BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana health department leaders have defended new Medicaid managed care contracts, and tried to reassure lawmakers that health plan changes won't disrupt patient access to services.

But health department lawyer Stephen Russo also acknowledged in a Tuesday hearing the contract plans could be slowed or stalled by legal disputes from losing bidders for the multibillion-dollar work.

Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration announced the four private companies selected to oversee the care of most of Louisiana's Medicaid enrollees, starting in January.

The plans leave out the largest current contractor in the program, Louisiana Healthcare Connections, and will require more than half-a-million people to transfer to new health plans.

Lawmakers say they're concerned about job losses and disruption in care.

Louisiana Healthcare Connections has said it will formally protest the contract awards.

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