Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein was joined today by health care providers and advocates, Health Plan representatives, and Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients to kick off the first day of BAYOU HEALTH enrollment for the Northshore and New Orleans areas. 

"Today marks an important milestone on the path to better health in our state," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "For the first time, we begin looking to Medicaid and LaCHIP enrollees to take a proactive role in choosing their health care coverage. We have staff ready and available to assist recipients in choosing which BAYOU HEALTH plan is best for them and their family. I encourage each and every eligible family to take full advantage of these resources and make this very important decision."

BAYOU HEALTH is the state's new approach to health care for 865,000 of its 1.2 million Medicaid and LaCHIP recipients. Under BAYOU HEALTH, the state has contracted with five Health Plans that will form a network of health care providers and care managers. All Plans will be responsible for coordinating care and services for their members. Recipients will continue to receive the same benefits and core services, but the Plans will have the ability to offer services and incentives.

A key feature of BAYOU HEALTH is the intense focus on consumer choice. LDH has launched an aggressive outreach, education and enrollment effort to make sure eligible recipients know the choices before them and are actively engaged in making a pro-active choice of a Health Plan for their families. This effort includes direct mail, TV and print advertising, public relations, telephonic engagement and online enrollment options, as well as a series of meetings in every parish. A full list of meetings where recipients can sit with LDH Medicaid staff to assist them in the process of signing up with a Plan is available online at www.MakingMedicaidBetter.com.

Recipients who have not selected a Plan within 30 days will be assigned to a Health Plan. There are also opportunities to change plans after that window expires.  They are strongly encouraged to access the available resources at www.BAYOUHEALTH.com and use the toll-free hotline 1-855-BAYOU-4U (1-855-229-6848) to make an informed, pro-active choice. Every eligible recipient will receive an "enrollment packet" in the mail over the next two weeks. It will include a comparison chart of the different enhanced benefits each Plan is offering. That same chart can be accessed online at www.BAYOUHEALTH.com. Recipients can also go to that website to see which Plans their providers have contracted with.

Individuals who do not make a choice will be assigned to a Plan based on a formula that takes into account which plans include their primary health care provider.

"We each own our own health, which is why the element of choice is such an important part of our plan to improve our Medicaid program," added Secretary Greenstein. "Many states have moved to managed care, but not all have offered their residents the chance to choose which health plan will serve them. The people of Louisiana understand the unique needs of their families better than anyone else. That's why we're providing comprehensive information about their options and leaving the choice in their hands."

Mary Corban, LaCHIP Program Manager for Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, said, "For the past 4 years, Volunteers of America of Greater New Orleans has worked in collaboration with the Department of Health to successfully reduce the number of uninsured children in Region 9. We want to thank all our community partners and the Northshore Children and Youth Coalition members for their dedication and commitment to our efforts. We are excited to be part of a new era of more effective and efficient health care for Louisiana citizens through Bayou Health."

John Tobin, St. Tammany Parish Community Action Program Director, said, ""It is important that citizens learn about the services offered by each plan in the new Bayou Health network so that they can choose the plan that best fits their needs.   The new plans will replace the current Medicaid program.  Information is available at all St. Tammany Community Action Agency sites."

Beginning Feb. 1, recipients will transfer to BAYOU HEALTH in three phases. The first phase consists of the four-parish New Orleans-area region and the five-parish Northshore region, known as GSA A, where enrollment into Health Plans for enrollees opened today, Dec. 15. The next region, which covers the Capital Area, South Central Louisiana and Acadiana regions, will launch April 1 followed by the Southwest Louisiana, Central Louisiana and North Louisiana regions, which will go live June 1.

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.