Feds: Arizona likely to get OK on Medicaid cuts - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Feds: Arizona likely to get OK on Medicaid cuts

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Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 4:41 pm

A federal agency has said Arizona is likely to get the go-ahead for the first cuts in its health care program, a state official said Wednesday.

“They felt we were in pretty good shape with our phase-out plan,’’ said Monica Coury, an assistant director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Coury said officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated to her that final written approval would come in “a couple of days.’’

Time is running out: The state wants to stop enrolling people in one of its programs on Sunday. And it cannot do that without federal OK.

Lawmakers directed Gov. Jan Brewer to cut AHCCCS spending next year by $520 million. One way the governor intends to do that is eliminate a “spend down’’ program which provides care to people whose income is not below the federal poverty level — the current standard for eligibility — but whose pending medical bills, if paid, would drop them far below.

Coverage lasts up to six months. About 5,700 people are now in that program.

Federal officials said Arizona is free to eliminate that program, as it is not required under federal Medicaid laws. What is needed is federal approval of the “phase-out’ plan.

Brewer’s plan freezes new enrollment. But Coury said Health and Human Services wants other things in the plan.

For example, she said federal officials want to see that the state is reviewing everyone’s records to see whether they might be eligible for some other element of the AHCCCS program, which is funded largely with Medicaid dollars. Coury said the plan also needs to provide recipients with a chance to update their information and that the state is working with community groups.

The governor’s plan also eliminates care for all childless adults as well as parents whose income is at least 75 percent of the federal poverty level. Neither group is required to be covered by Medicaid.

Those changes would take effect Oct. 1.

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