Velez defends administration’s handling of Medicaid eligibility

TRENTON – The $300 million Medicaid waiver program is expected to save money without compromising the level and continuity of care for patients, Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez testified before the Senate Health Committee today.

The state expects to spend $5 billion on Medicaid for the upcoming fiscal year. After seeing a $1.2 billion loss in federal funds, Velez said, the safety net program must be reformed in order to continue providing benefits, without interruption, to the program’s core group of enrollees – the aged, blind and disabled residents, and the poorest of the poor.

Velez said some areas of Medicaid are “fragmented” and that’s why the comprehensive reform package was devised.

She said “fee-for-service” clients will be transferred to managed care companies, as the reform proposal calls for.

There are some 1.2 clients enrolled in Medicaid.

While she couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be “snags” during the transition to managed care, Velez assured lawmakers that current Medicaid patients would continue to receive medical care.

“There’s no dropoff of care,” she said.

However, the plan does call for imposing stricter income limits for new parents and other applicants.

Individuals whose medical services are not available within a participating group of doctors could continue to receive medical services from out-of-network providers after the state signs a contract with those out-of-state medical providers.

Democratic Sen. Ron Rice, of Newark, wanted to get assurance that medical transportation for residents living in urban residents continues to be provided by the “big company folk” who are expected to take over the operation of such services.

While new kids could continue be enrolled, new parents would not have an option to be covered. Velez said the idea came from the federal government to either cut services or place limits on new enrollees “to contain budget costs.”

She said such a technique has been “employed” in the past.

Committee Chairwoman Loretta Weinberg was flabbergasted over the new income eligibility requirements.

“The idea somehow you couldn’t get access to Medicaid…I just don’t understand what a family of four earning $6,000 (a year) is supposed to do,” she said.

About 30,000 new kids were signed onto Medicaid this year, Velez said.

  Velez defends administration’s handling of Medicaid eligibility