The Louisiana Department of Health improperly paid $718,000 over four years for Medicaid patients who had died, according to an audit released Monday.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office released a report that says the department spent the money between July 2013 and August 2017 for 712 deceased Medicaid patients, payments spanning the administrations of Govs. Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards.
About $638,000 involved payments made to managed-care companies that oversee services for nearly 1.5 million Louisiana Medicaid patients. Another $80,000 was paid to health care providers who submitted claims for services to deceased Medicaid patients.
The numbers have improved sizably from a previous October 2013 audit that identified $1.85 million in payments over a less-than-two-year period during the Jindal administration for more than 1,700 Medicaid recipients who had died.
"Overall, we found that while LDH has improved its processes for identifying deceased Medicaid recipients, it needs to further strengthen this process," the audit says.
Health department chief of staff Andrew Tuozzolo said the agency has seen a 90 percent improvement and noted the improper payment figure was small in a Medicaid program that costs $12.5 billion this year.
But he added: "Anytime that's a non-zero number, we're concerned. We want zero payments made inappropriately across the program."
The health department said it is correcting problems identified in checking death data against Medicaid records and will work to recoup any improperly-paid dollars.
"This money isn't out the door forever," Tuozzolo said. "This is money we recover."