Louisiana Department of Health officials had enrolled more than 220,000 people into the state’s Medicaid expansion as of 9 a.m. Wednesday (June 22), with 9,000 of those people coming from the food stamp rolls.
About 105,000 people receiving food stamp benefits were sent letters asking them to respond to four questions about whether they wanted to be enrolled in Medicaid. But with less than 10 percent of people responding so far, there may need to be a new push to find food stamp recipients who are eligible and not yet enrolled, said Ruth Kennedy, who is leading Medicaid expansion enrollment.
“This is not the way people have been accustomed to getting services — it’s usually a real gantlet that they have to go through,” Kennedy said. “We may need to look at how we follow up with those folks.”
Medicaid expansion begins July 1.
One of the issues could be food stamp recipients who have moved and not registered a change of address with the department. Kennedy said it’s still too early to know how many letters are being returned to the department as a result of a bad address because it takes several weeks to receive the letters back. They were sent out June 1.
Food stamp recipients — the program is formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP — could be a difficult population to reach because they tend to be more transient. For example, during a recent interview at the Grace House addiction recovery residential program, clinical director Megan McLean said that the organization had received enough letters from the Department of Health to fill several milk crates.
Many of the women at Grace House live at the facility for between six months and a year, so they use the facility as a permanent address to apply for benefits. If they don’t notify the state of an address change, the facility is the only place the Department of Health knew to mail to.
But Kennedy said she’s not concerned about SNAP beneficiaries not getting in touch with the state very quickly. The department is still signing up people for Medicaid at a rate of about 2,500 people per day.
About 22,000 of those signing up did so in-person, over the phone or online.
Much of the enrollment has been automatic, with many New Orleans residents getting enrolled if they’re part of the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection or Take Charge Plus programs. The Department of Health is making a push in rural areas to spur new enrollments, with events last week in Tallulah and another event this week in Napoleonville.
Kennedy said she’s happy with the progress made so far, saying that it was much harder to get people signed up for the children’s health insurance program in the late 1990s.
“I believe we will get there. We’ve only been enrolling people three weeks,” Kennedy said. “You know how long it took me to get 200,000 children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP? It was many years. So this is pretty much unparalleled.”
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