Friday, November 30, 2018

Clean hands can save lives

It’s the holiday season. It’s also flu season.

That makes proper hand washing doubly important.

Dec. 3-9 is National Hand Washing Awareness Week, making it the perfect time to go over the importance of clean hands.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Gobble up these Thanksgiving food safety guidelines

You’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love a good Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, candied sweet potatoes, cranberries, the whole nine yards.
The last thing you want is to be the turkey who spoils Thanksgiving by making everyone sick because you didn’t handle their food safely. In fact, food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems behind poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, when a holiday rolls around, the risk increases as people cook food in large quantities, creating an environment that is ripe for cross contamination as described later.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Message from Dr. Gee - new Medicaid eligibility and enrollment system

Effective this week, and after more than three years of planning, development, and testing the Louisiana Department of Health has launched a new automated system for Medicaid eligibility and enrollment. This updated IT infrastructure will improve customer service, boost efficiency, and increase the accuracy of Medicaid eligibility decisions.

After years of culling national best practices and iterative quality improvement, the new Medicaid eligibility and enrollment system uses modern technology to ensure recipients have a user-friendly experience and that Medicaid benefits only go to eligible recipients.

Our prior 20-year-old system could not readily access and use state and federal data available to verify eligibility. It was a labor-intensive, manual process for a Medicaid worker to gather from multiple databases the information needed to verify eligibility and the eligibility decision itself was also manual. The new system automatically collects information from these databases and verifies eligibility in real time. When someone is found ineligible, our new system provides timely, automated coverage terminations for non-compliance.

Recipients will benefit from a user-friendly design with faster response times. Applicants can now submit an online application and be notified of their eligibility within minutes – known as real-time eligibility verification. Previously recipients might wait weeks to find out whether they had much-needed health coverage.

When a recipient’s circumstances change, like a new job or new member of the family, they can use the self-service portal to update their information to maintain eligibility. The new system gives the  Department the infrastructure to better verify the information that recipients are reporting.

For instance, a recent audit from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that a sample of Medicaid recipients had wage data that exceeded the income limit for Medicaid eligibility at some point during their enrollment. According to the federally approved policy that LDH followed during the timeframe reviewed for this audit, no improper eligibility judgements or payments were made. The auditor’s point was that if we changed our policy to include more frequent checks on income we would have been able to find circumstances where some recipients may not have been eligible at some point during their enrollment.

The limitation was the outdated system wherein these checks were labor intensive and took additional, already-limited resources. Now that our new system is in place, the Department can and will implement quarterly wage checks with Louisiana Workforce Commission data. This is just one example of the many ways this new IT infrastructure will help to make sure that those who are eligible for Medicaid receive it, and those who aren’t eligible, don’t.

The entire Department of Health, and especially the Medicaid team who recently came off 24-hour shifts to stand up this system, are committed to the integrity of the Medicaid program. These are the foundational changes that are necessary to shoring up a program and department still feeling the bone-deep cuts of the prior administration. While it’s not flashy, this multiyear focus on the IT core of our program allows us to better focus on what matters – ensuring that every Medicaid dollar is benefiting recipients who utilize the program so they can access the right level of care at the right time. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Dr. Joseph Kanter: Reflections from the 2018 National Harm Reduction Conference

Author: Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state health officer and Region 1 regional medical director

Last month I had the pleasure of representing our department at the National Harm Reduction Conference in New Orleans.  The panel I hosted explored avenues for harm reduction practices in the emergency department.  We enjoyed a lively discussion and learned from true pioneers in the field but, far more substantive, were the organized listening sessions and informal hallway conversations throughout the event.  This is a markedly different type of public health conference.  Participants, many of whom have struggled with addiction, used injection drugs, or work closely with those who have, drove the conversation and were generous in sharing their own experiences.  Presenters did less talking and more listening.  The sabotaging effect stigmatization can have on one’s ability to enter and thrive in recovery was a common theme.  This created an atmosphere of commodore and collaboration—a gathering of 500+ professionals and individuals with lived experience, working together to improve the lives of people suffering with addiction.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kick butts for the Great American Smokeout – and every day after

Thursday, November 15, is the Great American Smokeout – an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society when Americans are encouraged to quit tobacco smoking. During the Great American Smokeout, people are challenged to give up smoking for at least 24 hours, in the hopes that their quitting lasts longer than a day.

Friday, November 2, 2018

November is American Diabetes Month

It’s no secret that Louisiana is world famous for its food – crawfish, beignets, jambalaya and oh, so much more. You can’t shake a stick without hitting a po-boy shop, and when Mardi Gras season approaches you know you’ve already placed your orders for a king cake (or four).

Sadly, some of those foods we know and love may also contribute to one of Louisiana’s biggest health problems: diabetes.