Louisiana leaders at odds on how to monitor Medicaid participants

Updated: Jun. 13, 2019 at 9:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Senator John Kennedy wants a new law to assure the eligibility of Medicaid participants, but Governor John Bel Edwards says there’s already a functioning system in place.

Louisiana leaders are in agreement— Medicaid is solely meant for those who need it.

Yet, that's not the way it's been working in Louisiana.

“A legislative auditor came in and picked 100 Medicaid recipients at random, 82 of them didn't qualify for Medicaid,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy says the auditor should have had more authority to scrutinize the state's Medicaid program, including access to state income tax data.

“It would link eligibility to federal income tax would fix that up. I think it's going to have to be required,” Sen. Kennedy explained.

Now, Kennedy says he's proposing a bill at the federal level requiring all states to check federal income tax data before putting people on social programs, like Medicaid.

“I don't know we need any new legislation, be at state or federal, to make sure we are adhering to the standards,” Gov. Edwards said.

Governor Edwards says an update and upgrade of the Department of Health’s computer system revealed a number of ineligible participants, subsequently booted from the program.

It amounts to $400 million in savings.

“When you identify those individuals, that's proof that the system is working, not that there's widespread fraud,” said Gov. Edwards.

Governor Edwards says the upgrades provide real-time access to state and federal databases.

“We need to be able to make sure we can get the income information we have to have to verify eligibility. We're actually doing that,” Gov. Edwards said.

But Senator Kennedy remains unconvinced.

“I’m happy with saving the $400 million, believe me. I’m happy for the taxpayers that I represent, but before the Department of Health and hospitals takes credit for it, let me say again, they wouldn’t have done this had it not been for the legislative auditor and some members of the legislature who raised all manner of hell,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Documents indicate a contract for work on the new Department of Health computer system, which uses federal income tax data, began in March 2016. It wasn’t up and running until late last year.

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