Last month, the newly elected Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana signed an executive order expanding Medicaid coverage for the state. By doing so he followed through on his promise to his constituents that state tax dollars would not be going to the thirty other states who are expanding health coverage. Now, state officials are getting to work, ramping up plans to set up the infrastructure and outreach necessary to get citizens signed up.
Many people, whether they be opponent or proponent feel that this executive order couldn’t have come at a better time. According to Jen Steele, the current interim Medicaid Director, infant-mortality rates are double that of many developing countries. Louisiana also suffers a high HIV rate; high syphilis and STI rates. In many interviews she has painted a picture of Louisiana, a state with a rich cultural tradition, plagued by a poor populace.
In the past Louisiana lawmakers have put out a call to arms to nontraditional partners and foundations, to help combat the state’s laundry list of health-care related problems. Thanks to Edwards’s executive order, 300,000 new customers will be covered by Medicaid by July 1st. According to Jen Steele, patients who already have insurance but fall within the qualifying income and age range under Medicaid expansion could choose to switch. And the “woodwork population”, who have long been qualified to receive funds, but haven’t yet signed up. In order for this new expansion to proliferate, the state of Louisiana must find creative ways of funding healthcare.
According to news from the state capitol, the state currently has a $750 million deficit through the end of the current fiscal year, and a $1.9 billion deficit for the next, which begins July 1. Currently, officials from the Louisiana state health department have reached out to hospitals, clinics, and other entities seeking donations to state’s portion of administrative costs.
In such trying times the state must rely on the kindness of strangers to cover 2.8 million dollars worth of expansions, and the salaries of thousands of new enrollment workers. Even though the costs may be daunting, and the political factor may be an even bigger hurdle, Medicaid patients in Louisiana will have access to the care they need. Expanding Medicaid gives people the right to heath, giving coverage to men, women, and children who were not previously eligible under previous state laws.