Medicaid task force to focus on kids, families

State officials have created a third task force to discuss proposals  for a revamp of Medicaid and PeachCare services in Georgia.

The new grouping will focus on children and families. Like the other two task forces, members will be asked to give input on a consulting firm’s report on the future of the two government health insurance programs.

The Medicaid and PeachCare programs cover about 1.7 million Georgians and have a budget that exceeds $7 billion, most of it federal money.

Invitees to the children and families grouping include government officials, consumer advocates, and representatives of organizations that serve children and families. Its first meeting will be held March 9.

The other two task forces – on medical providers and on the ‘’aged, blind and disabled’’ populations – recently held their initial meeting with officials from the state and consulting firm Navigant, which produced the report on the Medicaid ‘’redesign.’’

The report, commissioned by the state, called for Georgia to consider adopting an enhanced managed care system that would cover aged, blind and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries. That plan has sparked concerns among consumer advocacy groups.

The state currently operates a managed care system for all PeachCare and most Medicaid members. And that system, run by HMO-like organizations, appears to be a primary focus of the children and families task force.

Among other topics, the group will discuss how the findings in the Navigant report will meet the needs of families and children, and will evaluate the benefits and flaws of the current managed care program.

A task force invitee, Amanda Ptashkin of Georgians for a Healthy Future, said Friday that children are not mentioned much in the Navigant report, even though they comprise most of the Medicaid beneficiaries and all PeachCare members.

“Obviously, this is a large part of the population that will be affected by a redesign,’’ said Ptashkin, outreach and advocacy director for the consumer group. “My understanding is [state officials] are open to suggestions on what’s working now and what’s not working now.’’

Dante McKay of Voices for Georgia’s Children –whose executive director, Pat Willis, is also among the task force invitees – said Friday that the advocacy group “views the redesign process as an opportunity to strengthen Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids to ensure the programs provide access to quality health care services that children and families need to live healthy and productive lives.’’

Several states are implementing major changes in their Medicaid programs, with most injecting more managed care into services they provide for low-income and disabled residents.

Georgia officials have identified three goals in their effort to improve the state’s Medicaid program — to enhance appropriate use of medical services by members; to produce long-term savings; and to improve health outcomes for patients.

The Navigant report recommends that the state look at three options that would be most likely to achieve those goals.

The state’s Medicaid agency, the Department of Community Health, hopes to settle on a redesign model for the Georgia program in April, and then start a contract procurement process in the summer. The changes would be launched in January 2014.

Here’s a link to the Navigant report and the redesign process.