Audit: Louisiana Has Long Wait List For Medicaid Services

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's elderly and developmentally disabled wait longer than people in other states to get community-based services through Medicaid, according to a report released Monday by the legislative auditor.

         As of October 2014, the auditor said 54,677 people remained on lists for the various Medicaid programs with wait times ranging from 2½ to 10 years.

         The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler reports the national average for home and community-based programs serving the elderly and individuals with physical disabilities is 10-to-13 months. Meanwhile, the national average wait time for programs serving individuals with developmental disabilities is four years.

         The auditor wrote that most applicants never receive the home and community-based services they request.

         Over more than three years reviewed by the auditor's office, 74 percent of applicants were removed from their waiting lists for reasons other than getting the services sought, including 20 percent because they died, the audit said.

         The report comes as the Jindal administration is moving to privatize the management of long-term care services in Louisiana. Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the auditor's data will be "very helpful to us to have for comparisons down the road."

         While the wait times for services are high, Kliebert said the comparison isn't as skewed as it seems.

         In Louisiana, people are allowed to sign up as soon as they qualify for services because of the long wait times for some programs, Kliebert said. In other states people sign up when there's a need for services, which leads to fewer people on waiting lists, she said.

         Also, she said many people waiting for a program are getting other Medicaid services and aren't completely unserved.

         About $797 million was spent in the 2014 state fiscal year on the home and community-based services reviewed by the auditor — 23 percent of the Medicaid budget. About 36,800 people received services.

         The audit revealed that average costs for the home and community-based program were less than that for care in nursing home and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled.

         The average cost for home and community-based programs per person ranged from $21 to $135 a day, depending on the type of program and services delivered. In comparison, nursing home rates ranged from $139 to $187 a day and intermediate care facilities $160 a day.

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