Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — A new report about Louisiana's behavioral health system shows wasted money and disappearing services. But the state says the report is misleading, and the system is producing very good results.
In 2012, Louisiana partnered with Magellan Health Services, a private company based in Connecticut, to manage the Medicaid payments for its mental health and addiction programs.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office released a report Monday showing confusion, higher costs, and concerns that young people are not getting the services they need. It focused on four human services districts, including the Capital Area Human Services District, which are large, municipal health care providers.
The Department of Health and Hospitals says the limited scope of the report alters its findings.
"Only four providers out of 1,700," were included, said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "It doesn't point out some of the really good things that have happened over the last year."
According to the report, the agencies hesitated to offer substance abuse treatment for people 18-20 years old because of confusion as to whether they should be classified as children or adults.
Secretary Kliebert claimed that, while there were some misunderstandings, every patient received the services they needed.
"We continue to work with those providers to make sure that those issues are resolved," she said. "We've been working with them over the last year; we'll continue to make those improvements in the system."
The report added that the Capital Area Human Services District had to hire more staff, at a cost of $270,000, to figure out Magellan's new coding and billing systems. But Kliebert responded that it is not unusual to slowly learn and adapt to a change this big.
"It's major. I mean, we completely changed the way that we provide services," she stated, "moving from a completely, in some cases, state-funded system, to one that provides Medicaid match.
"I think that there's some legitimate concerns that they've raised, but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of implementation of such a large-scale reformation of our mental health and addictive disorders system."
Kliebert also said the report left out the most important part of health care.
"This report didn't look at outcomes for individuals," she said, "didn't look at some of good things that have happened because of the behavioral health partnership."
One benefit of the partnership with Magellan is that more people have access to behavioral health care than before. Kliebert claimed that Louisiana had roughly 800 providers prior to the arrangement, compared to 1,700 now.
"We're serving 151,000 children and adults through the partnership," she said.
"We've added 30 percent more, in terms of funding. We now have the ability, when we need an inpatient, acute bed, we have the availability of that bed. Previously, we had difficulty providing those types of inpatient services."
Kliebert said the first year of the partnership was focused on implementing the new systems to allow for a continuation of care. The next phase is to add in more in-home care and other patient services. While the partnership is, "not perfect," Kliebert stated that DHH is, "continuing to work on improving the system. But clearly, it's a much better system, and better foundation, than where we were prior to implementation of the behavioral health partnership."
Download the full report by clicking the attachment below.