Fifty years ago this week — July 30, 1965 — President Lyndon Johnson signed the law creating Medicaid. To mark the occasion, a new report from the Louisiana Budget Project shows just how important Medicaid is to the health and well-being of Louisianans.

Three in ten Louisianans count on Medicaid for essential health services, like doctor visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs. More than half of Medicaid patients are children, and another 26 percent are seniors and people with disabilities. Medicaid pays for 70 percent of births and 70 percent of nursing home beds.

Medicaid is a critical part of our health care system, accounting for one in every five health care dollars in Louisiana. It is the main source of funding for our charity hospitals and long-term care services for the elderly and people with disabilities. Without Medicaid, it would be harder for all Louisianans to get the care they need.

“The evidence is clear: Medicaid is an effective program that improves access to health care and saves lives,” LBP Director Jan Moller said. “It is especially crucial for children, who can’t learn if they aren’t healthy.”

But there is more that Louisiana could be doing. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C. have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults as part of the Affordable Care Act, but Louisiana has refused. That leaves an estimated 225,000 Louisiana adults stuck in a “coverage gap”: They make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get federal tax credits that offset the cost of private insurance.  Closing the gap is the next step in improving health care in Louisiana.

Read the full report: “Medicaid: A Louisiana Success”