Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hawaii Medicaid joins in Evercare's "Blame the Victim" game

Back on November 29, I published a story about a threatening letter I had received from the head of Unitedhealth Group's Hawaii operation.  In my response I had pointed out that I had been following all their procedures, it was Unitedhealth that was violating them, and in so doing, harming my daughter Hannah.

On December 6, Ken Fink, Hawaii State Medicaid Director sent me his own version of the UnitedHealth letter.  Fink, whose salary is rumored to be more than twice the $113,000 received by his predecessor, again makes it sound as if the victim is to blame.

I responded to Fink's letter on December 6. Here is the text of my letter:

This email is in response to your letter dated December 6, 2010 (attached) which was received by me on December 8, 2010.

The issue is:
When a prior authorization by my daughter's physician/provider is submitted which follows all prescribed Evercare protocols, Evercare has failed to give me proper written documentation regarding the possible denials which would include information of any adverse action and my rights to appeal, thereby violating Federal law.

According to the email I received from ... CMS, DHS MQD was going to research and resolve the issue, not simply re-state Evercare's response to me. Can someone please follow Federal law and state contract and please help me and my child? Will someone please step up? I am giving you all the academic reasons as well as the Federal laws which Evercare is violating along with the statues the State is violating for lack of oversight of the MCO (Evercare).  As a mother and caregiver of a totally dependent disabled child, all I am asking is that Evercare follows the law and do their job for which Evercare receives high compensation (tax payors money).

Your letter addresses old issues and regurgitates David Heywoods' (Evercare) prior letter in content; these issues are moot as all of us (me as her mom, the therapists and doctors) followed the required processes in filling out the Prior Authorization request forms and correctly submitted the needed documentation to support the requests.

What I am claiming is the stated issue and Evercare's continuous violation in which DHS-MEDQUEST has already cited Evercare which resulted in the corrective action plan for complaints, grievances, and appeals (in which sanctions were imposed). Evercare is not following BBA requirements regarding Complaints/Grievances/ and Appeals processes.

Evercare is claiming that the member's family or MD/provider is not following required Evercare processes. This is not a true statement and is not the issue. Evercare never brought this up during all the months since the request for prior authorization was submitted in May 2010, and in fact, they contradict themselves when they verbally admitted to receiving the request and approved less than what prescribed. So the prior authorization was successfully submitted by Hannah's physician to Evercare.
I am claiming that when a proper prior authorization (PA) for services is submitted to Evercare, a phone call (nothing in writing) is communicated to the provider that the requested services are denied (not approved) and/or that a lesser amount of service is approved (deviates from theprescription). NOTHING IS PUT INTO WRITING TO NOTIFY ME OR HANNAH'S PROVIDER OF THE ADVERSE ACTION and to inform me of our rights to appeal.

How it should work is that when my daughter's physician/provider submits the documentation required for the request of service/ medication/DME and the health plan denies and/or deviates from the request (less than what is requested) it goes into a complaints, grievance, and appeal mode as required and by failing to follow this process, the health plan is in direct violation of Federal statute, B.B.A. sections.
438.424: Grievance System
. 438.400: Statutory basis and definitions;
. 438.402: General requirements;
. 438.404: Notice of action (including timeframes of notice as
contained in Sections: 438.210(d)(1); 431.211; 431.213; 431.214);
. 438.406: Handling of grievances and appeals;
. 438.408: Resolution and notification: Grievances and appeals;
. 438.410: Expedited resolution of appeals
. 438.414: Information about the grievance system to providers and
subcontractors (important related to high number of non-participating
providers who do not have formal contracts with Evercare--therefore no
requirement to meet Federal BBA requirements/ no quality oversight from
MQD/CMS or EQRO under BBA 438. Subpart E)
. 438.416: Record-keeping and reporting requirements
. 438.420: Continuation of benefits while the MCO or PIHP appeal and
the State fair hearing are pending
. 438.424: Effectuation of reversed appeal resolutions
As further consequences of direct violation of the C/G/A processes

The current situation is in regards to a PA [Prior Authorization request form] that was successfully submitted [in May 2010] ... This [lack of any written notice] constitutes an adverse action by BBA definitions as well as violations regarding lack of written notice with appeal rights, specifically BBA reg Subpart F, and member's rights violations: Subpart C.

I am cc'ing CMS on this matter as there is still no process for Complaints, Grievances, and Appeals and I am following the processes as set forth by the BBA. I am following the PA processes of Evercare, but Evercare is not documenting in writing the denial of my prescribed services, medications, DME (nothing in writing setting forth the denial or cuts in services) and nothing is in writing by Evercare setting forth our rights to appeal their decision.

In my opinion, Evercare's letter is considered retaliatory and your response and lack of oversight of Evercare has caused continuous harm to my daughter. In fact, in the first visit by Evercare and their attorney to my home on Kauai, Evercare's attorney made it very clear that Evercare needed to put all denials and cuts in services and supplies in writing to me and give me my rights to appeal (process).  These instructions are not happening and therefore, Evercare's failure is a clear violation of Federal law. In fact, it was agreed at that meeting that all communications in the future, even with Hannah's field supervisor, would be in writing.

I want to reiterate that these Federal laws (BBA 432) and mandated oversight of these MCOs is intended to provide required mechanisms to protect patient rights and to insure that problems are tracked, trended and resolved in a nationally accepted mode of quality standards. If there are trends identified related to continuous violations, then a corrective action is taken to ensure that no member is hurt, especially the aged, blind, and disabled; hence the purpose of the law. With documentation, there would be a mechanism to insure that no harm comes to the client and that added anxiety to the member and family and caregivers is decreased.

Again the issue is:
Even though a prior authorization has been submitted by my daughter's physician/provider which follows all of Evercare's prescribed protocols for submitting a PA properly, Evercare has twice (again) failed to give me proper documentation regarding the denials or informing me of any adverse action in writing with my rights to appeal, thereby violating Federal laws (BBA).

As of today, there have still been no official Notices of Action sent out by UnitedHealth for the items brought to the attention of the head of Hawaii's Medicaid program almost two weeks ago.

It makes me wonder, if Hawaii Medicaid is so cavalier about Evercare's constant violations of federal regulations, what else are they standing back and ignoring?  The thirty-six percent increase in the death rate of our local aged and disabled population?  Threats to tear severely disabled children away from their families and throw them into institutions if the families don't back down on their requests for services?

Over 41,000 of our state's most vulnerable citizens, our elderly and children as well as adults with disabilities, are enrolled with UnitedHealth and Wellcare.  The state pays the two companies over $100 million every month without keeping track of how much of it is actually spent on medical services.

Governor Abercrombie announced the state has a $410 million shortfall for fiscal year 2012.  It seems to me that turning our Medicaid system back into one that only pays for actual services delivered could knock what, twenty percent, off that total?  Then the state could hire back the three-hundred odd people at DHS whose jobs were transferred to employees of UnitedHealth and Wellcare.  Then our federal funding could actually to to helping the people of Hawaii, rather than just lining the pockets of two out-of-state for-profit corporations.

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About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.