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.
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.
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.
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 (http://bit.ly/TdPa3M ) 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.