Letter: Medicaid fails to help those needing it most

One of the most pressing issues on the table this legislative session will be whether to expand Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare. I’ve been traveling the state to spread the word about that, and people have been shocked to hear some of the statistics about how troubled the Medicaid system is. According to a University of Virginia study, folks stuck on Medicaid are 13 percent more likely to die in the hospital if they’re admitted for major surgery — not just more likely than those with quality insurance, but more likely to die than those with no insurance at all.

The journal Cancer published a study that showed patients with certain cancers also had higher mortality rates on Medicaid than the uninsured, even when controlling for other demographic factors.

Furthermore, a study in Science considered the gold standard for investigating Medicaid outcomes shows Medicaid patients use the emergency room even more than the general population. You may remember that one of the chief selling points of Obamacare was reducing the number of people who were forced to use the emergency room.

So why so many emergency room visits and such poor care? Perhaps it’s because with each passing year, more and more doctors feel forced to stop accepting new Medicaid patients due to the low reimbursement rates and bureaucracy they have to deal with. In Louisiana, recent numbers show more than a third of doctors won’t see new patients on this program.

Nobody wants those who need care to go without it, but that’s why expanding Medicaid without any serious attempt at reform is unreasonable. Putting hundreds of thousands more Louisianans onto a system that can’t provide them quality care would be bad enough, but we’re also expected to do this with no guarantee the federal dollars won’t dry up as soon as the next Beltway budget crisis.

Critics will accuse me of wanting to deny care to the poor, but the facts speak for themselves. Medicaid often fails those it’s meant to help.

Senator Mary Landrieu says the folks who would qualify for the Medicaid expansion are part of the Jindal gap. I say they’ve fallen into the Obamacare gap with the rest of us — suffering without a robust health insurance market. We need our state and federal officials to get to work today on one thing: digging us out. In the meantime, doubling down on a bad program and accepting more Obamacare is the wrong path.

Phillip Joffrion

director, Louisiana chapter, Americans for Prosperity

Baton Rouge