By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— A buoyant Governor Robert Bentley announced on Tuesday, that the Alabama Medicaid Agency’s Regional Care Organization Plan to provide medical care to most Alabamians on Medicaid, has been approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
In his first term, the Governor made increasing Medicaid efficiency and improving patient care a goal of his administration. The CMS approval is major step toward realizing this goal.
A host of Republican leaders were on hand, but not a single Democrat or minority member stood with Bentley as he made the welcomed announcement.
Bentley praised former Representative, now Sen. Jim McClendon, as well as Sen. Greg Reed, who did much of the heavy lifting in the legislature. He also recognized the hard work carried out by Medicaid Director, Stephanie Azar.
Reed said, “Governor Bentley, Medicaid Director Stephanie Azar, Sen. Jim McClendon, other State legislators, and stakeholders across Alabama deserve praise for working with CMS to earn this waiver. The federal government even thought so much of our Medicaid reforms they are recommending them to other states that need to save money and increase the level of care.”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked if the Regional Care Organization Plan was a stepping stone to expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. Bentley immediately took command of the podium, and aggressively dismissed the question, saying this had nothing to do with Medicaid expansion.
To date, Alabama has refused billions in federal funds, due to Bentley’s adamant opposition to Obamacare.
In September 2014, NGA selected Alabama to participate in a project to design and achieve statewide health care transformation. Alabama was selected because it proposed a cutting-edge approach to realigning economic incentives and improving the quality and efficiency of health care. Through the project, the NGA Center for Best Practices worked closely with Gov. Bentley, and his leadership team to help get the State’s Medicaid proposal approved.
“This waiver is a shining example of how states innovate each and every day to improve the lives of their citizens,” NGA Executive Director and CEO Scott Pattison said. “Many other states can now use Alabama’s cutting-edge approach to figure out what works—and what doesn’t—as they look to improve their own health care delivery.”
The five-year agreement with CMS begins April 1. In the next 30 days, Governor Bentley will finalize the 1115 agreement with CMS. Certain terms and conditions apply in order for the State to receive the money, and Governor Bentley will work with the Alabama Legislature, which passed the RCO legislation, to ensure the requirements are met.