one a potential presidential candidate — has changed his or her mind and taken the expansion. Just last month, Gov. Tom Corbett, of Pennsylvania, decided to take the expansion and provide insurance for 600,000 of his working poor.
Our state watches as our governor’s decision — driven by his personal political ambition — denies insurance to 240,000 working Louisianians and creates health care crises like we have in midcity Baton Rouge all across Louisiana.
Common sense and my Christian compassion call me to support the expansion.