Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein was joined by legislators, advocates, health care providers and Health Plan representatives today at the Mahalia Jackson Center to announce the BAYOU HEALTH enrollee empowerment initiative.

"BAYOU HEALTH: Your Health, Your Choice" is the new public face of Medicaid managed care (formerly known as Coordinated Care Networks) in Louisiana. The new brand will be used in an aggressive statewide education effort the Department is launching to inform Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients about the improvements being made in the Medicaid program through better coordination of care.

"BAYOU HEALTH: Your Health, Your Choice is our way forward to improve health outcomes and build a healthier Louisiana. We know that coordinating care is a better approach than the outdated system we have sustained for far too many years," Secretary Greenstein said. "While our objective in developing BAYOU HEALTH over the past three and a half years has always been to improve the health of our enrollees, much of the public discourse has focused on technical matters like contracts, actuarial analyses, and payment methodologies. Today we refocus that public discussion back on people with our new name and multi-faceted education and outreach initiative."

Under BAYOU HEALTH, LDH has contracted with five different Health Plans who will form networks of health care providers and care managers and be responsible for coordinating health care for their members. Eligible Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients will choose from one of the five Plans. While all core benefits and services will be maintained for all recipients, each Plan is offering a different package of enhanced benefits that include benefits like disease management tools and incentives for keeping all preventive well-child visits.

Nearly 900,000 of the state's 1.2 million Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients will transfer to BAYOU HEALTH in three phases beginning Feb. 1. The first region includes the four-parish New Orleans-area region and the five-parish Northshore region, where enrollment into Health Plans for enrollees opens on Dec. 15. The two successive regions encompassing the remainder of the state will launch in 60-day increments following the first area of the state.

Recipients will initially have a 45-day window to choose a Plan and will be strongly encouraged to make a pro-active choice. Those who do not make choice will be assigned to a Plan based on a formula that takes into account which plans include their primary health care provider.

"Some states who have moved to managed care have just auto-enrolled everyone. At BAYOU HEALTH, we believe that having the choice is what stands out for our recipients. It's not the government's job to pick what's best for you and your family - we want you to make that decision," Secretary Greenstein said. "With about 80 percent of those people moving to BAYOU HEALTH being children, we especially need parents to be actively engaged in their children's health care decisions."

As part of the empowerment initiative, LDH is working with local community organizations in every region of the state during enrollment periods to educate enrollees about the changes and the need to be engaged and make a pro-active decision about which Plan is best for them. The education and outreach initiative will be multi-faceted and will begin about 30 days prior to the start of enrollment in each region. The initiative includes:

  • Direct Mail
  • Mass Media and Public Relations
  • Outreach Events
  • Direct Outreach Calls
  • Choice Kiosks with Partner Agencies
  • Engagement of Community Partners and Community-Based Organizations

"It is our job to ensure that people are fully informed about the changes and their choices, which is why we will have such a large-scale outreach effort across the state, starting right here in the New Orleans area," Secretary Greenstein said. "This is our commitment and responsibility. It's also important that people take this time to recognize their own responsibilities. Making the choice is just the first step. Being a responsible consumer of health care means keeping preventive appointments, adhering to doctors' orders and making healthier choices, and that is everyone's responsibility."

The first mailing will go to recipients in the New Orleans and Northshore regions later this month. This "Readiness Kit" will tell people about the pending changes and encourage them to begin taking steps now to prepare for making a choice. Once enrollment opens on Dec. 15, there will be at least 41 large-scale events in neighborhoods throughout the region with several other smaller events supplementing those outreach efforts. Several organizations have already signed on to partner with LDH to assist in educating enrollees. The same efforts will be made in each area of the state as enrollment for those recipients begins.

The Louisiana Primary Care Association, Inc. (LPCA), a non-profit corporation that promotes accessible, affordable, quality health care, is using its presence across the state to help educate Louisianians about their choice choices through BAYOU HEALTH.

Jonathan Chapman, executive director of the Louisiana Primary Care Association, said, "As a statewide organization representing Louisiana's 26 Federally Qualified Community Health Centers, we are striving to ensure all Medicaid recipients have a medical home. Everyone here today is focused on improving the health outcomes of Louisiana residents. We know that managing care is the best way to that end, and the Louisiana Primary Care Association is pleased to play a role in this critically important initiative."

LDH has also garnered the support of many community partners throughout Louisiana.

Jauna Crear, executive director of Health Law Advocates of Louisiana, said, "It's vitally important that consumers make an informed choice about who their health care providers will be. Consumers should be aware of deadlines and take the time to carefully consider their options to avoid automatic enrollment, which can limit a consumer's choice of providers."

Tricia Jones, executive director of Lower 9th Ward NENA, said, "The current state of our healthcare system needs reform. Many have worked hard to bring awareness to the gaps in the system. As presently run, studies show that access to healthcare has not equaled improved health to families in our most vulnerable populations across the State. Better choice in healthcare provisions empowers parents to seek the best possible care for their families."
In response to being part of the first region to roll out, Jefferson Parish President John Young said, "Jefferson Parish is excited about this new streamlined process for our Medicaid recipients. We are encouraged this will make it easier for enrollees to access quality health care and medical services which will help to improve their quality of life."

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog at www.myhealthla.org, Twitter at http://twitter.com/La_Health_Dept and search for the Louisiana Department of Health on Facebook.