Health care providers who gave free care to thousands of uninsured patients following Hurricane Katrina will soon be reimbursed for a portion of that care. The Department of Health learned today that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made $383 million available to the state to begin reimbursing hospitals, doctors and other health care providers.

As almost half a million citizens evacuated New Orleans, many without health care coverage, and as the flood damage to Charity Hospital and University Medical Center forced their closure, other health care professionals throughout the state saw an increase in uninsured patients. With these federal funds, they will be reimbursed for the uncompensated care they provided.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco says she has heard the cry for help from hospitals and other health care providers who provided free care during and after Katrina but now need some financial help.

"My administration and the staff at the Department of Health have worked with the federal government for more than three months to secure this extra Medicaid money," said Gov. Blanco. "Today, I am pleased to say that help, in the form of millions of dollars, has arrived. This extra money will help pay our hospitals, our doctors and our other medical professionals who were there when needed most."

Louisiana Medicaid will reimburse providers with the uncompensated care funding if they treated evacuees who received medically necessary treatment but had no source of payment for these services. Hospitals will initially be reimbursed for 70 percent of the costs through Medicaid. After paying all initial claims, money remaining in the funding pool will be used to make additional payments to these providers.

Providers were able to begin billing Medicaid for this uncompensated care on March 13, 2006. They must submit an invoice by June 30, 2006 for each Katrina evacuee served to obtain payment. Providers will be reimbursed only for dates of service starting on August 24, 2005 and up to Jan. 31, 2006.

According to Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH secretary, the agency is currently developing a plan to provide additional funding to hospitals, doctors and others who continue treating uninsured patients after Feb. 1, 2006.

“With the continued closure of the two LSU hospitals in New Orleans, we recognize the responsibility of caring for our uninsured patients has shifted to private hospitals,” he said. “These facilities have responded, and we are committed to finding a way to at least partly reimburse them for the services they provide through the end of this fiscal year.”

Services that are eligible for reimbursement include inpatient and outpatient hospitals care, physician services, emergency ambulance transportation, home health services, treatment in nursing homes and various other medically necessary services as allowed by the federal government.

Providers can find the invoices to file these claims as well as more information about covered services and reimbursement procedures from and and should address questions to 225-216-6288.