Lawmaker weighs in on Medicaid changes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lawmaker weighs in on Medicaid changes

October 3, 2006

Albany--  It's an issue that affects hundreds of Georgians financially and emotionally, cuts in Medicaid programs. Many families dealing with the cuts are those living with disabilities and many of them are begging Georgia lawmakers for a change.

Over the past several months, many families have shared their stories with us. It can be a financial burden raising a child with a disability, even with help.  Some say Medicaid changes make that burden heavier.

Many rely on Medicaid programs to help with healtchare costs but this year alone, many changes have been made. The changes caused an outcry from families statewide.

"Anytime you're trying to put in a health care system that takes care of everyone, you're going to have glitches along the way," says Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson.

First there was the Katie Beckett waiver.  About 1,600 special needs children were denied services when the state enacted stricter eligibility requirements. Now, other families feel a new Medicaid Program also makes it harder to get substantial healthcare.

"I've had a few calls. I mean, anytime you change several, a million or so people from one system to another, you're going to have problems, no doubt about it," says Richardson. Richardson says the changes had to be made to deal with the rising cost of healthcare in the state.

"We had to get a handle on it and Medicaid was rising at a rate greater than 10 percent per year in the past three years," says Richardson. But many families came to depend on a certain level of service. 

Richardson says lawmakers had to take everyone into consideration when making changes. "I think we have to take this on a case by case basis. We have to legislate for the whole state and then look and see if we need to make modifications if we've got problems," says Richardson.

As it stands, he feels the problems have affected only a smaller percentage of people in Georgia. "The majority are having services delivered to them and that's our goal, to deliver our medical services to the people that need them the most," says Richardson.

Critics say the people who need help most are the ones hardest hit by the changes.

New Medicaid changes put patients into care management organizations. Under the program, some therapy sessions for patients have been cut in half. Richardson says the changes were necessary and they've stabilized the the cost of healthcare in the state.

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