39% of population in Louisiana on Medicaid

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Photo credit LDH

Medicaid enrollment increased by 208,000 in Louisiana this year alone and now approximately 1.8 million receive Medicaid benefits or 39-percent of the state’s population. Louisiana Budget Project Executive Director Jan Moller said the pandemic’s effect on the economy forced many to seek coverage.

“A lot of people out there lost their jobs or maybe had their hours cut back during the pandemic and so they ended up needing Medicaid to provide them with health insurance,” said Moller.

Medicaid enrollment in Louisiana been increasing since 2016 when Medicaid expansion allowed the working poor to qualify for coverage. Moller says with the pandemic highlighting the importance of medical coverage it also prompted those with low-paying jobs to seek coverage.

Moller says another reason more people are on Medicaid because early in the pandemic Congress passed The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act.

“It provided extra money for Medicaid to all of the states, not just Louisiana, but a condition for accepting that money was that you couldn’t throw people off coverage,” said Moller.

Moller noted in addition to a historic number of jobs lost during the pandemic, thousands also dropped out of the labor force to take care of children at home when schools closed or went virtual. He says Medicaid is serving its purpose.

“Medicaid is supposed to be there to help people through tough times and that’s exactly what it’s been doing in this pandemic and so we shouldn’t look at this as bad news, we should look at this as Medicaid doing exactly what it’s supposed to do,” said Moller.

According to the state department of health, approximately 160,000 currently covered by Medicaid are ineligible and the department is working with the federal government on how to end coverage once the federal public health emergency ends.