LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Healthcare for the working poor: this is a population that oftentimes falls into a gap making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. Louisiana's Medicaid expansion taking effect this summer will make 300,000 additional people eligible for coverage.
SWLA Center for Health Services is helping to lead the charge for local enrollment.
The staff at the Lake Charles office is already trained in assisting people with signing up for Medicaid. CEO Tommie Anderson says they want to make sure that anyone who qualifies for this help is connected to that care.
"Most of these individuals are the working poor, they're trying to take care of families and trying to make ends meet, trying to make tough decisions on paying for healthcare versus family household expenses, so that's the group that really falls into this Medicaid expansion," said Anderson.
The plight of the uninsured is seen by Anderson each day first-hand in the patient population this center serves.
The numbers can be staggering: close to 28,000 people in Calcasieu Parish alone do not have health insurance. But those numbers are expected to be slashed by about 40 percent when the statewide Medicaid expansion happens July 1, the result of Governor John Bel Edwards' executive order to make more than 300,000 people eligible for the federal health care program.
"The expansion is going to help individuals ages 19-64 that are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level," said Anderson. "For a single individual, that's a person making about $16,000 a year and for a family of four, their household income is about $33,000 a year."
So how will it be covered? As it stands, Louisiana pays about 40 percent of costs for the uninsured. Under expansion, that would top out at 10 percent, with federal dollars covering the rest.
Anderson says access to healthcare can transform the health of people who once could not afford preventative medicine and relied heavily on emergency rooms for treatment.
"The more people that are insured, that's going to end up actually saving us tax dollars and also creating a healthier workforce for Louisiana," said Anderson.
Anyone with internet access can apply online beginning June 1, but centers like SWLA Center for Health Services are also offering free one-on-one sign-up assistance.
"That process begins on June 1, so individuals can start coming to our sites as of June 1 and then the coverage will be effective as of July 1," said Anderson.