Today, Louisiana marks five years since expanding Medicaid coverage for the hard-working poor across our state. To date, more than 600,000 citizens are benefitting from access to quality healthcare that many otherwise have never been able to afford. Gov. John Bel Edwards first adopted Medicaid expansion in 2016 as his first official act as governor, making Louisiana the first state in the Deep South to participate. Since then it has provided preventive care as well as life-saving diagnosis and treatment for a multitude of serious diseases. This momentous expansion of healthcare coverage has dramatically changed the landscape for vulnerable communities and the healthcare sector for the better, and it has provided a critical safety net during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
“As I have said many times before, adopting Medicaid expansion was the easiest big decision I have made,” said Gov. Edwards. “Providing access to quality health insurance for so many of our people who were working day in and day out but simply couldn’t afford to take care of themselves was a top priority for me and remains so to this day. Especially given the incredible difficulties brought on by the pandemic, I cannot imagine what would have happened to our people had it not been for expansion. It has literally saved lives, jobs, kept our tax dollars at home, significantly lowered the number of uninsured Louisianans and helped keep our rural hospitals open. It was the right decision then and it remains the right decision for our families and state.”
Click here to see the Governor’s video.
As of July 1, 2021, more than 638,000 Louisiana residents are enrolled in Medicaid expansion.
Prior to expansion, Medicaid eligibility for adults in Louisiana had not changed since 2013, leaving most childless adults ineligible for coverage, regardless of how low their incomes were.
Within the first year, more than 433,000 Louisiana residents who lacked coverage for essential healthcare services and prescription drugs gained coverage because of Medicaid expansion. Since Medicaid expansion in 2016, the uninsured rate among adults reduced from 22.7% in 2015 to 11.4% in 2017. The 2019 LHIS survey reported an adult uninsured rate of 11.1%.
Currently, Louisiana remains below the national uninsured rate for adults, which is 15.6%.
The new coverage allowed residents to use their insurance to visit a primary care doctor for an annual check-up, get prescriptions, and maintain wellness visits and health screenings. The positive health benefits Louisiana residents have had over the past five years include:
- An average of 72% of adults enrolled have visited a doctor’s office during each year of Medicaid expansion.
- More than 105,000 women have been screened for breast cancer
- Over 63,000 adults have received colon cancer screenings
- About 100,000 adults have been diagnosed and provided opportunity for treatment for either diabetes or hypertension
Medicaid expansion became available to states on January 1, 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. Its aim was to make insurance available to those most in danger of losing everything because of a medical stay or illness. The ACA also relieved financial pressure on hospitals.
Because Louisiana did not expand Medicaid in 2014 and 2015, Governor Edwards’ administration estimated the state lost up to $3 billion in federal funding prior to the acceptance of Medicaid expansion in 2016. An Urban Institute study found that if Louisiana had continued to reject Medicaid expansion, the state would have lost out on $15.8 billion in federal Medicaid funding and $8 billion in hospital reimbursements.
The Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, said the fifth anniversary of Medicaid expansion marks a significant milestone in improving the health and well-being of Louisiana residents.
“Five years of Medicaid expansion have enabled us at the Louisiana Department of Health to improve outcomes, make our programs more robust and it’s provided financial stability for our healthcare sector,” Dr. Phillips said. “But most importantly, Medicaid expansion has made has made it possible for many more Louisianans to have access to quality care. We are committed to protecting vulnerable communities and providing a safety net for those who may lose health coverage because of economic conditions or other events, and Medicaid has been instrumental in protecting Louisiana communities during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Visit the Louisiana Department of Health Medicaid Expansion Dashboard for more information about the important health outcomes resulting from Medicaid expansion.