Medicaid expansion is good for state

Published 7:22 am Friday, July 1, 2016

Today, an estimated 375,000 of Louisiana’s working poor will be eligible for Medicaid.

Regardless of your position on the president’s health care plan, I would hope we all agree that more health care for poor people is the right thing to do.

By expanding Medicaid, our state will allow the working poor to choose from any hospital and any doctor in the state who takes Medicaid, instead of limiting their choices in healthcare to our state’s handful of public/private hospitals. Bogalusa has a public/private hospital and so the expansion might not mean much, but in those parishes where there is no such hospital, the expansion could mean regular checkups, affordable medicines and a healthier and happier life.

Also, given the tenuous budget situation in Baton Rouge, we still have no idea what — if any — services our public/private hospitals will have to cut this year or in the future. Finally, given that health care is now one of the biggest economic engines in many communities, expanding Medicaid should bring a bit more cash into those areas where there are no public/private hospitals.

And yet, we have candidates for U.S. Senate and other federal offices who are in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act in part or in total. This is nonsense.

Last year, at the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s birth, the New England Journal of Medicine published a comprehensive review of the law. According to the Journal, over 30 million Americans got health insurance because of the law, and most were happy with their new insurance.

“Three quarters of those seeking new appointments with primary care physicians or specialists secured one within four weeks or less, and for the first time in more than a decade, slightly fewer Americans are reporting problems with medical bills and financial barriers to obtaining care,” the Journal reports.

Anyone who suggests none of this matters and that the best solution is to toss the whole system is either misinformed on the ACA or is trying to manipulate the facts to win an election.

Now, to be fair, there are problems with the ACA, most notably with the cost. Plans purchased through the marketplaces can have low premiums but high out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles, making them quite costly for the low-income people they’re meant to help. And in addition, there’s still the matter of rising health care costs across overall.

Or is there? The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that while health care costs have risen since the ACA was passed, those increases have been at historic lows. In addition, the Journal reports, “Within the Medicare program, which most directly affects federal health spending and deficits, per-beneficiary expenditures have actually decreased in real terms.”

Finally, rising costs should come as no surprise. More sick people have insurance and people with chronic diseases cannot be denied insurance — in short, the risk pool is greater. In addition, the National Institute of Health reports that in the United States, two thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Plus, health care is getting better. So, we’re a sick nation getting better treatment.

So why not consider a tax on candy, junk food and soda? Why not consider doing away with our ridiculous sugar subsidy program that spends millions of dollars to prop up a commodity that’s killing us?

Strange, but I haven’t heard any suggestions like these from would-be senators and congressmen. But I’m sure they’re coming any day now. I’ll keep holding my breath.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor for The Daily News. You can email him at or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.