Hundreds of thousands of cooks, waitresses, construction workers and nursing home attendants could finally qualify for health care coverage if the state would expand its Medicaid coverage as part of the new federal health care law.

According to a new report from the left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project, more than 240,000 workers in the state would be added to the state’s Medicaid rolls, a list that currently excludes all adults without children and any adult who makes more than $2,860 annually for a family of three.

Under provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding their Medicaid eligibility to include people who make less than $14,850 per year, with 93 percent of the expansion costs covered by the federal government for the first 10 years of the program.

The new report from LBP, “Medicaid Expansion: An Opportunity to Invest in Louisiana’s Workforce,” identifies the four key employment sectors in Louisiana that would benefit from the state opting in to the federal program, mainly workers in tourism and hospitality:

Working men and women in dozens of industries and occupations crucial to Louisiana’s economy stand to benefit from the Medicaid expansion, especially in key sectors such as construction, retail and tourism. Cooks, waitresses and busboys; nursing home attendants and day-care workers; day laborers and landscapers; hotel clerks and hospital aides–they would have the same access to medical care that more highly paid workers have long enjoyed. The expansion will also be a boon for small businesses, which will have healthier and more productive employees.

And this benefit would come at almost no cost to the state treasury. The vast majority of the cost of the Medicaid expansion will be financed by the federal government, bringing dollars into the state that will not only help people to be healthier, but also boost Louisiana’s economy.

Despite common misconceptions, most working-age people who lack insurance have jobs.3 But they often can’t afford the health insurance offered by employers—and many aren’t offered insurance at work at all. The result is that people put off needed care and risk financial ruin if they get sick.

Medicaid expansion would bring health insurance coverage to people who today have no other good options. Restrictive eligibility and the lack of employer-based coverage already leave them on the fringes of the health care system. If they get care at all, often it is in hospital emergency rooms, a form of treatment that is episodic, costly and not conducive to long-term good health. Plus, for uninsured patients who can’t pay, the cost of care is often picked up by medical providers and passed on to insured patients through higher premiums.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and his Health Secretary Bruce Greenstein are adamantly opposed to Louisiana joining in the Medicaid expansion.

Read the full report here.

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