Lawmakers face last-minute Medicaid funding hurdle
As lawmakers hope to adjourn their regular session in Juneau over the weekend, state officials say funding for Medicaid in Alaska is on track to run out next week unless the Legislature approves nearly $50 million in additional funding.
Shawnda O’Brien, an assistant commissioner with the state Department of Health and Social Services, said in an email Friday that “payments to providers for Medicaid claims will need to be suspended starting next week,” if the program doesn’t receive $48 million in supplemental funding already requested by the department.
If the suspension happens, it would continue until the end of the state’s current fiscal year on July 1, when Medicaid would be covered under next year’s budget. O’Brien said that would cause delays in reimbursing Medicaid recipients’ medical expenses, as well as “reduce the amount of funding needed for [fiscal year] 2019 projected Medicaid expenditures.”
“Staff have started the process to review claims for the approximately 4,000 providers whose claims might be subject to [suspension] to identify the provider types that are most dependent on Medicaid revenues and the least financially solvent to prioritize for payment next week,” O’Brien wrote. “These providers tend to be personal care, waiver and behavioral health providers as well as smaller hospitals.”
Nonprofits with stakes in the Medicaid deadline, including groups like the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and mental-health nonprofit Assets Inc., sent letters to lawmakers and members Thursday and Friday urging them to be aware of the potential cutoff.
“This will negatively impact health care providers at all levels and limit access to health care for Alaska’s most vulnerable,” Trust CEO Michael R. Abbott wrote Thursday to co-chairs of the House and Senate Finance Committees. “Close to 200,000 Alaskans count on Medicaid Insurance coverage for their health and wellness services. These prevention and treatment services are critical to their overall health.”
The Legislature is rapidly tackling matters a number of issues in its end-of-session rush over the weekend, ranging from pretrial bail reform to digital hunting and fishing permits. Under state law, the House and Senate have until Wednesday to complete their business within the 120-day regular session.
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