Medicaid dispute: Feds say Alabama owes $88 million - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Medicaid dispute: Feds say Alabama owes $88 million

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Department of Health and Human Services in Washington alleges that Alabama owes the federal government more than $88 million, due to overpayments for Medicaid bonuses.

"The problem is that the numbers that we used are not the numbers that OIG says we should have used" Dr. Don Williamson, the Alabama's Public Health Officer said Wednesday. Dr. Williamson has helped to oversee Alabama's Medicaid Agency since February 2012.

Medicaid provides healthcare for between 950,000 and one million people each year, mainly women, children, and the elderly.

When Alabama applied for bonuses from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services several years ago, it had to provide data regarding its Medicaid enrollments. At the time, Alabama provided figures that reflected its total number of qualified children it had enrolled for Medicaid. The federal government was issuing awards based on average monthly enrollments at the time.

During that period of time, CMS in Washington was rewarding states for increasing their enrollments for the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP. The awards that came from CMS, however, were not CHIP specific. The funds could be used to pay for Medicaid expenses.

Alabama received $95,353,417 combined for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The Office of the Inspector General for the DHHS argues in a report that Alabama should have only received $7,155,919 and that it must repay the balance of $88,197,498.

Dr. Williamson did not run or oversee the Medicaid Agency during the time when it applied for the bonuses. He said, "The Medicaid Agency in Alabama was entitled to bonuses but the amount we got was not the right amount."

Alabama's options are slim when it comes to the notion of paying back what the federal government alleges the state owes. Medicaid's appropriation from the General Fund budget has been reduced in recent years.

"If you want to say, Alabama you've got to pay back some amount of money, the only way you're going to do that is either by taking money from existing services going to patients today or you're going to have to get more money appropriated by the legislature" Dr. Williamson said.

State Medicaid representatives will meet with officials in Washington over the next several weeks to begin negotiating some kind of deal. 

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