Medicaid says no cuts in providers’ payments

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

JACKSON (AP) — The Mississippi Medicaid program said Friday it is withdrawing a proposal to reduce payments to doctors, dentists and other health care providers for April, May and June.

The federal government never approved the proposed reductions, and no providers lost money because of the proposal, Medicaid spokesman Francis Rullan told The Associated Press.

Medicaid director Bob Robinson told providers March 31 that the program intended to trim their payments up to 20 percent during the final quarter of the state budget year because of a projected funding shortfall.

In a news release issued at the close of business Friday, Robinson said he now believes Medicaid has enough money to operate through June 30, the end of the budget year.

‘‘Having the benefit of 11 months of information, we now believe that we will make it through this difficult fiscal year without running a deficit,’’ Robinson said in the written statement. ‘‘I appreciate our providers who have taken care of our Medicaid patients during these difficult times.’’

Some providers had said they might stop treating Medicaid patients, but many said they’d continue. About one-fifth of all Mississippi residents are covered by the program.

House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Friday the projected shortfall in late March was ‘‘minuscule’’ and Medicaid should’ve made administrative cuts rather than telling providers they might lose money.

‘‘There’s no reason for those kind of scare tactics in this program,’’ Holland said. ‘‘Bob Robinson ought to be ashamed of himself, period.’’

Robinson said several things helped improve the budget, including reductions in administrative costs and in spending on medical services. He said Medicaid also collected previously unpaid assessments from nursing homes and had received money from legal settlements and drug rebates.

Reached Friday evening at his home in Rienzi, House Speaker Billy McCoy said he was pleased to learn the proposed Medicaid cuts had been dropped.

‘‘I’ll be dog,’’ said McCoy, a Democrat. ‘‘That’s good. I thought that’s what we had worked toward.’’

Medicaid is a health coverage plan for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children. It is paid by state and federal money, and because Mississippi is a poor state, it receives a generous federal contribution.

In late March, Medicaid said it anticipated a shortfall of more than $14 million in state funding. Rullan said that would’ve meant a shortage of about $50 million in payments to providers, had the plan been carried out.