Pharmacists Juggle Medicaid Mess

At pharmacies around the state, pharmacists are filling Medicaid prescriptions, but they aren't sure who to bill.

Larry Krohn has been on the phone a lot the past five days, answering questions about a temporary restraining order that delayed Mississippi's Medicaid cuts. As he hung up the phone after one call, he looked at his computer and said, "All right, let's see if Freddy's still in there."

Since the state removed 50,000 from Medicaid rolls, and now has to reinstate them, the pharmacist has been trying to figure out which Medicaid clients could still have prescriptions filled. Krohn decided to honor all clients' prescription needs for the forseeable future.

The Medicaid mess has Krohn's Gulfport pharmacy team somewhat confused. The confusion continued Monday night, when Krohn received a new directive from the state division of Medicaid. It said, "Please continue to see our beneficiaries." This was in direct contrast to the October 1, 2004 order to no longer see clients who got cut from Medicaid lists.

Because the situation is in legal limbo, pharmacists aren't sure what to do. Krohn is optimistic things will work out.

"We've already run into a couple of people this morning that were being rejected yesterday that they've gotten fixed already," he said.

But the state says others may not be reprogrammed onto Medicaid lists for another 11 days. "Eleven days to put these folks back on their coverage," Biloxi pharmacist Woody Gamble wondered, "I think is crazy."

Gamble has been rather outspoken in his opposition to the Medicaid cuts. The Biloxi pharmacist applauded Judge Wingate and the temporary restraining order that restored Medicaid benefits to the 50,000 Mississippians. But he said the judge's ruling won't mean anything unless the temporary delay becomes permanent.

According to Gamble, the legal fight "goes to prove there is a lot of confusion not just for patients and not just for providers, but a deep amount of confusion at the Medicaid office itself."

The next court hearing on the proposed Medicaid cuts will be held October 14th in Jackson.