Audit: Mental health privatization not working as planned

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A legislative audit says the privatization of the state's mental health partnership isn't going as smoothly as planned.  Department of Health and Hospitals leaders call the audit flawed and misleading.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of behavioral heath and other mental disorder treatment programs is, according to an audit released Monday, not working as planned.

"Basically, what we have is agencies providing services and not getting paid timely or may not get paid at all because of problematic claims processing and paying processing," said Earnie Summerville with the Legislative Auditor's Office.

The contracts are between DHH, Magellan Health Services, and the providers who do the patient care.  The audit states the three are not working in concert to provide mental health services that are properly reimbursed.

"We saw the claim processing to be a problem, as far as they were having problems with who's eligible, who should be in the partnership, who is eligible for the partnership, the diagnostic codes, the procedure codes were different from what they thought - it looked like a communications issue between the three as far as what can I actually bill for," explained Summerville.

But DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert takes exception to the informational audit.  She says one issue is the number of providers audited for the report.

"We have worked diligently over the last year to make sure that the people are getting services," said Kliebert.  "We have over 151,000 children and adults receiving services through Magellen. We have made sure that those individuals are getting services. The majority of our providers - and again, 4 out of 1,700 is what they looked at - the majority of our providers, over 80 percent, are satisfied with the types of services that are being provided."

Kliebert added that despite some growing pains in the transition process, people are getting the help they need.

"Remember, our focus over this first year is making sure those individuals are getting services and our conclusion is they are," said Kliebert.

Magellan's contract with the state pays them $354 million over two years.

Kliebert says last year alone, they paid out $300 million in mental health claims and doubled the provider list.

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