The Department of Health must implement cuts in its Medicaid program beginning Jan. 1 because federal aid legislation did not pass in time for the year's end.

"Because Congress did not act on the Medicaid relief package, we will be forced to make reductions in our program," said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. "This is yet another blow to our citizens, many of whom lost health coverage because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and have relied on our state health services."

The cuts will entail an approximate 10 percent rate reduction for most of Louisiana's Medicaid program. "We had hoped for federal relief to avoid these cuts, which will impact the services we can give our recipients," Dr. Cerise said. "Unfortunately, this relief has not occurred and so we must act on our plan from the state's special session to address our revenue shortfall."

The cuts will go into effect at the beginning of 2006. If federal relief does not come through in the early part of the next year, Cerise said more cuts in Medicaid programs and services will be necessary.

"After the devastation to our state in 2005, this is certainly not how we hoped to begin the new year," Dr. Cerise said. "We hope that Congress will act quickly in 2006 to send much-needed Medicaid relief to our state so we can help our citizens continue to receive medical care and treatment as they work to recover and rebuild from these disasters."