Louisiana uninsured rate cut in half due to Medicaid expansion

Louisiana's uninsured rate has dropped precipitously following Medicaid expansion. (Getty Images/Belyay)

Louisiana's Medicaid expansion cut the state's uninsured rate among adults by half in two years, plummeting from more than 22% to just over 11%.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is one of only five Democratic governors who expanded Medicaid in an otherwise-red state. While his predecessor insisted Medicaid expansion was a bad deal, Edwards made it his first move in office, saying Louisianans’ tax dollars should help Louisianans.

The Edwards administration expected 350,000 Louisianans to benefit from the expansion, and data released this week suggests that estimate is on track.

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According to the most recent installment of the Louisiana Health Insurance Survey (PDF), which is sponsored by the Department of Health and conducted by Louisiana State University, the number of non-elderly adults without coverage dropped from 644,217 (22.7%) in 2015 to 321,477 (11.4%) in 2017, which the researchers attributed to the Medicaid expansion.

The lowest rate can be found in the Houma-Thibodaux region, where only 8.5% of adults lack coverage. The report called this “particularly remarkable” amid economic challenges in the area due to low oil prices.

Indeed, the Medicaid expansion made geographic discrepancies in coverage across the state “much more muted in 2017,” the report notes, adding that the statewide uninsured rate “may drop further in future years as residents become more informed of Medicaid options and eligibility,” the report says.

“Through Medicaid expansion, we are bringing our federal tax dollars back to Louisiana to save lives and improve health outcomes for the working poor people of our state,” Edwards said in a statement.

RELATED: States have no regrets over Medicaid expansion, Brookings analyst says

These numbers are "incredibly good news," said Bob Johannessen, Communications Director at the Louisiana Department of Health.

Not only are Louisianans insured, he said, they are accessing critical services for diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and more. These statistics can be viewed on the Louisiana Department of Health's interactive Medicaid Expansion Dashboard

Given its progress, Louisiana may want to proceed with caution. Numbers out of Arkansas last week indicate more than 5,000 beneficiaries could soon lose coverage due to its recent work requirement.

Louisiana’s neighbor to the north also saw tremendous progress after expanding Medicaid. More than 300,000 Arkansans gained coverage after the expansion, and the state's uninsured rate dropped 57%.

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