BATON ROUGE - As a result of initiatives implemented by the Department of Health and Hospitals, more Louisiana kids have health care coverage. The 2011 Louisiana Health Insurance Survey shows the rate of uninsured children dropped from 5 percent to 3.5 percent during the past two years.
LSU's Public Policy Research Laboratory conducts this survey every two years based on a random sample of households across the state, looking at what type of health coverage, if any, families have. The survey is designed to give LDH specific details about health care coverage patterns and Louisiana's uninsured population.
LDH first commissioned this survey in 2003 to get better, more specific data on the uninsured, which state health officials have used to reduce the number of uninsured children in Louisiana each year. This survey's 3.5 percent is a record low, representing a steep drop from an 11.1 percent rate when the survey series began.
"This is a big victory for Louisiana," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Our children deserve quality care so they can learn early in life how to own their health and form good habits to become healthy adults. It's reassuring to know fewer children are slipping through the cracks in our health care system."
To ensure more eligible children have access to health care coverage, LDH did the following:
- Enacted the Express Lane Eligibility option, which allowed Louisiana Medicaid staff to collaborate with the Department of Children and Family Services and find children who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - food stamps) and automatically enroll them in Medicaid, as they meet the eligibility requirements. There are currently 7,875 children enrolled in Medicaid through this streamlined process, which reduces the need for applicants to submit enrollment paperwork twice for each program.
- Increased general awareness of the LaCHIP program, which provides health care coverage through Medicaid to children up to age 19 in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The survey respondents' general awareness level of what LaCHIP is has increased from 43.1 percent of respondents in 2005, when this first became an item on the survey, to 75 percent of respondents in 2011 knowing what LaCHIP is.
- Further expanded access to care through the LaCHIP Affordable Plan, in which families with incomes up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level can get coverage for their children.
- Designed a Medicaid program to expand health care coverage to uninsured adults in the New Orleans area named the Greater New Orleans Community Health Connection (GNOCHC). This program is a successful Medicaid pilot program whose mission is preserving residents' access to primary care, which was expanded after Hurricane Katrina. Through GNOCHC, uninsured adults with incomes up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level receive basic health care coverage. As of the end of January 2012, there are 38,793 individuals certified for this program.
Some other good findings from the survey that indicate LDH's efforts to find and enroll eligible children are working:
- There are 16,190 fewer uninsured children in Louisiana since 2009.
- The percentage of children who meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the Louisiana Children's Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP), but remain uninsured, dropped to 2.9 percent from 5.3 percent in the 2009 survey.
- Since 2009, there are 18,326 fewer uninsured children who qualify for Medicaid or LaCHIP coverage. State-level outreach efforts have increased the overall percentage of children receiving health care coverage through Medicaid or LaCHIP from 43.4 percent in 2009 to 47.6 percent in 2011.
- At the regional level, the rate of uninsured children dropped most in Central Louisiana in the past two years, from 6.1 percent in 2009 to 3.1 percent in 2011.
- Rates of uninsured children notably fell in all but one of LDH's nine service regions. The Northshore area, which historically is the area with the fewest uninsured children, had no noticeable changes in the uninsured rate in the past two years. Survey researchers attribute this to population shifts in that region rather than a coverage trend.
"Not only do these children now have health care coverage, as we implement BAYOU HEALTH, they're gaining care coordination and better access to doctors, clinics and hospitals," Greenstein said. "This is all part of our transformation to emphasize higher quality health care."
Overall, this survey shows younger adults between the ages of 19 and 29 are the age group most likely to be uninsured in Louisiana, and adults overall are more likely to be uninsured than children.
The complete 2011 Louisiana Health Insurance Survey is available online, along with all past surveys. To learn more about the Medicaid and LaCHIP programs, please visit www.medicaid.dhh.louisiana.gov or www.lachip.org.
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, Twitter account and Facebook.