FRANKFORT — State officials said they are on pace to move 560,000 people in the state's health care program for the poor and disabled to three managed-care companies by Oct. 1.
Janie Miller, the secretary for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told a legislative committee Monday that packets of information will go out to Medicaid recipients this week.
The cabinet has matched families or individuals on Medicaid with one of three for-profit managed-care companies. If the majority of a person's or family's health care providers are in a particular managed-care companies' network, the family or individual will be matched to that managed-care company.
Recipients will have the opportunity to switch to a different managed-care provider if they want before Oct. 1. They also will have an additional 90 days after Oct. 1 to switch plans, Miller said.
For more than four hours Monday, legislators peppered Miller and other Medicaid staff with questions about the switch from fee-for-service Medicaid to managed care. The move — which will pay companies a set fee per patient instead of reimbursing providers for specific services — is expected to save the state $1.3 billion over the next three years.
Many doctors, hospitals and pharmacists have raised concerns about the switch, saying they have not yet been contacted by the three managed-care companies about joining their provider networks.
Some providers have said they were asked to sign contracts but were not given complete information about how they will be paid.
An advisory committee of Medicaid providers asked the cabinet earlier this month to delay implementation of the switch to managed care because so many questions remain unanswered. But Miller told the legislature's Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee on Monday that the cabinet thinks the managed-care companies are on target to meet the Oct. 1 deadline.
Still, those numbers increase nearly daily, she said.
The managed-care companies are CoventryCares of Kentucky, Kentucky Spirit Health Plan and WellCare of Kentucky.
Passport Health Plan, which serves Jefferson and 15 surrounding counties, will continue to operate its managed-care operation.
The move to managed care was prompted by the state's ballooning Medicaid budget, whose numbers have swelled as the economy tanked.
Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, cautioned that the initial rollout of managed care must go smoothly. The switch to a managed-care model is one of the most important changes in the state's health care program for the poor and disabled in a generation, she said.
If the program is not ready by October, the cabinet should consider delaying it until November or even later, Denton said.
"I think the long-term success of the program may depend on the very beginning," she said.