On March 14th, the Georgia Senate passed SB-63 which “requires that Medicaid cards integrate a computer chip that includes a digital photograph of the card holder”. Sources claim that Medicaid fraud costs U.S. tax payers $60 billion a year, and $26 million just in Georgia.
According to Senator Albers, a Republican from Roswell, the legislation will “preserve the Medicaid program for those who truly need it”. It is apparent that an overhaul of the current system is necessary to save Medicaid (if that is what we, as a state, intend to do), but this bill is nothing short of inappropriate. Unfortunately, it was introduced, sponsored and pushed through the entire process by Republicans.
The original bill stated that “patients will also provide a fingerprint scan when they enter the office and before they leave”. Supporters of the bill claim this will prevent providers from charging Medicaid for services that were not rendered since the patient will verify everything before he/she leaves. At some point in the process, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee dropped the fingerprint ID stipulation and it was not included in the final bill.
Thankfully, this is only going to be used as a pilot program to ensure that it is beneficial and cost effective…but even in a trial period, one must ask:
1) How is this any different from a national ID card that so many conservative representatives vehemently oppose?? While it will only apply to Medicaid participants, I can’t help but be incensed by the idea of a photo and computer chip installed on a card that people will be carrying in their wallets. Who’s to say that this won’t be used by the government in a more overbearing manner later on down the road??
2) Many opponents to this legislation claim that there will be a significant administrative burden on the offices when this is implemented. The doctor’s will be required to have the appropriate technology to facilitate the new measures this legislation requires. According to Senator William Ligon, the program will initially cost about $26 million to implement (Note: this is the same amount of money the state loses each year on the Medicaid fraud). By increasing the cost of doing business for these medical offices, we risk further increasing the costs to the patients, which in turn affects the Medicaid program.
3) How much will these “smart cards” cost the Medicaid program and it’s participants?????????????? Who will eat the cost? The program? The participants? The tax payers?
The Republicans in the Georgia Senate very much so missed boat on this legislation. It is imperative that we establish programs that are cost-effective and efficient. I’m not so sure Senate Bill 63 is going to facilitate in this movement……
I spoke with Senator Albers last week in regards to both this blog and his legislation (SB-63).
Senator Albers wanted to clarify that the cost of implementing the legislation would only be $3 million, contrary to the $26 million his colleague earlier stipulated. He claims the reduction in cost is due to the elimination of the fingerprinting portion of the program.
Senator Albers continued to point out that I did not have a “better solution” for the Medicaid program despite my assertion that this blog is analytical and an editorial and that I am not an elected official.
Senator Albers also emphasized that Medicaid is a voluntary program that participants do not pay in to, unlike Medicare. He used this to justify the implementation of computerized chips in the cards and compared them to credit cards.
After our conversation, Senator Albers and I agreed to disagree on this issue. I stand firm on my implications that this program is vulnerable for misuse down the road and does not seem to be cost effective. Senator Albers maintains that this is the best plan for Georgia and that it is not a fascist move. He mentioned the use of a similar proposal in the future for the food stamps program. For more information, or to contact Senator Albers, visit www.senatoralbers.com
This article was sent to me after the posting of this blog and it’s update by two different readers.