Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Expanding Medicaid crucial for the country’s economy, health

6th May 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Marc Morial
President/CEO, National Urban League

Last week, 400,000 poor and underserved Louisianans, many them people of color, were shut out of potentially life-saving health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A Louisiana House health committee voted down a measure that would have forced Governor Bobby Jindal to opt into the Medicaid expansion provision of ACA that is being subsidized by the federal government to cover vulnerable communities. Even more discouraging was the unfortunate reality that the vote was right along party lines. Is it too much to ask to keep partisanship out of our health care? I certainly hope not.

Gov. Bobby Jindal made it perfectly clear that he won’t accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. As he appears to be more focused on positioning for his own political future, this is coming at a huge cost to Louisianans.

Louisiana has the second-highest rate of uninsured adults in the country. Many people — especially women and African Americans — in the state lack access to basic health care. In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gyne­cologists estimates that of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, 33 do not have a single OB/GYN.

Accepting federal dollars would mean that an estimated 398,000 more hardworking Louisianans would get basic health care when they need it, without facing devastating medical bills.

Medicaid expansion would also have the most positive impact on African Americans in the state; nearly half of those in our community who don’t have health insurance would likely gain coverage. Across the board, the percentage of uninsured in the state could actually drop by as much as 60 percent.

It would also be a huge benefit to the state’s economy. If the state doesn’t accept federal funding, it could actually cost Louisiana’s economy $15.7 billion over the next decade – money that could go to job creation and supporting small businesses, the backbone of our nation’s economy.

There is no doubt that this would be life-changing for many Louisianians. More people would be able to afford preventive health care. They would be able to avoid chronic health problems, costly long-term medical care, and personal bankruptcy—especially among African Americans, who often shoulder the increased cost of health care.

Of course, Louisiana is just one example.

This article originally published in the May 6, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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