Alabama Medicaid

It’s been almost one week since the Legislature ended a special session without a general fund budget.

Governor Robert Bentley is expected to call another special session to deal with a projected $200 million shortfall in the state’s coffers.

As both chambers remain divided on the issue, the house did vote in favor of cutting $156 million from Medicaid before passing their version of the budget.

Huntsville Republican Representative Phil Williams says he was ashamed of that vote, but he believes the move sent a message throughout Montgomery.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is cutting off Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos implying the group was selling fetal tissue to research groups.

Governor Bentley called Planned Parenthood's practices "deplorable” in a statement yesterday. He says he doesn't want Alabama to be associated with the group. Bentley says the state is terminating an agreement with Planned Parenthood Southeast to serve as a Medicaid provider.

Alabama State House
Jay Williams / Flickr

Time is running out for the Alabama Legislature to work out a general fund budget, but the state Senate is beginning to iron out the details.

State agency heads told members of the Senate Budget Committee yesterday that proposed cuts will close circuit clerk offices, slash Medicaid services and send state prisons into a danger zone of crowding and violence.

Committee Chairman Arthur Orr says there are close to $150 million in revenue-generating bills under discussion that could reduce the cuts if they win legislative approval.

Alabama’s general fund budget is slowly starting to take shape after some action in the state house.

The House Ways and Means General Fund Committee has approved a budget that makes deep cuts to state agencies. The budget would cut Medicaid, mental health and state prisons corrections by five percent. Other state agencies would be cut by nine percent.

This proposal would impact the general fund budget. Alabama’s schools are funded by a separate spending plan.

Committee members throughout the Alabama Legislature have a busy day ahead of them.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing this morning on a bill aiming to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee will also consider changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, a state program that provides scholarships to help some families pay for private school.


Governor Robert Bentley may be softening his position on expanding Medicaid. APR’s Pat Duggins reports…

The Alabama Supreme Court has heard arguments on the constitutionality of a law that gives low-income families tax credits to pay for private school.

A lawyer representing individuals challenging the Alabama Accountability Act said Wednesday that it does an end run on Alabama's prohibition of using education funds to support private religious schools.

However, a lawyer representing families using the credits said it supports parents seeking education opportunities for their children, not private schools.


State officials say Alabama Medicaid's monthly enrollment has topped 1 million for the first time.

Officials said Thursday that a review of data for the first five months of the year show the milestone happened in February. Officials attribute the increase to a federally required transfer of children from the state's All Kids program and changes in how Medicaid eligibility is determined. Officials say the numbers also reflect the first enrollment of individuals who applied for coverage through the federal health exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Robert Bentley is proposing state budgets that would require most state agencies to get by next year with about the same amount they are receiving this year.

Bentley's proposals include increases for all levels of public education.

Bentley's office released his recommended budgets Tuesday, which is the second day of the Legislature's 2014 session.

Bentley's state General Fund budget for the next fiscal year would spend $1.8 billion. The biggest increase is $70 million is for Medicaid. Courts would get a small increase.

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Voting rights groups and Alabama officials have reached an agreement to make sure people applying for social services receive voter registration material.

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and others announced the agreement Tuesday. It calls for the state to proactively offer voter registration services to people when they apply for, renew or submit a change of address to the state Medicaid Agency or state Department of Human Resources.

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. representative offered a proposal to a state Medicaid reform panel that would make the chain Alabama's main provider of drugs through Medicaid.

Members of the Alabama Medicaid Pharmacy Study Commission heard the proposal Thursday. Panel members were appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley to look for ways to save money on drugs dispensed through Medicaid, the state and federal medical insurance program.

The federal government says Alabama should repay almost $90 million in Medicaid funding.

A report from the Office of Inspector General says the federal government gave Alabama too much Medicaid bonus money in 2009 and 2010.

The report says that's because the state Medicaid agency used improper calculations to compute how many children participated in the program.

State Health Officer Don Williamson says the state agency made what he calls an "honest mistake" that resulted in the state's report being off by about 90,000 children.

Alabama Medicaid officials have divided the state into five districts under a new care management plan that's supposed to streamline the system.

   The Legislature earlier this year approved a reorganization of Medicaid into districts around the state. State Health Officer Don Williamson, the acting Medicaid director, said it was difficult to decide how to divide the counties, and added that some counties could be shifted before the map is finalized Oct. 1.

Alabama Medicaid officials have divided the state into five districts under a new care management plan.

   The Legislature earlier this year approved a reorganization of Medicaid into districts around the state. Acting Medicaid Director State Health Officer Don Williamson says it was difficult to decide how to divide the counties, and added that some counties could be shifted before the map is finalized Oct. 1.

