Medicaid payment woes plague Idaho mental health service providers

A contractor the state hired to manage payments issues checks worth pennies

By EMILIE RITTER SAUNDERS and AUDREY DUTTON

BOISE STATE PUBLIC RADIO, adutton@idahostatesman.comAugust 25, 2014

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The state’s effort to rein in Medicaid costs has created deep friction between small businesses that deliver behavioral-health services to Medicaid patients and a new contractor hired to manage them.

Service providers across Idaho have raised complaints over the last 11 months that the contractor, Optum Idaho, a unit of United Behavioral Health, has created red tape and cut services needed by at-risk patients.

Now providers in the Treasure Valley have raised another complaint: Optum isn’t paying them promptly, putting their businesses’ survival and employees’ jobs at risk.

Optum says it has fixed a glitch that resulted in tiny claims payments to the companies, which provide counseling and other behavioral health services to low-income and disabled adults and children on Medicaid.

Optum says it erroneously sent small checks totaling amounts like $.05, $.07, or $.11 starting Aug. 1 to providers who care for Medicaid patients who need behavioral-health treatment.

“(We) apologize for any inconvenience caused by this temporary error, and we invite any provider with concerns or questions to call Optum Idaho,” Optum said in a statement.

But some providers say the problem actually began last September, when Optum took over management of Idaho’s Medicaid behavioral health system.

Two of the Treasure Valley’s largest mental health care providers for Medicaid patients say these tiny payments have recurred throughout Optum’s first 11 months in Idaho.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/08/25/3340115/payment-woes-plague-mental-services.html?sp=%2F99%2F1687%2F&ihp=1#storylink=cpy