Healthcare overhaul...that's what will happen to the Louisiana's Medicare and LaCHIP programs. The public healthcare assistance programs are contracting out to private corporations. Five Bayou Health plans through private insurance companies aim to ease the state's load and give patients better coverage.
With over 850,000 people to enroll across the state and thousands of providers to train, the change won't be easy.
1.2 million people across the bayou state are enrolled in the LaCHIP and Medicaid programs that providing free healthcare for low-income families, children, and people with disabilities. The operation takes a large chunk of the state's revenue and now with the bayou health plans everything is about to change.
"As one of the largest payers of healthcare in the state, we have a responsibility to do it better and obviously what we've been doing for all of these years since 1967 when medicaid started is not working," said Lisa Faust, Director of Communications for Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals.
The biggest concern, she says, is unnecessary hospital visits and procedures with no one to watch over the system.
"There's really no coordination of care, so what you might find and we have found is you might have somebody a child with asthma who shows up in the emergency room six, seven times a year. Right now there's no one saying wait there's a better way," said Faust.
Five plans with five different private insurance companies will provide their own network of physicians, nurse hotlines and coverage, explained Faust.
"Plans will look for things like six visits to the emergency room and then they'll send a nurse out to contact that family and say what can we do differently for this child?" said Faust.
A large portion of those enrolled in Medicaid and LaCHIP will be eligible to choose a plan at no extra cost.
"This does not cost you anything, anything to engage in this process." emphasized Faust.
The goal is to improve Louisiana's historically poor-performing healthcare outcomes.
"Over and over again Louisiana ranks 49th in the nation in overall health outcomes," said Faust.
We are coming to the party later than most states, which Faust says is to our advantage.
"There were problems in the beginning. Some things that health plans do right. Louisiana is a late adopter. Other states where they've done it you've seen things like neo-natal intensive care rates dramatically reduced. You see healthier children. You see obesity rates reduced," said Faust.
The plans will also help the state's bottom line.
"We expect some savings to tax payers. Health costs continue to skyrocket and Medicaid programs take up a very large portion of the state budget. For too long we've accepted spending billions of dollars, billions upon billions of dollars on a program that just doesn't work," said Faust.
Residents across the state will receive packets filled with information on the different plans. The first area, New Orleans, will adopt Bayou Health in February. Baton rouge and Acadiana will begin the second phase mid-spring and Southwest Louisiana, Alexandria, Monroe and Shreveport will not start receiving information until mid-march and will begin enrolling in April.
So far, about 12 percent of eligible Medicaid patients have chosen a plan.