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Medicaid Hospice benefits still alive

The Grench did not steal Christmas &045; yet &045;

from Medicaid hospice patients. For months Alabama State Medicaid has been threatening to pull the plug on reimbursement for patients in this program that provides end-of-life support for the terminally ill who qualify. The move was proposed following the failure of Gov. Bob Riley’s tax package last September.

The philosophy of the program is to keep patients at home as much as possible, doing things which they like to do, being with family members and friends, and not receiving any kind of medical intervention, especially hospitalization, except for medication to relieve pain.

According to Robin Register, patient account coordinator for Wiregrass Hospice, a 15-agency chain based in Dothan, with an office in Selma, this is the fifth time the deadline for a decision on the matter has been extended. The first announcement came Oct. 1 and monthly inquiries by Wiregrass have produced the same response: reimbursements continuing at this time, call us in a month.

This time, Register said the person with whom she talked did not say call next month, so Register will call again in a week to speak with the person with whom she has talked in the past.

In any event, it appears that the outcry from patients, families and providers has given pause to Medicaid officials. The program is a very small part of the state Medicaid budget and pays for itself in savings accomplished by avoidance of costly medical interventions at the end of life.

It may yet survive the budget ax.