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64K deemed ineligible stay on La. Medicaid because of virus

3 years 6 months 2 weeks ago Thursday, May 14 2020 May 14, 2020 May 14, 2020 5:46 AM May 14, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is keeping 64,000 people in the Medicaid program who otherwise would have been kicked off the rolls, because of a federal aid requirement enacted for the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear when they’ll be removed from the coverage, the state health department said Wednesday.

A congressional aid package passed in response to the virus outbreak increased federal financing for state Medicaid programs. Louisiana Department of Health chief financial officer Cindy Rives recently told lawmakers the state received about $250 million in extra Medicaid funds from the legislation.

But the boosted financing came with a requirement that states couldn’t cut coverage for Medicaid recipients unless a person asks to leave the program, moves out of state or dies, according to the health department.

That means people deemed ineligible for the continuing coverage — because they make too much money, don’t meet other criteria or didn’t respond to requests to verify their eligibility — can’t be booted from Medicaid.

In Louisiana, that’s kept more than 64,000 people receiving government-financed health coverage who don’t appear to be eligible for the state’s program. Federal aid so far is covering the costs.

The health department isn’t sure how long they’ll have to keep the ineligible people enrolled in Medicaid. Agency spokeswoman Kelly Zimmerman said the requirement ends whenever the federal public health emergency declaration expires.

At that point, the state will need time to work through the eligibility verification process to determine who should be removed, Zimmerman said.

“We don’t know how long we’re going to have these people on the rolls. We don’t know how long it’s going to take to get them off,” Rives told the House Appropriations Committee during a recent budget hearing.

Louisiana contracts with private companies to manage the care of most of its Medicaid enrollees. The state pays a monthly fee for each person enrolled in a health plan with the companies, so the state has been paying that fee for the 64,000 people who stayed on the rolls during the coronavirus outbreak because of the federal requirement.

The nearly $50 million cost for those Medicaid patients through the budget year that ends June 30 has been covered by the extra federal financing Louisiana received, the health department said. Whether the federal aid will be enough to cover the continuing costs of the enrollees depends on how long the coverage requirement lasts.

Nearly 1.6 million Louisiana residents are in the state’s more than $12 billion Medicaid program, about one-third of the state’s population. Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded Medicaid eligibility when he took office in 2016 to cover nearly 484,000 working-age adults, boosting the size of the program.

Amid Republican allegations of fraud and misspending in the Medicaid expansion, the health department started using an upgraded computer system that does quarterly eligibility checks and uses more wage data for comparison. That’s been sidelined because of the federal aid requirement.

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