Children account for one-third of Louisiana’s Medicaid roll removals

By: - August 16, 2023 6:00 am
A female doctor holds a stethoscope to the back of a young boy inside a medical examination room

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Approximately 35% of the 50,600 people removed from Louisiana’s Medicaid health insurance coverage in July were children, according to information the state Department of Health provided this week. 

Another 44% were low-income adults who were originally enrolled through Medicaid expansion, 4% were people who entered Medicaid for a pregnancy, and 2% were people in long-term care programs, said Tara LeBlanc, executive director of Louisiana’s Medicaid program. The remaining 15% came from a mix of smaller Medicaid initiatives, she said.

It’s not clear how many of the nearly 18,000 children dropped no longer meet the requirements for Medicaid, which is a government-supported insurance typically reserved for people who are poor, pregnant or permanently disabled. 

The state cut three-quarters of the 50,600 people removed from Medicaid for “procedural” reasons, such as not returning paperwork in time or responding to the health department’s prompts for information. That doesn’t mean they don’t mean the criteria to be enrolled. 

LeBlanc could not say to what extent that cohort included children. Children could have also lost Medicaid coverage for traditional reasons, like their families earn too much money to qualify or they aged out of the program. 


Louisiana and other states have started to cull Medicaid rolls again after a three-year pause. In exchange for COVID-19 assistance, the federal government prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid from March 2020 to May 2023, even if the recipients no longer met the program’s eligibility requirements.  

Now states must catch up and force thousands of people out of the program on a compressed schedule. Approximately 4.8 million people have lost Medicaid coverage across the country as a result of disenrollment so far and, like Louisiana, about a third of the people dropped nationwide are children according to KFF, a think tank focused on health care policy. 

Louisiana plans to spend $196 million to check Medicaid enrollees’ status

In Louisiana, the disenrollment process started in July and will play out over the next year, with a new wave of people expected to come off Medicaid rolls each month. 

But not every person dropped from Medicaid will be kicked out of the program for very long. Approximately 10,000 of the 50,600 people removed from Louisiana Medicaid in July have already been put back on the rolls again, LeBlanc said. Health officials refer to this as the Medicaid “churn.”

Most returning appear to be children, she said. Families may have realized their children were booted from Medicaid when they went to the doctors for vaccines, sports medicine evaluations or other pre-school checkups and signed them back up again.

LeBlanc also said schools work closely with the health department to make sure children who qualify for Medicaid get enrolled at the beginning of the school year. 

The state must retroactively reinstate the benefits of any person who is dropped from Medicaid but still qualifies for it within 90 days of their initial disenrollment. This means a child who inadvertently was removed from Medicaid but winds up in a doctor’s office or emergency room within three months will still be able to get health care coverage.

Beyond that 90-day grace period, however, families will be forced to reapply for Medicaid benefits and might experience a gap in health insurance, even if they always met the criteria for the program.

Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette, said he and other state lawmakers are watching the Medicaid disenrollment process closely to see if people are falling through the cracks.

“We need to get them back into Medicaid if they qualify,” Boudreaux said of children coming off the rolls within the last few weeks.

The left-leaning Louisiana Budget Project is also monitoring disenrollment, though so far the organization has been impressed with the state’s outreach to Medicaid recipients.

Louisiana sent every Medicaid recipient a letter outlining the Medicaid renewal process earlier this year. It has also run advertisements and posted signs in health care facilities, government offices and pharmacies. 

“That it takes so much energy to seek out who has the right to have affordable health care is kind of bizarre,” said Jan Moller, head of the Louisiana Budget Project. “The fact that this is such a production speaks to the absurdity of the health care system we have.”

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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.