BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Thousands of Louisiana residents now receive coverage under the new Medicaid expansion as the benefits started rolling out Friday.
State officials said some may be surprised that there are plenty of people who are eligible for coverage but might not even know it.
Coverage started for more than 225,000 Louisiana residents who signed up since enrollment began on June 1, with a daily average of 550 people applying online just a week ago.
The expansion covers people who make too much for Medicaid, but not enough for subsidies on the insurance exchange. The move came from an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards on his second day in office.
Officials are trying to get the word out so people are aware that medical coverage is available.
"You might be eligible. If you work in a job, you earn the middle wage, and your employer doesn't offer health care coverage, you're probably eligible now for Medicaid, and it's very easy to find out just go to our website," said Bob Johannessen with the Department of Health.
With the state's expansion of Medicaid, people who are working and may think they make too much money to be available.
Officials said someone who makes $16,395 a year is now eligible to get coverage, while a family of four making $33,534 is also eligible.
State officials said since the expansion, calls have been coming in. People can sign up in person, online or by phone.
"These are folks who here unto four did not realize they were eligible for these sort of benefits," said Johannessen. "There are folks who have jobs they working construction they work in our hotels they working restaurant, they haven't had coverage they may not know that they're eligible."
Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker represents an area of Baton Rouge where incomes vary greatly. She's excited that some of her less fortunate constituents can get care.
"It's critical. We have way too many people in our community that are dying from high blood pressure and diabetes, things that are preventable diseases if they are able to catch them and catch them early and actually have an opportunity excess those services that are available," Wicker said.
People who weren't eligible for coverage before can be covered and see doctors at places like urgent care facilities.
"The urgent care facilities that are popping up and making sure the people in these urban communities have access to primary health care services was just as much is a major hall as emergency room closing," Wicker said.
To be eligible, applicants must fall between the ages of 19 and 64, not currently receiving Medicare or Medicaid benefits, meet household income and citizenship requirements.
DH said the benefits under the expansion will be the same benefits currently provided to people with Medicaid under the Bayou Health Plan.
The DH estimates that this program will provide healthcare to more than 350,000 people in Louisiana. Edwards hopes to have 375,000 people enrolled by this time next year.
Louisiana is the 31st state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.