NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The Governor of Louisiana touted Medicaid expansion as a success Thursday, just as the future of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed for expansion, stands at a crossroads.
"Medicaid expansion works. It benefits people, it improves lives, it saves lives," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards signed an executive order after taking office in January of 2016 expanding the program. Since then, more than 378,000 people across the state have enrolled. "Over 50,000 adults have received preventative care or new patient services. Nearly 5,000 women have been screened for breast cancer," Edwards said during a press conference at the New Orleans University Medical Center.
He was joined by many people who are now receiving care as a result of expansion, including 23-year-old Monika Calderon. The college student went to the hospital last fall when she was having what she thought was a bad migraine. They discovered that she in fact had a brain tumor.
"It was the size of my fist, so it was a very big tumor," Calderon said. "I was really scared, because I have two part-time jobs, I'm a student, I have to pay rent. I have to pay for school and everything."
Calderon, who did not have insurance, was able to sign up for healthcare as a result of Medicaid expansion. That covered the cost of surgery and subsequent treatments.
"I hope they continue the expansion to keep giving second chances in life to so many people," Calderon said.
Medicaid expansion was part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare." The Republican majority in Congress is currently working to repeal the ACA. Depending on what the repeal and replacement plans look like, it could put those covered by expansion at risk of losing their healthcare.
Not everyone in Louisiana supports Medicaid expansion, including some in the small business arena. Dawn Starns with the National Federal of Independent Business expressed concerns Thursday about the costs of Medicaid expansion in the long run.
In 2016, the federal government covered 100 percent of the costs associated with expansion. By the end of the decade, the federal share will trickle down to 90 percent, leaving Louisiana with 10 percent of the bill.
"There's great things that come from getting access to healthcare for folks who can't afford it. However, it always comes at a cost," Starns said. "And the bottom line is that come 2020, is the federal government still going to pick up the tab? And what's going to happen when the cost of medicaid really fully falls on the bottom lines of the state?"
Much of the Louisiana congressional delegation supports gutting the ACA. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., has drafted legislation to replace Medicaid expansion with gr ants and tax credits for healthcare. Cassidy said all those helped with expansion would maintain their healthcare under his plan.
It is not clear at this time whether his plan will gain traction in Congress.