Another year, another fight to expand Medicaid

Three bills to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana will be heard by the legislature tomorrow.  This is one of the most important issues currently facing our state, particularly in light of our current budget crisis.  The fight is so important that our hospitals are now attempting to move legislators on the issue.  The plan was outlined in a recent Times-Picayune article:

The proposal, developed by the Louisiana Hospital Association, would let the private hospitals share in the state’s cost for the Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal health overhaul. In turn, the move would help the cash-strapped state bring in more money to fill gaps in the health budget, as hospitals are threatened with reductions to their payments.

As a refresher, here’s some information about what Medicaid expansion is and the effect it would have on our state.  As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the eligibility of Medicaid was expanded to include nearly all-low income individuals with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level ($27,310 for a family of three). The Affordable Care Act was designed to have those with moderate incomes purchase insurance using tax credits through the Marketplace, whereas low- income people were to have insurance coverage by expanding Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid is a federal-state partnership and under the Affordable Care Act the federal government would cover 100% of all costs with expanding Medicaid. By 2020, the federal government would pay 90% of all costs associated with expanding Medicaid and states would pay 10%. Each Governor is allowed to choose whether to opt-in to Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Governor Jindal has refused to allow Louisiana to participate in Medicaid expansion, leaving over two-hundred thousand Louisianians without access to health insurance.

So, why is this issue so important for hospitals?  When people are uninsured, they rely more heavily on emergency room care, which drives hospital costs up. Quite simply, we are foolish to throw away the estimated billions of dollars in federal funds associated with expanding Medicaid in our state.  Our people deserve access to healthcare.  It’s time we give it to them.

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