Louisiana begins enrolling 375,000 people into Medicaid

Department of Health and Hospitals will begin the massive task Wednesday (June 1) of enrolling 375,000 people into the state’s expanded Medicaid program. The department’s goal is to get Medicaid insurance cards into the hands of more than half of the people eligible for the program by July 1.

Ruth Kennedy, the DHH official who is leading enrollment efforts, said in an interview Tuesday that although the task of enrolling so many people into the federally funded Medicaid expansion sounds daunting, the department has taken an “all hands on deck approach.” She added that state officials have prepared for months to enroll Medicaid recipients, and workers are positioned across the state to aid in the effort.

“I am confident, and I am ready, and this is not my first rodeo,” said Kennedy, who has gained attention nationally for leading previous Medicaid expansions that included getting children into the program. “The governor, you’ll remember, said at a press conference that people would have cards in their hands on July 1. That’s a big difference from starting enrollment on July 1. Well, we won’t have 375,000 cards in people’s hands, but I’m absolutely certain we’ll be more than halfway there.”

Kennedy’s interview occurred just hours after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it had approved the state’s plan to use food stamp income eligibility to determine whether people qualify for Medicaid. Louisiana is the first state to receive such an approval through what’s known as a state plan amendment; six other states use a similar method but received approval through a different process that takes much longer to approve.

The approval is “a big deal,” Kennedy said, because it will allow Louisiana to speed its enrollment of Medicaid recipients using income data it already has, rather than having to collect new income data from recipients. The food stamp numbers can also be used on an annual basis to reaffirm eligibility, Kennedy said, meaning “we won’t have a large number of people falling off the books.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said that enrollment is “another step in our country’s march toward a health care system that works better for everyone.”

Kennedy plans to be in attendance Wednesday when Gov. John Bel Edwards is scheduled to meet “outstation” workers at University Medical Center in New Orleans who will be assisting Medicaid recipients with enrollment. Those workers will be important to the enrollment process because they can help people who have trouble getting enrolled over the phone or online.

Louisiana will have 204 Medicaid application “sister sites” where people can apply in person. To view a list of those sites and their locations, you can go here. For more information on Medicaid expansion, the state’s website on the initiative is healthy.la.gov.

Kennedy said there are two other ways to enroll: On the state’s website, or by calling 1-888-342-6207. Starting Wednesday, Kennedy said the call center will be staffed until 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

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