BATON ROUGE – Louisiana has made great strides in providing health coverage for children in recent years. But the state still lags behind the rest of the country on some key quality measures, which could be improved with strategic policy changes.

While 97 percent of Louisiana children have health coverage, those who are insured through Medicaid or LaCHIP are less likely to be screened for developmental delays and more likely to visit emergency rooms than similar children in other states.

A new policy brief by the Louisiana Budget Project shows how the state can improve overall child health and well-being through administrative changes and improving oversight of private managed care insurance companies. The brief examines detailed quality data collected by the federal government, the Child Core Set quality measures.

“Louisiana is a national leader when it comes to insuring children, but simply having coverage isn’t enough,” said LBP Policy Director Jeanie Donovan, who wrote the brief. “More than half of the children in the state receive coverage through Medicaid or LaCHIP, and the data show that there are still significant barriers when it comes to those children receiving necessary health services.”

The 2017 Child Core Set data shows that Louisiana performed well in important areas, such as ensuring children are immunized and that young children have regular visits with a primary care provider. But the state lags behind its peers in other categories, such as screening young children for developmental delays and providing follow-up care after a hospitalization for mental illness.

“Our recommendations focus on administrative practices, managed care oversight, provider reimbursement and school-based health services,” said Donovan. “We believe the recommended changes would allow the state to not simply provide coverage to children, but also ensure children get the care they need, when they need it.”