Atkinson says DHHS causing problems for health care providers

jfrank@newsobserver.com dbracken@newsobserver.comSeptember 13, 2013 

— WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said Friday that problems at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services are hurting health care providers, raising costs and delaying projects.

The Raleigh health care provider didn’t receive payments from a new state computer system that processes Medicaid claims until five weeks after it came online July 1. The state still owes WakeMed at least $1.5 million in unpaid claims for certain outpatient procedures, Atkinson said

The company will have to resubmit about 5,000 bills by hand at a significant cost to the company. “There are things like this that are happening when our government makes a shift and it impacts an organization like ours,” he told reporters at a luncheon in Raleigh.

The state agency says it is working with providers to address problems but Atkinson’s remarks highlight the agency’s troubles in recent weeks.

Health Secretary Aldona Wos faces increasing scrutiny amid calls for investigations into the large salaries of aides with political connections and the problems with the computer systems that pay providers of health care and get food assistance to the needy. In addition, dozens of positions were re-classified as political patronage jobs, removing civil service protection for some workers.

“I think there lot of delays right now,” said Atkinson. “People are scared to make decisions and a lot of jobs are being changed.”

Atkinson also suggested DHHS contributed to delays in the opening of WakeBrook, the new mental health facility run by UNC Health Care that WakeMed played a role in developing.

He said state inspectors were diverted to other areas and that stalled the project “by several months.”

“In this case various inspectors who are supposed to be able to certify that facility haven’t been able to do it because they’re tied up inspecting (abortion) clinics. ... So if you dispatch a limited number of other people to other tasks you all of a sudden slow everything down.”

A UNC Health Care spokesman later downplayed the state’s role in the delays. It was not told the delay was related to abortion clinics, the spokesman said.

The WakeBrook facility received its operating license on Monday, DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said Friday. He said that was the mutually agreed upon date between DHHS and the facility. Atkinson’s remarks on the delay were “incorrect,” he added.

Atkinson said the delay in opening the WakeBrook facility caused enormous problems for WakeMed because it meant the hospital system did not have open beds to treat other needy patients.

“I can’t begin to tell you the problem that causes for us,” he said.

Atkinson also warned that the decision by McCrory and the Republican-led legislature not to accept federal money to expand Medicaid will increase health care costs for everyone in the state. “That will come back to hurt North Carolinians,” he said.

Frank: 919-755-9468

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