State makes modest changes in Medicaid while awaiting election results

ATLANTA — State officials may be waiting to see who wins the White House in November before making major changes to the Medicaid program, but they’re not waiting to enact some smaller adjustments.

Community Health Commissioner David Cook said Thursday that the elections could determine whether the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, replaced or implemented. If it remains in place, the state will have to decide whether to participate in an expansion of the program, which provides health coverage to the poor. An expansion could affect any redesign of the way the state administers it.

Cook said the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that health reform is constitutional but that the Medicaid expansion is voluntary for states was a surprise.

“That created a fair amount of uncertainty,” he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal has said he will not decide whether Georgia will participate in the expansion until after the election.

“The elections will give us some clarity on some paths forward,” Cook said.

In the meantime, the Department of Community Health, which runs the program in Georgia, has streamlined some administrative procedures, given doctors and hospitals more information about patients’ medical records on a secure Web site, and is compiling a list of approved drugs that will apply to people covered by any of the three companies that handle claims. The drug list will also apply to state employees and people covered by other state programs, such as PeachCare for Kids.

“We’re moving very rapidly with many of these,” said Jerry Dubberly, the chief of the department’s Medicaid Division.

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