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Medicaid expansion brought 19,000 jobs to Louisiana, study shows

16th April 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Meghan Holmes
Contributing Writer

Last week, Governor John Bel Edward’s office hosted a press conference to announce the economic impacts of Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion.

Dr. James Richardson led a team of researchers at LSU’s Public Administration Institute in analyzing the impacts of Governor Edwards’ decision to expand the program when he took office in 2016. Their study found that, in fiscal year 2017, the state received $1.85 billion in federal funding and created or retained over 19,000 jobs as a result of the expansion, which covers an additional 470,000 Louisianans under the Medicaid program.

“This has been a win for the state of Louisiana,” Governor Edwards said during the press conference. “The taxpayers are seeing a tremendous return on their investment, and we are saving and improving lives and our workforce.”

One of the governor’s first acts in office was enacting the Medicaid expansion, an option for states since 2012 but one former Governor Jindal chose to reject.

Under the expansion, Louisianans ages 18-65 with income less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level can be covered under Medicaid, expanding the number of working people who can receive healthcare coverage. The recently released study, which the state department of health commissioned, echoes findings in other states who opted in to the expansion: more people have healthcare coverage and the state is spending less money.

“This year, we paid six cents on the dollar and we will never pay more than 10 cents,” Governor Edwards said. “And that’s instead of 40 cents on the dollar for uninsured patients. Uninsured care in emergency rooms is the least effective way to deliver care. People need to be seeing primary care physicians.”

Local physician Scott Martin agrees.

“The Medicaid expansion has been working very well for Louisiana,” Martin said. “During my residency, before the expansion passed, we saw a lot of uninsured patients using the ER as a primary care facility. We did our best to offer good care, but mammograms were scarce and colonoscopies were next to impossible. Specialty care took six months. That’s changed now with the expansion, and good people who were previously marginalized now have access to care.”

Dr. Rebekah Gee also spoke during the press conference, noting that more than 180,000 previously uninsured Louisianans had seen a primary care physician since the 2016 expansion.

“We had more than 300 women diagnosed with breast cancer, who may now spend more time with their families,” Gee said. “My family and my mother suffered because of a late breast cancer diagnosis, so my hope is that these sisters and wives will now be around longer.”

Since the expansion, more than 21,000 people have had screenings for colon cancer and more than 6,000 adults have had precancerous polyps removed. Nearly 7,000 adults are now being treated for diabetes and more than 600 people have been diagnosed with cancer.

“We are ensuring that our workforce is healthy and ready to fill the jobs that we are creating,” the Governor said.

In conducting the study, LSU researchers used the same method analysts employ to determine the economic impact of a new business on the region.

“It’s the same method used by the Kaiser Foundation and the Rand Corporation,” Dr. Richardson said. “They’ve conducted studies in other states that support our results. It’s created 35,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and 5,000 in Montana.”

Prior to the Medicaid expansion, the size of the state’s workforce had been decreasing. Researchers, and Governor Edwards, hope that the expansion helps alleviate that.

“One of the issues this state has is decreased participation in the labor force, and one reason may be bad health. At the end of the day, the Medicaid expansion makes financial sense in the short term, but it’s also a real ray of hope, a real opportunity for the state to improve, and have much better health outcomes,” Richardson said.

The governor’s office also emphasized that the resulting influx of federal funding and state (and local) tax revenues as a result of the expansion help alleviate the looming $994 million fiscal cliff.

“That shortfall would be $317 million larger had we not expanded Medicaid,” Governor Edwards said. “It’s been the easiest big decision I’ve made as governor.”

The full report can be found online at

This article originally published in the April 16, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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