On July 16, Louisiana Center for Health Equity President Alma C. Stewart received the NAACP Dr. William Montague Cobb Award “For her outstanding efforts to advance health policy, health advocacy, and social justice in the State of Louisiana.” The award was presented at the NAACP Annual Convention in San Antonio. This award is given annually in recognition of the legacy of Dr. William Montague Cobb, who served as the President of the NAACP from 1976 to 1983, to honor individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact in the field of health.
Stewart has served as the state health committee chair for the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP since 2014. She also organized the statewide, multi-year Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone Louisiana in 2013. The goal of this campaign was to advocate for statewide policy change and build grassroots momentum to implement Medicaid expansion by 2016.
In an effort to address Louisiana’s high rate of uninsured adults, keeping the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and HCEL partner organizations engaged, over the course of three years Stewart organized public testimony at legislative hearings, rallies, press conferences and prayer vigils under the mantra of “Dying for Coverage” as part of a movement to bring attention to this issue on a state and national level. HCEL was successful in shaping public opinion about Medicaid expansion which polls favorably in Louisiana despite cascading contributions from well-financed conservative out-of-state organizations that have opposed it. She coordinated the hosting and production of a gubernatorial candidate forum on healthcare that was televised and livestreamed across the state in 2015. Alma has personally penned numerous articles and delivered countless speeches and presentations.
On January 12, 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order expanding Medicaid in Louisiana on his first day in office making Louisiana the first state in the Deep South to expand Medicaid. Not only was this a win for Stewart and her organization, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and others, but also for the hundreds of thousands of people who gained health insurance when this law went into effect on July 1, 2016. “Many of the more than 470,180 Louisiana citizens who now have health insurance coverage, in rural and urban areas, under the Medicaid expansion are doing so for the first time, and are receiving preventive care, early diagnosis and treatment for cancer, diabetes, mental health conditions, and addictions. Early diagnosis and access to care both help reduce costs to the state and the healthcare system,” said Stewart.
The infusion of federal dollars for Medicaid expansion created and supported 19,200 jobs that have brought in state and local tax receipts of $103 million and $74.6 million, respectively, according to a March 2018 report by the Louisiana State University’s Public Administration Institute. Medicaid expansion saved the state $199 million in fiscal year 2017, according to a 2017 report from the Louisiana Department of Health. The reasons include the state spending match is lower under Medicaid expansion than it was before, both for most Medicaid populations and for supplemental payments to hospitals. The decrease in the uninsured population has also reduced “disproportionate share payments” to hospitals for people without coverage who receive treatment.
“Medicaid expansion has benefitted Louisiana in several ways and there is growing evidence to support the fact that it is working. Moreover, it is saving lives. That’s why the NAACP Dr. William Montague Cobb Award means so much to me,” said Stewart.
About Louisiana Center for Health Equity
Louisiana Center for Health Equity which is a statewide 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization, dedicated to the mission of addressing health and healthcare disparities, and fostering health equity in Louisiana. Founded in January 2010, the organization has partnered with over forty other Louisiana organizations on a state, local and national level to eliminate health disparities caused by poverty, lack of access to quality health care, and unhealthy environmental conditions.