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Louisiana officials announce tighter Medicaid eligibility rules

It’s not exactly mincing words to refer to a federal agency administering a major national program as a “department of dunces.”

Safely couching disdain was clearly not on the mind of Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, though, in comments he recently aimed at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Multiple barbs tossed off by the Republican senator specifically targeted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which administer the federal Medicaid program.

The wrath of Kennedy and many other Louisiana budget-conscious commentators focuses on alleged regulatory sloppiness that has promoted mass wrongdoing in the $12 billion-plus health program. Their ire is directed at laxity that has reportedly enabled about 37,000 Louisiana residents to unlawfully benefit from the means-based program.

The claim is that those people make too much money to have been deemed eligible for Medicaid in the first place. Critics view that as a type of insurance fraud that broadly victimizes the public. They want the system regulating the process to be materially updated.

Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edward says that a substantial upgrade is now in place. He stresses that the state’s enrollment system is now “more robust than what had been in place for decades.”

Kennedy and others are not so sure. They are at least placated, though, by the state’s recent demand that the above-cited thousands of people prove eligibility by late this month or be dropped from the program.

Louisiana Medicaid Director Jen Steele touts the fairness in that.

“Anyone who can demonstrate eligibility stays,” she says.

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