Columnist - State Treasurer John Kennedy
Another legislative session has just begun, and lawmakers will have their work cut out for them as they whittle away at a ballooning budget and a large deficit. It may seem like a nearly impossible task, but if legislators consider many of the Streamlining Government Commission’s recommendations, the 2010 Regular Session can be successful.
One Streamlining proposal that has particular merit is the recommendation to fully implement two programs that allow the state to purchase private health insurance for a child or adult if it is cheaper than covering the child or adult through Medicaid.
In 2004, the Legislature passed the “Baby Bill” requiring hospitals and healthcare professionals in Louisiana to notify the state when a child has Medicaid or is Medicaid-eligible and his parent may be eligible for private insurance through work. With this information, the state can elect to pay for private health insurance for the child if it is cheaper than covering the child through Medicaid.
The Louisiana Health Insurance Premium Payment Program (LaHIPP) provides that when a family member has, or has access to, private health insurance and at least one family member is on Medicaid or is Medicaid-eligible, the state may choose to pay some or all of the health insurance premiums for the employee and other family members if it is cheaper than paying for Medicaid.
So far, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has only used the “Baby Bill” and LaHIPP for a few thousand citizens. With proper implementation of these two programs, however, Louisiana taxpayers could save as much as $100 million.
The Legislature should direct DHH to immediately and fully implement the provisions of the “Baby Bill” and LaHIPP. DHH should also be required to report to the Legislature on a semi-annual basis the results of executing these two provisions in the law.
The Legislature owes it to taxpayers to mandate the implementation of these two programs, and they are a win-win for the state and the uninsured. Private insurance can be a cheaper option for qualified Medicaid recipients, and in most cases, it would also provide better coverage.