What Medicaid Expansion Means for Louisianans

Date: February 02, 2016 Last Edit: August 12, 2016

Expected enrollment has already swelled past initial projections.

What Medicad Expansion Means for Louisianans

As promised during the gubernatorial campaign, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order approving Medicaid expansion in Louisiana on his first day in office.

Gov. Edwards has said he wants to have health insurance cards in people’s hands by July 1—and it looks like there are going to be many more cards needed than were expected. Not even two weeks after the executive order was signed, The Times-Picayune reported that expected Medicaid enrollment has surged well past initial estimates. The Department of Health and Hospitals projected that approximately 300,000 uninsured could join the Medicaid rolls but now forecasts that the number could be nearly 450,000.

This, by now, is a familiar pattern for states who have signed on for Medicaid expansion. In many cases, both the number of enrollees and the resulting costs have been vastly underestimated, which threatens to drown state budgets. For example, according to a July 2015 Associated Press report, California’s enrollment was triple what was expected, Washington’s was double and Oregon’s was 73 percent higher. And in Michigan and Ohio, costs have doubled.

Furthermore, the Associated Press reported, to keep Gov. Edwards’ ambitious timeline, the state will have to hire 250 new health department employees to handle the enrollment.

What this all means for Louisiana is more financial trouble. The Pelican State is already beleaguered with severe budget deficit problems, and an expanded liability of this size is the last thing the state—nor taxpayers and small businesses, who are left to shoulder the burden—needs.

Dawn Starns, NFIB’s Louisiana state director, recently voiced concern about this issue with the Associated Press and the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. “Small businesses are deeply disappointed in the governor for taking it upon himself to put Louisiana in such a precarious financial situation,” she says. “Washington might be paying 100 percent of the cost of expansion today, but Louisiana is going to have to come up with at least 10 percent by 2020, and there’s no guarantee Congress won’t shift even more of the burden onto the backs of Louisiana’s small businesses as it struggles with the $19 trillion national debt. Couple that with Louisiana’s nearly $2 billion deficit, and you’re looking at a real financial crisis down the road.”

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