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Advocates hope state will reverse new Medicaid policy

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Patient advocates and two hospital-affiliated HMOs say a decision to drop them from the state’s Medicaid program will impose hardships on the people they serve.

They’re hoping the state will reverse the decision before it takes effect in January.

Health Alliance Plan and the Physicians Health Plan were dropped from the state’s Medicaid list as part of a consolidation effort ratified Tuesday by a state executive board.

The idea is that fewer HMOs will make it easier to develop programs that promote healthy lifestyles, and offer more consistent services.

“We’re aware that this will be a change for some people and we are working to make sure that transition is as smooth as possible,” says Jennifer Eisner of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

But the health plans – affiliated with the Henry Ford Health System and Sparrow Hospital – say it will force their patients in many cases to find new doctors and new treatment programs.

“This has major implications to our community,” says Hassan Jaber with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).

He says many people served by his organization also use Medicaid. He says the network they use has doctors who speak Arabic and are culturally sensitive.

“The network includes many private practitioners, Arabic-speaking practitioners,” says Hassan. “So, they may or may not be in any other options.”

James Connelly is the CEO of the Health Alliance Plan of Michigan.

He says his customers are low-income African-Americans and immigrants from the Middle East who are not fluent in English. He says his plan specializes in serving these groups.

“This is a disruption of the most-vulnerable population that you can disrupt,” he says.

“We’ve been treating these people, working with these people for over 17 years, so there will be disruption and confusion,” says Dennis Reese, CEO of Physicians Health Plan, which is affiliated with Sparrow Health Systems in Lansing.

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