Louisiana is expanding Medicaid with the new eligibility date starting on July 1st. The Times Picayune reports that Louisiana is using its SNAP (food stamp) database as a means of identifying individuals who are Expansion eligible and then automatically signing them up.
Department of Health and Hospitals officials are “highly confident” they’ll receive federal approval to use data from food stamp applications to qualify people for Medicaid, the first state in the country to use such a method through what’s known as a state plan amendment….
Kennedy said DHH is preparing to send out about 100,000 letters to people that the agency has determined are eligible for Medicaid but aren’t among the state’s 1.4 million enrollees. All the recipients will have to do is respond to the letter, Kennedy said, and they’ll be added to the program….
DHH officials had previously said they would use a “fast track” approach to Medicaid expansion enrollment, but the food stamp enrollment is particularly significant because the federal government had never before approved using food stamp data to qualify Medicaid recipients.
I think this is interesting from a few angles.
First it is an example of a government that wants to do well by maximizing the data that it already holds. The state of Louisiana in a variety of data sources that it owns already has an excellent idea of who is eligible for Medicaid based on income and who is not. The challenge has always been integrating those data sources into a coherent information stream. Using the SNAP database is an excellent starting point.
Secondly, it makes sense that Louisiana is doing this for an expansion roll-out. All else being equal, an individual who otherwise would not have signed up for Medicaid Expansion without being automatically enrolled will be healthier and less expensive once they are signed up via the letter than people who actively sought out enrollment into Medicaid. The active seekers are more worried about their health care costs because they know themselves to have a good reason to worry about paying for health care services. This will lower the average cost on a capitated basis.
The most interesting angle to me is how does this outreach change the Medicaid cost savings for Louisiana. The woodworkers have a FY2017 62/38 Federal/state split on their costs. The Expansion eligible individuals have a CY2016 100/0 split on their costs. A large rush of legacy woodworkers will eat up most of the cost savings gained through lower charity care appropriations, and shifting of voluntary Legacy Medicaid qualified individuals to Expansion eligibility groups.
This is a good problem to have, as more people covered with the Feds picking up most of the tab is a good thing in and of itself. However the problem is Louisiana has a balanced budget constraint and a large structural deficit. Medicaid expansion is taking a decent chunk out of the structural deficit caused by Jindal’s decision to destroy Louisiana to boost his Presidential chances but a 100% Medicaid Eligibility uptake rate would take away most of the savings.