Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on approving Medicaid funding:

May 24

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on approving Medicaid funding:

Despite the obvious benefits of providing health coverage to tens of thousands of uninsured Louisianians, the House of Representatives rejected legislation Tuesday to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid.

With Gov. Bobby Jindal continuing to refuse the extra federal money, some legislators have been pushing their own alternatives. They should be commended, despite the defeat this week of Rep. Pat Smith's House Bill 233.

To her credit, New Orleans Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who has a bill similar to HB233, is continuing to push for the Medicaid legislation. She got the measure attached to another bill after the House vote, but that bill has been deferred.

The odds seem pretty long at this point, but it is heartening to see her fight for more low-income Louisiana residents to have access to health insurance.

The legislation originally was a straightforward acceptance of the Medicaid expansion, but it was amended to allow uninsured low-income Louisiana residents to use Medicaid money to buy private insurance. The approach is similar to legislation approved in Arkansas that Gov. Mike Beebe is hopeful will get federal approval.

It is frustrating that more Louisiana lawmakers aren't focusing on the good that the $15.8 billion Medicaid expansion could do for uninsured families. For one thing, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three years.

The Jindal administration estimates that 214,000 uninsured residents could get coverage under the expansion. ...

The state stands to benefit as well. Even after the three years funded totally by the federal government, Louisiana's share would be small.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office's analysis found that Louisiana would save between $532 million and $544 million over the first five years of the expansion. The fiscal office estimates the state would save between $185 million and $510 million over 10 years.

The Department of Health and Hospitals reported recently that the state would save as much as $367.5 million over the first 10 years of the expansion under the Affordable Care Act. DHH's worst-case scenario is that Louisiana would have to spend $1.52 billion to $1.71 billion over a decade.

Even if that turns out to be the case, it is worth it to get almost $16 billion in new funding for health care. Yet ministers, retirees, health clinic operators and many others have pleaded with Gov. Jindal and legislators to take the money to no avail.

The governor has focused on the uncertainties of the expansion and complained about the inflexibility and inefficiency of Medicaid.

But here's the bottom line: Expanding Medicaid is the best way for thousands of Louisiana residents to get access to a doctor — and, ultimately, to have a chance to be healthier.

That's what legislators need to remember — and they ought to take the money.

Online:

http://www.nola.com/

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