FRANKFORT — A group that advises the state on Medicaid issues is seeking a 90-day delay in the state's highly touted expansion of a managed-care system for Medicaid recipients.
The Advisory Council for Medical Assistance voted Friday to direct Medicaid Commissioner Neville Wise to ask Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller to consider delaying the expansion that is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
"All we're asking for is to give everybody more time to get this thing implemented," said Ron Poole, who represents the Kentucky Pharmacists Association and operates pharmacies in Central City, Livermore and Owensboro. "We're 49 days away, and all practitioners and providers have not yet received a contract."
Poole said some providers do not know whether they can afford the changes in Medicaid."They need time to review the contracts and determine if they want to participate," he said.
Poole said he doubted that the state would delay the expansion because it has "put appropriations in place for it." But the request for a delay is "needed to give providers time to implement this," he said.
The advisory council is made up of 13 members who represent medical assistance recipients and health care providers such as doctors, dentists, optometrists, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals and health care facilities.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the state cabinet, said late Friday that the cabinet could not comment on the delay request because it had not received any notification or official recommendation from the council.
"The role of the advisory council is to make recommendations to the cabinet on Medicaid," she said. "We will take any recommendation from the council under advisement."
Gov. Steve Beshear announced in early July that, starting in October, private companies would manage care for the vast majority of Kentucky's 815,000 recipients of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Under the program, Beshear said, Medicaid recipients in much of the state would choose among three companies that would compete to manage their care.
He described the expansion of managed care as "a major sea change" in the $6 billion-a-year program.
The expansion, Beshear said, will save $375 million in Kentucky's General Fund, which pays for most state programs, during the course of new, three-year contracts.
The federal government pays about 70 percent of the cost of Medicaid, so state and federal government will save $1.3 billion over three years, Beshear said.