W.Va. DHHR still looking through health care law

John O'Brien Apr. 6, 2010, 10:40am


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources says it is still determing what effect federal health care reform will have on the state.

Spokesperson Marsha Dadisman said Monday the agency, which administers the state Medicaid program, is still looking through the recently passed legislation.

"The DHHR is currently evaluating the federal health care law, so when that evaluation is completed we will have some answers," Dadisman said.

Dadisman laughed when reminded of the size of the bill, more than 2,700 pages. President Barack Obama signed it into law March 23.

"I anticipate we'll have something shortly, and we'll send out a press release at that time," she said.

A group of mostly Republican state attorneys general have filed a challenge to the law in Florida federal court. They say it unfairly mandates individuals to purchase health insurance or face an annual fee of $695.

But South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster also feels the law will substantially increase the amount of Medicaid enrollees and therefore increase the amount of money states must spend on the program, which is partly funded by the federal government.

"Medicaid was originally designed to be a voluntary federal-state partnership, but this new health care law turns it into a compulsory, top-down federal program in which the discretion of the states is removed," McMaster recently wrote in an editorial.

"A 61-percent increase in Medicaid enrollees will force the state to spend billions of dollars to hire and train new employees to comply and implement the expansion of the state Medicaid program under national health care."

Also, a report in The Daily Caller says one sentence might open state Medicaid programs up to lawsuits.

The report says state Medicaid programs were formerly responsible for paying physicians who were treating Medicaid users. Now, Medicaid programs are responsible for ensuring those physicians treat the users.

"With the expanded definition, it leaves every state vulnerable to a new wave of lawsuits any time someone cannot access a service, even if that service is limited by virtue of the rates we pay," said Alan Levine, Louisiana's secretary of health and hospitals, in a memo sent to state government officials, according to the report.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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