Newsflash:
Rep. Barbara Lee LA Medicaid Expansion Louisiana taking away Medicaid lifeline for disabled, other vulnerable residents: Megan McLemore
Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00

Louisiana taking away Medicaid lifeline for disabled, other vulnerable residents: Megan McLemore

Written by  Contributing OpEd Columnist
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Donna Risso, who died April 1, lost her disability Medicaid coverage in January and had to use emergency room care for her terminal illnesses. Donna Risso, who died April 1, lost her disability Medicaid coverage in January and had to use emergency room care for her terminal illnesses. (Photo by Megan McLemore )

Two years ago, Donna Risso and her friend Michael were living under a bridge in New Orleans. They were struggling not only with homelessness, but also with Donna's mounting health problems, which included hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, encephalitis, pancreatitis and chronic anemia. Donna was a "frequent flyer" at the emergency room, often five to 10 times a month, but her health was getting steadily worse.

Social workers using federal and state resources helped Donna find housing and got her on a state program called "disability Medicaid," which covers health care costs for people who meet federal disability criteria but are not yet on the federal program. This important initiative, common in many states, is a bridge to health services for people applying for federal benefits, which can take years.

Although the program was a lifesaver for Donna, Gov. Bobby Jindal terminated "disability Medicaid" in Louisiana as of Jan. 1, leaving 9,200 people across the state with no coverage.

It's well known that Gov. Jindal steadfastly opposes expanding Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act, and that the Legislature voted against expansion in 2013. This is misguided, as Medicaid expansion would cover as many as 300,000 uninsured residents, with 100 percent of the costs picked up by the federal government through 2016 and at least 90 percent thereafter.

But less widely known is that Medicaid in Louisiana is actually shrinking, through termination of programs and tighter eligibility requirements. In the state's view, since the Affordable Care Act's private insurance marketplace will cover people earning more than the federal poverty level, many people on Medicaid should pick up insurance on marketplace exchanges.

But it's not that simple. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Louisianans who need health insurance have incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 a year for an individual. These folks, an estimated 242,000 people, fall into an enormous coverage gap in states that are not expanding Medicaid and taking people off Medicaid only adds to this group.

On Louisiana's Medicaid Purchase Plan, for example, people with disabilities who were working could receive Medicaid benefits if they earned no more than $25,000 per year. Now the program is available only to those who make less than $11,490, making half of the program's 2,300 participants no longer eligible.

But the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act was not designed for the poor, the sick or those with disabilities, since fees and deductibles on the private marketplace plans still place health insurance out of reach for many low-income people. Medicaid also covers the personal assistance, transportation, home care and other services needed by many people with disabilities, while most private plans don't. And if an enrollment deadline is missed, that leaves people with no health insurance for a year -- which is not a viable option for folks who live with chronic medical or mental health challenges.

Louisiana is also cutting benefits for pregnant women. Thinking that pregnant women cut from the program could join the exchanges, the state drastically reduced eligibility for the "LA moms" program, which seeks to address the state's alarming infant mortality rate, the second-highest in the nation. Pregnant women who miss the enrollment deadlines can fall back on the state Medicaid program for children, but they will miss out on post-partum care and other vital support.

For many of the state's most vulnerable residents, the failure to expand Medicaid has left a dangerous gap between a shrinking Medicaid program and the coverage provided by private insurance exchanges. Living in this gap is not a policy abstraction. Donna was dying. She was dying at home without the means to pay for all of her prescriptions. She was homebound without a wheelchair. With no home attendant, she could not bathe herself. She had no bedside commode. When Michael went out, she was left completely helpless.

A hospice service agreed to help Donna until she received federal disability benefits, but her social worker said, "We had to beg them to take this risk, and not everyone will be so lucky."

Without the Disability Medicaid Program, Donna's visits to the emergency room cost $1,000, which as the state Department of Health and Hospitals notes, is "much more than a visit to a primary care provider for the same symptoms."

When it comes to health care decisions, Louisiana is moving in the wrong direction -- leaving more people without health coverage and ultimately costing the state more in dollars and lives. This can be fixed. The Legislature is in session, and members are considering bills that offer several options for ways to expand Medicaid.

On April 1, Donna died. It's too late for her, but perhaps not for others. It's time to move Louisiana forward toward a healthy and financially sound future.

Megan McLemore is a senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Link to original article from NOLA.com

Read 974 times

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Lee Campaign

Latest News from the Grayson Campaign

Latest News from the Schapira Campaign

  • Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race
    Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race

    With early ballots in the mail, and only three weeks from the August 28th primary, State Senator David Schapira has emerged as the Democratic standard-bearer in a closely watched and increasingly nasty three-way congressional race in Arizona that many observers see as a litmus test for national Democratic chances to pick up critical seats in Congress.

    Written on Thursday, 09 August 2012 01:45 Read more...
  • Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    “The primary in Congressional District 9 has pitted three of the brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona against each other. All three candidates are leaders in our state and I am honored to call them friends.

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:14 Read more...
  • A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira
    A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira

    Endorsements are a funny thing. Most of them aren't worth anything at all. I have two friends running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's brand new 9th CD, Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. Kyrsten is a progressive and Andrei is somewhere in his own world ideologically. But the third guy... well, he's the one who's been endorsed by Raúl-- and by PDA. Whomever wins the August 28th primary is, likelier than not, headed to Congress. That third guy is David Schapira, the Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:38 Read more...
  • David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement
    David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement

    On the May Inside the Party call, David Schapira (AZ-9) received the PDA National endorsement. Currently David Schapira is the Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    The Arizona Communications Workers of America (CWA) State Council announced today their endorsement of Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. The state council is comprised of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (AZCPOA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and multiple CWA local affiliates.

    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2012 19:55 Read more...
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira
    Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira

    Congressman Raúl Grijalva, AZ-07, today announced his endorsement of Arizona Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in his campaign for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. “Voters are looking for candidates who stand up for what they believe in and can win, not by hiding their values, but by sharing them with voters. David is that candidate,” said Rep. Grijalva.

    Written on Monday, 30 April 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Union Rights Stripped

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pushes the country's most anti-union agenda yet. David Shapira, Democratic leader of the Arizona state senate, slams his Republican colleagues. Welcome back to "The Ed Show." Jan Brewer and the Arizona Republicans are on a tear. they are on the offensive. they are on a mission to completely destroy public employee unions. have you heard the story before?

    Written on Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race
    State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race

    As predicted, former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema's not the only Democrat with her eye on Arizona's new Congressional seat -- this morning, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira announced that he, too, will run in Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional district.

    Written on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 Read more...

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Rep. Barbara Lee

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of