Alaska's Medicaid suspension gets lifted

Concerns about health, safety led to federal hold on applications

Posted: Sunday, August 09, 2009

ANCHORAGE - The federal government has lifted a ban on admissions to a state-run Medicaid program that helps elderly and disabled people with bathing, cleaning and meals in their homes.

Concerns about the health and safety of clients led the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in June to bar the state from taking applications. A review found that the program was poorly managed.

Among other problems, there was a backlog of about 2,000 people waiting for evaluations of what services they needed. The state had no system to track deaths or investigate whether people were dying because of care issues.

State officials said Friday that they can restart applications for personal care services after providing additional information to the federal government, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

"It's my understanding and impression they became more clear on how we were operating personal care services," said Rebecca Hilgendorf, director of the state Division of Senior and Disabilities Services.

The program is aimed at keeping people out of nursing homes.

The federal moratorium remains in place on another Medicaid program that provides a broader range of services for people with more severe needs.

Federal officials said 119 people trying to sign up for those services can start getting help as long as they are financially eligible and already had been determined to need such care.

"This was excellent news of course," Hilgendorf said.

Many others still must wait for those more comprehensive services until the moratorium is lifted in its entirety.

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