State Medicaid cuts begin

Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2016

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama’s Medicaid program on Wednesday announced its first major cut due to budget difficulties.

The Medicaid Agency will end enhanced reimbursement payments for primary care doctors beginning Aug. 1.

“This is a difficult, but necessary cut due to the budget crisis the Medicaid Agency is facing at this time,” said Commissioner Stephanie Azar said in a statement.

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The “primary care bump” put Medicaid primary care reimbursement rates on par with Medicare rates. Originally required by and paid for by the federal Affordable Care Act, it was designed to get more doctors to serve Medicaid patients.

Under the primary bump, for example, a doctor would be paid $101 for a 25-minute office visit.

That will go back to the regular Medicaid rate of $67.

Some states have continued with the enhanced payments. Others have stopped.

The cut was anticipated. Alabama lawmakers in the last session appropriated $700 million to the state Medicaid Agency.

However, that was short of the $785 million Gov. Robert Bentley had said was needed to adequately fund the program.

Lawmakers balked at that amount and said they could no longer drain other state agencies to fund Medicaid.

The payment cuts are expected to save $14.7 million.

Agency officials have said additional cuts are expected.

“As much as I dislike having to cut our primary care providers, discontinuing enhanced payments to primary care physicians is the only option we have available at this time, due to the inadequate funding appropriated by the Alabama Legislature,” Bentley said in a statement.