CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates Finance Committee passed a bill Monday that would place thousands of children under foster care into managed care programs through Medicaid.

The bill (HB 4241) passed on a 12-9 vote despite concern expressed by some committee members about the possible upheaval of the foster care system with changes in care.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton, 55)

“This is almost a $100 million industry and we’ll just going to knee-jerk and change how the billing is done for these foster care programs,” Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) said. “I just think we need to put the brakes on this and slow it down.”

Delegate Linda Longstreth called for the proposed changes to be tested in a pilot project.

“Then we would have an opportunity, if this is not working, to stop it,” she said.

But Delegate Steve Westfall (R-Jackson), the bill’s main sponsor, said putting foster kids in managed care is not a new idea. He said it’s been talked about in West Virginia for months by the state Department of Health and Human Resources. He said other states have found success with similar programs.

Delegate Ron Walters (R-Kanawha) agreed.

Ron Walters

“These services are generally accepted. They are contracted. Every state has to be licensed,” Walters said.

The bill would establish coordinated acute care for the 6,300 kids in foster care for things like medical, pharmacy, dental and behavioral care. It would replace the current fee per service system.

Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary for the state DHHR, said the bill did not come from the agency but it has been working on the issue with a slightly different approach. The DHHR is not opposing the bill.

Westfall said he’s hopeful managed care will save the state money along with freeing up more opportunities to bring West Virginia foster children currently placed outside of the Mountain State back home.

Sponaugle said what the bill proposes doesn’t sound like a terrible idea but to put into effect in one year could cause problems.

“We owe it to our kids that we take a little bit of time before we jerk the rug out of everything as far as the billing process goes,” he said.

The bill now goes to the full House of Delegates for consideration. The finance committee did change the original wording of the bill on when the program would go into place. It’s now set for July 1, 2019.

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