"Day of Action" for Medicaid expansion - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

'Day of Action' for Medicaid expansion

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It's going to be one of the big battles of the upcoming session. Lawmakers could force the governor to take billions of federal funding to expand Medicaid and give health coverage to estimated 400,000 who don't have it now.

On Friday, Medicaid expansion supporters took their case to some 20 state lawmakers in cities across Louisiana.
Here in Lake Charles, it was a small group with a big check -- a symbolic check that they hope will get their message across -- that the state should accept $15.8 billion from the federal government and expand Medicaid. The group was at House Speaker Chuck Kleckley's office in Lake Charles.

Edwina Medearis, with the Calcasieu Democratic Executive Committee, said the money could do so much good.

"There is approximately $15,000,800,000 that will go back to the federal government if we don't take advantage of this opportunity that's here. There are so many people in our state that are either out of work or working on low paying jobs, they cannot afford insurance. We give money to foreign countries, not only for education but for the aesthetics all around the region. And so if we can give our money to foreign countries, I certainly think we need to take care of our people here at home first and then we can go abroad," Medearis said.

Kleckley was not at his legislative office but, in a statement, said lawmakers need to take time to review healthcare carefully. Kleckley said healthcare is antiquated, inefficient and drives providers out. He said the Legislature needs to look at numerous issues and most importantly, the long-term costs to the citizens of Louisiana.

Still, Medearis said this statewide day of action for Medicaid expansion is aimed at getting support for bills this session that would require the state to expand Medicaid. 

"If we can impress upon Mr. Kleckley how much we need his support on this particular bill that's in the works right now, to help our overall citizens. We know about Moss Regional, certain areas have been closed, certain opportunities have been shut out, as far as our citizens are concerned, they're not able to take advantage of a lot of the opportunities for health care, preventive health care, so that we don't, as citizens who are working everyday, don't have to take care of them," said Medearis. "Nobody wants to have to be at that state."

Since Kleckley wasn't at his legislative office, the Medicaid expansion supporters left with the symbolic check,with hopes of presenting it to the speaker some other time.

Kleckley's statement also said, "There is no immediate deadline forcing a decision and that legislators must take time to review carefully and thoroughly debate all ideas."

He added that , "We need to discuss and look at options which are financially sustainable for the taxpayers of Louisiana."

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