Health agency wants money increase for patients, providers

ATLANTA - Doctors and hospitals would receive higher reimbursements for health care services delivered to Medicaid patients under fiscal 2009 budget recommendations approved Thursday by the state Board of Community Health.

The additional payments to providers, part of a 3.5 percent spending increase adopted unanimously by the board, also would allow more Georgians to receive home- or community-based care instead of being forced into a hospital or nursing home.

The Department of Community Health has endured several consecutive years of austere budgets.

But a decrease in Medicaid enrollment this year of about 100,000 recipients freed up funds to cover the proposed increases.

Besides a $40.3 million recommended boost in Medicaid spending, the agency's budget request also includes $1.5 million for two initiatives: a new Web site that will allow Georgians to compare the costs and quality of prescription drugs and various health services and efforts to develop a system allowing providers to better coordinate patient care through sharing information from patients' electronic medical records.

The health department's spending recommendations now go to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who will meld all state agencies' requests into the overall 2009 budget he will present to the General Assembly in January.