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The Alabama Legislature has approved a compromise General Fund budget that increases funding for courts and prisons.

The Alabama Legislature has voted to extend two taxes that support the state Medicaid program.

The assessments on nursing homes and hospitals were due to expire this year, but the Senate gave final approval Thursday to bills that extend the nursing home tax for two years and the hospital tax for three years. The bills passed the House earlier and now go to the governor to be signed into law.

Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr of Decatur says the bills were critical to maintaining Medicaid services for low-income Alabamians.

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The Alabama Legislature passed a sweeping revision to Medicaid that replaces the way the program delivers and pays for care with regional managed care operators.

Under the legislation passed Tuesday, the State Medicaid Agency will no longer bear financial risks but will instead assume the role of contract administrators. Savings of $50 million to $75 million over five years and future cost containment is expected.

Privately owned Regional Care Organizations won't deal directly with patients, but will contract directly with doctors to provide care.

The Alabama House will consider a bill that would reorganize the state's Medicaid program.

The bill will be up for final passage in the House of Representative Tuesday.

The bill was recommended by a Medicaid Advisory committee created by Gov. Robert Bentley.

The Medicaid bill will be debated Tuesday with just three days remaining in the 2013 legislative session. The bill replaces the current payment method with the regional care organizations.

Alabama State House
Trance Mist / Flickr

Lawmakers are trying to ease the financial burden Medicaid places on Alabama by passing a bill designed to streamline the $5.63 billion program's operational system.

The bill under consideration could change the present "fee-for-service" basis of Medicaid payments to a for-profit, managed care plan or a combination of nonprofit and for-profit companies.

The Medicaid Advisory Committee commissioned by Gov. Robert Bentley does not want to use for-profit managed care companies.

A joint session of the Alabama legislature heard a recap of bills intended to provide major changes to the way Medicaid is administered in the state.

Dr. Don Williamson, state health officer, says if the bill passes, eight or so regional care organizations would assume financial risk in exchange for set payments for patient care.

"We are creating a community based care system that moves from a `fee for service/state bears risk' model to a capitated model that puts a third party at risk," he told the group.

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Representatives from community groups and managed care companies are lauding the Legislature's efforts to reorganize Alabama's Medicaid program.

Speakers told House and Senate members Tuesday that the proposal is a major first step, but they also voiced concerns for the bill before it goes to committees for public hearings and revisions.

The bill would change Medicaid from a fee-for-service program to a program where private-sector contractors develop care networks in up to eight regions of the state.

Governor Robert Bentley has announced his support for changes to Alabama's Medicaid system that would impact one out of every five Alabamians.

The Medicaid Advisory Commission advocates changing the basic operating model from a fee-for-service system to a managed care program. Under the proposal, private-sector contractors would develop care networks in eight newly-created regions across the state.

The new framework would aim to offer better service to patients through regional operations that are responsive to local needs, according to the governor.

The Alabama House has approved a bill aimed at cutting down on fraud and abuse in the state's Medicaid program.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville, says the bill is aimed at stopping abuse of a program that exists to provide essential health care to the neediest citizens.

The bill was approved by the House on Thursday by a unanimous 99-0 vote. However, debate lasted for about three hours as some members, mostly Democrats, worked to make sure the measure could not be used to deny Medicaid services to legitimate applicants.

AP Photo/Dave Martin

Democrats in the Alabama Senate are having trouble pressing their top issue.

Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile offered a resolution Thursday urging the Republican governor to reconsider his decision not to expand Medicaid. The Senate's Republican leader, President Pro Tem Del Marsh, cut off debate on the resolution by getting it sent to the Senate Rules Committee.

State Health Officer Don Williamson told Alabama lawmakers that money will be available to fund Alabama's Medicaid program at a minimal level through 2014.

But Williamson told a joint meeting of the House and Senate General Fund budget committees Wednesday he did not know where the money would come from after 2014 to run the health insurance program for the economically disadvantaged.

Williamson is also the interim director of the Alabama Medicaid Program.

Alabama's top health officer says state Medicaid is facing a major funding shortfall.

The director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Don Williamson, says federal changes will add $30 million to the state's Medicaid funding needs for 2014.

The Anniston Star ( ) reports that state officials didn't know about the additional cost when voters approved using $437 million from a state fund to plug the Medicaid budget in September.

An Alabama health officer says the state's Medicaid program probably will move to some type of managed care system.

The Tuscaloosa News reports ( ) that such a program would operate much like private insurance functions with commercial management companies or community-based care.