Baton Rouge --- People with physical, mental or developmental disabilities sometimes avoid seeking employment because they fear losing their Medicaid coverage.  However, a new initiative within the Department of Health will help citizens with severe disabilities work and keep or get Medicaid health care benefits.

 The state’s Medicaid program received a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help create a buy-in program that allows people with a disability who work to purchase Medicaid coverage.  Beginning Jan.1, 2004, these individuals can buy Medicaid coverage on a sliding scale based on their countable income. 

 Louisiana citizens with disabilities are a labor pool that is skilled and ready to work, but often these individuals avoid seeking employment because they fear losing their health care coverage,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “With the help of grant funding, we will implement a program that helps them obtain or retain health care coverage under our Medicaid program after they return to the workforce.”

 The program, called Medicaid Purchase, will be available to citizens who are between the ages of 16 and 65; have a disability that meets Social Security standards; are employed; have a monthly countable income of less than $1,871; are willing to take other health insurance coverage if it is offered where they work; and are willing to pay a small premium if their monthly countable income exceeds $1,123.

 Citizens can call 1-888-544-7996 to receive more information or an application for the program. To apply, applicants must submit a Social Security number, copies of a Medicare or other health insurance card and proof of total income for the past month. Medicaid representatives typically will let someone know whether his application has been approved within 45 days. However, if the Medicaid office must make a decision regarding the applicant’s disability, the wait may extend to 90 days.

 The Medicaid proposal is part of the federal Ticket to Work program, which is designed to help citizens with a disability go back to work.  During the past few months, more than 195,000 Louisiana residents who have a disability and receive SSI or Social Security Disability benefits received a package in the mail that contained information from the federal Social Security Administration about the program.  LDH is working closely with Social Security Administration officials to ensure the success of the program. 

More than one in five Louisiana residents (approximately 900,000 people) receive health coverage from the Louisiana Medicaid Program.  Medicaid is a health insurance program for certain low-income citizens, funded jointly by the state and federal government. It provides health care coverage to children, the elderly and/or people with disabilities.  For more information about Medicaid Purchase, call 1-888-544-7996, or contact your local Medicaid Office. A list of Medicaid offices statewide is available