With one in four Louisiana residents lacking health insurance, APHA members and state-based groups gathered to call for expanding Medicaid and turning the uninsured tide.
Groups such as APHA’s Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section advocated for that expansion at Saturday’s Create a Movement for Change event at Mississippi River Heritage Park, just steps away from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The event kicked off a letter-signing campaign in support of expanding Medicaid in Louisiana. Attendees were encouraged to visit www.lamedicaidexpansion.org to send letters in support of the expansion. The campaign will end when the letters are delivered in April 2015 to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, as well as to other elected officials.
Section member Ashley Wennerstrom said current policies regarding access to health care in Louisiana are not in the best interest of public health. Overall, Louisiana ranks low among all 50 states and the District of Columbia in areas such as cancer deaths and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
“We have approximately between 750,000 to 850,000 people without health insurance,” Wennerstrom said. “We could cut that number in half if we were to expand Medicaid.”
The event, which is the Section’s fourth Day of Action held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting, was a partnership between the Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section, the Association’s Caucus Collaborative and several state and community-based groups, such as the Louisiana Center for Health Equity.
APHA Immediate Past President Adewale Troutman, an event speaker, urged attendees to sign the letter and take the message of Medicaid expansion to their legislative representatives as well as network with fellow public health allies.
“One of the things we don’t do well enough as public health practitioners is be active,” Troutman said. “We don’t advocate the way we should. We don’t organize the way we should. This is an opportunity for all of us to be on board.”
Louisiana is among more than 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility as authorized via the Affordable Care Act, said Alma Stewart, founder and president of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity. She says the state has become complacent when it comes to access to care, and the problem of being uninsured goes beyond not having a primary care physician.
For example, Stewart said small businesses may incur increased costs because they cannot avoid the cost of providing health coverage to people who would otherwise be insured via a Medicaid expansion.
“Expanding Medicaid makes sense from a public health perspective and economically,” Stewart said. “If the leaders of this state operated in the best interest of this state, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”
To get involved, visit www.lamedicaidexpansion.org.
Above photos from top to bottom: Alma Stewart, founder and president of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity, speaks to a crowd at the Create a Movement for Change event held at Mississippi River Heritage Park. The event was sponsored by APHA member groups, including the Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section, as well as state-based organizations.
APHA Immediate Past President Adewale Troutman, left, talks to advocates along with Alma Stewart of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity.
Ed Behan of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, stands with a sign that reads “240,000+ LA Workers w/out a Safety Net X-pand Medicaid” at the Create a Movement for Change event.
Photos by Natalie McGill