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    NAACP honors Stewart with Cobb Award

    On July 16, Louisiana Center for Health Equity President Alma C. Stewart received the NAACP Dr. William Montague Cobb Award “For her outstanding efforts to advance health policy, health advocacy, and social justice in the State of Louisiana.” The award was presented at the NAACP Annual Convention in San Antonio. This award is given annually in recognition of the legacy of Dr. William Montague Cobb, who served as the President of the NAACP from 1976 to 1983, to honor individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact in the field of health.

    Stewart has served as the state health committee chair for the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP since 2014. She also organized the statewide, multi-year Campaign for Healthcare for Everyone Louisiana in 2013. The goal of this campaign was to advocate for statewide policy change and build grassroots momentum to implement Medicaid expansion by 2016.

    In an effort to address Louisiana’s high rate of uninsured adults, keeping the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and HCEL partner organizations engaged, over the course of three years Stewart organized public testimony at legislative hearings, rallies, press conferences and prayer vigils under the mantra of “Dying for Coverage” as part of a movement to bring attention to this issue on a state and national level. HCEL was successful in shaping public opinion about Medicaid expansion which polls favorably in Louisiana despite cascading contributions from well-financed conservative out-of-state organizations that have opposed it. She coordinated the hosting and production of a gubernatorial candidate forum on healthcare that was televised and livestreamed across the state in 2015. Alma has personally penned numerous articles and delivered countless speeches and presentations.

    On January 12, 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order expanding Medicaid in Louisiana on his first day in office making Louisiana the first state in the Deep South to expand Medicaid. Not only was this a win for Stewart and her organization, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and others, but also for the hundreds of thousands of people who gained health insurance when this law went into effect on July 1, 2016. “Many of the more than 470,180 Louisiana citizens who now have health insurance coverage, in rural and urban areas, under the Medicaid expansion are doing so for the first time, and are receiving preventive care, early diagnosis and treatment for cancer, diabetes, mental health conditions, and addictions. Early diagnosis and access to care both help reduce costs to the state and the healthcare system,” said Stewart.

    The infusion of federal dollars for Medicaid expansion created and supported 19,200 jobs that have brought in state and local tax receipts of $103 million and $74.6 million, respectively, according to a March 2018 report by the Louisiana State University’s Public Administration Institute. Medicaid expansion saved the state $199 million in fiscal year 2017, according to a 2017 report from the Louisiana Department of Health. The reasons include the state spending match is lower under Medicaid expansion than it was before, both for most Medicaid populations and for supplemental payments to hospitals. The decrease in the uninsured population has also reduced “disproportionate share payments” to hospitals for people without coverage who receive treatment.

    “Medicaid expansion has benefitted Louisiana in several ways and there is growing evidence to support the fact that it is working. Moreover, it is saving lives. That’s why the NAACP Dr. William Montague Cobb Award means so much to me,” said Stewart.

    About Louisiana Center for Health Equity

    Louisiana Center for Health Equity which is a statewide 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization, dedicated to the mission of addressing health and healthcare disparities, and fostering health equity in Louisiana. Founded in January 2010, the organization has partnered with over forty other Louisiana organizations on a state, local and national level to eliminate health disparities caused by poverty, lack of access to quality health care, and unhealthy environmental conditions.

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    Retiring? You have a choice to make on Medicare

    When you retire and qualify for Medicare at 65, you’ll need to decide how you’d like to receive your health care benefits.

    Because you’ll be new to Medicare, you may not realize you have two options.

    One is to join the government’s fee-for-service program that’s existed for 53 years. The other is to buy a Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurer.

    The choice may seem bewildering at first, so let’s go over each option.

    With traditional fee-for-service coverage, you may go to any doctor, hospital or other provider that accepts Medicare. Medicare pays the provider a fee for the service you receive. Once you meet your annual deductible, Medicare typically covers 80 percent of the cost for your care.

