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Real Medical Reform


When we took office, our state’s Medicaid program was failing Louisiana citizens—both the 1.2 million folks who relied on it for care and the taxpayers who supported it to the tune of $7 billion per year. We immediately got to work on reforming Medicaid and providing better outcomes for our people. As a result, Louisiana’s Medicaid landscape is vastly different from where it stood just a few years ago. Our solution, Bayou Health, has become a national model for Medicaid programs across the country.

Bayou Health is Louisiana’s Medicaid managed care program, and it was designed using the lessons learned and best practices from dozens of states and years of experience. Now entering its second year of operations, we’ve seen incredible progress for the approximately 900,000 recipients who are enrolled in one of five participating health plans. These Medicaid recipients have access to tremendous new resources that promote better coordination of care and management of chronic diseases – and it is having a real and positive impact on their lives.

Gov. Bobby Jindal
Gov. Bobby Jindal

One of our greatest areas of focus has been on improving the health outcomes of new moms and babies. Considering that Louisiana Medicaid pays for over 70 percent of all births in our state, this has been a top priority for our Bayou Health program, and those efforts have paid off.

Early data show that newborn babies in Louisiana spent 23,000 fewer days in Neonatal Intensive Care Units last year. That means over 1,000 new babies went home with their parents directly from the delivery unit, without spending time in costly and stressful intensive care settings. That translates into healthier babies and huge savings for our state. According to the March of Dimes, the average cost for premature infants in Louisiana is $33,000 compared to a national average of $4,000 for term newborns.

We also know that our adult population in Medicaid suffers from high rates of chronic disease that often lead to costly hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Bayou Health plans are investing in an infrastructure of care coordination that helps people get necessary preventative care, stay healthier and make better choices.

In its first year alone, more than 25,000 individuals received case management to help them manage their chronic or high-risk health conditions. Health plans also helped more than 63,000 of their members in their efforts to quit smoking, lose weight, gain access to dental and vision services and to purchase medical essentials such as prescription medications, child care supplies and more.

Simply put, we’ve seen amazing success stories because of Bayou Health. One Health plan determined that the reason a wheelchair-bound member kept missing her doctor’s appointments was because she couldn’t leave her house, so they helped build her a ramp to make her home completely accessible.

Another plan helped a member who was homeless and suffering from mental illness secure housing, become compliant with his prescribed medication and secure a regular primary care physician. And yet another plan identified a member with multiple health issues who had been in and out of the emergency room four times in five weeks. After the plan helped him connect with the right specialists, he graduated from case management and has drastically reduced his ER visit frequency.

These are only a few examples that can be retold one hundred times over. These incredible results have been accomplished through a program that has brought increased budget predictability and real savings – over $135 million last fiscal year – to Louisiana’s Medicaid program.

Bayou Health is still in its infancy, and we look forward to collecting even more data and learning about more success stories to share concerning the progress we’ve already made.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.