Wentzy seeks relief from Medicaid burden

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2004

JACKSON – Northampton County Department of Social Services Director Dr. Al Wentzy petitioned the Board of Commissioners here Monday for their endorsement of a proposed Medicaid Cost Initiative that would help reduce Medicaid cost sharing across the state.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Robert Holloman and three other North Carolina legislators, aims to phase out the county share of the non-federal share of Medicaid costs over a period of five years to provide immediate relief to tier one counties.

In his letter Wentzy states, &uot;While most acknowledge the positives of the Medicaid Program and the legitimacy of the services provided, the explosive costs to the county threaten to bankrupt many counties and certainly precludes supporting other worthwhile programs and services to our citizens.&uot;

Wentzy stated that he had sent previous letters garnering substantial support throughout the state and will continue until he is able to reach all 99 remaining counties in an effort to remedy the situation.

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) will leverage an argument to contain Medicaid costs and transition the county cost to the state during the upcoming General Assembly Session.

&uot;Medicaid cost containment continues to be a top priority to the NCACC,&uot; said Wentzy. &uot;I think we need to continue to be proactive until a solution is implemented.&uot;

In Northampton County the projected expenses for this budget year are approximately $2.3 million, an increase of over $250,000 from the previous year, taking up 10.4 percent of the county’s budget.

Projected rates for Bertie County are estimated at $2.4 million, an approximate hike of $338,000 from the 2003-2004 budgeted expenses, which take up about 15.7 percent of the county’s budget.

Hertford County’s projected expenses totaled approximately the same as Bertie County, with an increase of just over $300,000, taking up 14.4 percent of the county’s budget.

Medicaid expenses took up seven percent of the Gates County budget, costing a projected $678,000 this budget year, up from about $100,000 from the previous year.

&uot;The fantastic leadership and staff of NCACC have put a great deal of time and energy into planning and lobbying for changes, but the truth is that it will not happen unless the General Assembly knows that this is a key issue with each and every county in North Carolina,&uot; Wentzy stated in his letter, which cited North Carolina and New York as the only two states in the nation that require county cost sharing for the Medicaid Program with 5.5 percent of total or 15 percent of the non-federal share for our state alone.

&uot;There is a 100 percent guarantee that nothing will be done or remedy realized if counties do not seek a remedy,&uot; said Wentzy. &uot;We need to be vocal on this issue.&uot;

If the bill passes the General Assembly the counties will still be obligated to continue its payment of administrative costs.

The Commissioners, who agreed upon signing the letter for use in the upcoming legislative session, embraced Wentzy’s request for support from the county.