Alabama Medicaid long-term care bills head for full House, Senate votes

Alabama would deliver Medicaid long-term care services in a new way under two identical bills that won legislative committee approval Wednesday. House and Senate committees approved the respective bills – HB 585, sponsored by Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, and SB 431, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper – without opposition.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said the plan’s goal is two-fold: to enable more people receiving long-term care to remain in the community instead of going to nursing homes, and to slow the growth of health spending for people who need long-term care. At-home care costs $10,000 per year, compared to $60,000 for nursing home care, he said.

The legislation would remove the current state cap on participation in Medicaid home- and community-based services. When fully operational, the plan could save between $700 million and more than $1 billion per year, Williamson said.

The bills would bring Medicaid long-term care services under a provider-led managed care system similar to (and coordinated with) the new Medicaid regional care organizations (RCOs), Williamson told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The RCO model, set to take effect in October 2016, is designed to keep patients healthier while cutting costs.

Alabama’s Medicaid Long-Term Care Workgroup recommended the plan to set up integrated care networks. The group has been meeting since February and includes Arise policy director Jim Carnes.

The plan would create citizens’ advisory committees for the integrated care networks that include representatives of Alabama Arise member groups and other health advocates. Committees amended both bills Wednesday to help ensure the membership of those committees and the networks’ governing boards reflects the diversity of the population served. Arise requested the diversity changes.

“Arise and our advocacy partners have been working for years to expand Medicaid home- and community-based service options for long-term care,” Carnes said. “The integrated care network plan is a historic breakthrough that will help Alabama meet looming health care challenges as our senior population grows.”

By M.J. Ellington, health policy analyst. Posted May 6, 2015.