BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Families who faced having to make a quick decision over healthcare have been granted some time to think by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
A program called the Louisiana Health Insurance Premium Payment Program, LaHipp, was scheduled to end suddenly effective July 1. The cut came as part of the new Louisiana state budget. It could save the state up to $6 million each year.
The DHH said in a statement that switching patients from LaHipp to other Medicaid options would be more cost effective and still allow them to access quality healthcare.
Families received letters just over a week ago about the sudden change. However, they received word Tuesday that they will have until December 1 to make new arrangements.
"We recognized we were not giving people enough time to make the decisions that they need," said Kathy Kleibert, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Under LaHipp, the state paid the private health insurance premiums for working families who were also offered Medicaid. Medicaid became their secondary payer.
Many families affected by the announcement turned to Jamie Tindle, the director of the Families Helping Families center. The center is a nonprofit aimed at assisting families with disabled children.
"They were hysterical trying to figure out what to do for their child," Tindle said.
Families faced a tough decision. They had three choices:
- Stay with their private insurance, attempting to pay insurance premiums they could not necessarily afford
- Use Medicaid, a program they were already enrolled in, as their primary payer
- Join one of the state's new Medicaid-managed care programs in a program called "Bayou Health"
For the financially strapped families at Tindle's center, the decision is particularly difficult.
Choosing Medicaid as their primary payer would save money, but it could also mean finding new doctors for their disabled kids if their current doctors and therapists do not accept Medicaid.
Tindle says changing doctors can be problematic, particularly for families with disabled kids.
"You make a lot of milestones with these therapies with your child, and then all of a sudden, they end. It really puts you in a hardship," Tindle said.
Accepting Medicaid as the primary payer could also mean waiting in line until a doctor was able to take a new patient.
Kleibert said new Medicaid options will still provide quality care. She pointed particularly to Bayou Health, which includes providers such as United Health
"They're the same plans that private entities are using anyhow, so again it's not any different than a private insurance," Kleibert said.
Tindle still is cautious.
"Medicaid providers in Louisiana, It's difficult to find enough of them," she said.
Kleibert said the state will begin sending out personalized letters to families in coming weeks outlining their specific options after LaHipp.