12 June 2008

Groups Flunk West Virginia's New Approach to Medicaid

"Labor unions, church groups and health care activists" have concluded that "West Virginia's vaunted redesigned Medicaid plan is not working as intended," The Associated Press reports.

AP health care writer Tom Breen explains that "West Virginia was one of the first states to take advantage of a 2006 federal law that allows states to mix and match Medicaid benefits."

The result, dubbed Mountain Health Choices, "makes some benefits contingent upon signing contracts that pledge recipients to, among other things, regularly visit their doctor and take their medication as directed," Breen writes. "If recipients don't sign those contracts, they are enrolled in a health plan with benefits that are scaled back from what they had received under traditional Medicaid."

Among other findings, this coalition argues that "in the three trial counties where the program was first rolled out in February 2007, relatively small numbers of eligible Medicaid recipients are taking part," the article said.

But the Department of Health and Human Resources views "traditional" Medicaid as a failure, and a costly one according to a recent review of state spending.

"We still have some of the worst health statistics in the nation," DHHR Secretary Martha Walker said. "We must make a change if West Virginia is ever to achieve the economic growth we so badly need."

The Charleston Gazette also reported on the coalition's findings, noting its call to suspend the redesign. It notes as well that "Walker's office released 'talking points,' alleging that coalition members 'were satisfied with the status quo,' and 'maintaining the status quo is their job security.'"

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