Lake Charles region leads state in Medicaid expansion

Lake Charles region leads state in Medicaid expansion

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It has been three weeks since Louisiana's Medicaid expansion took effect and in that time, the Lake Charles region has become a stand-out in the state.

At a news conference Tuesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary, Dr Rebekah Gee, announced the Lake Charles region is leading the state in Medicaid enrollment since the roll-out of Healthy Louisiana July 1.

"Of the area's of the state, Lake Charles has done the best at signing people up for Medicaid," said Dr. Gee.

Enrollment in the newly expanded Medicaid program started in June and coverage began July 1.  Since then more than 259,700 adults statewide have enrolled in the program that provides full medical coverage - doctor and hospital visits, emergency services, laboratory and x-ray services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services and supplies, medical transportation to appointments and vision care.

"There were about 20,000 people in this area that were uninsured and now we have 14,000 of those people enrolled," said Dr. Gee.

That is 69 percent of those eligible for coverage, particularly people who have fallen in the gap of working, but unable to afford insurance.

"70 percent of these people were full-time workers and just with the minimum wage that they were receiving were not making enough to pay for insurance through the exchange or for the Obamacare insurance," said Dr. Gee.

At this news conference hosted by Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, Dr. Gee said she believes Louisiana will blaze the trail for how to sign people up at the lowest possible cost.  She said our state is doing it by connecting patients with outreach workers to sign up in hospitals and by streamlining services.

"Instead of making individuals go to food stamps and sign up and then go to Medicaid and sign up. We're a one-stop shop," said Dr. Gee.  "You sign up for food stamps, you're sure to be eligible, you get signed up for Medicaid as long as you want to do that."

While Dr. Gee says getting nearly 70 percent of the eligible Louisiana Medicaid population enrolled in this past month is a huge victory, she says the focus continues to stay on enrolling the remaining 30 percent in this health coverage.

"With Medicaid expansion, it's all the time, it's every day of the week, it's 365 days a year," she said.

Dr. Gee says there are still some hurdles to overcome, including physicians who restrict care from Medicaid recipients.

"The attitude that frankly only certain places are responsible for caring for the poor, they go there and then everyone else doesn't have to deal with poor folks.  That needs to change," she said.

That solution is two-fold, says Dr. Gee: changing attitudes in care environments and making the treatment of Medicaid patients more financially-beneficial for those offering the care.

Dr. Gee says the Medicaid expansion has already saved the state over $100 million by taking advantage of the tax dollars that had been sent to Washington.

Click here to see if you are eligible for Medicaid and to sign up.  You can also call 1-855-229-6848.

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