Commentary

Louisiana — yes, Louisiana! — shows NC the way to expand health coverage, save lives

Medicaid expansionIt continues to be one of the grimmer aspects of life in North Carolina under the current reactionary state political leadership that Deep South states that once trailed us by a mile now show us the way in several important categories.

Take the always deeply challenged state of Louisiana. By any number of measures — e.g. poverty, health, education, economic development,  environmental protection — the Bayou State has long trailed North Carolina in dozens of important areas. While not without many important charms and attributes, Louisiana is mostly emblematic of a past that North Carolina has been fortunate to leave behind (at least in many ways) as it has slowly transformed itself into a modern, nationally competitive, forward-looking state.

Unfortunately, this pattern appears to be changing. This is from a story by Associated Press:

“Thousands of people enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion program have received preventive services that in some instances have identified cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, state Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said Monday.

More than 305,000 people have signed up for the coverage that began July 1. Gee said nearly 12,000 of them so far have gotten annual exams, cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and other services through the government-financed insurance program.

‘That’s real people getting real care in real doctors’ offices because of Medicaid expansion,’ the health secretary told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.”

And this is from a news release from the Louisiana Department of Health:

“Nearly 12,000 adults, newly enrolled in Medicaid, have received preventative health care services since Medicaid eligibility was expanded on July 1. In addition, more than 305,000 new members have enrolled in the program.

Early data shows new members have received the following health care services since July 1

  • Over 1,000 women have completed important screening and diagnostic breast imaging such as mammograms, MRI’s and ultrasounds. Of those women, 24 have been able to begin treatment for breast cancer.
  • Nearly 700 adults have completed colonoscopies and over 100 patients had polyps, a precursor to cancer, removed.
  • Nearly 12,000 adults have received preventative services.
  • Treatment has begun for 160 adults newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Providing access to these types of preventive screenings and primary care treatment for adults through Healthy Louisiana has been the vision of the expanded Medicaid program. The program has a goal of covering 375,000 adults by next June. The state has reached more than 80 percent of its coverage target in the first 80 days.

‘Today more than 300,000 individuals have access to quality healthcare that they did not have just three months ago,’ said Governor John Bel Edwards. ‘While that is an achievement in itself, the real achievement is the working poor in our state will be healthier than ever before. This is just the beginning, and we are already seeing the type of outcomes that we know will save lives. Medicaid expansion was right for Louisiana to make our state healthier, but also to save taxpayer dollars, and I couldn’t be happier with how successful this program has been in the first three months.’”

Meanwhile, of course, a half-million North Carolinians go without health insurance and hundreds die prematurely each year as a result of the stubborn and disastrous refusal of Governor McCrory and state lawmakers to close the Medicaid gap here.

What a remarkable waste!

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