More than 30,000 nursing home residents in Louisiana are slated to receive notices that they could lose their Medicaid eligibility starting on Thursday as a result of budget cuts that passed the state’s House of Representatives.
But the president of one provider organization would be “stunned” to see the budget pass the state Senate and thus become law.
“I’m going to say it won’t, but I can’t make a promise,” LeadingAge Gulf States president Karen Contrenchis told Skilled Nursing News. “Truthfully, I was really surprised it passed the House.”
Under the budget, which was sent to the Louisiana Senate after passing the House, 37,000 Medicaid recipients in nursing homes or other long-term care (LTC) settings could lose Medicaid eligibility, The News Star reported.
The notices are not being sent by the nursing homes, but rather by the state’s Department of Health (DOH) — an important distinction, Contrenchis said. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates a specific timeframe for providing notice of reduced benefits, she explained.
While CMS requires notices to go out to Medicaid recipients at least 10 days in advance of any programs being cut, Louisiana is notifying people a few weeks earlier because the state is changing its internal rules to eliminate the Medicaid programs already, The Times-Picayune reported.
Initially, Medicaid-approved LTC providers in the state were told the notices had to go out April 1, but that was delayed as the state tried to resolve its budget issues, Contrenchis said.
The budget that was passed by the House has significant cuts to health care because of a shortfall of anywhere from $550 million to $648 million, according to The News Star.
The state can only increase revenue for the budget every other year, and it cannot do so this year, so any revenue increase has to come from a special legislative session, Contrenchis explained to SNN.
Among the cuts, the budget eliminates the Medicaid Long Term Care Special Income Level Program Eligibility Group, which allowed residents who receive a monthly Social Security check or other income in retirement to submit those as payment for part of their care, with the DOH paying for the remainder. Under the new budget plan, residents whose income is more than $750 a month would not be eligible for the program.
That specific eligibility group provides health care services for about 80% of nursing facility residents, according to a written statement provided to SNN from Louisiana Nursing Home Association Executive Director Mark Berger.
A budget for Louisiana needs to be in place by July 1.
The proposed cuts have raised concerns about whether or not the affected residents receiving Medicaid would be evicted from their nursing homes, though Contrenchis pushed back against this term.
“I hate the word ‘evicted,’ because that’s not going to happen,” she said. “[The facilities] have to be able to find a place for them to go.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, on Wednesday took to Twitter to affirm his desire to avert any potential issues.
“To any member of the legislature who, like me, does not want to see these cuts implemented, I am offering, again, to work with you to find a solution,” Bel Edwards wrote. “I will stand at a press conference with you tomorrow to announce our plan to avoid these cuts.”
Written by Maggie Flynn