Ohio needs answers to the ever-larger bite Medicaid is taking out of the state's budget, and the administration of Gov. John Kasich deserves credit for seeking innovative ways to break free of the increasingly expensive status quo.
The latest effort comes in the form of a proposal the state rolled out this week to integrate Medicare and Medicaid services for about 115,000 Ohioans enrolled in both programs into a single managed-care plan.
Medicare, a federal program, serves the elderly and the disabled, mostly with help paying for doctor and hospital services and prescription drugs.
Medicaid is a combination state and federal program that serves poor people and patients in need of long-term care.
The Kasich administration is seeking the approval of the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to spare "dual-eligible" clients the trouble of having to deal with more than one administrative structure to get their services.
The state expects to benefit, too, by saving money through better coordination of care -- resulting in healthier patients -- and through reductions in unnecessary medical procedures and medication errors.
The plan also fits in with continuing administration efforts to increase the number of elderly Ohioans who are served in their own homes rather than in nursing homes.
The Kasich administration envisions a three-year pilot program that would operate in seven urban areas. If it succeeds, it could be expanded to cover all of the Ohioans -- currently the number is 182,000 -- served by both Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the state's proposal, "Medicare-Medicaid full benefit enrollees make up only 9 percent of total Ohio Medicaid enrollment, but they account for more than 30 percent of total Medicaid spending."
The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging is on board with the approach, based on assurances from the Kasich administration that they will continue to play a strong role in patient screening, care planning and other outreach and advocacy.
Medicare officials in Washington should grant Ohio's request for a waiver from Medicare rules.
This effort to provide more efficient, less expensive health care for a small but costly population is worth a try.
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Original article can be found here: http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/04/ohio_should_get_medicare_waive.html