    You have a few choices for covering the other 20 percent:

    • You may use your retiree health plan from your former employer, if you’re retired and have such a policy. Some retiree plans may cost less or provide more benefits than other supplemental coverage.
    • You may qualify for Medicaid, if you have limited income and savings. Besides helping with your out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-insurance, Medicaid may pay for your monthly Medicare premiums.
    • If neither of those applies, you may buy a “Medigap” policy from a private insurer to cover what Medicare does not. There are 10 kinds of Medigap plans, with different benefits, so you’ll need to decide which is best for you.

    If you choose the traditional fee-for-service program, you’ll probably also want to buy a prescription drug plan to go with your other coverage.

    Traditional Medicare remains the favorite among people wanting the broadest possible access to doctors, hospitals and other providers. When coupled with a supplemental plan, it also makes your health care costs relatively predictable.

    Still, 33 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries – including 33 percent of Louisiana residents with Medicare — now prefer to get their health care benefits through a private insurer. The number of people buying private Medicare Advantage plans has more than doubled over the last 10 years.

    With Medicare Advantage, insurance companies contract with the government to provide care. Every private plan must cover all the benefits that traditional Medicare covers. In some cases, Medicare Advantage plans may offer extra benefits, like routine hearing or vision care.

    Many plans charge a premium on top of the amount you’ll pay each month for Medicare’s Part B medical insurance, but there’s no need to buy a supplemental Medigap policy. Likewise, most Medicare Advantage plans include drug coverage with their other benefits.

    The premiums, deductibles and co-payments will vary from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. But all plans, by law, must have annual limits on their overall out-of-pocket costs.

    Unlike the traditional fee-for-service program, most Medicare Advantage plans require you to go to doctors and hospitals within their network of providers or pay more for getting care outside the network.

    Still, the private health plans have been especially popular among people with low to moderate incomes. They provide relatively affordable supplemental coverage, with lower premiums than those for Medigap policies.

    So, which is better — the traditional fee-for-service coverage or a private Medicare Advantage plan? That depends on your own circumstances and preferences. What’s best for one person may not work as well for someone else.

    To find out more about your options, you can visit www.medicare.gov and browse through the “Medicare and You” handbook. The website will also give you detailed information about the Medigap and Medicare Advantage policies available in your area.

    Becoming informed will help you select the health care option that best fits your needs. It will also help you avoid mistakes that may cost you money.

    By Bob Moos/Southwest regional public affairs officer for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

     

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    Public asked to comment on future of Medicaid-management care March 14 – 16

    The Louisiana Department of Health is seeking public input as the State moves towards improving its Medicaid managed care program. Those who are interested in learning more about the department’s plans are invited to attend one of three forums scheduled this week.
    The forums will allow participants to learn about, and provide input on, Medicaid’s next Request for Proposals (RFP) for new Medicaid-managed care contracts. This competitive process will begin in early 2019. The meetings will be held at the following dates, locations and times:
    March 14
    Baton Rouge
    Our Lady of the Lake, Main Auditorium
    5000 Hennessy Blvd., Baton Rouge
    6 pm to 8 pm
    March 15
    Lafayette
    Lafayette General Hospital, Administrative Office
    920 W. Pinhook Road
    6 pm to 8 pm

     

    March 16
    Lake Charles
    Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, Sherman Conf. Center
    1701 Oak Park Blvd.
    11:30 am to 1:30 pm
    Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee will be attending the March 15 forum in Lafayette.  “The future managed care approach will emphasize rewarding providers for better care, improving whole-person care and excelling at population health management,” said Gee.
    With more than 1.5 million Louisiana residents enrolled in Healthy Louisiana, Medicaid’s managed care program, the Department of Health is committed to designing a procurement to find the best health plan partners to achieve the “Triple Aim” of better care, better health, and lower costs in the Medicaid program.

    “The Department is early in the policy development and information gathering stage for this future procurement and looks forward to public input in the design process,” said Jen Steele, Medicaid director.

    Currently, the state has contracts with five managed care plans to provide specific Medicaid benefits and services to eligible children and adults in Louisiana.

    The current Medicaid-managed care contracts will expire on December 31, 2019, and the new Medicaid managed care contracts formed through the RFP will be in place for January 1, 2020.

    All meetings are open to the public, and pre-registration is not required. For more information, visit www.makingmedicaidbetter.com or email healthy@la.gov.

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