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The secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says the agency will delay the launch the state's overhauled Medicaid program to Nov. 1.

Secretary Janie Miller said in a statement that the start is being delayed because of a request from the Kentucky Hospital Association, according to The Courier-Journal (http://bit.ly/nNWKJB).

Miller had told lawmakers last month that the state would be ready to launch the new system on Oct. 1. However, in the statement she said "the hospitals have told us they need one more month to prepare."

The overhaul is meant to save money and eliminate a budget shortfall of about $100 million in the program that serves more than 800,000 Kentuckians.

Balancing the Medicaid budget had triggered contentious debate among lawmakers earlier this year. Gov. Steve Beshear, who is running for re-election, had argued that managed care contracts could erase the imbalance. His Republican gubernatorial opponent, Senate President David Williams, wanted cuts to all government programs to shift money to Medicaid.

The state turned to managed care organizations, with Beshear saying the change could save $375 million in the state's General Fund over the next three years and potentially $1.3 billion overall.

Over the summer, Beshear announced that three companies — Coventry Health Care of Maryland, WellCare Health Plans of Illinois and Centene Corp. of St. Louis — would oversee Medicaid services for about 560,000 across most of the state. Passport Health Plan, which already had a contract with the state, will continue to serve about 170,000 Medicaid recipients in the Louisville area.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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