The Louisiana Department of Health today learned that it will receive a $1.9 million performance bonus from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a result of the Medicaid Program's efforts to ensure eligible children were enrolled.

"This bonus recognizes our unwavering commitment to Louisiana's children. Even as our state and nation have sometimes faced difficult budget times, we are firm in our dedication to reaching out and covering our state's children," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "We are proud to say that, today, fewer than 5 percent of our state's children do not have health care coverage. We will continue to make eligibility and enrollment a priority at the same time as we transform Medicaid through our BAYOU HEALTH program."

The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) established "Performance Bonuses" for states to support the enrollment and retention of eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP. As outlined in the statute, states must have in place at least five Medicaid and CHIP program features known to promote enrollment and retention in health coverage for children. Specifically, Louisiana met the following criteria: 12-month continuous eligibility; liberalization of the State's asset test; elimination of in-person interview requirements, use of the same application and renewal forms; and use of automatic or administrative renewal.

"Unfortunately, as well as we have done with enrolling children, we know that just having a Medicaid card isn't enough. Even with these nationally-recognized efforts, we continue to lag at the bottom of national health rankings, which is why we're launching BAYOU HEALTH," Secretary Greenstein said. "I think it's critical that people understand that the same people who built Louisiana's national reputation as a leader in covering children have been tirelessly building BAYOU HEALTH as a way to make that coverage more effective."

Medicaid Deputy Director and head of the BAYOU HEALTH program Ruth Kennedy has been repeatedly recognized nationally for her efforts stretching back more than a decade to significantly improve the process of enrolling people, particularly children, into Medicaid and LaCHIP. Just last month, CMS recognized Kennedy as one of 10 individuals who received the ECHOE (Excellence in Children's Health Outreach and Enrollment) honor for her outstanding efforts to identify and enroll eligible children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In its release, CMS recognized her dedication to Louisiana's children by stating, "Since 1998, Ruth Kennedy has had a pioneering influence on the path of outreach and enrollment efforts across the country. Under her leadership, for example, Louisiana dispatched Medicaid eligibility workers to conduct outreach throughout the State, actively engaging eligible families rather than waiting for families to come to the eligibility office, and the State was among the first to implement Express Lane Eligibility. The changes she has made have helped improve access to coverage not just for children, but for adults as well: Louisiana has reduced the eligibility processing time for pregnant women to just three days and has simplified eligibility for parents. Ruth is best known for her accomplishments related to retention - ensuring that eligible children and adults stay covered for as long as they qualify. Ruth's aggressive efforts over many years have catalyzed numerous process improvements -- including the use of telephone and paperless renewals - so that the rate of case closures for procedural reasons at renewal dropped from 22 percent to less than one percent. Her leadership has not only resulted in tangible outcomes for beneficiaries, but also in the workforce where she has promoted and achieved significant culture change in Medicaid eligibility offices."

Secretary Greenstein said, "The dedication of Ruth and her team is now coming through in the development and implementation of BAYOU HEALTH. What you are seeing is that the same philosophy and culture that puts us in line for the CHIPRA bonus each year is seeped into BAYOU HEALTH and our new approach to coordinating care for about 865,000 of our Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients."

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.