The state announced Monday that Amerigroup will oversee the health care of about 27,000 kids in child welfare programs starting Jan. 1. The move...

The state announced Monday that Amerigroup will oversee the health care of about 27,000 kids in child welfare programs starting Jan. 1.

The move of foster care children and those in adoption assistance and in the juvenile justice system Jan. 1 will result in improved coordination of care, the Department of Community Health said.

Amerigroup is already one of the three care management organizations (CMOs) overseeing children in the Medicaid and PeachCare programs. The company was recently acquired by WellPoint, the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.

“We truly understand the foster care population has unique behavioral and medical needs and believe our experience and holistic care coordination approach will enable us to address the health care system challenges associated with foster care and adoption assistance and bring additional support and resources to the children and families,” Amerigroup Georgia CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde said in a statement after the state’s announcement.

Community Health said it selected Amerigroup from among the current CMO vendors, and that the company would be paid about $200 million annually for services to these children.

The AJC recently reported the move to a single managed care organization is expected to save the Medicaid program as much as $27.5 million over five years by emphasizing prevention and keeping the foster care children healthier.

Ellyn Jeager of Mental Health America of Georgia told GHN on Monday that the majority of these children have mental health needs.

“They’re horribly over-medicated,’’ Jeager said. “These kids really need someone paying attention to them. They need real care management. If this will address these issues, then the state is doing the right thing.’’

Under a single managed care plan, these children will not have to switch doctors as often, and the overuse of psychotropic drugs may be curbed, state officials say.

In Texas, moving foster care children into managed care led to a drop of more than 30 percent in the use of psychotropic medications for 60 or more days, the AJC reported.

Seven state agencies have united behind the Georgia transition, Community Health said.

“This is an exciting time for all our child-serving agencies in Georgia and for the care of these young people who are often in transient situations,” Clyde Reese, the new commissioner of Community Health, said in a statement. “I can certainly see the benefits to moving these populations into a single CMO.”

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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