Enrollment For Louisiana Medicaid Expansion Opens Today

BATON ROUGE (AP) — People interested in getting insurance coverage through Louisiana's new Medicaid expansion can begin signing up Wednesday.

         Gov. John Bel Edwards and Health and Hospitals Secretary Rebekah Gee are expected to announce local application centers around the state at an enrollment kickoff event Wednesday in New Orleans.

         Louisiana will become the 31st state, plus the District of Columbia, to expand the government-financed health insurance program largely to the working poor when the new coverage begins July 1.




         Medicaid expansion will cover adults ages 19 to 64 with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $16,200 for a single adult or $33,400 for a family of four.

         The Edwards administration estimates 375,000 people will get insurance from the expansion over the next year, most of them full-time workers in industries such as food service, tourism and construction.

         "For the first time in the state's history, a majority of working adults will not have to worry about if they can take care of themselves," Gee said. "This is an important step for the state's health."

         People can apply for coverage online at www.healthy.la.gov or by phone at 1-888-342-6207. They'll enroll in one of Louisiana's Medicaid plans administered by managed-care companies.

         The federal health department agreed Tuesday to let Louisiana use information collected from food stamp applicants to determine eligibility for the Medicaid expansion coverage. About 105,000 people already receiving food stamps in Louisiana are expected to also meet the requirements for health insurance under the Medicaid expansion.




         With Louisiana's expansion, more than half the uninsured eligible for coverage under the federal health overhaul championed by President Barack Obama will live in states that have expanded Medicaid, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

         "This is another step in our country's march toward a health care system that works better for everyone," Burwell said in a statement.

         Expansion was Edwards' top priority when he took office in January, reversing the refusal from his Republican predecessor Bobby Jindal. Jindal described the expansion as too costly and as growing an inefficient and outdated model of health care. Edwards calls expansion a good moral and financial decision for Louisiana.




         The federal government will pick up the full cost of the health services through 2016. After that, Louisiana will pay a share that eventually increases to 10 percent.

         The Edwards administration estimates Medicaid expansion will save the state $677 million in its first five years, by taking advantage of enhanced federal financing rates for health services Louisiana currently provides for the poor and uninsured.

         More than $180 million in savings are included in the state operating budget proposal for the financial year that begins July 1.

         Republicans in the Legislature had blocked expansion efforts in prior years amid Jindal's opposition. But they have not attempted to stall expansion since Edwards took office.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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