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DHHR to take 'second look' at Medicaid numbers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Department of Health and Human Resources officials agreed Tuesday to "take a second look" at controversial figures they released last week that said that an additional 193,000 West Virginians would be insured by Medicaid in 2010.

"Their numbers appear to be inflated more than double what Census figures suggest," Don Perdue, chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, said Tuesday.

"West Virginia stands to receive enormous benefits under health reform," Perdue said, "but the state would pay part of the Medicaid cost, so we do need an accurate idea of how we would benefit and what the cost would be."

The Wayne County Democrat asked Monday for a meeting with DHHR officials. During that meeting Tuesday, Perdue said he pointed out that the DHHR report also says Medicaid costs $501 a day per person.

"Currently, it's $308 a day in West Virginia," he said. "The DHHR used one of the highest rates you can possibly use.

"If you start with twice as many people and use a high per-day rate, of course you're going to come up with some alarming figures," he said.

After the meeting, DHHR spokesman John Law said, "Some of the things they pointed out are things that need looking at."

Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, said that according to Census figures, between 88,000 and 105,000 West Virginians would be newly covered by Medicaid, depending on what cutoff point Congress adopts.

"They never admitted to the errors, but they never denied it either," Perdue said of DHHR. DHHR Secretary Patsy Hardy asked the legislators to give their concerns in writing, he said.

Forster said he pointed out that the state could save money on children's coverage. Many children who would be covered by Medicaid under health reform are now covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program, he said, and "the CHIP federal match rate is less than the Medicaid match." 

The DHHR report says 32,000 West Virginians under 18 would be added to the Medicaid rolls by 2019, but the Census says there are only 9,000 uninsured West Virginians under 19, at 200 percent of poverty. The highest health reform cutoff is 150 percent of poverty.

The House Health committee told the Gazette and The Associated Press the meeting was a private working meeting and closed to the press, but a Daily Mail reporter attended the meeting.

Most of this week's controversy has centered around DHHR's statement that 193,000 West Virginians would be newly insured by Medicaid in 2010. 

Law said that number came from a summary prepared by the federal House Energy and Commerce Committee. Staff there confirmed Tuesday that the number represents all West Virginians who would get health insurance, not just Medicaid. 

"Many would not be covered by Medicaid. They would be split between Medicaid and the exchange," a committee spokesperson said.

The DHHR number is inflated for a second reason, he said. DHHR assumed that the 193,000 was a 2010 figure, so they projected that it would expand to 260,000 by 2019, Law said.

But the 193,000 is already a 2019 estimate, Energy and Commerce staff said. DHHR expanded the number a second time.

Health Care Authority Chairwoman Sonia Chambers attended Tuesday meeting, as did Jim Pitrolo of Gov. Joe Manchin's staff. "We're going to work with the Health Care Authority as we look at these numbers," Law said.

Perdue said he is pleased that the Health Care Authority will be involved this time. "Anybody could make a miscalculation. We're going to need accurate figures, so we're pleased they're willing to take another look."

Reach Kate Long at katelong@wvgazette.com or (304) 343-1884.


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