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Long-Term Care

Feds want $100 million back in Medicaid flap

Federal officials want Georgia Medicaid to return more than $100 million in payments made to nursing homes. The feds say these payments were not permitted under the program’s regulations.

nhomesThe payments were made in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also asked Georgia to return any similarly inappropriate payments for more recent fiscal years as well.

In a Dec. 8, 2014, letter and report to Georgia about the nursing home problem, regional CMS officials told the state Medicaid agency to “cease and desist this unallowable funding mechanism immediately.’’

Georgia officials said in an email to Georgia Health News that the activity has been halted, but that the state has not paid back the funds to the federal government.

The nursing home money is not the only Medicaid funding that has Georgia grappling with federal health officials.   full story

Chief of nursing home group steps down

Jon Howell has resigned as president and CEO of the state’s powerful nursing home association, the group announced Thursday.

Jon Howell

Jon Howell

The Georgia Health Care Association said Howell offered his resignation “to preserve the unity of the statewide association.”

“The board accepted it with regret,’’ said the statement from William Davis, chair of GHCA’s board.

Davis’ statement did not explain the nature of the discord within the trade group. full story

Proposed agency for seniors clears House panel

More than a million Georgians  — or roughly 1 out of 10 people in the state — are 65 or older.

Rep. Tommy Benton

Rep. Tommy Benton

And over the next 30 years, Georgia is facing an estimated 143% increase in its senior population.

With this aging trend looming, the General Assembly will consider a bill that would move the current Division of Aging Services out of the Department of Human Services and create a new state agency.

House Bill 86, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), took its first step toward passage Monday, winning unanimous approval from the House Human Relations and Aging Committee.  full story

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

Action on Alzheimer’s, maternal deaths

A Senate panel Thursday unanimously passed separate bills that would move the state’s aging services into a new agency, and would track the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in Georgia.

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the two bills and a related resolution arose from proposals by a task force on Alzheimer’s and related types of dementia.

Sen. Renee Unterman

Sen. Renee Unterman

Dementia — from Alzheimer’s and other causes — is on the increase in Georgia and throughout the nation. Deaths from Alzheimer’s nationally jumped 68 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

An estimated 120,000 people in Georgia are living with Alzheimer’s, a figure that’s expected to rise to 160,000 by 2025.

Unterman told GHN that her advocacy on the issue stems from the experience of a friend whose father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “It was a personal experience that showed the sacrifices and struggles families went through,’’ Unterman said.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee also approved a bill Thursday to review all maternal deaths in the state. Georgia has the highest rate of maternal deaths among the 50 states. full story

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