It’s a good day when hard-working people get health insurance.
It’s better if the process of enrollment goes smoothly, as we hope it will as Louisiana expands access to the state-federal insurance program, Medicaid.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, meeting with editors and reporters of The Advocate on Tuesday, applauded the news that federal officials have signed off on a plan to make expanding Medicaid easier administratively.
Louisiana will be the first state in the country that will use food stamp enrollment to also enroll people in the newly expanded Medicaid health care program. Enrollment for Medicaid expansion officially kicked off on Wednesday in New Orleans with the governor and Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Rebekah Gee.
Because so many people in our state work in low-wage jobs, the numbers who qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage is large. By federal law, enrollment is allowed up to 138 percent of the official poverty level, about $33,534 yearly income for a family of four.
Enrollment still could be a big job, but it’s made easier with the new decision.
The U.S. government is allowing the state to use client data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — perhaps better known as food stamps — to determine eligibility and enroll people in Medicaid. When people sign up for SNAP benefits or re-enroll, their information also will be checked for Medicaid eligibility and automatic enrollment.
This should have been done long ago, both in terms of the expansion and in looking for intelligent ways to streamline the enrollment process.
Under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, bitter partisan politics kept Louisiana from joining the states expanding Medicaid under terms of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” That means Louisiana is belatedly at the table, the 31st state to expand Medicaid.
We hope the enrollment process goes well, but it is in the interest of working families to get on Medicaid if eligible. A healthier work force is vital for Louisiana to be competitive, and insurance coverage should allow people to access health care through a family physician.
Louisiana taxpayers are better served when people get regular monitoring and treatment instead of putting off medical conditions until they require a trip to the more expensive precincts of a hospital emergency room.
The governor also noted that the state expects to save $180 million from more generous federal matching of state dollars put into the expansion plan under the federal law. We like that, as should legislators struggling to balance the budget left to them by Jindal’s administration.