Error gives Miss. Medicaid coverage to thousands

Published 4:10 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

The Mississippi Medicaid program has been erroneously paying the Part B Medicare premiums for about 9,300 people who are no longer on Medicaid, and officials are still trying to determine how much money the mistake has cost the state, a spokesman said Thursday.

Medicaid spokesman Francis Rullan said a software glitch was discovered in the past week, and the state government told the federal government about the problem. Rullan said the recipients will have to start paying the monthly premiums. The recipients are being notified in letters sent by the federal government.

Rullan said the problem dates as far back as 2003 and involves about 9,300 individual cases in which Medicaid paid the Part B Medicare insurance premium.

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Medicare is the federal health care insurance program for people aged 65 and over, and for the disabled. Medicaid is a federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children.

Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and other out-of-hospital services that aren’t covered by Part A.

Rullan said some recipients were served by Medicaid for a few weeks, a few months or several years. Medicaid officials are still trying to sort out the length of enrollment for individual cases.

Rullan said Medicaid is working with its current financial contractor, Affiliated Computer Services Inc., to determine how much money was paid out.

“We do not now have a dollar figure,” he said.

Part B Medicare premiums run about $96.40 a month, according to Medicare. Rullan said the state paid those premiums for however long a Medicare recipient also was eligible for Medicaid.

“This is money that would normally have been deducted from their Social Security check except for this software glitch,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, Rullan said the payment should have stopped when the recipient went off eligibility for Medicaid.

Rullan said once Medicaid gets back the dollar figure and other information, it would determine what options it has to recover the money.

“In all state contracts, there are clauses that provide for remedies in cases like this. this contract (with financial agents) is no different,” he said.

Rullan said the recipients affected could be reevaluated to see if their circumstances have changed and they could re-qualify for Medicaid.

Mississippi’s Medicaid program has had budget problems the past several years.

Lawmakers are still working on an overall state budget for the year that begins July 1. One of the big disagreements between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate is over whether to approve Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to put a $90 million tax on hospitals to help pay for Medicaid. House negotiators have been balking.