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State planning to take over Medicaid administration, ready or not

By Howard B. Owens

The state is planning to take over all of the administrative functions for Medicaid, but the state isn't ready and shows no signs of being ready any time soon.

That's what Eileen Kirkpatrick, commissioner of Social Services in Genesee County, told the Human Services Committee during its meeting Monday.

New York has set a deadline of April 2018 for Medicaid administration to be switched from county DSS offices to state employees, either working in Albany or at local offices.

The state, she said, "failed miserably" in its first pilot project to take over administration for 12 counties, with hundreds of cases being mishandled.

It would be easy to think, Kirkpatrick said, that for the sake of local Medicaid clients, the county should hold onto local administration as long as possible, but the state has capped reimbursement for administrative costs.

If the county continues to administer the program, local wages and benefits and other expenses will continue to go up, but the state won't reimburse at a higher rate.

That's why, Kirkpatrick said, the county should go ahead and request the state take over the program, even if they aren't entirely ready for it on schedule.

In New York, Medicaid is a $53 billion program. About 3 percent of the expense goes to administration.

Currently, the county fills 22 full-time equivalent positions to administer Medicaid.  Some of the employees currently in those jobs would be able to transfer to the state payroll and continue doing much the same job as they do now.

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