Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on disabled Louisianians need Medicaid program to help them stay in their homes

August 25

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on disabled Louisianians need Medicaid program to help them stay in their homes:

If you're a disabled person with limited resources who needs health care and other services to be able to stay in your home, you're probably out of luck in Louisiana. The Jindal administration last week withdrew its application for a federal Medicaid program set up to encourage more in-home care for developmentally disabled residents with low incomes.

State officials said the cost is too high and the rules are too inflexible. But it's hard to believe the decision isn't political. Gov. Jindal has been ratcheting up his opposition to President Obama's Affordable Care Act, and the Community First Choice Program was created under the act.

In an Aug. 12 piece on Fox.com, the governor said the Affordable Care Act is a "poorly conceived law that is unworkable in the real world" and said it needed to be repealed. He and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made similar arguments in a July 25 essay in The Wall Street Journal.

But the Affordable Care Act is still in place and major provisions are set to go into effect Oct. 1. Louisiana residents ought to get the benefits available to them.

Community First Choice increases the amount of Medicaid matching money the federal government will give the state for home health care to 68 percent. The rate currently is 62 percent.

So, basically, the federal government is offering the state a nice incentive to help disabled residents of meager means get the care they need to be independent or live with their families rather than in an institution.

But DHH's policy director said the Community First Choice Program would require Louisiana to double the number of low-income people getting home health care, which he said isn't affordable. ...

DHH's arguments about Community First Choice are the same excuses the Jindal administration has given for rejecting the overall Medicaid expansion.

Gov. Jindal is sticking by the decision to reject the expansion despite the fact that the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for three years and $15.8 billion would cover tens of thousands of uninsured Louisiana residents.

DHH estimates that 214,000 uninsured residents could get coverage under the expansion. ...

A Department of Health and Hospitals report said the state would save as much as $367.5 million over the first 10 years of the expansion. At the worst, DHH said Louisiana would have to spend $1.52 billion to $1.71 billion over a decade.

Even if that turned out to be the case, it would be worth it to get almost $16 billion in new health care funding that could help thousands of state residents.

In The Wall Street Journal piece, Gov. Jindal and Gov. Walker said, "We know how important it is to care for our most vulnerable citizens and to ensure that people are healthy and able to work." If so, it would be smart to accept resources to help make those things happen.



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