BATON ROUGE, La. — Thousands of people enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion program have received preventive services that in some instances have identified cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, state Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said Monday.

More than 305,000 people have signed up for the coverage that began July 1. Gee said nearly 12,000 of them so far have gotten annual exams, cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and other services through the government-financed insurance program.

“That’s real people getting real care in real doctors’ offices because of Medicaid expansion,” the health secretary told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

As Louisiana readied for the expansion program, questions were raised by lawmakers, health providers and others about whether people would get a Medicaid insurance card but have trouble finding available doctors or clinics willing to see the influx of new patients.

Gee said data from the first two and a half months of the program show people are accessing care with their new coverage, some diagnosed with serious illnesses.

She said more than 1,000 women, for example, have had breast screenings and 24 were determined to have — and are being treated for — cancer. Another 160 people in the Medicaid expansion program were newly diagnosed with diabetes. And more than 100 expansion enrollees have had polyps, which sometimes can develop into cancer, removed from their colons.

“People are getting services, and they are saving lives,” Gee said.

The Louisiana Department of Health is posting parish-by-parish expansion enrollment data on its website. The data show nearly two-thirds of the people signed up for the coverage are women and 40 percent of those enrolled are between the ages of 25 and 39.

Louisiana is the 31st state to expand its Medicaid program under the health law championed by President Barack Obama.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, moved to quickly enact expansion after taking office in January. Republicans have said they are worried about the long-term costs to the state, but they didn’t slow the start of the program.

Adults ages 19 to 64 with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $16,400 for a single adult or $33,500 for a family of four — are eligible for the coverage through one of Louisiana’s Medicaid plans administered by managed-care companies.

The federal government is picking up the full cost of the Medicaid expansion health services through the end of 2016. After that, Louisiana will pay a share that eventually increases to 10 percent.

More people still are needed to enter the program to reach the $184 million in savings projected by the Edwards’ administration for this year’s budget.

The budget assumed 375,000 people will enroll in the Medicaid expansion, helping the state to tap into enhanced federal financing rates for coverage it already provides to the poor and uninsured. The higher federal match rate makes the care cheaper for the state.


Online:

Louisiana Medicaid expansion data: http://ldh.la.gov/healthyladashboard/


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