LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is giving Louisiana a $3.5 million performance bonus for "significant progress in enrolling uninsured children in Medicaid."
The federal agency awarded $206 million to 15 states that extended government healthcare coverage to children.
Louisiana enrolled 684,723 children in the state's LaChip program as of Dec. 2. The federal agency said this amount is a 5% increase from last year.
Susan Walker, Medicaid Assistant Regional Administrator, said the enrollment boost comes after the program simplified the application process.
"We've eliminated face-to-face interviews, they can now apply on-line or by phone," said Walker.
This year Medicaid also established a 12-month eligibility for the child that keeps them in the program longer.
"Even if their parents income changes or increases their eligibility is continuous for 12 months," said Walker.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said the state will likely reinvest the money in strengthening the health care programs which have been threatened by the $1.6 billion state budget deficit projected for 2011.
Walker also said the bonus could make room for more children to enroll in the Medicaid program.
"This will help us in reaching those children that are not enrolled yet," said Walker. "We don't want the parents to wait until they have an emergency before they enroll. We want them to enroll now so they can have a piece of mind that they're children are going to be covered by health insurance."
In 2009 the state of Louisiana received a performance bonus of $1.5 million. This year's bonuses are significantly higher than the $75 million that was awarded to 10 states last year.