Legislative session: Medicaid red tape

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill aimed at expanding Medicaid coverage in the state is on its way to the senate floor for debate.  But another that deals with Louisiana's current plan is gaining momentum on the house side.

Keyboards popping and pages turning aren't the sounds associated with your normal visit to the doctor's office but sounds that have become all too familiar for the staff at North Oaks Pediatric Clinic in Hammond.

"Charts, we have logs, we have more logs, we have to document everything. Everything is just tedious," said Michelle Hebert, who processes referrals.

North Oaks treats more than 13,000 Medicaid patients in the Hammond area with seven doctors and eight nurse practitioners, but they also have departments and employees dedicated solely to processing claims and payments from the state's handful of Medicaid contractors.

"It gets very hard because a lot of specialists don't accept the Medicaid we accept, so it can get frustrating," said Hebert.  This at the very least is a good starting point."

At the Capitol, a bill that is designed to remove some of the paperwork connected to providing care to the thousands of Medicaid patients passed through the House Health and Welfare Committee without opposition. That is music to the ears of Dr. Chris Leumas who is a partner at North Oaks.

"If you only have 20 percent its easy to say, 'I don't need this headache anymore,' and so they'll just give it up," said Dr. Leumas.  "Eventually, if they made it hard enough, we could back down to not taking care of it at all, but that's not fair to our population."

A population that Leumas believes deserves timely healthcare just like those on private insurance.

"There are so many different people you have to deal with and go through," he added.  "It's not going to get rid of any of our staff but it's going to make their headaches less for sure."

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.