By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The promised dream of Regional Care Organizations (RCOs) saving the State’s underfunded and overburdened Medicaid system continues to unravel.
Just recently, the University of Birmingham Medical Systems and Viva Heath Inc., abandoned their programs indefinitely, citing the instability of State funding.
Last month, The Alabama Political Reporter obtained a letter from Mike Warren, President and CEO of Children of Alabama, to Medicaid Agency Commissioner Stephanie Azar in which he detailed the failure of the RCO plan adopted by Gov. Robert Bentley (which was approved by the State Legislature). In it, Warren offers a withering critique of the programs including the false promise of cost savings under the RCO model. “The numbers are frightening,” Warren writes. “RCOs will actually cost the State’s General Fund a substantial amount more than keeping the current program funded.”
Under State law, 5 RCOs were established, under which two-thirds of the Medicaid recipients, or about 650,000 Alabama citizens, would receive their care via RCOs (this according to the State Medicaid Agency).
UAB and Viva represent Region B and Region D respectively, covering almost the entire central and eastern parts of the State. Their departure leaves tens of thousand without an option of a Medicaid RCO. Region B’s western border begins at Walker County and extends to DeKalb County in the northeast, and stretching all the way south to Tallapoosa County.
Region D covers a vast swath of the State from Chambers to Houston County, and as far west as Winston County.
Far from the revolutionary fix Bentley promised, it now appears the entire program is collapsing under poor planning, bad leadership and a failure to present actual facts to the State legislature.
In response to our calls for comment(s), UAB instructed us to set-up an appointment through their media relations department. Viva has not yet returned our calls.
State lawmakers will surely investigate the failure of the RCOs which has drained money and resources on a promise that appears to have been a myth.