This session, the Louisiana Legislature will consider several important bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that seek to expand the Medicaid program in our state and cover lower-income, working people with limited access to health care. I strongly support the Medicaid expansion, as a means of providing coverage for more than 400,000 Louisianians who are currently uninsured.
I have heard the arguments against expanding Medicaid coverage, and frankly, they don’t hold water — not for the uninsured, not for those of us who are insured and who must pay higher premiums to cover those who aren’t, and certainly not for the hospitals, doctors, nurses, nursing homes and other providers who will miss out on accessing more than $16 billion in federal support for our health-care system over 10 years. Even more distressing, if the governor’s opposition holds, our citizens’ federal tax dollars will be used to pay for the expansion of Medicaid in other states.
This is a particularly tumultuous time in our state’s history with regard to our health-care delivery system. The decisions our legislators make will have a profound and lasting impact on the health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of people in our state, and the economic health and prosperity of all of Louisiana.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has shown that it is open to working with states that wish to expand Medicaid in a number of different ways. Some states are choosing to expand Medicaid via the traditional fee-for-service model. Others are pursuing expansion through an existing Medicaid managed care model, similar to Bayou Health. Some states, like Arkansas, are even exploring an expansion of Medicaid that would allow beneficiaries to purchase private health insurance on the new online exchanges that begin operation this October. I support any of these models that achieve the essential goals and secure the benefits of expansion.
The value of the Medicaid expansion is clear. Not only will it expand access to care, it will increase revenue streams to our hospitals and other health-care providers, and the many businesses and suppliers that work with them throughout Louisiana. Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for our people and the smart thing to do for our economy.