Murkowski Urges Obama Administration to Send in Federal Health Personnel to Help Alleviate Medicaid Moratorium Patient Backlog

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to send in federal reinforcements to ensure that disabled, elderly and low income Alaskans are able to access critical in-home care services.
In a phone call with and follow-up letter to Sebelius, Murkowski asked the Secretary to send U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps doctors, nurses and other health professionals to Alaska to eliminate the backlog affecting patients seeking in-home care services.
Sebelius said Murkowski’s suggestion was intriguing and that she would take it under consideration.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration issued a moratorium on Alaska’s Home and Community Based Waivers and Personal Care Assistance programs after a review determined it to be poorly managed. The program provides in-home help in an effort to keep patients out of facility care. The program is funded by Medicaid and managed in Alaska by the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services.
There currently is a 2,000 case patient evaluation backlog that is unlikely to be solved by September 1, 2009, which is when the state must submit a plan of action for re-evaluation by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“As the health workforce shortage is a national issue of concern, in Alaska our situation is even more acute, as well as being a significant contributing factor to the Medicaid moratorium,” Murkowski wrote to Sebelius. “There is no dispute that we need to quickly eliminate this patient case backlog, but we must also recognize that because of the health workforce shortage, Alaska’s most vulnerable population has been placed in an emergency situation, warranting immediate federal attention.”
The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps includes 6,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals whose mission is to “protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our Nation.”
Murkowski said that Alaskans need these health professionals immediately “to help relieve the patient re-evaluation backlog to get thousands of Alaskan patients in-home health services.”