Louisiana health department has new estimate for Medicaid enrollment drop

By: - April 17, 2023 12:41 pm
A closeup photo of the corner of an medical insurance membership card


Louisiana Department of Health officials estimate the state will see a net loss of 222,400 people from the government-backed Medicaid insurance rolls as a result of a massive Medicaid disenrollment process taking place around the country

That number is significantly lower than a previous estimate of 355,000 people the health department provided just last month. Officials said the discrepancy has to do with the “churn” expected in the Medicaid program. 

State officials have since determined more than 100,000 residents are expected to join the program while other people are being removed over the next year. The net effect will be that the state’s Medicaid rolls will go down by about 222,400 – not the 355,000 number previously given, according to Pam Diez, chief financial officer for Louisiana’s Medicaid program.

“You are going to have churn with people dropping off and then people churning back on,” health department secretary Stephen Russo said at a state budget hearing Monday. 

The federal government is ending COVID-19 protections that have kept millions of additional people across the country on Medicaid regardless of their income since 2020. It gave states financial incentives to let people stay on the public health insurance plan, but those benefits are coming to a close.


States must now sort through who still qualifies for Medicaid coverage over the next 12 months. Individuals are supposed to be culled from the rolls if they make too much money to remain eligible. 

Approximately 2 million Louisiana residents, 42% of the state’s population, receive Medicaid benefits. In order to verify income eligibility, state health officials have to reach out to every person enrolled in the program – a colossal undertaking.

The Medicaid disenrollment process is expected to cost $195.8 million in Louisiana. The cost will be roughly split between state and federal money.

Disenrollment is so expensive, in part, because the federal government requires the state to reach out to half of the Medicaid enrollees through two different forms of communication before kicking them out of the program. The state usually has only an enrollees’ mailing address. Now it must collect their phone numbers and email addresses to comply with the new  federal requirement.

The state might even have to track down the correct mailing addresses for several Medicaid recipients. Low-income people tend to move frequently and might not have registered their new address with the state. 

Recent hurricanes like Laura and Ida also might have forced families with Medicaid recipients to relocate.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.