18,000 Medicaid waivers expected today

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 3, 2004

Waivers for approximately 18,000 people who would otherwise losecoverage as the state the shifts many Medicaid recipients toMedicare are expected by the end of the day, a local representativesays.

State Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, District 92 representative andvice-chairman of the Medicaid Committee, said he participated in ameeting Wednesday afternoon during which state representatives wereassured the waivers were en route.

“We’re expecting the waivers in by Friday at 5 p.m.,” hesaid.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The state cut assistance to the Medicaid Poverty Level Aged andDisabled, or PLAD, program in preparation for a federally mandatedmove to Medicare.

However, the federal benefits program for increased Medicaredoes not take effect until Jan. 1, 2006, according to FrancisRullan, director of public relations for Medicaid.

In the meantime, the state has offered alternative programs toassist the approximately 65,000 people participating in the PLADprogram, including prescription discount cards, Rullan said.

Initially, confusion over prescription discount cards, coupledwith a lack of information on how those cut from Medicaid couldfind assistance, resulted in a chaotic environment that had manyconcerned they would not be able to afford necessarymedications.

Barnett said he still gets calls from the elderly and disabledwho are concerned about their benefits and the cost of medicationsbut is receiving fewer calls as the confusion evaporates overtime.

Most of the PLAD participants cut were dual eligible, meaningthey qualified for both Medicare and Medicaid assistance. TheirMedicare coverage is still intact and will be enhanced when theMedicare Reform Act of 2004 takes effect, Rullan said.

Under Medicaid, patients had been receiving up to sevenprescriptions a month, with only a few dollars in out-of-pocketexpense. That’s being changed to four name-brand drugs andunlimited generics for people who can join the Medicareprogram.

Approximately 18,000 former PLAD participants are not eligiblefor the dual coverage, however, and Gov. Haley Barbour promised hewould secure waivers from the federal government to keep themenrolled.

Although the cuts are expected to save the state $30 millionannually, public pressure on the Legislature and the governor hasbeen intense. The cutoff date already has been postponed twice.

It was delayed from the original target date to Sept. 15 toallow the state more time to inform former PLAD participants onalternative programs. It was postponed a second time, to Oct. 1,when the Medicaid director informed the governor that benefitscould not be stopped in the middle of a month.

Barnett said he and many other legislators still are holding tothe hope that the governor will call a special session to allowthem to make changes to the law that cut the PLAD program.

“I’m hoping for a special session to address that,” he said. “Ithink the likelihood of that is real good.”

The governor was in New York this week attending the RepublicanNational Convention, but Barnett said he believes a special sessioncould be called when Barbour returns to Mississippi.