Louisiana Medicaid Recipients May Lose Home Care Benefits

Tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in Louisiana, many of whom rely on home care services, are being warned they may soon lose benefits due to proposed state budget cuts.

The Louisiana Department of Health began mailing notices Thursday to nearly 37,000 Medicaid enrollees, informing them that their eligibility may end on July 1 because of cuts. The official warnings are being sent to “senior citizens and individuals with developmental disabilities who receive care in a nursing home, in other long-term care facilities and through waivers for community-base services,” according to the department.

Of the roughly 37,000 Medicaid enrollees, at least 7,600 are home care recipients, The Times-Picayune reported.

“We recognize the significant impact these cuts will have on the residents of our state and their health,” Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said in a statement. “These are not cuts we want to make, but the fundamental truth remains these are cuts we are being forced to make considering the lack of funding available for critical health care services.”

Loss of eligibility would affect more than half of those who receive services through the state’s Adult Day Health Care Waiver and Community Choices Waiver programs. Up to 80% of individuals covered under PACE—Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly—would also be affected.

The elimination of Medicaid eligibility is an unprecedented action that will have real and dire consequences, Gee said. As of March 2018, more than 1.6 million residents received services provided by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The state was one that opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The march toward budget cuts began last month when the Louisiana House narrowly approved a $27 billion state operating budget with steep reductions in health care spending for the upcoming year. The budget passed in the House with a 55-47 vote, legislative records show. Three representatives were declared absent.

Under the proposed budget, the Louisiana Health Department faces a total deduction estimated to be more than $1.8 billion.

While approved in the House, the budget cuts could still be rejected in by the Louisiana Senate or by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“To any member of the legislature who, like me, does not want to see these cuts implemented, I am offering, again, to work with you to find a solution,” Edwards wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

In addition to warnings to Medicaid enrollees receiving nursing home and in-home care, the Louisiana Department of Health is also alerting residents that several other programs may soon be terminated, including the state’s pediatric day health care program that serves medically fragile children from birth up to age 21. Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment serves may also be reduced, according to the health department.

Those affected by the potential loss of Medicaid eligibility include residents 65 and older, individuals with disabilities and people with monthly income less than $750. Some individuals whose medical expenses exceed their income may also be affected.

Any change to Medicaid eligibility will ultimately need to be approved by the federal government, a process that can take months, according to the health department.

Besides affecting those receiving in-home services, cuts could also lead to the eviction of thousands of individuals living in Louisiana nursing homes, though industry officials in the state say that scenario is unlikely to happen.

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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