Louisiana’s Medicaid eligibility expert retires

Career spent helping children and adults get access to health care services


Author: Jen Steele, Medicaid Director


Ruth Kennedy, a former Medicaid director with the Louisiana Department of Health, recently retired from our department. Ms. Kennedy is a nationally recognized expert in helping eligible individuals enroll in Medicaid services. Her expertise in designing and implementing outreach, enrollment and retention strategies resulted in Louisiana becoming a national leader in children’s coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or LaCHIP.

Ms. Kennedy has received national acclaim for successfully linking children with Medicaid and LaCHIP coverage through three key initiatives:
  • Streamlining application and renewal procedures,
  • Promoting culture change within the agency that reduced unnecessary burdens on eligible people, and
  • Creative and effective outreach and enrollment efforts. 
According to a recent article by Donna Cohen Ross with non-profit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ms. Kennedy’s leadership was instrumental in successfully putting out the welcome mat for newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries when the state expanded Medicaid last year.

Louisiana citizens have benefited by Ms. Kennedy’s leadership to streamline and modernize enrollment efforts for social services, resulting in a cultural change in large government organizations and systems.

Under the Medicaid expansion project, or Healthy Louisiana, and Ms. Kennedy’s leadership, the state reached its enrollment target for fiscal year 2017 in just nine months. More importantly, many of these adults are receiving preventive and primary care services for the first time in their lives. This includes people newly diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension getting the right care, and women not only getting a mammogram, but getting early treatment when breast cancer is detected. By putting the right systems in place, Ms. Kennedy’s work positions Louisiana to achieve fundamental improvements in health care outcomes and national measures.

In a post in their weekly health care reform news, Mannat wrote Ms. Kennedy has been praised by colleagues as a "pioneer, fearless and resourceful" with "deep and abiding compassion and respect for the families and individuals who, without her efforts, would have remained uninsured, sick and struggling."

Ms. Kennedy served as the Louisiana Medicaid Director from July 2012 to January 2016 when she began focusing exclusively on planning for Medicaid expansion. She previously served as a Medicaid Deputy Director and Louisiana’s CHIP Director for 13 years where she managed the design, development and implementation of the department’s Medicaid Managed Care initiative, Bayou Health, which was implemented in early 2012.


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