Expansion of Medicaid benefits helping many of 'working poor'
Fri, 11/04/2016 - 05:00
Raymond L. Daye
Approximately 3,340 members of the Avoyelles’“working poor” have been added to Medicaid since the state expanded the eligibility requirements for the government program, state Office of Public Health records show. As of the end of September, there were 17,204 Avoyelleans enrolled in Medicaid, the monthly report noted.
Dr. David Holcombe -- the OPH regional administrator/ health director for central Louisiana -- said that number includes those added to the rolls under the expansion program.
The state had projected there are 3,570 people in the parish that would be affected by raising the threshold for Medicaid eligibility, Holcombe said. Based on that estimate, more than 93 percent of those eligible to receive Medicaid services have been reached.
“It is always better to be insured than to not be insured,” Holcombe said. “There have been some negative comments about Obamacare and expanding Medicaid benefits, but those are the only two things that have increased the percent of insured individuals in this state in the last 10 to 20 years.”
Holcombe said a “Town Hall” meeting at the LSU AgCenter in Mansura in early October attracted a small crowd interested in learning more about Medicaid expansion and how it affects them.
“The questions were mostly about whether a person making a low salary could participate in Medicaid if their employer offers health insurance,” Holcombe said. “The answer is, if their pay is so low that they can’t afford the health insurance offered, they may qualify for Medicaid.”
Statewide, 327,678 people have been brought under Medicaid coverage due to the expansion of benefits as of Oct. 24.
State officials point out several positive outcomes related to that expansion of services.
There have been 24,674 who have received “new patient” and preventive care services.
There have been 2,193 women who have received breast cancer screening, with 18 cases of cancer diagnosed as a result.
There have been 676 new diagnoses of hypertension and 288 cases of diabetes diagnosed due to Louisianians being able to go to the doctor for those tests.
There have been 1,664 screenings for colon cancer, resulting in discovery and removal of polyps in 393 patients and the diagnosis of colon cancer in 22.
Dr. L.J. Mayeux, Avoyelles coroner, said the expansion of Medicaid in Louisiana “benefits those who need medical care now, but is a bear trap in that there is no future funding for the expanded program after two years. That could lead to major problems.”
Mayeux said the state was correct in accepting the federal money to expand Medicaid, even it turns out to be for only a short term, because the money would be sent to other states if it was not spent here.
“This program helps us in the short run,” Mayeux said, “but it is not a fix to our health insurance problems.”