Baton Rouge – Medicaid recipients in several North Louisiana parishes will soon each be linked to a doctor who will coordinate their medical care. This change is a result of the Department of Health and Hospital’s CommunityCARE program, which creates a "medical home" for most Medicaid patients.

Starting last week, Medicaid began mailing letters to more than 80,000 Medicaid patients who reside in the parishes of Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Franklin, Lincoln, Ouachita and Tensas. The letters will list the participating CommunityCARE physicians. Medicaid patients will then each select their own doctor from this list.

LDH Secretary David W. Hood says the program strengthens the patient/doctor relationship, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes for the patients. "We are changing the face of Medicaid," said Hood. "In the past, Medicaid simply provided coverage for recipients. This left it up to the patients to navigate a complicated health care system, often made even more complicated because it was difficult to find a doctor who accepted Medicaid."

Hood says CommunityCARE shifts the responsibility of finding a doctor from the recipient to the Medicaid program. "Now, we are actively recruiting doctors to participate in the program, and we will inform each Medicaid recipient as to the participating doctors." He notes that, to date, a total of 149 physicians from these parishes have signed up for the program.

Once the letter that lists participating doctors is received by Medicaid recipients, they need to respond quickly. As of May 23, 2003, recipients must have each submitted their choice of doctor. If they do not respond, they will be automatically assigned to an available doctor in their home parish or a neighboring parish. If recipients have any questions about CommunityCARE and how it will affect their medical care, they can call 1-800-359-2122.