NEW ORLEANS (AP) — State Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said Thursday his office is launching a statewide outreach campaign to tell Medicaid recipients about changes that will run much of the Medicaid program through managed care networks.

About 865,000 low-income residents who get medical treatment through Medicaid, mostly children, will be steered into the “coordinated care networks,” which will be a largely insurance-based model when fully phased in by mid-2012. The program is being called BAYOU HEALTH.

The changes will begin first in the New Orleans area Feb. 1.

Medicaid recipients steered into the managed care networks will be able to choose their own network, or they can be automatically enrolled into one. Enrollment begins Dec. 15 for the nine parishes starting in the first phase.

Greenstein said he wants Medicaid enrollees to be able to choose which health care plan they’d like to have, out of the five being offered in the managed care model — so his department is trying to educate Medicaid patients about their options.

“We want to make sure they are fully informed,” Greenstein said.

The Department of Health and Hospitals will send out direct mail, host outreach events, call enrollees and work with community organizations to publicize the Medicaid changes.

About one-third of the state’s $6.7 billion Medicaid program will be run through the managed care model. Those to be shifted into the coordinated care networks include children under age 19, their parents, pregnant women and adults with disabilities who don’t get Medicare money.

Medicaid recipients who won’t be covered by the networks include nursing home residents, disabled and elderly residents who receive home- and community-based care, those enrolled in specialty service programs and recipients who receive both Medicaid and Medicare services.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press