The flood of new Medicaid patients is evidence that DHH had a smart plan for rolling out the expansion, but it also shows how deep the need is in Louisiana.
Our state had nearly 30,000 uninsured restaurant workers and 15,500 uninsured construction workers, according to DHH. Musicians and other artists are another group of employees who will benefit from access to Medicaid. Many other people are working entry-level jobs that don't provide health care or pay enough to purchase a policy.
More than 29,000 people in New Orleans and 27,000 in Jefferson Parish are expected to qualify for Medicaid under the expansion, according to DHH. St. Tammany is the next highest in the metro area with 10,076.
While expanding Medicaid coverage is going to be a chore in some places for health care providers, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to expand the program to the working poor will benefit Louisiana both in the short run and in the longer term.
The state’s fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, so effective last month, the new coverage will apply to hundreds of thousands of individuals who typically work at low-wage jobs without insurance.
The expansion is not universal. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays the cost up to 134 percent of the federal poverty line. Over time, the state will have to put up 10 percent of the program cost.
That’s the short-term benefit, as the federal government matches most Medicaid costs at about $2 for every $1 the state spends. The higher match rate will help out the state’s budget to the tune of $184 million in the new fiscal year.
But the long-term gains of Medicaid expansion are quite possibly of greater importance.