May 30, 2013 at 3:00 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
AIDS groups coping as contractor stops paying Medicaid claims
Vince Gray, Washington D.C., Gay News, Washington Blade

‘In light of the financial problems of Chartered, I will be taking steps to protect the District’s health care provider network,’ said Mayor Vincent Gray in a statement. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health and several other D.C. health care organizations say they are continuing to provide services to Medicaid clients with HIV/AIDS following the announcement in April that a city contractor had stopped paying Medicaid claims.

Whitman-Walker and several other local providers serving HIV/AIDS patients told the Blade they have so far managed to get by without getting paid for patients on Medicaid following the financial collapse of a city contractor that has operated D.C.’s Medicaid program.

A Washington Post story on Sunday reported that many small health care providers, including doctors’ offices and small clinics serving low-income clients, were struggling to keep their doors open since the Medicaid payments stopped last month.

The Medicaid problem began earlier this year when Chartered Health Plan, the company that arranged for Medicaid payments to doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers entered into voluntary receivership after encountering severe financial problems.

Under its contract with the city, Chartered managed Medicaid related issues for more than 100,000 low-income D.C. residents, according to a statement released in April by the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance.

The Post reported that Chartered Health Plan, once a multimillion dollar company, faced near financial collapse this year as an apparent result of revelations in late 2010 that its owner, Jeffrey E. Thompson, allegedly financed a “shadow campaign” in support of Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral election.

The United States Attorney’s office continues to investigate issues surrounding the campaign, which the city’s Office of Campaign Finance has said violated the city’s campaign finance law. Gray has said he had no knowledge of the so-called shadow campaign and has cooperated with investigators looking into the matter.

Whitman-Walker spokesperson Chip Lewis said Chartered owes Whitman-Walker just over $40,000 in back Medicaid payments for patient services.

“Whitman-Walker Health is absorbing the delay in payments from Chartered Health Plan within our current operations,” Lewis told the Blade. “Going forward, we do not anticipate this outstanding balance will create a major financial burden as it is a relatively small amount of funds compared to our monthly operating budget of $2.2 million.”

Ron Simmons, executive director of Us Helping Us, and Lloyd Buckner, executive director of MetroHealth, formerly known as the Carl Vogel Center, said the city’s Medicaid payment delays haven’t adversely impacted their respective organizations at this time.

Both organizations provide services for people with HIV/AIDS and both accept patients on Medicaid, the two said.

Michael Weinstein, director of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates an AIDS clinic and pharmacy in D.C., said, “Medicaid is not a big funder to our clinic” and the interruption of Medicaid payments in D.C. “is not significant to us.”

An official with La Clinica del Pueblo, a D.C. clinic that provides AIDS-related medical services for the Latino community, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“In light of the financial problems of Chartered, I will be taking steps to protect the District’s health care provider network that has taken years for us to develop,” Mayor Gray said in a statement in April.

“My primary goal is to protect the stability of the community-based providers that will be at risk of closing their doors and turning away patients if there is a significant delay in being paid,” Gray said.

Gray said that he directed his Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, BB Otero, and the Department of Health Care Finance to develop a plan to provide relief for providers hit the hardest by the Medicaid payment cutoff.

The Post reported that since the time of the mayor’s announcement last month the city has retained a new company, AmeriHealth Caritas of Philadelphia, to replace Chartered Health as the city’s lead contractor for Medicaid services.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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