State Auditor Edelen says state must fix managed-care issues that have put rural hospitals and providers on brink of survival

State Auditor Adam Edelen said last week that shoring up the financial base for rural hospitals in Kentucky is the number one challenge to the state’s Medicaid managed-care system.

The managed-care system has left rural hospitals at a tipping point that determines whether or not they will survive, which is deeply disconcerting when considering access to quality health care for Kentuckians in rural areas, Edelen said in a cn|2 “Pure Politics” interview. The state has a significant rural population, and “you can’t overstate the importance of these rural hospitals,” he said.

Hiring private companies to manage Medicaid has helped Kentucky slow cost increases in the $6 billion program, but the system has serious structural issues, and hospitals, doctors, dentists and other providers say the managed-care organizations (MCOs) are not paying them for treating Medicaid patients, Jacqueline Pitts of cn|2 reported.

There are many stories “about providers who have submitted claims and all of sudden, these MCOs change the rules, and so these claims are deemed unclear or improper and they are sent back,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.

Edelen said the problem is that there is no consistent oversight in the claims process from the cabinet, and there is no opportunity for the provider to respond. “Right now we have our providers up against such a wall that the choice is to do one of two things,” he said. “It’s either to opt out of Medicaid, which is not something we want to do considering we have one of the largest percentage of population on Medicaid anywhere in the country, or go to the courts,” which is inefficient and expensive.

“You have good people in the cabinet trying to manage it, you’ve got providers that are just trying to provide services to people, but we’ve got to have a better system of oversight and accountability because if that happen and we begin to lose hospitals in rural Kentucky then we have significantly reduced the level of quality of life for the people of Kentucky,” Edelen said.

Fixing the system for those hospitals and doctors is what is so important to the state as a whole, he said. He said the state and MCOs have had enough time to work out glitches with doctors and hospitals, and they must make some substantial changes before medical care for Kentucky’s neediest suffers any more.

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