- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama House on Thursday passed a bill that would establish integrated care networks to allow more Medicaid recipients to stay in their homes instead of nursing homes.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said the legislation could cut Medicaid costs by $1.5 billion from 2018 to 2028 while also allowing more Medicaid recipients to receive home-based care.

The House passed the bill 98-0. The Senate unanimously passed the legislation earlier this month.

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

Reed said because Medicaid accounts for 37 percent of the state’s general fund budget, it’s important to consider both long-term and short-term cost savings.

“It’s important to the health care community. It’s important to the recipients of Medicaid services,” Reed said. “But we’re going to have to continue to look at ways to increase the efficiency of that program … to spend less money in the future.”

The legislation is a continuation of Medicaid changes the Alabama Legislature passed in 2012 when it established regional care organizations. Under the proposed legislation, Medicaid beneficiaries would be prohibited from participating in both a regional care organization and an integrated care network.

House bill sponsor April Weaver, R-Brierfield, said Alabama’s population of elderly residents is expected to rise quickly over the next decade, with around 10,000 more seniors projected to join Medicaid by 2028.

State Health Officer Don Williamson, who is overseeing an effort to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program, said the state is “breaking a somewhat new trail” on how to organize long-term care.

Williamson said it costs the state’s Medicaid program around $65,000 for a person to be in a nursing home, but only between $10,000 and $12,000 to be cared for in a community setting.

“I think the challenge for Alabama Medicaid and any Medicaid is with the baby boomers approaching Medicaid eligibility,” Williamson said. “We’re all facing a potentially huge challenge to be able to afford long-term care in the model as it exists in Alabama.”

Jim Carnes, policy director for Alabama Arise, an advocacy group for low-income Alabamians, said he’s pleased with the legislation. He said various advocacy groups in the state have spent years working to expand long-term care options for Medicaid recipients.

“This year we’ve finally cracked the big obstacle, which has been the nursing home industry’s reluctance to change the business model and open new options,” he said. “This year the stars aligned.”

Mark Traylor, president of Traylor-Porter Health Care, a nursing home based in Opelika, said he expects the elderly population will remain large enough to fill his nursing home’s beds.

“I think what we have to be is part of the solution to managing this,” he said. “And if we can allow people to receive better care in a home setting and coordinate that care with what we’re already doing, I think it’ll be a win-win. There will always be people in the world that need our services.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide