Ben Geyerhahn for The Huffington Post: 4 Ways Louisiana Businesses Can Make the Most of Medicaid Expansion

In a recent post for The Huffington Post, BeneSream CEO, Ben Geyerhahn, lists and explains how Louisiana businesses can capitalize on Medicaid Expansion. Read the entire article on The Huffington Post or below:

For a state that spent years adamantly opposed to Medicaid expansion, Louisiana has done an incredible about-face. Under the leadership of Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Pelican State has become the first in the Deep South to expand Medicaid eligibility.

During the coming year, Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals estimates about 375,000 Louisianans — mostly full-time workers in food service, tourism, and construction — will receive coverage via expansion. The program is projected to save the state more than $184 million.

Newly eligible individuals began enrolling this past Wednesday, with coverage kicking in July 1. But Louisiana has made enrollment even easier for many residents: In a move expected to enroll about 105,000 Louisianans, the state is the first in the nation to use food stamp applications to determine recipients’ Medicaid eligibility.

Medicaid Makes Louisiana Stronger

Louisiana’s innovative strategy is good news for both businesses and their employees. With annual premiums for employer-sponsored insurance topping $17,500 in 2015, business leaders are struggling to provide workers with affordable coverage.

But starting July 1, Medicaid is poised to reduce care costs for thousands of Louisianans. The federal program offers comprehensive care at little or no cost, rendering recipients 40 percent less likely to incur medical debt than Medicaid-eligible individuals not covered by the program.

In addition to the financial benefits, there’s ample evidence Medicaid improves health outcomes. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, enrollees in expansion states enjoy better access to care and reduced mortality, while a randomized trial in Oregon found that Medicaid improves diagnoses and treatment of diabetes and depression in covered patients.

But Medicaid’s benefits don’t stop with employees. Louisiana businesses that transition workers from employer-sponsored insurance completely eliminate their share of these employees’ healthcare premiums. Employers can also expect soft savings: As employees gain access to healthcare, employers benefit from lower employee absenteeism, boosted company loyalty, improved productivity, and decreased turnover.

How Louisiana Businesses Can Get Started

With statewide enrollment open, now is the perfect time for Louisiana’s business leaders to transition eligible employees to Medicaid. Here’s how to begin:

1. Give employees the facts. Stigmatized as a program for the poor and unemployed, Medicaid gets a bad name in some circles. But this myth ignores the fact that it covers millions of hardworking, employed Americans. Start by clearing up Medicaid misunderstandings with team members:

• Offer cost comparisons between Medicaid and the company plan.

• Explain that Medicaid covers recipients’ children without additional dependent costs.

• Don’t use terms like “welfare” or “charity care.” Refer to Medicaid as “low-cost, comprehensive care” and “coverage for working families.”

• Offer studies extolling Medicaid’s benefits to skeptical employees, and encourage them to do their own research.

2. Investigate employee enrollment options. Louisiana businesses have several options to help transition employees to Medicaid:

• Facilitate enrollment internally. Some business leaders choose to enroll qualifying workers themselves, but this can be complex and time-consuming. Be sure to consider internal HR resources before pursuing this route.

• Direct employees to Louisiana’s exchange. This indirect route saves resources at the outset, but it’s unlikely to maximize employers’ savings. Many employees are unable to complete the complicated application themselves.

• Use a third-party enrollment service. Consider outsourcing enrollment to ease business owners’ burden while maximizing healthcare savings.

3. Follow up with employees. Once workers begin the transition, follow up to ensure enrollments are going smoothly. Employees are more likely to give their full attention to the process at work than during off-hours, so allow them to complete their applications on the clock. Because coverage begins July 1 for new recipients, have HR check in early July that enrollees have received Medicaid cards.

4. Lend a hand with renewals. Coverage must be renewed annually, and many enrollees are dropped from Medicaid rolls after missing the renewal period. To ensure employees don’t return to the company plan next year, alert them when renewal approaches. Ensure the work doesn’t go to waste by encouraging them to bring renewal forms to HR leaders or their third-party vendor.

For the state of Louisiana, expansion is finally here, so don’t delay. Medicaid could be your company’s ticket to tens of thousands in healthcare savings.