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From left to right, Gov. John Bel Edwards, flanked by Dept. of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee, MD (center), shakes hands in January 2016 with his health care transition team co-chairs, Gary Wiltz, CEO of Teche Action Clinic, and Ronald A. Goux, president of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, at the State Capitol after Edwards signed his his first executive order to provide for Medicaid expansion in the state of Louisiana.

If there is one decision from the eight years of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure that clearly stood out as penny-wise and pound-foolish, it was that of the governor and Republican-led Legislature to oppose expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for the working poor.

While Medicaid is costly — and, like private health insurance — gets costlier seemingly every day, the impact of broader health coverage is a long-term benefit that cannot be denied.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a decline in the rate of the uninsured in Louisiana, from 8.4 percent to 8 percent. This is from the more-frequent American Community Survey, not the full census count that will be conducted nationally next year, so it’s a number from a much smaller sample of households.

Nevertheless, this new number is not politically insignificant, coming as it does shortly before the Oct. 12 primary election for governor.

In an election year, Gov. John Bel Edwards is certainly going to promote the new statistics showing that more people have health insurance. It was his decision to reverse the Jindal policy. That led to a dramatic reduction in the number of uninsured households in our state. Today’s uninsured rate is about half of that before Medicaid expansion, the governor said Tuesday.

Most of those folks are working long hours at low-paying jobs, trying to get by despite illness and injury, toiling through pain often enough; they make some money and are not dirt-poor but can’t afford the price of private health insurance.

Health is about more than insurance, but if you’re sick, the care you get is obviously a matter of having coverage. Louisiana’s health ratings are not what they should be. Insurance coverage that promotes regular visits and medication from primary care providers is good for the state’s people and thus for its economy over the long term.

The large questions of where health care goes from here — there is an affordability crisis that is an issue taken up by President Donald Trump on down — is clearly a matter to be dealt with at a national level. The national uninsured rate has gone up, despite a generally strong economy across the country, the Census Bureau said.

Taxpayer-subsidized Medicaid expansion was not free; it is still a cost to the taxpayer, via the U.S. Treasury. But the state gets a much better match for its contributions than for regular Medicaid. That makes Edwards’ reversal of the previous state policy clearly the right move.

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