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Disabilities

Medicaid change on long-term care delayed

A state health agency Thursday delayed approval of a change in the Medicaid eligibility system for people in long-term care whose incomes are above the government program’s thresholds.

The Department of Community Health’s board had been set to approve a switch for some lower-income Georgians — who now use “Qualified Income Trusts” (QITs) to qualify for Medicaid — to a “medically needy” eligibility program.

These people make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for their health care needs.

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But consumer advocates have expressed concerns that the change in eligibility methods would help only people in nursing homes and institutional hospice programs — and not those with Medicaid “waivers’’ who live in community settings. The new policy could also limit people’s choices in long-term care arrangements, the advocacy groups say.

Department of Community Health (DCH) officials said Thursday that in delaying the board vote, they sought additional time before implementation. “We want to make sure it’s done right rather than fast,’’ said Jerry Dubberly, the Georgia Medicaid director. full story

Transfers of disabled patients still a problem

Almost 10 percent of the 480 people with developmental disabilities who have moved out of state hospitals since July 2010 have died after their placement in community residences.

Chris Bailey, a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, when asked about deaths after hospital transfers, told GHN that 44 occurred from mid-2010 to early May of this year.

dbhdd-logo-blueOn Sunday, Alan Judd, in an AJC article, described horrific incidents of abuse or neglect following the transfer of these patients into group homes. Forty patients placed in group homes have died, Judd reported, with 30 of those deaths classified as unexpected.

Many of the deaths appeared to be from natural causes, Judd reported.

The article also said that officials documented 76 reports of physical or psychological abuse; 48 of neglect; and 60 accidental injuries.

In March, an independent reviewer reported that Georgia was failing to provide adequate supervision of individuals with developmental disabilities who had been moved from state hospitals to community group homes. full story

Agencies unite in crackdown on illegal care homes

The state’s main health agency said Thursday that it has formed a partnership with the GBI to crack down on unlicensed personal care homes.

Clyde Reese, the commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the agency’s board that the partnership, which includes Adult Protective Services from the Department of Human Services, will mount “an aggressive effort to put [unlicensed homes] out of business.”

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

These facilities deliver “substandard care to the elderly and disabled,’’ Reese said.

The problems of unlicensed facilities and elder abuse are growing in the state, he told GHN. These unlicensed homes exist all across the state, with many in the metro Atlanta and southwest Georgia areas, he added.

Reese also said Thursday that Community Health will rebid the contract for care coordination of the elderly and people with disabilities in the Medicaid program.

The current contracting process was shelved last week because bids came in “over budget,” according to state officials. (Here’s a GHN article about the bid.) The rebidding of the contract to serve “the aged, blind and disabled’’ category will begin next month, and Community Health will give more details about the savings goals it seeks, Reese said.

And the agency said it will announce by July 1 the winners of a new round of bidding to deliver medical services to the State Health Benefit Plan next year. The benefits plan for state employees, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents has been the target of widespread criticism since changes were instituted Jan. 1. full story

Commentary: Grads who need our help the most

High school graduation can lead to angst and stress for parents of children with developmental disabilities.

That’s because when high school ends, these young people often return to their homes with few opportunities for employment. And that can put extra caregiving responsibilities and more financial pressure on parents.

In a new GHN Commentary, Kathy Keeley, executive director of All About Developmental Disabilities, addresses five areas for parents to consider regarding these transitions.

“Georgia ranks 49th in the nation in funding for programs and services for people with developmental disabilities,” Keeley says.

Here is a link to her Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

Bidding on Medicaid contract scrapped

A state agency has canceled the contract bidding to offer care coordination services to more than 400,000 Medicaid beneficiaries who have disabilities or are elderly.

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese

The contract proposals that were received were “over budget,’’ according to a state website that announced the bid cancellation.

Care coordination for the “aged, blind and disabled’’ population was envisioned as part of the state’s effort to improve services and reduce spending. This beneficiary category represents roughly 28 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Georgia, but it accounts for 60 percent of the overall costs of the program. full story

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