Pay cut averted for Medicaid, PeachCare

Doctors, dentists and other health care providers have been spared a 0.5 percent cut in payment for treating Medicaid and PeachCare patients.

The board of the Department of Community Health adopted a resolution Thursday rescinding the reduction in reimbursement, which was projected to save the state $13.9 million annually. The cut had not yet taken effect.

The two government insurance programs cover 1.7 million Georgians, most of them children.

The agency, in recommending that the cut not go through, said it had received financial relief from the state Office of Planning and Budget. Community Health’s commissioner, David Cook, had previously expressed concern that some doctors and other providers would drop out of Medicaid and PeachCare because of low pay.

DCH acknowledged Thursday that provider enrollment in the government insurance programs has been affected by the pay issue.

Medicaid has not raised its reimbursement rates to physicians in a decade.

This year, the scheduled pay cut was small, but there were concerns that it would drive medical providers to limit the number of Medicaid and PeachCare patients they see.

Dr. Kathryn Cheek, a Columbus pediatrician and president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, commended Cook and Gov. Nathan Deal for ‘’making a statement’’ by rescinding the provider cut.  Any reduction ‘’could be a tipping point’’ for some doctors to drop out of Medicaid and PeachCare, she said.

“We have a hard time in getting providers to participate because of the low rates,’’ Cheek  said. “This is a breath of fresh air.’’

A consumer advocacy group, Voices for Georgia’s Children, also praised the Community Health action.

Cutting pay rates for providers can make it harder for children to obtain medical care, said Dante McKay, associate policy director for child health for the organization. “Any help we can get in that area, we’re thankful for.’’

The Georgia Dental Association said there has been a dropoff in the number of Georgia dentists accepting new Medicaid and PeachCare patients in recent years as reimbursements have lagged.

“Dentistry has already had cuts,’’ said Nelda Greene, associate executive director of GDA. “We’re thrilled they don’t have to take any additional cut.’’

The proposed rate cuts did not apply to hospitals, nursing homes, home and community–based services, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and hospice providers.

Separately, Georgia has hired consulting firm Navigant to study other states’ methods of delivering care in their Medicaid and children’s health insurance programs. The firm’s report is expected in mid-January.