After twice failing to convince the Louisiana Legislature to embrace the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, the Louisiana Democratic Party is trying to convince us that it is the cure for all that ails Louisiana’s health care system. This myth was discussed in Elizabeth Crisp’s politics blog “Democrats criticize Bobby Jindal and Bill Cassidy over Mid City hospital issues.” Here’s why it’s false:

  • Coverage does not equal access to care. Medicaid expansion would make over 500,000 working-age adults eligible for a plastic card and an empty promise. Louisiana’s Medicaid program is primarily made up of children and adding new doctors to the network to treat adults doesn’t happen overnight. This would only drive more people to costly emergency rooms at the taxpayer’s expense and strict federal Medicaid rules leave us little flexibility to direct resources to more cost-effective settings.
  • We just can’t afford it. Expanding Medicaid would cripple the state’s budget unless the legislature imposes a large tax increase on all of us. Our analysis shows that Medicaid expansion would cost the state $2 billion over the next 10 years.
  • The public-private partnerships give us greater flexibility to provide the right care in the right settings. Our partnerships have expanded access to quality care across Louisiana through new urgent care clinics, surgery centers and primary care clinics. And more people are getting care in those new locations. In Baton Rouge, the urgent care clinic saw more than 33,000 visits in its first year, while the old Earl K. Long Hospital was only able to see 28,000 visits in the same length of time.

Some are saying that the public-private partnerships are forcing other hospitals into tricky financial positions, namely the Baton Rouge General Hospital. But the Baton Rouge General’s Mid City campus has been losing millions of dollars for years — long before the start of this administration and the partnerships. While they experienced a spike in uninsured care after the closure of Earl K. Long, those costs dropped nearly 70 percent over the last two quarters of the last fiscal year. Care in the emergency room is expensive, which is why we have to work together to educate people on when the emergency room is appropriate and to provide more urgent and primary care.

All that said, the most important thing we can do now is share information about where people can receive care if they don’t have insurance. Across the state, we have federally qualified health clinics that offer sliding fee scales for care (visit www.LPCA.net for a list). In Baton Rouge, another way is through the LSU partnerships. Anyone seeking care can go to the urgent care clinic at 5439 Airline Highway, Baton Rouge, or by calling the patient help line at (877) 578-8255.

Kathy Kliebert

secretary, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals

Baton Rouge