NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - From the State Capitol Tuesday came the latest budget threat that targets nearly 40,000 people who depend on Medicaid every day.
Starting Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health plans to send out letters to patients in nursing homes, group homes and others who rely on home-based services, warning them that state funding could come to a halt.
The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on the issue of reducing the number of people eligible for Medicaid Monday. For some senators, it came down to dollars and cents.
"I wanted everyone to see what the challenge we truly have on an annual basis," said Republican Sen. Jim Fannin. If it's not just solving it this year, it'll be another $500 million next year, and another $500 million next year tacked on."
But Sister Ann with Chateau de Notre Dame nursing homes spends every day with those who depend on the extra care that family members can't provide. She says putting these people in a bind is unkind and unfathomable.
"We've been knowing about this, but now it's real and it's not about the letter, it's about the faces of real people who we've been serving for years and years," she said.
But when the letters do go out later this week, she questions what the government actually expects them do to.
"I think for many of our nursing homes it will be how do we work with this," she said. "Hopefully we won't have to work with it because our Legislature will find a solution to answer this."
Chateau de Notre Dame CEO Wayne Plaisance said the law prohibits them from physically kicking out patients without a medically safe place for them to receive care.
"Even if you vote to discontinue these programs, you just can't put people out on the street," Plaisance said. "You have to have a period of time to figure out where they're going to go."
Which is part of the reason Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said the letters are nothing more than a political agenda to push budgetary wants.
"The governor has brought out a new scare tactic to inform individuals in nursing homes - the most vulnerable in our society - they're going to be kicked out of the nursing home because of priorities his Department of Health have made," Henry said.
They may be fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, and Sister Ann said it's time to be a voice for them.
"In my wildest dreams I cannot believe the state of Louisiana will put poor or vulnerable people on the streets and say only the wealthy qualify for nursing care," she said. "I just can't believe it, and I think the people of Louisiana have to stand up and say, 'This is not what we want.'"
The letters are expected to go out Thursday. However, in order for any changes to happen to Medicaid on the state level, the changes must be approved by the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which could take months.