Gov. John Bel Edwards is on the right track by expanding health insurance coverage for the working poor.
His critics, particularly Republican doctors-turned-politicos, have legitimate beefs with the way the federal-state Medicaid insurance program works, but they’ve lost sight of the big picture view that the new governor has embraced.
A majority of the states have embraced Medicaid expansion because it’s provided for with a high matching rate of federal funds. While it is certainly true for Edwards’ purposes that the high rate of federal matching funds for Medicaid expansion is good for the state’s Treasury, it’s also true that it will lead to greater use of health care services.
And that’s the big picture that the critics don’t get.
Our people are our economy. Most people have employer-provided health insurance that can be difficult to afford on middle-class salaries these days.
Those working at low-wage jobs contribute and pay taxes, but they can’t do that if they are hobbled with sickness and injuries that they can’t afford to fix.
The governor’s expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act takes care of people who realistically can’t afford insurance and typically show up at emergency rooms with dangerous conditions, leading to a larger bill for the insured population, as costs are shifted around. As Edwards said in his inaugural address, we’re already paying for the uninsured population.
By expanding Medicaid under the managed care framework put in place by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, there is the best chance that we can avoid some of the unintended consequences of today’s fragmented system.
One critic of the new plan is U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican who continues to see patients and train aspiring doctors. He is right that too many people go to emergency rooms, but the goal of the managed care system established under Jindal is to steer those patients into a healthier doctor-patient relationship.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, also is a physician who questions the costs “without providing meaningful coverage for participants leading to a high-quality doctor-patient relationship.” While the latter is the goal of the managed care initiative, the fact is that Boustany is right about Medicaid’s deficiencies.
But beyond what the Jindal administration has already done, what can be fixed in any realistic time frame? An old phrase comes to mind, about the doctors deliberating while the patient sinks.
Edwards is right to keep in the forefront the individual worker’s position — often working two jobs to try to support a family, without health insurance at all. While it may be easy to find faults with Medicaid, it’s difficult to see that no insurance at all is better than Medicaid.
We commend the governor’s initiative, even if, as Cassidy and Boustany point out, it will require watching to insure that it works well for recipients as well as the system of health care providers. For thousands of families, it’s going to be a godsend.