The Medicaid expansion in Louisiana is projected to cost $376 million more than expected this year, as older and costlier uninsured patients sign up for the free coverage, according to the latest data from the state health department.
As The Associated Press reports, the estimated price tag for the program is now $2.3 billion this fiscal year. But it won’t be a drain on the state’s deficit-riddled budget. The Louisiana Department of Health says the shortfall will be covered entirely by federal Medicaid financing, as long as lawmakers agree to plug the federal dollars into the budget.
The data also means Louisiana’s long-term costs for the Medicaid expansion could be higher than anticipated when Gov. John Bel Edwards embraced the government-financed coverage for the working poor earlier this year.
Jeff Reynolds, chief financial officer for the health department, says the latest numbers suggest the program will cost more not just this year, but also in later years. However, he says the state has financing sources that will cover the increased costs.
Reynolds notes Louisiana is saving an estimated $184 million this year by tapping into the Medicaid expansion’s enhanced federal financing rates for coverage the state already had provided to the poor and uninsured. The higher federal match rate makes the care cheaper for the state. The health department anticipates the state will save money on the Medicaid expansion for the next five years.
“I still see those savings occurring and am still very positive about where we’re going,” Reynolds says.
About 332,000 people are enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion program, which began coverage July 1. Nearly 30,000 of those have received preventive services that in some instances have identified cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, the Edwards administration says.