Medicaid plan concerns Waianae patients

Celeste Giltner
Celeste Giltner
Rich Bettini
Rich Bettini

By Zahid Arab bio | email

WAIANAE (KHNL)- There's concern on the Waianae Coast, as the state's new medicaid plan could cut the level of care for nearly 2,500 patients.

The state launched its "Quest - expanded access program" this month.

But, several local and state officials are raising concern. The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center is one of two Oahu centers that didn't sign on, it held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the issue.

"Alohacare" has returned nearly $14 million to health centers like the one in Waianae the last three years.

But this year, the state is exploring other options. Patients aren't happy because instead of their own doctors, this new plan could send them elsewhere.

Under the plan, the government pays private companies to handle a certain number of medicaid patients. But, it's that company that decides who they can see and where. Patients say that's a huge problem.

Celeste Giltner's been coming to the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center the last 30 years. Like the 2,500 disabled, blind or aged patients in the community on medicaid, she depends on these doctors.

"It's like water to us. My primary caregiver is here, I've used outreach services, educational services," said Medicaid patient Celeste Giltner.

The state wants to put patients into privatized plans.

"We're concerned about that," said Chief Executive Officer Rich Bettini.

Rich Bettini says similar moves in other states weren't successful. Medicaid patients were denied drugs and couldn't see their doctors as often, if at all. The Waianae health center could lose millions each year.

"Private plans and profit plans are involved and they're going to return whatever margins they have to their shareholders instead of to the community," said Bettini.

Celeste is burning mad. Elderly unable to make trips into town or patients not having the doctor they trust, she only sees trouble.

"They just won't go because of that they won't get the proper care. What's already in place, it works," said Giltner.

The Waianae health center will vote to either sign on with the plan, operate as an out-of-network or wait for upcoming legislation that could help their situation.

But, officials say the bottom line is they want their input on the process before the state imposes it.