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Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- From left DHH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee DHH Medicaid Expansion Project Director Ruth Kennedy and Gov. John Bel Edwards stand for a photo after a Medicaid expansion announcement event.

Jeff Sadow’s recent column, “Medicaid Expansion Busting the Budget” is misleading and ignores the remarkable outcomes we’re seeing in Louisiana because of Medicaid expansion.

Today, more than 336,000 Louisianans have access to health care that they didn’t previously have. Already, there have been more than 24,000 preventive care visits, approximately 2,200 women have received breast cancer screenings that resulted in 28 diagnoses, and 288 adults have been newly diagnosed with diabetes and are receiving treatment.

These are real Louisianans who are now getting better care because we chose to bring our federal tax dollars home from Washington and offer coverage to hardworking adults. Saving lives and ensuring better health outcomes are our goals, but in addition to all of this, our state is saving more than $184 million in the first year alone because of expansion.Louisiana is f acing budget challenges, but it is wrong to point the finger at Medicaid expansion.

In fact, last week, my department reported the first projected surplus in Medicaid in many years, something that only happened once under the previous administration’s last six years. Thanks to expansion and efficiencies within the agency, we’re on track to help more Louisianans get the right care when they need it.

Further, the savings generated from Medicaid expansion were built into the budget earlier this year and contributed significantly to avoiding devastating cuts to higher education and other services.Further evidence of how expansion is making a difference is the hospital leader who recently commented that for the first time in his career, he had a month in which no uninsured patients sought care at his hospital. This a testament to the fundamental difference expansion means to our hospitals that must absorb the cost of the care when treating someone without coverage.We can choose to support the policies of the past that resulted in significant budget deficits and poor health outcomes, or we can embrace policies that expand coverage, improve health and offer us the chance to lower chronic disease rates and improve overall health.

Our goal is to make a generational shift for better health care in Louisiana, and a better future for all of our residents.

Dr. Rebekah Gee

secretary, Louisiana Department of Health

Baton Rouge