Fairbanks Rep. Pete Higgins, chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, will be holding a hearing on Tuesday in response to complaints from the Medicaid provider community on why they aren’t getting paid.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, which is in charge of Medicaid payments, upgraded its 25-year-old payment system in October. The new system is a Xerox product and is run by that company. It cost the state $146 million.
It was supposed to make things smoother, but it’s been so plagued with glitches that some providers are on the verge of going out of business because they haven’t been paid through the system.
Recently, State Health Care Service Director Margaret Brodi said that it still might be four to eight weeks before the system is completely functional.
Ruth Babcock runs three assisted living programs in Homer, which serve a total of about 15 clients, most of whom are on Medicaid. One of the homes didn’t get any payments for several months. After she contacted her state representatives and wrote a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, payments began to trickle in, slowly. She said it’s still “nip and tuck” however.
The state still owes the company about $50,000. “Our elders deserve better than this,” Babcock said.
A dentist who declined to go on the record said that he, too, was having issues with the payments until he contacted a state representative. Now, he’s begun getting paid through the system for some, but not for all of the services for which he is owed.
On Jan. 24, KTUU reported that an assisted living facility in Palmer was owed $750,000. The facility’s funds are almost completely drained.
Babcock said that even if and when the system is fully functional, she’ll never be paid back for the lost time that she and her workers have spent on trying to get payments. On Monday morning, for instance, she spent 30 minutes on the phone with DHSS and as of noon, still hadn’t received paperwork she needs to fill out for a claim. There have been times when she’s been kept on hold for up to an hour.
The old system worked just fine, she said.
On Friday, DHSS had a teleconference with the Alaska dentists to discuss the new system. Rep. Higgins, who’s chairing the legislative hearing on Tuesday, is a dentist. The Alaska dentists have a strong PAC in the state.
Babcock and other providers have not been invited to such a meeting.
The hearing is at 3 p.m. You can watch it live on Gavel to Gavel.
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