Glitches leave Ohio Medicaid providers unpaid

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio is moving quickly to ease hardships for hundreds of mostly self-employed health care service providers who have not received state paychecks for weeks because of problems amid the transition to a new Medicaid billing system, officials said Tuesday.

The state would make two weeks’ worth of emergency payments this week to roughly 450 mainly in-home care providers whose claims to Medicaid have been erroneously rejected as ineligible since the new $115 million computer system went online Aug. 2, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

News of the emergency payments was first reported Tuesday in The Columbus Dispatch.

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The state delayed payments to all Medicaid providers – including hospitals, nursing homes and physicians – for two weeks surrounding the computer system conversion. The smaller operators affected by the glitch still did not receive any money when reimbursements wer e paid out again on Aug. 11 and then Aug. 18, Johnson said.

Deena Hackett, an independent home health care worker for the elderly and disabled in the southern Ohio city of Ironton, said the lack of state paychecks has left her without a cellphone because she couldn’t pay the bill. The electric company threatened to turn off service.

“You feel like your hands are tied behind your back, and no matter what door you try to open, it seems like it gets slammed in your face,” Hackett told Charleston, W.Va., station WSAZ-TV.

Ohio is working to make things right, Johnson said.

“The claims that were denied in error were not all denied because of exactly the same error, and so as the problems arise, we get into the system and clean up whatever went wrong,” he said.

The state has replaced a 25-year-old Medicaid billing system that was largely on paper with new technology that officials believe will improve accountability and efficiency. In its first three w eeks, the new system paid 3.3 million claims worth about $550 million, Johnson said. Those who have received no payment because their claims have been denied in error represent about one-half of 1 percent of Ohio Medicaid providers, he said.