Montana Medicaid cuts budget, O&P

Friday, January 31, 2003

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The state Legislature has not only cut its Medicaid budget by 7%, it has also cut orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) from its list of covered services, in an “emergency” move to keep its 2003 budget in check.
Because most other states have already made across-the-board cuts to their Medicaid budgets, the cuts in Montana didn’t come as a surprise.

The Legislature predicts cutting its Medicaid budget by 7% will save the state more than $1.4 million. It predicts cutting O&P and other optional services like eyeglasses will save it nearly $200,000. In all, the Legislature predicts it will save $3.6 million with its various program and policy changes.

Although the cuts were expected, providers say they are upset that they were notified so late in the decision-making process. They say they received word of the changes via fax on Dec. 23, and most of the changes took effect either Jan. 1 or the first of this month.

Frank Malek, director of DME for Montana’s Medicaid program, said the state is within the rules for “emergency” provider notification. He also said a hearing was scheduled for January, at which providers could give testimony.

But providers said they’re also upset because they don’t think cutting O&P from the state’s lists of covered services will save the state money.

“It’s just going to transfer where they spend their money,” said Janna Jurovich, owner of Juro Pharmacy in Billings, Mont. “Instead of paying for a back support, the state is going to pay for a wheelchair, because without a back support, a person’s health is going to deteriorate even more.”

Malek said the state had little choice.

“We made all the cuts we could make, and it still wasn’t enough to get us through the fiscal year,” he said. HME