The Louisiana Department of Health will begin mailing notices tomorrow to nearly 37,000 Medicaid enrollees informing them their eligibility may end on July 1.
The notices are in response to unprecedented budget cuts that have passed the Louisiana House and are pending in the Senate, more than $1.8 billion in cuts to the state Department of Health alone.
These official notices alert senior citizens and people with developmental disabilities who receive care in a nursing home, in other long-term care facilities and through waivers for community-based services that their benefits may end July 1 or upon federal approval.
Included in the letter is information about which programs may be cut as well as guidance for recipients to determine whether they are eligible for Medicaid through some other mechanism.
"We recognize the significant impact these cuts will have on the residents of our state and their health. 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," said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. "There are no good options."
Gee said the elimination of Medicaid eligibility is an unprecedented action that will have real and dire consequences.
"When the Department is forced to reduce the size of its budget by this magnitude, the only way we can reduce expenditures is to cut services, programs or eligibility not mandated by federal Medicaid rules," said Gee. "Because most of those who receive these letters live in some type of facility – a nursing home or a facility that provides for the needs of a person with a disability, the reality is they will lose more than their health care, they will lose what they know as their home."
The loss of eligibility will affect many seniors with a small monthly income who receive housing and care in a nursing home through Medicaid. Officially called the Long Term Special Income Limit program, 83 percent of the people currently living in nursing homes or other institutions will be displaced from their residence.
This eligibility also covers individuals with adult-onset disabilities who receive services through programs, such as the Adult Day Health Care Waiver, Community Choices Waiver and PACE. Up to 67 percent of the ADHC Waiver recipients, up to 62 percent of the Community Choice Waiver recipients and up to 80 percent of PACE recipients would lose Medicaid eligibility.
People with developmental disabilities are also impacted by this potential loss of coverage. Over half of the individuals currently served in the New Opportunities, Children's Choice, Supports, and Residential Options Waivers will lose access to those programs.
The department is preparing for ripple effects from this loss of eligibility, notifying community social service agencies and hospital emergency rooms that they may be inundated with patients with nowhere else to go. In addition, there is a strong possibility that some people face homelessness.
"We have alerted social service agencies, health care providers, advocates for the elderly and people with disabilities, religious organizations and other human service and community organizations of what to expect," Gee added. "But, we know there is not the capacity to effectively and humanely deal with this situation."
In addition to the letters going out today, the Department is preparing to send an additional 1.1 million letters to Medicaid recipients alerting them that some Medicaid funding and services may also be eliminated.
These include payments to private hospitals that care for uninsured and poor citizens, some mental health and substance use disorder services, and day care for medically fragile pediatric patients. In Lafayette, where Lafayette General runs the city's only charity hospital, officials say the safety net hospital will close under the current budget proposal.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the Louisiana Legislature could end the regular session as early as May 18 so lawmakers can convene a special session to avoid "imposing these terrible cuts on the people of Louisiana."
Taxes cannot be considered in regular session.