AMITE, La. (BRPROUD) – It has been seven years since Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order expanding health care coverage in Louisiana.

“Nothing will be more important… ever… than expanding Medicaid,” he said.

In 2016, Edwards promised to expand Medicaid for Louisiana. He believes there are two things that are keeping every hospital in the state open — especially in rural areas.

“It’s the Rural Hospital Preservation Act, which gives hospitals more reimbursement, more dollars to operate on than they would otherwise have. And then there’s the Medicaid expansion on top of that,” he continued.

Edward says it is also helping with the state’s finances. It’s allowing over 750,000 working people to have access to routine care, as well as allowing hospitals to be compensated for the care they are required to give by law. “We have brothers and sisters here in Amite, Louisiana, and all across our state who are alive today who would not be alive had we not expanded Medicaid,” he explained.

Dr. Francis Cefalu the Medical Director for Amite Rural Health Clinic agreed, “It has been an incredible difference, you know, and the people are getting what they need now compared to what they were not getting before.”

But Edwards understands it is not perfect. “Putting a card in somebody’s pocket is a necessary first step. It’s necessary, but it’s insufficient. One of the things you also have to have is a provider that’s going to take that card to render the services that patient needs,” he emphasized.

Edwards says he will spend his last year in office working diligently to work out the kinks and making sure it’s hard for the next Governor to overturn the expansion.

Starting in April, they will be redetermining eligibility for those who are currently enrolled due to the public health emergency and Medicaid expansion splitting. Edwards says to make sure your provider has accurate contact information to reach you on the options you have.