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From left, State Medicaid Director Jen Steele and LDH Secretary Rebekah Gee talk about the state's new high-tech enrollment system at the Medicaid enrollment headquarters Wednesday Nov. 28, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

In his most recent column, Jeff Sadow continues to blame Medicaid expansion for almost all of the state’s ills. This time, he suggests Medicaid paid for coverage for people who earned too much to qualify.

As Sadow continues his long-standing criticism of Medicaid expansion, he leaves out crucial facts, including that Louisiana was following proper eligibility procedures, no improper payments were made, and that the same week the audit was released, we introduced a new system that will address the recommendations made in the audit.

This new eligibility system allows for significant upgrades that will help ensure that those who qualify for Medicaid truly need Medicaid. Those facts unfortunately get in the way of the story that Sadow and other opponents of Gov. John Bel Edwards want to tell.

Sadow is a member of a small but vocal cadre of critics who make recurring false claims about Medicaid expansion. My favorite was one year ago when U.S. Sen. John Kennedy accused the Medicaid expansion of causing Baton Rouge’s traffic problems.

The reality is that Gov. Edward’s Medicaid expansion has real and lasting benefits for hundreds of thousands of people throughout our state. More people are employed in the health care sector than at any time in our state’s history. Local and state governments have benefited from these new jobs, resulting in more people with the ability to earn a living wage. A recent study by LSU found that by leveraging $1.85 billion in federal funds, Louisiana generated $3.57 billion in economic activity and created or retained 19,195 jobs.

Doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals have welcomed expansion as they now are reimbursed for the care they provide to people who were once uninsured. In states where Medicaid has not been expanded rural hospitals are closing, yet they are thriving in Louisiana.

Most importantly, nearly 480,000 citizens now have health care coverage. Coverage allows individuals and families better health and peace of mind because they now have access to primary care, cancer screenings and lifesaving treatments for diabetes, mental health conditions, and high blood pressure. For the first time in generations, our state has the opportunity to improve our overall health.

The critics of Medicaid expansion are loud, but they are few. I encourage critics to listen to patients, doctors, hospital administrators, rural health providers and economists. Alternatively, I invite them to come with me to my clinic and hear my patients share their stories of gratitude for finally being able to get mammograms or mental health treatment. Critics would be well served to listen to the thousands of people who now have coverage and whose lives have improved because they are now getting care and treatment.

Dr. Rebekah Gee

secretary, Louisiana Department of Health

Baton Rouge