Many pregnant women who apply and are eligible for LaMOMS health coverage are now receiving their Medicaid card in less than a week. This means they can begin receiving important prenatal care sooner, thanks to some new Department of Health policies and procedures for priority processing of their applications.
Prior to the changes, some applicants throughout the state waited as long as eight weeks between applying for LaMOMS and getting enrolled into the program. And, some physicians were waiting until a pregnant woman received a Medicaid card verifying that she was approved for her entire pregnancy before accepting her as a patient for prenatal services
“Early prenatal care is considered to play a major role in reducing low birth weight babies and infant mortality—two health indicators that we are working to improve,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “Although having a Medicaid card in hand doesn’t guarantee first trimester prenatal care, we believe it increases the likelihood that they will get this care sooner.”
A key component of Governor Blanco’s Health Care Reform objectives for Medicaid was to reduce the average processing time for pregnant women from 20 days to 10 days or less. Medicaid Eligibility Offices throughout the state were challenged to simplify and expedite processing LaMOMS applications, using the kinds of simplifications that have proven successful for the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP.)
In addition to the initiatives by local Medicaid offices, in 2004 the legislature approved four additional Medicaid eligibility workers for LaMOMS. These eligibility workers are out-stationed full time at parish health units in Alexandria, Monroe, Lake Charles and Lafayette, where their jobs are to complete and process LaMOMS applications. Most of those applying at these locations, if eligible, are enrolled the same day.
“In working with Medicaid to choose the sites where we placed the additional LaMOMS processing staff, a major consideration was the infant mortality rate in that region,” said Dr. Joan Wightkin, Director for the Office of Public Health Maternal and Child Health Program.
In January, Medicaid processed 4,187 LaMOMS applications, and the statewide average number of days from application to a decision was only five days. “We have not only met our short term goal of getting eligible women enrolled quickly, we have exceeded it,” Cerise said. “Improving the administrative processes of health care delivery is another key reform initiative, and efforts such as this one prove it can be done and done successfully.”
For more information on the LaMOMS program, please call toll-free 1-888-342-6207, or visit the LaMOMS Web site at www.lamoms.dhh.louisiana.gov.