Thu Feb 11 13:37:59 PST 2016
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Clouse: Manna needed to fund Medicaid increase as agency plans transition
Ken Curtis

One definition of the word “manna” is something of value received unexpectedly. Manna is what Alabama House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Clouse says is needed to fund Medicaid at the level it’s requesting. However, state Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar warns not allocating the funds could jeopardize Alabama’s participation in a pilot program aimed at overhauling healthcare in the state. Federal officials have approved Alabama's plan to switch its Medicaid program to regional care organizations. Gov. Robert Bentley made the announcement in a Tuesday with Azar and others at his side. The waiver approval comes after three years of planning and negotiation with federal officials over the proposed change. Instead of the traditional fee-for-service health care delivery model, the state will contract with regional care organizations to provide care and case management services for patients. Clouse believes RCO’s are a good idea. However, providing additional funding to Medicaid this year isn’t likely, the veteran Republican lawmaker said Tuesday afternoon. Azar, appearing at legislative budget hearings last month, requested a $157-million increase—that’s 23 percent--in funding for next fiscal year. The agency was allocated $685-million this year. Azar said without the increase it may not be possible to implement the RCO program. Azar plans to spend the next few weeks selling her case to Alabama lawmakers. State officials hope the new approach will provide better outcomes for patients by managing their care. They also hope it will help push down spiraling Medicaid costs. The agency is the biggest financial burden on state coffers. About two-thirds of Medicaid patients, or about 650,000 people, will receive care through the new system, if implemented. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid also agreed to provide $328 million to help with the transition. -----The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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