Baton Rouge – The Department of Health and Hospitals’ goal to have all Louisiana parishes enrolled in CommunityCARE by December 2003 is nearing completion. Only Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes have not been enrolled in CommunityCARE, and Medicaid employees are recruiting doctors from those areas to join the program. These three parishes will be fully enrolled in the program by December.

CommunityCARE creates a "medical home" for Medicaid clients, linking them to primary care providers who can help manage their health care before medical problems become severe. The program aims to decrease rates of serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes in Louisiana by having patients see doctors regularly to monitor their health. The program also aims to cut down on unnecessary emergency room visits.

"Our CommunityCARE program has shown promising results throughout the state in parishes that are already enrolled," said Secretary David W. Hood. "Once we add these remaining three parishes and conclude our statewide rollout, we expect to continue seeing better primary care, better overall health, decreased health care costs and fewer unnecessary emergency room visits for our Medicaid clients."

As of Oct. 15, 2003, physicians in the Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes who wish to be CommunityCARE providers must have completed and submitted their enrollment packages to LDH to continue serving new or existing Medicaid patients. Physicians can request a CommunityCARE enrollment package by calling 1-800-473-2783.

LDH kicked off CommunityCARE in Orleans Parish this September, and more than100,000 Medicaid recipients living in that area were linked to a primary care provider. Other parts of the state were enrolled by region, with several parishes at a time, but since Orleans Parish is so large, it was added alone with surrounding parishes following.

"We began this program in order to give Medicaid clients control of their primary health care," Hood said. "Too often, patients would wait until they were severely ill to seek medical help. With this program, we are helping them monitor their health to avoid serious illnesses and expensive or drastic treatments."

Medicaid is a health insurance program for certain low-income citizens that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments. Administered by LDH, Medicaid provides health care coverage to children, the aged, blind and/or people with disabilities.