Lawmakers At Odds Over Medicaid Managed Care Issues

Mar 19, 2014

Lawmakers in Frankfort heard from mental health advocates Wednesday about the effects of the state’s switch to Medicaid managed care.

While Gov. Steve Beshear has touted the budget savings produced by the decision, some healthcare leaders argue the cost in programs and services has been too high.

Steve Shannon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Programs, says the managed care system is letting too many fall through the cracks.

"What happens to a program that serves adults with a mental illness when 33 of those have closed throughout Kentucky and probably there was only 50 to start with?" he asks.

At a hearing Wednesday, State Sens. Julie Denton and Julian Carroll sparred over where to place the blame for the cuts in programs. Denton called on the executive branch to deal with the loss of reimbursements and inadequate services.

"I think we can take what's happening now and lay it straight at the feet of the governor and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. They went AWOL with these managed care companies. They want to have a hands-off approach whenever there's a problem," she told the panel.

But Sen. Julian Carroll characterized the problem as one of revenue - and those lawmakers he said are unwilling to entertain ways of raising more.

"We must deal with the issue of why don't we have sufficient resources in our budget to provide such services as we are talking here for mental health. And I say part of the problem is on the members of the General Assembly themselves," he argued.

Kentucky switched 560,000 Medicaid patients from a fee-for-service system to managed care in 2011 in order to plug a $142 million dollar hole in the state’s Medicaid budget.