BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s Department of Health could begin sending nursing home eviction notices as soon as this week to 37,000 residents who could lose Medicaid under the budget passed by the state House of Representatives.
“The Louisiana Department of Health is beginning the process of notifying all impacted enrollees that some people may lose their Medicaid eligibility,” Department of Health spokesman Bob Johannessen said. “The goal of the department is to give notice to all affected people as soon as possible in order that they begin developing their appropriate plans.
“This notification process will begin (this) week. Something could happen to put it on hold, but everything is ready.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ staff has tentative plans to call a press conference Thursday, the day the notices are set to be mailed to Medicaid recipients in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
Department of Health Undersecretary Jeff Reynolds was expected to testify about the process during a Senate Finance Committee meeting that began at 8 a.m. today, but Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, instead went straight to public testimony.
Senate Finance is conducting public hearings on next year’s budget that begins July 1, which is when the evictions could technically begin.
The budget passed by the House and sent to the Senate contains deep cuts to healthcare because of a shortfall of between $550 million and $648 million, depending on who’s doing the calculations.
Next year’s shortfall was created because about $1.4 billion in temporary taxes expire June 30. The bulk of the expiring taxes, about $880 million, comes from a one-cent sales tax.
Last week one of the state’s safety net hospitals, Lafayette General, sent notices to 800 employees that the medical center will close and they will lose their jobs under the budget being debated now. The other safety net hospitals are expected to follow suit.
Edwards wants lawmakers to mitigate the cuts with new permanent taxes in a Special Session, but the Legislature declined to raise any new taxes in a February Special Session.
The governor wants to end the ongoing Regular Session early and convene another Special Session to try again. Taxes can’t be considered in this year’s Regular Session.
Edwards, House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, have agreed on the concept of ending early and convening a Special Session in mid-May, but they haven’t made a concrete commitment.
That has frustrated the governor.
“Nothing is more important than fixing this budget and we can’t do that in the Regular Session,” Edwards said last week.