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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Louisiana’s Medicaid Expansion Takes Off

Patrick Willard

Senior Director of Campaigns, Outreach, and Engagement (CORE)

Beginning July 1, Louisiana will provide health coverage to more than 225,900 low-income adults after only one month of enrolling people in the state’s new Healthy Louisiana program. It is a remarkable success for the first state in the Deep South to embrace Medicaid expansion.

Over the past six months, Families USA and its partner 504HealthNet in Louisiana have worked to support Gov. John Bel Edwards’ efforts to expand the Medicaid program to extend health coverage to adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

On Friday, Louisiana will join 31 other states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Smooth process for enrolling in Health Louisiana paved the way for high participation

504HealthNet, a nonprofit organization consisting of 23 community health service providers representing the primary care safety net for Greater New Orleans area, worked with the state’s health department to develop a smooth enrollment process to provide coverage on the first day of service.

“We are proud of this historic moment and the progress that has been made,” said Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet. “This has been a truly collaborative effort by those working locally, statewide, and nationally. Medicaid expansion is a critical step to ensuring access to health care services for everyone in our community. Now, people can receive the medications and services they need to be healthy.”

Families USA connected 504HealthNet with enrollment assisters in other Medicaid expansion states to provide advice and best practices about helping people sign up for the expansion program.

Susan Todd, executive director of 504HealthNet, focused the organization’s enrollment efforts on ensuring that the over 61,000 people already enrolled in the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection, (GNOCHC) were smoothly transitioned into Healthy Louisiana. GNOCHC provides preventive care and behavioral health services to individuals with incomes at or below the poverty level through community health centers. In the month before the official Medicaid expansion start date, the majority of people enrolled in GNOCHC were shifted into the Healthy Louisiana program.

GNOCHC traces its services back to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Federal funding for rebuilding primary care services for the poor led the state to seek an 1115 Waiver program to provide health coverage for limited services in the New Orleans region. The program will now be replaced by Healthy Louisiana, which will provide a broader array of services allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

Using information from the SNAP program to determine eligibility

Another factor in the state’s impressive enrollment numbers in Healthy Louisiana was its coordination with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The state won approval of a plan to use information from SNAP to determine individuals’ eligibility to enroll in Healthy Louisiana.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell praised the efforts in a May 31 statement: “This is another step in our country’s march toward a health care system that works better for everyone.”

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