BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - One day after being sworn in as Louisiana's new governor, John Bel Edwards, signed his first executive order Tuesday and it sets in motion an increase in the number of people in the state who would qualify for government funded healthcare, known as Medicaid.
Flanked by dozens of people in the healthcare industry Edwards signed the executive order before news cameras.
Edwards said it will afford more of the working poor health coverage and that it makes sense from fiscal standpoint for the state.
But former Governor Bobby Jindal refused to accept the federal dollars offered to expand Medicaid rolls and critics believe Louisiana will be saddled with billions in extra expenses in future years.
Edwards said federal dollars will pay for 100-percent of the additional Medicaid recipients this year and will never pay less than 90-percent in subsequent years.
Further, he said more than 300,000 of Louisiana working poor who currently do not qualify for Medicaid and make to little to buy insurance on their own, will benefit under the expansion.
"This will not only afford them peace of mind, but also help prevent them from slipping further into poverty and give them a fighting chance for a better life, it's also the fiscally responsible thing to do, already by failing to expand Medicaid under the previous administration Louisiana has lost the opportunity to receive over $3 billion in federal healthcare funds. With Medicaid expansion, Louisiana could realize additional state general fund savings of over $100 million through fiscal year 2020," Edwards said.
"What we ought to see as a result of that is improved health care outcomes, people will seek help early. You will not see the diseases progress to the same extent," said Dr. Larry Hollier, M.D., Chancellor at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
Edwards and his Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals said the state will incur $2.8 million in expenses this year because of 248 additional state workers that will be hired and additional technology needed to handle the additional Medicaid recipients.
But some healthcare providers have stepped up to foot those costs.
"What they do is they write a check to us and then we the state pays the salaries of the workers in their facility and that way people can get enrolled into health care right there where they are getting care. If you go to an ER you can get health insurance right there," said DHH Secretary Rebekah Gee.
And Gov. Edwards said he plans to talk with President Barack Obama about the planned Medicaid expansion when the president is in the state Wednesday and Thursday.