BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards held a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday where he signed his first executive order, which expands Medicaid.
Gov. Edwards says he wants to have government-funded health insurance cards in the hands of 350,000 people by July 1. Louisiana will have to hire around 248 new health department employees to handle the enrollment.
"Louisiana's tax dollars should not be going to the 30 other states that have expanded Medicaid when working families here at home need access to health care," said Gov. Edwards. "I made a promise to the people of Louisiana that I was going to accept our tax dollars back into our state, and I am following through on that commitment. It won't be immediate, but today we begin the process, and I look forward to working with our federal partners to ensure this is realized in the most efficient way possible."
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid coverage for adults who are at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level at an increased federal percentage. The increased federal percentage under Medicaid expansion requires the federal government to provide 100 percent of the funding for new enrolees through 2016, 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019, and 90 percent thereafter.
According to the executive order signed by Governor Edwards on Tuesday, most of the people affected by Medicaid expansion are gainfully employed, yet have incomes where it is exceedingly difficult to afford healthcare coverage.
The federal poverty level in 2016 for an individual is $11,770, while the federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,250.
The expansion will cost $2.8 million, but the cost will be covered by pledges from the providers for the rest of this year. Of that $2.8 million, $1.3 million is the cost for the salaries of the new workers hired to handle the enrollment for the expansion.
In addition, newly-appointed Secretary of DHH Dr. Rebekah Gee has secured more than $3 million in pledges from outside sources to assist with the implementation of Medicaid expansion in Louisiana. The pledges will help defray the startup costs associated with expansion, without adding to the state's fiscal problem. Hospitals, pharmacies, health clinics, health plans, and others are among the groups who have pledged support.
"Under Governor Edwards' direction, we have begun the process of implementing a cost-effective plan to expand Medicaid coverage," said Secretary Gee. "We are working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and our partners here in Louisiana to ensure this implementation is done correctly. This is an important step for working families in our state, and we are gratified to see so many of our stakeholders stepping up to assist us in this process."
By failing to expand Medicaid under the previous administration, Louisiana has lost the opportunity to receive $3 billion in federal health care funds, according to the executive order. With Medicaid expansion, Louisiana could realize additional State General Fund savings of nearly $100 million through fiscal year 2020.
The executive order also states, "The expansion of Medicaid will also help to lessen Louisiana's budget crisis and will keep more of the federal tax dollars paid by Louisiana citizens in Louisiana."
The governor orders the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to create any and all state plan amendments to expand Medicaid to adults who are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level with an effective date of no later than July 1. DHH is also orders to adopt any administrative rules necessary to implement the expansion by July 1.