August 30, 2006
Thousands of people who rely on Medicaid for health coverage may have to find a new place to go to the doctor.
It's part of a contract dispute over how much hospitals should be paid for taking care of the patients.
Augusta's largest Medicaid provider may be cutting off patients starting Friday.
MCG officials are currently negotiating a contract with managed care companies and have been unable to reach an agreement.
Roughly 9,000 Medicaid patients will be getting phone calls this week if they haven't already, telling them that starting Friday September 1, those who have already scheduled a routine appointment at MCG will be cancelled.
"I can't keep a job because I'm constantly sick, weak, tired," says Janice Taylor. "I can't stand too long."
Janice has been going to the Medical College of Georgia every three months for the past nine years, since she was diagnosed with lupus.
She says it's hard enough as it is to schedule her regular appointments.
"It could be 1-2 months before I can get in."
Now she could wait even longer.
On Tuesday MCG Health, Inc. faxed a letter to the Georgia Department of Community Health to notify them of their plans to discontinue seeing 9,000 patients on Medicaid beginning September 1.
That's the date two managed care companies, Wellcare Georgia and Amerigroup Community Care Georgia, are expected to take over.
The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, Dr. Rhonda Medows, emailed this statement to News 12:
"It is unfortunate that the Medical College of Georgia has chosen to use the approach announcing plans to abandon Medicaid and Peach Care patients as negotiating tool while they are continuing contract talks with the CMOs [community health organizations].While MCG declined to comment on camera, they did tell us that under the current talks, the hospital would lose another $2-3 million a year with the deal and they need to look at the best interest of all of their patients.
"I discussed with Mr. Snell previously the importance of not interrupting patient care and the option of continuing care as a non-participant provider during his negotiations.
"I see that he has chosen instead to put the contract before the patient."
Even though the situation is still up in the air, they remain optimistic the contract will be signed.
All Medicaid patients affected by the cancellations should have received letters asking them to choose another primary physician or one will be chosen for them. If they haven't, they are asked to call Georgia Healthy Families or of course their Medicaid provider.
To read MCG Medical Associates' news release about this change, click here.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for: people 65 years of age or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure with dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with low incomes and limited resources. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
For information about Medicaid eligibility in Georgia, click here.