- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The state budget office says the North Carolina’s Medicaid program owes medical providers for nearly two years of payments for care for the poor and elderly.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports (http://bit.ly/1dqjtEV) that the state has not been properly paying providers for patients who use both Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicare serves the elderly while Medicaid serves the poor.

Providers have been complaining since the state started using a new payment system in 2013 that they were underpaid. The state did not begin those payments until March of this year.

For people who use both forms of insurance, Medicaid pays deductibles and copayments. Both the state and federal governments pay Medicaid bills.

Budget director Lee Roberts said the state does not know how much that the overdue payments will cost.

Roberts said he did not think the agency would need extra funding this year.

“Beyond that, I am wary of making predictions on Medicaid without really good data,” he said.

Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine says lawmakers have been warned that there would be additional costs. Legislators were told that they would be given best-case and worst-case scenarios, but as of last week, no specific figures were provided, he said.

This year’s state budget includes a $186 million contingency fund for Medicaid, but the Department of Health and Human Services cannot spend the money without legislative approval.

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

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