'Mass chaos': 37,000 nursing home eviction notices prepared in Louisiana

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Louisiana's Department of Health is preparing to send eviction notices to about 37,000 nursing home and other long-term care residents who could lose Medicaid coverage under the current budget.

Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for Department of Health, told The News Star that the goal of the eviction notices is to notify anyone who could be affected as soon as possible “in order that they begin developing their appropriate plans.”

"Something could happen to put it on hold, but everything is ready," he said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards' (D) staff has warned since at least March that he would cut benefits unless legislators agreed to budget concessions in a special session. He plans to hold a press conference Thursday, the same day notices are set to be mailed.

"This sounds like mass chaos," said State Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) during a Finance Committee meeting on the budget crisis. She called the eviction notices "very troublesome."

Earlier this year, state officials estimated the move could affect 60,000 recipients, including 46,000 who qualify for nursing home care but also have personal income between $750 and $2,250 monthly.

According to a Health Department document obtained by McKnight's, eliminating seniors with “adult-onset disabilities” from the Medicaid Long Term Special Income Limit Program for which they currently qualify would force about 32,000 residents to move. That represents 83% of aging Medicaid recipients served through nursing homes in 2017.

"It's devastating to our healthcare system," Karen Contrenchis, president of LeadingAge Gulf States, told McKnight's.

Next year's budget begins July 1, which is when the earliest evictions could start.

Next year's budget shortfall was created because about $1.4 billion in temporary taxes expire June 30. Edwards wants new permanent taxes passed in a special session, but the Legislature refused to do so when it had a chance in February.

Mark Berger, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association, told the Senate Finance Committee meeting Monday that the notification "will cause unimaginable grief and stress" to nursing home residents and their families. 

In a statement emailed to McKnight's, Berger added that the $230 million cut in Medicaid funding would be devastating.

“If this program is eliminated, nursing facilities will be forced into bankruptcy, which will trigger a massive layoff statewide including the approximately 26,000 people employed by Louisiana's nursing facilities,” he said. “With the nursing facilities bankrupt, hospitals will have no place to discharge patients.”